Chow Sureng Rajkonwar, a YouTube travel influencer, rode a specially modified motorcycle from Delhi to Ladakh passing the highest motorable road in the world with a dog. Rajkonwar travelled with his dog posting photos of their journey on Instagram. For the journey, Rajkonwar mounted a carrier for his dog, Bella, on his bike. He explained how he had overcome all the challenges along with his companions and suggested guidelines for all the pet parents before starting a journey with a pet. On the internet, the video of their adventure has garnered more than 1 million views.
In an interview with Hindustan Times Digital, YouTube creator, Chow Sureng Rajkonwar shares his journey to the highest motorable road in the world with a dog.
What made you a travel vlogger?
Since I was a kid, I have had an addiction to adventures. When I was a scout, camping and hiking trips were regular occurrences in our schedule. Since fifth grade, I’ve been interested in it. To go camping, I used to borrow my neighbour’s bicycle. All of my adventurous pursuits had to come to an end after school when I moved to Delhi. During those ten years, I completed my 11th and 12th grades as well as a diploma from the National Institute of Fashion Technology in Delhi. After receiving my diploma, I worked as a fashion designer with various designers, including Shantanu and Nikhil, and Satya Paul. That is when I first got introduced to photography.
My passion eventually switched from photography to videography. Ten years later, in 2011, I began motorcycle touring. I was holding a camera this time. Since 2011, I have had two hard drives filled with photos. In 2012, I started a YouTube channel. However, I was a partner in a firm at the time with a friend. At that time, I just occasionally posted videos; maybe one per year. Later in 2015, I found that YouTube traffic in India is rising. In 2015, I began publishing 2–3 videos every year. I started publishing my travel videos in 2020 when the pandemic struck since I had stockpiled those recordings since 2011. I needed a source of income because, in 2019, I had ended my business relationship with my friend. I also wanted to do something creative and follow my passion for making videos. I quit my job and began doing travel vlogs as a result. I’ve been regularly posting videos since April 2020.
Is this your first time traveling with a pet?
No this is not my first time travelling with my pet. We have been travelling together since the month of February. At first, we went from Delhi to Dibrugarh – my home town in Assam in the Rajdhani Express. After that we went to Dong valley in Arunachal Pradesh on my bike. Post that from Dibrugarh to Delhi we came on a scooter and our Ladakh trip was our last trip.
When you travelled with Bella for the first time, what preparations did you make?
Bella was just 45 days old when she was adopted by us. She was adopted from a rescuer in Uttrakhand by the name of Erum Quereshi. She runs the Himalayantails Instagram account. My friend suggested I visit their page for pet adoption.
She travelled from Uttarakhand to us in a caged basket after a 12-plus hour drive. We discovered she experienced motion nausea when she got home. I realised that in order to get over her motion sickness, she would have to accept it and become used to it. I then drove her to Dibrugarh, Assam, where I was raised. We travelled by the Rajdhani Express. In my hometown, she would sit in the front and I would give her scooter rides to wherever I went. After these small journeys were completed, I began rewarding her with treats. She eventually grew accustomed to it, and now whenever I start my scooter, she arrives on her own and sits in the front seat. I raised her in that manner. Later, on my bike, we travelled to Arunachal Pradesh, and so forth. We have been travelling together since February. So far we have travelled for 9000 kms.
Why did you decide to become a travel vlogger with a pet?
In our lives, Bella arrived on December 16, 2021. We waited for almost 6 years before bringing a pet home. Bella is currently one year one month old. Since she was 5 months old, we have taken road trips. But when I observed an elderly man travelling with his dog, I realised the purpose of pet travel. I watched a video of an elderly man cliff diving into the water, and the dog followed his directions and did the same. My mind was utterly blown by that video. I learned then how an animal, other than a human, could be a travel companion. That was back in 2015. But I also kept in mind that I don’t want to pet any animals because I think keeping them confined to a house would obstruct their ability to live freely. So, I made the decision to try to provide my pet a life where he/she wouldn’t have to be confined to a house. We always bring our pet when we travel. That is the goal of how we should pet an animal, in my opinion.
What made you so courageous to travel with a dog? Were you confident that you could overcome all the challenges?
My mother gave me a firm upbringing and taught me that as long as I don’t hurt anyone, treat others with respect, and don’t engage in violence, there shouldn’t be any issues. I already have the experience because I’ve been travelling for more than ten years. Few people, if any, travel with their dog while riding a motorcycle. My mother’s lessons and all of my previous experiences gave me the courage to travel with a dog.
Since obstacles are a part of life, I truly don’t worry about them. If we can’t go past it, we’ll never learn and improve. Challenges teach us and strengthen us. I wasn’t confident, but we both had the courage to believe that we would face and overcome any challenges. If I could travel alone from my home town Dibrugarh to Delhi on a scooter, facing monsoon in Assam to the scorching heat in Delhi, I was confident about Ladakh, and I wasn’t by myself this time. I had the support of 9 members of my motorcycle club.
For how long are you travelling with Bella?
We have been travelling together for 8 months now and we have travelled over 9000 kilometres.
Have you been accompanied on this journey by anyone else?
Yes, on our Ladakh trip there were 10 more boys with me. Prakash, Prayash, Trinayan, Shantanu, Bhargav, Porag, Sourav, Brijesh, Rishikesh and Dipankar. They are the members of my motorcycle club – ‘I dream ride.
What is the essential gear for pets during long and arduous journeys on bike rides especially with variance in the climate?
- The goggle is the most important item. It shields against wind, dust, and rain
- Rain gear keeps a dog dry. If the rain is particularly heavy, it is best to stop.
- People talk about forcing a pet to wear a helmet, but we also need to consider whether the pet is comfortable doing so. If not, do not push your pet to wear the helmet. Furthermore, India lacks the ideal dog helmet.
- How you leash your pet while riding a bike is one of the most crucial safety precautions. It is necessary to consider both comfort and safety. Long journeys are exhausting, thus no one should leash their pet on a day when they are unable to move at all. They find standing on a vibrating bike more comfortable than sitting on one.
- Frequent breaks are very important. Whenever one takes a halt, it is important to give a walk to your pet or make them go off leash for a while looking at all the safety measures
- When it’s too hot, make sure your pet is hydrated.
- In cold places, it is important to carry warm clothes. Don’t make them wear forcefully. It is more important to understand your pet than to make them do things forcefully.
How can one train their pets before taking off for long journeys?
It is a process; not every dog can take long trips. I have trained Bella to travel on two-wheelers since she was 4 months old. Training during their early months makes them learn a lot. Once they grow up, they might not want to learn. I used to give Bella scooter rides. I used to take her to any place I go, to the vegetable market, to relatives house, to morning walks, to evening runs, to work, etc and after the completion of those rides, I used to treat her with ice creams and biscuits. Later, she got used to it and whenever I had to go somewhere I don’t have to call her. She comes on her own and takes her seat. That is how I trained her.
What is the best thing about having a pet as a travel companion?
The absence of complaints is the first point. Anywhere you go, they’ll just stick with you and follow you. Furthermore, no matter the animal—a dog, a cat, or another—they all teach you a lot.
I used to set destinations as targets with fewer pit stops in the past. In order to give us some downtime at our destination, I attempt to travel the miles as quickly as I can. But now I have to ride carefully while thinking about Bella’s safety. Pit stops are mainly for her to stretch her muscles, take a rest, and go for a walk or eat her food.
Earlier I was not hesitant about after-dusk rides but now I do it in a very unavoidable circumstance. Night rides are anyway not preferable in the hills. I used to wake up at 8-9 am and start my rides. Nowadays I wake up at 5 am, give her a walk and then start my ride by 6.30 am. She has helped me develop discipline. I used to find hotels according to my convenience. I now need to find a place to stay that will suit her needs.
Bella is my first pet, and she has taught me how to love unconditionally, be patient, control my temper when I’m furious, and appreciate life’s little pleasures.
To date, how many trips have you made with Bella?
- Delhi to Dibrugarh, Assam – 2500 km on Rajdhani train.
- Dibrugarh to Pasighat, Arunachal Pradesh to Dibrugarh – 300 km on a car.
- Dibrugarh to Dong, Arunachal Pradesh to Dibrugarh -800 km on my bike hero xpulse 200 4v.
- Dibrugarh to Delhi – 2500 km in a tvs ntorq 125 cc ( scooter ).
- Delhi to Zanskar circuit, Ladakh circuit and Sach pass 3500 km on my bike hero xpulse 200 4v.
- Overall 9600 km. on two-wheeler – 6800 km.
From Delhi to Ladakh, how did the natives react?
With the natives, it was a very overwhelming experience. Nearly everyone who saw us wanted to take photos and videos with us. The majority of the people requested us to stop and showered Bella with affection.
At Pathankot, where we made our first stop, the hotel owner offered to give Bella a separate entire room. ‘Aapko doon na dooon, but dogs ke liye humare pass bohot jegah hai’, he said. The hotel’s caretaker in Srinagar wanted to purchase Bella from me.
While visiting Srinagar, we also encountered a young girl who stated, “Yeh dog mujhe de do, main ise school le jaungi or December ki thand mein ghumane le jaungi.” We stayed at Happy Drifters in Leh. Everyone on the staff, including the owner, enjoyed having Bella around. She received so much adoration and consideration that she almost forgot me. In Hunder desert, Nubra valley she had the entire property to roam around where we stayed.
In Pangong lake, the proprietor did not even request payment for Bella’s meal. In Hanle, the proprietor’s daughter continued to amuse Bella. Bella was only prohibited from staying in Keylong and Killar in Himachal Pradesh, out of a total of three locations. We had to consider other possibilities. And one more location in Punjab before you get to Ambala, we were charged more by the owner.
What advice would you like to give to all the pet parents?
Bella is being raised by me. I enjoy being outside, and dogs, in my opinion, also enjoy being outside. Bella is quite friendly and doesn’t exhibit any aggressiveness because of her travels. She only seeks the love and attention of others. I, therefore, implore all pet owners to take their animals outside more often than just bathroom breaks. Make them exercise and run; they’ll be cheerful and eat well. When one has time, they can be played with. Instead of expecting anything from them, show them unconditional love. Although they lack a voice, they communicate far more effectively via their eyes and behaviors than through words.
(Note: The interview has been edited for clarity.)