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Old 12th October 2015, 15:09   #1
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Default 4WD destinations in Eastern and North Eastern India

It is very evident from the thread title what this is all about. However, let me start with a disclaimer that I am not an authority on 4WD vehicles or on places that are reachable by 4WD only. There can be many places which I feel need 4WD to visit but a skilled person can take a 2WD up there. So whatever I note down in the next few lines are entirely my viewpoints and I don't want to start a sedan/hatchback vs SUV/4WD war here. The background of this thread is that whoever with a wanderlust have come to me for suggestions on buying a new vehicle has invariably gone home with a lot of data and real world examples of having the advantage of 4WD in a vehicle. Some of them have gone forward and bought 4WD/AWD vehicles while some have just made it a point never to consult me again
So here I am trying to defend my proposals by collating data regarding territories in the Eastern and North Eastern parts of India that can be reached in 4WD vehicles.
But I cannot do this alone and I should not be doing this alone when we have such stalwarts like Sutripta (Sutripta), Himadri (himadrimondal), Anirban (ADC), Avrendu (Avrendu), Anirban (1100D), Samba (Samba), Soura (SouraC), Pawan (PapaBravo), Arav (AJ-got-BHP) and a lot of others on this forum who can be deemed as authorities on the mountains in this
region. Please forgive me if I have missed anybody's name. So my humble request is to put in the details of those places in this thread which you feel should be 4WD territories.

1. Number one that comes to mind has to be Sandakphu/Sandakpur - Highest peak in West Bengal and Phalut

We have numerous threads regarding this. So no point in duplicating the data. Just pasting the links to those travelogues and putting up a few pictures from those threads

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...ll-phalut.html (Destination Sandakphu, the Land Rover territory. Update - another trip till Phalut)
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...territory.html (Sandakphu Phalut Kolakham - Unleashing a Mahindra Scorpio on Land Rover territory)
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...-3rd-time.html (Bolero 4WD takes us to Sandakphu. For the 3rd time!)
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...-reloaded.html (Sandakphu (erstwhile land of Land Rovers) reloaded!)
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/4x4-ve...st-bengal.html (Can the Duster AWD scale Sandakphu, the highest peak in West Bengal?)

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2. Bhauchen, 9 kilometers before Padamchen in East Sikkim

We have visited this place twice, once in Himadri's Thar and once in my Bolero 4WD. Both the times we had to engage 4WD though we have heard that 2WDs can go up there when the weather is good. Fellow bhpian Anindya (cr4nkshaft) has recently put up a thread on this place - http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...back-seat.html (Zuluk from the back seat)

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3. Bumla, Western Arunachal

During those months when the snow is melting and streams are flowing along the route to Bumla, 2WD vehicles cannot make it to the top. We have seen Tata Sumos coming back and we had to engage 4WD in our Thar to reach the top.

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...ml#post3718686 (Call of the wild : Western Arunachal in a Mahindra Thar)

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4. Jorethang to Darjeeling

I have had to engage 4WD on this route as there was a landslide, but I dont have any pics and I am not sure if one needs 4WD on this route all the time or not.

5. Senchal Forest, Darjeeling
It was monsoon time and Sutripta had taken me to this heavenly place. There is a Senchal Lake as well which is the main source of water for the Darjeeling town. I had to engage 4WD inside the forest at one place as it was full of rocks and a part had been washed away in the rains. Sutripta can throw some more light on this place.

6. Melli to Kaluk via Zoom, West Sikkim
This is not strictly 4WD route and our fellow bhpians gearhead-mait, PapaBravo and mi2n have done this route in Eon, Brio and Figo respectively. However, another fellow bhpian Rajarshi had to engage 4WD in his Thar on this route during the monsoons. So putting it up as a probable 4WD road. Here are the travelogues -

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...st-sikkim.html (Where the road leads to the Himalayas! Kaluk, West Sikkim)
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...bode-gods.html (Sikkim - The Abode of Gods)
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...tism-fire.html (Sikkim - Baptism by fire)

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I am once again requesting the wanderers on this forum to note down the places on this thread which you feel will need 4WD to visit in the Eastern and North Eastern parts of India. Similarly we can have threads on the Northern part of India with inputs from Tanveer (tsk1979) and Shamindra (SS-traveller).

Last edited by BlackPearl : 12th October 2015 at 15:15.
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Old 12th October 2015, 16:47   #2
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Default Re: 4WD destinations in Eastern and North Eastern India

Wow BlackPerl, that's a hell lot of information in one place for those who wish to take the lesser trodden path in this path of the country. Having a 4WD is always a boon in these places. Its just like crossing a raging river on a boat or swimming to cross it. Lovely photographs, specially the one where the Bolero is on snow.
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Old 12th October 2015, 17:00   #3
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Default Re: 4WD destinations in Eastern and North Eastern India

Quote:
Originally Posted by himadrimondal View Post
Wow BlackPerl, that's a hell lot of information in one place for those who wish to take the lesser trodden path in this path of the country. Having a 4WD is always a boon in these places. Its just like crossing a raging river on a boat or swimming to cross it. Lovely photographs, specially the one where the Bolero is on snow.
Thanks Himadri for the compliment. The expectation from you is very high. This thread depends on inputs from you. I don't think any other person on this forum travels to these parts of the Himalayas more than you. So please share your stories.
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Old 12th October 2015, 17:53   #4
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Thumbs up Re: 4WD destinations in Eastern and North Eastern India

Super thread BlackPearl! Not only is it informative and inspiring, but also has pictures of some of the hallowed roads in the zone collected in one thread!
To add to the list:
1) When returning from Rishap to Lava, our hired Jonga had to climb several slopes in 4WD (they were slushy and very steep. I am not sure if that was a regular route).
2) When climbing back from Changey falls, our gypsy also had to use low ratio when it got stuck in rocks.
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Old 12th October 2015, 20:52   #5
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Default Re: 4WD destinations in Eastern and North Eastern India

Some thoughts:
A lot depends on the weather, and immediate local conditions. eg. Have done Jorethang - Singla - Darjiling in all sorts of vehicles - from 4X4 Jeeps, to Omnis. On the other hand, just the other week, thought of going on a jaunt to Rishi. Beyond Pedong there had been a landslide which had been partly cleared. It was raining. High GC vehicles were being driven through. I was in an AStar. I turned back. Will I list that road as a 4X4 trail? No. But on that day I would have easily managed in a Jeep, didn't attempt in an AStar.

Another thing to keep in mind is the huge explosion in the number of taxis everywhere. (Let us not get into the reason for this.) These are normally Sumos, Omnis, and to a lesser extent Boleros. None 4X4. These ply on roads which I would have a few years back called 4X4 trails. What has happened is this: Over the years road conditions have improved (not talking of smooth vs potholed. But what was once a trail being dressed and leveled, streams/ minor rivers bridged etc into a workable road. PMGSY zindabad) Also the taxi drivers take some private initiative to dress up the very worst sections (or create a ruckus so that the administration takes some action) so that they can ply on it. Their livelihood depends on it.

So what you are wanting, a 4X4 road which leads someplace where you want to go, is rare now. You can still get plenty of trails where there is a high chance that even a 4X4 will come a cropper. Those trails don't usually lead to anyplace you might want to go. There are some exceptions to this of course. Once in a while a place with no name is suddenly 'discovered' and promoted as an Eco Tourism spot. The other is forest roads. But the forest roads are now essentially out of bounds for tourists.

This out of bound for tourists also applies to private tea plantation roads, and colliery roads.

The Senchal route I guided you along is the 'old military road'. And in my memory, and mind, it was a lovely walking trail through thickly wooded hills. Alas, mostly gone now. What you saw was nothing compared to what it was.

Regards
Sutripta

Last edited by GTO : 22nd October 2015 at 09:30. Reason: Removing off-topic posts - please avoid
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Old 13th October 2015, 08:44   #6
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Default Re: 4WD destinations in Eastern and North Eastern India

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackPearl View Post
.
Quote:
Originally Posted by himadrimondal View Post
.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sutripta View Post
.
I am [more] interested in knowing as to which destinations would require ILP's, on 4 wheels as well as 2. How hard are they to get, which days to avoid etc.

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Old 13th October 2015, 10:49   #7
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Default Re: 4WD destinations in Eastern and North Eastern India

What a wonderful thread Blackpearl. Some amazing pictures too. Most of the destinations have been covered by you & GhostRider28. I am sure apart from these there would be many in Sikkim & N Bengal. We will keep on adding once we encounter the same. Last time when we went up Pankhabari, we switched on Auto on some stretches as there were a lot of Landslides with torrential rain & it was pitch dark. There are many such roads which can be done in a 2WD, but if the weather gods are not too happy, you will need a 4WD.

Regards,

Pawan
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Old 13th October 2015, 11:03   #8
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Default Re: 4WD destinations in Eastern and North Eastern India

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackPearl View Post

6. Melli to Kaluk via Zoom, West Sikkim
This is not strictly 4WD route and our fellow bhpians gearhead-mait, PapaBravo and mi2n have done this route in Eon, Brio and Figo respectively. However, another fellow bhpian Rajarshi had to engage 4WD in his Thar on this route during the monsoons. So putting it up as a probable 4WD road. Here are the travelogues -

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...st-sikkim.html (Where the road leads to the Himalayas! Kaluk, West Sikkim)
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...bode-gods.html (Sikkim - The Abode of Gods)
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...tism-fire.html (Sikkim - Baptism by fire)
Wonderful thread for the 4X4 enthusiasts.

One road needs special mention here:

The route to Kaluk through Legship - Chingthang - Kaluk. It's a shortcut of around 12 kms to Kaluk, but I could manage the first 3 kms in my EON and had to turn back afterwards. Later, while discussing with a local Sumo driver I came to know that the road is out of bounds for even Sumo. He said that even Sumo gets severe under body hits. They avoid that route and told me that I was lucky I didn't proceed further as the road deteriorates significantly afterwards.

Details of the route (along with video) can be found here:

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...ml#post3631864 (Where the road leads to the Himalayas! Kaluk, West Sikkim)

And map of the route, here:


https://www.google.com/maps/dir/27.2...d27.232447!3e0

This can be a potential 4X4 road, that leads to a wonderful destination as well.

Cheers,
gearhead.

Last edited by gearhead_mait : 13th October 2015 at 11:04.
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Old 13th October 2015, 14:13   #9
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Default Re: 4WD destinations in Eastern and North Eastern India

Excellent 5* Thread BlackPearl !!

A very thoughtfully started thread with bags full of Data, potentially for the 4x4 enthusiasts. I shall be glued to this thread being a potential and prospective 4x4 buyer and an enthusiastic traveler. Experts do pour in your thoughts and opinions and add value to this wonderful Databank thread started by BlackPearl.

I would suggest DO NOT mention places like Pankhabari (upwards) & the road from Jorethang to Darjeeling as roads that would require engaging 4x4 or an AWD. This would refrain first time travelers who do not have a 4WD/AWD from attempting this route which is against the spirit of this thread.

This thread should and indeed would push the 4x4 enthusiast to venture out to places by taking the roads less traveled with their mean machines which are not so popular amongst the common tourist. One would be more interested to know about the places where one can put the 4WD in proper use and just not use it because one has it; irrespective of the fact it is required or not.

Awaiting valuable inputs from the experts on the excursions that can be undertaken in a 4WD or an AWD. Over to the Masters !!
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Old 13th October 2015, 17:41   #10
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Default Re: 4WD destinations in Eastern and North Eastern India

Thank you for this very informative thread. Cannot still stop gawking at your Bolero on the snow covered Sandakphu slopes even though the picture is a veteran here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackPearl View Post

6. Melli to Kaluk via Zoom, West Sikkim
.....However, another fellow bhpian Rajarshi had to engage 4WD in his Thar on this route during the monsoons. So putting it up as a probable 4WD road. Here are the travelogues -
Was the 4WD needed between Melli and Jorethang due to there being no tarred surface on this stretch or has the properly tarred Zoom (post Jorethang) climb deteriorated due to the monsoons? If the surface of the Jorethang to Zoom climb has deteriorated please do not attempt the climb unless the vehicle is a 4x4 torque monster.
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Old 16th October 2015, 14:23   #11
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Default Re: 4WD destinations in Eastern and North Eastern India

Upper Neora Valley. Just like Sandakphu, this place requires a 4WD to reach. Well atleast that is the way people, nature lovers and birding enthusiast visit this place. But that's a handful and even weeks may pass without a single traveller. This part of the land is absolutely secluded and untouched by human civilization. Its the land of exotic mountain birds and of course the Red Panda. Himalayan black bear can be found and is dangerous too. There is a point till which vehicles are allowed after which the trek route begins. There is no accommodation on top. One has to arrange for porters, ration and tents for the two to five day trek and camping. Even today there are places in the Neora valley where man has not yet set foot and no scientific studies have been conducted.

Permit: Available from WBFDC office at lava. They will insist on a local 4WD vehicle. Local 4WDs are available from Lava near the forest department bunglow.
How Do we go? Just as we cross Lava while coming from Kalimpong side and head towards Kolakham on the broken road, there is a right going up. One has to take this road. Its broken, large loose rocks and not even as wide as the Sandakphu road. There are only a handful of places in that one and a half hours climb where one can give pass to a oncoming vehicle. Reversing can be fatal.

The Trek route leads towards a place called Jaributi by the locals. The flora and fauna of the place is not only rich but rare too.
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Did this route first in 2009 in my Chevy Tavera but after a lot of convincing the forest department officials and agreeing to take a guide and a porter. There was a lot of under-body scraping but somehow did manage the climb. The pinion driven Tavera had zero turbo lag and luckily the incline was not as steep as Sandakphu. I did not have a 4WD then, neither was I interested in it nor did I have any knowledge about its capabilities. Further, I was not even a TBHP member. My soul interest was birds and it is for that reason I don't have a photograph of the climb or the vehicle. On the contrary, if I were to take my jeep up this route now, I might stop atleast 10 times taking photographs with the thought of posting in this forum

View at sunset.
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Last edited by himadrimondal : 16th October 2015 at 14:41.
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Old 16th October 2015, 18:58   #12
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Default Re: 4WD destinations in Eastern and North Eastern India

It is a nice thread to start and a very useful one for those who have bought 4x4s thinking it might be a life saver on occasions due to Indian road conditions and then they die to find such occasions so that they can convince themselves the worth of extra money they spent to get that special piece of equipment! I confess that I am one of them

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Old 16th October 2015, 22:28   #13
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Default Re: 4WD destinations in Eastern and North Eastern India

I repeat, I am more interested in knowing about places which require permit and the ways they may be procured. At places where 2 wheelers are exempted etc...

Whenever I do these destinations, they sure won't be on the forum
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Old 16th October 2015, 22:44   #14
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Default Re: 4WD destinations in Eastern and North Eastern India

A very interesting discussion, thanks BlackPearl for bringing this up.

There are few aspects to this discussion that come to mind, and here are my random thoughts:

Thought 1. Identifying and listing those hidden or inaccessible locations that are essentially nature lovers' and bird watchers' paradise. Most of these places (below the treeline in the Himalayas) would be inaccessible to 2wd vehicles, and the primary mode of transportation of local inhabitants of these areas would be walking. In recent years perhaps, 4wd vehicles make it there with difficulty throughout the year (thanks to half-hearted government road projects to connect these villages). These locations can be in the mountains or forests. Example: Upper Neora Valley.

My opinion: The dedicated birders / nature lovers know about these places through their own network of like-minded folks, and their thirst to reach these places is not limited by how far their 4wds can take them. They'll trek the distance too, if required. They don't expect decent accommodation in these areas, and are even willing to camp out under the sky if required. It is a boon for them that they can at least drive up, if only in a 4wd vehicle. Perhaps the 'adventure tourist' ought to choose to stay away from these places, for the sake of the birds as well as because there are no decent comfortable hotels there.

===================================

Thought 2. A list of rough and steep roads which lead to high-altitude destinations, especially in the border areas. Bumla is one destination that has been highlighted here. Reaching these places has nothing to do with birding or loving nature - in fact, being above the tree line in most instances, these high altitude locations are often barren and desolate. Except, the views of snow-laden high peaks that some of these locations offer, and the clear weather, is unparalleled elsewhere. More likely than not, these roads are of strategic military importance, and often remain snow-bound and unmotorable for half the year or more.

My opinion: The destination is less important than the 'thrill of the chase'. Often, these locations are all-day round-trip drives from a more secure (and more 'touristy') location, and offer 'bragging rights' to 'brave' travellers / 'conquerors', such as
(a) I went there - here are the photographs of me at xxxxx altitude. Needed to breathe oxygen;
(b) my car made it up these roads - here's a video. Wow, what a great car ABC Company makes;
(c) it was great to stare eyeball-to-eyeball with our hostile neighbours. Our guns are bigger than theirs;
(d) I saw Mt. Everest - we climbed up almost to the same height!

==========================================
Thought 3. Listing out fair weather roads, that become dangerous for 2wd in certain seasons such as peak winter or monsoons. I am thinking of the NH2 of the early 1990s, or the NH34 today. Or the road to Narkanda (HP) in January. Or the road to Tawang in the monsoons. Though the road is not technically the destination, and with any alternate route available, one might want to avoid such roads altogether, there is certainly a fun factor involved in traversing such roads to reach a peaceful destination on the other side.

My opinion: I'll avoid such roads if given a choice, but many desirable destinations do NOT offer that choice.

========================================

Thought 4: The debates on this forum (including this thread) have often swung towards why we own 4wd vehicles, whether all 4wd vehicles are the same, and how much utilization do owners extract from the 4wd feature of their vehicles (apart from recreational / competitive off-roading within limited distances). It is heartening to note that, from less than half-a-dozen 4wd equipped passenger cars (most of which offered rudimentary performance & creature comfort for the driver and passengers) even 10-12 years ago, we can easily name more than two dozen 4wd vehicles today (most of which are quite fast AND comfortable) that are being sold in the Indian market. It is therefore only natural that more and more people will seek out places to go where the 4wd system is utilizable, and I wouldn't be surprised if we see more threads of this genre covering different parts of the country.

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 16th October 2015 at 22:48.
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Old 17th October 2015, 01:46   #15
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Default Re: 4WD destinations in Eastern and North Eastern India

Thanks a lot everybody for all your inputs.

Here are two more routes to Darjeeling that one can try with his/her 4x4 vehicle. The maps are generated from GPX logs shared by our beloved Sutripta Da -

1. via Singla:

4WD destinations in Eastern and North Eastern India-singla.png

2. via Zamune:

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