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Old 20th October 2009, 10:31   #16
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One more thing that bugs me is the fog. Time and again we've driven this route in winter, and more often than not we have been slowed down/held up by the fog. This year should be no different; as a matter of fact, last year's (December 2008 -January 2009) drive got us more fog in the eastern parts than I've ever seen. Global warming?
There will be heavy fog in these parts, especially in Bihar area because of the presence of so many water bodies and standing crops. Manageable in GQ roads, but very difficult in broken-down 2-lane roads in Bihar.
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Old 20th October 2009, 11:09   #17
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The amount of fog I got this year during my January third week trip upto almost Burdwan was mind blowing. I have never faced so much fog in West Bengal before. In Deoghar I missed the Trikut hill due to fog. It's huge and virtually on the road and yet I missed it. It was invisible.
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Old 20th October 2009, 12:07   #18
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You can try the NH60 from Raniganj , instead of soming down till Darjeeling More. That should save a lillte time , considering the traffic lights around Durgapur on NH2. Also the road from Darjeeling More till Bolpur is not in good shape at present.
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Old 20th October 2009, 12:14   #19
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There will be heavy fog in these parts... Manageable in GQ roads, but very difficult in broken-down 2-lane roads in Bihar.
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The amount of fog I got this year during my January third week trip upto almost Burdwan was mind blowing. I have never faced so much fog in West Bengal before.
Very true. In all the years I've spent there, I don't remember the kind of fog as I saw in 2008-09 winter. And without lane markers and proper surfaces, driving at night in the fog is a little like playing Russian roulette.

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You can try the NH60 from Raniganj , instead of soming down till Darjeeling More. That should save a lillte time , considering the traffic lights around Durgapur on NH2. Also the road from Darjeeling More till Bolpur is not in good shape at present.
NH60 from Kharagpur to Raniganj was in terrible shape in the first week of January 2009 when I was there. I hope the road has been repaired now, and the same kind of surface does not exist north of Raniganj.
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Old 20th October 2009, 21:28   #20
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Hi,
Nothing much to add.

If you love adventures, you can also try NH31 from Barhi ( Jnc of NH31, 33, and 2).

NH31C (chalsa to Telepara Morh) is in bad condition.
NH60 from Ranigunj to Dubrajpur is to be avoided. NH in name only. Narrow, congested, not a great surface.

Shortest route, once you hit Islampur is take the Siliguri BP (Ghoshpukur to Phulbari), SH to Jalpaiguri, Tista bridge, Mainaguri, then NH31 to Dhupguri, again SH to Falakata (it has now been redesignated as NH31, part of the EW corridor), and then straight onto Alipur Duar. Falakata to Alipur Duar is a narrow road, with, if I remember rightly, one wooden bridge! This is my normal route.

Actually, a lot depends on the time of day for each section. For instance, though there have been no adverse reports, I do not take the Ghoshpukur connector at night, as there is a railway LC, where you are almost certain to get held up. It is in the middle of nowhere, and just kilometres away from the Bangladesh border.

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Sutripta
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Old 20th October 2009, 22:19   #21
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Thanks a lot, Sutripta, for your inputs.
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If you love adventures, you can also try NH31 from Barhi ( Jnc of NH31, 33, and 2).
But not perilous adventures! Bad roads are one thing, bad law and order situation is completely another...

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NH60 from Ranigunj to Dubrajpur is to be avoided. NH in name only. Narrow, congested, not a great surface.
And what about the road from Asansol connecting Siuri (Suri) via Nala, Kundahit and Rajnagar? Any idea how good or bad it is?
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Old 21st October 2009, 05:27   #22
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And what about the road from Asansol connecting Siuri (Suri) via Nala, Kundahit and Rajnagar? Any idea how good or bad it is?
No idea.

For road conditions, another good resource are the motorcycle forums. I don't know if Its a breach of etiquette to mention those here, but there is a national one, a Calcutta one, and even a Siliguri one.

BTW, where exactly are you going:- Alipur Duar, or a place NEAR Alipur Duar. Also what car are you driving? Are you comfortable fjording rivers? Is the journey the goal? Route suggestions will vary accordingly.

If you are going to meet someone there (can't think of any other reason for going to Alipur Duar, no offense meant to anyone), ask him. Nothing like local knowledge.

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Old 21st October 2009, 10:22   #23
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BTW, where exactly are you going:- Alipur Duar, or a place NEAR Alipur Duar. Also what car are you driving? Are you comfortable fjording rivers? Is the journey the goal? Route suggestions will vary accordingly.

If you are going to meet someone there (can't think of any other reason for going to Alipur Duar, no offense meant to anyone), ask him. Nothing like local knowledge.
Well, to answer your questions - I plan to visit the forests around Alipurduar. Driving a 4x4 Scorpio mHawk, so small rivers and streams should not be an issue. The journey AND the forests are both goals. I do have a few friends in Siliguri, but they are not the travelling by road types, and have no idea of the road conditions or route options.
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Old 21st October 2009, 11:52   #24
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Interesting thread with a wealth of information in it!
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Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
One more thing that bugs me is the fog. Time and again we've driven this route in winter, and more often than not we have been slowed down/held up by the fog. This year should be no different; as a matter of fact, last year's (December 2008 -January 2009) drive got us more fog in the eastern parts than I've ever seen. Global warming?
This is the only thing that is preventing me from driving down to Kolkata in December. We have barely a week in Kolkata & getting stuck in Fog & losing time both ways is only going to make it shorter.
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Old 21st October 2009, 11:56   #25
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Well, to answer your questions - I plan to visit the forests around Alipurduar. Driving a 4x4 Scorpio mHawk, so small rivers and streams should not be an issue. The journey AND the forests are both goals.
In that case, cancel my previous suggestion!
Decide on which forests, and which night halts. Can chalk out a route plan then. Book the forest lodges INSIDE the forests. A lot of "eco camps" are springing up on the periphery of the forests. No facilities, ridiculous tariff. And the WB govt is also cashing in on it.

A question about your 4x4. All my Mahindras have always been 4x4s, because I see no point in accepting all its compromises, and then not having 4x4. But I have not been able to TD a Scorpio 4x4. So never bought one. Some people reported that compared to the 2WD, it had NVH issues, and there was too much of transmission snatch. Having an Armada Grand 4x4, I can well believe it. Would like to have your opinion on it.

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Sutripta
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Old 21st October 2009, 12:30   #26
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I would say, find yourself a place to stay and explore the forests every day with a hired forest guard. I did that and enjoyed thoroughly. The forests to explore in that area are Jaldapara, Khayerbari, Chilepota, Jayanti etc. These are absolutely beautiful forests. Very dense.
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Old 21st October 2009, 12:52   #27
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Decide on which forests, and which night halts. Can chalk out a route plan then. Book the forest lodges INSIDE the forests. A lot of "eco camps" are springing up on the periphery of the forests. No facilities, ridiculous tariff. And the WB govt is also cashing in on it.
I shall just have 3 nights, and Sudipto-da's suggestion of Hollong sounded great (but no rooms available). I am yet to go to the WBFDC website to check for FRH options. Eco camps I avoid desperately, mainly because I'm not keen on a "sterilized" experience of Mother Nature at pocket-unfriendly costs. Your suggestions and help will be most welcome.

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A question about your 4x4.
Answered here.
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Old 21st October 2009, 14:11   #28
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Hollong is great. Pity about no rooms. There is a lodge just outside. Have you tried the inside lodge at Gorumara? (Otherwise Gorumara is best avoided:- too commercialised). Chapramarhi is better, but difficult to get permission for staying. Is electricity important to you?

Three days is too short.

WBFDC lodges are not within the forest area. Only Buxa comes close. Only forest dept has lodges within the forest area.

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Old 22nd October 2009, 10:36   #29
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The one outside Hollong is Jaldapara Tourist Lodge run by WBTDC in Madarihat. It's on the edge of the forest and an acceptable compromise if you don't get Hollong. But I doubt if it will have rooms at that time (peak tourist season). We got the last room in the off season month of May. There are a few private lodges in Madarihat as well but I cannot guarantee their quality - haven't seen them personally. Next option is Baradabri/Malangi owned by WBFDC. This is near Hasimara town. Not a great location but acceptable and quite strategically located if the idea is to explore the forests around. A poor compromise if this is also not available is Jaigaon/Phuntsholing which is about 10/15 km from Hasimara. Next option further down the road is Rajabhatkhawa inside Buxa run by WBFDC. Next option if even this is not available is forest bungalow inside Jayanti right next to the river. I think it is owned by the forest department (not tourism department or WBFDC) and it is perpetually booked throughout the year. It is in a beautiful location right on the bank of Jayanti river. There are a few private lodges in Jayanti with basic facilities. I will see if I can get the phone number of those lodges and you can find out if they are available. Jayanti is simply out of this world, with a dry river infront, Bhutan hills on the other side, a broken abandoned bridge in the middle of the river - location for Abar Aranye shooting.
Worst case scenario is staying either in Phuntsholing or Alipur. Boring towns. But quite close to the forests. P'ling/Jaigaon would have lot more hotel rooms than Alipur.
The elephant rides happen inside Jaldapara Reserve Forest and start from infront of the Hollong Bungalow. If you don't stay in the government lodges you get the last priority for the rides. You can of course hire open hood forest department Gypsies for the jungle ride inside the deep forest. Private cars are not allowed in those parts.
Hire a forest guide who will take you to various parts of the forest.
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Old 22nd October 2009, 17:54   #30
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Sudipto's information is spot on. In addition:-

First of all, try the forest dept (not WBFDC) lodges. Be warned that amenities can be very basic. e.g. No electricity.

The original Jayanti bungalow was destroyed in the floods. You can still see its abandoned shell. That area has a number of lodges, of the various government departments. It is the playground of the bureaucrats/ politicians. Am Admi to be kept away. If you have contacts in the WB Govt, use them.

For birding, you have Rasik Bil, and Gazoldoba. For Gazoldoba, stay at Mal.

I would think WBFDC Buxa is a better choice than Malangi, esp for Jayanti.

For the elephant ride through the jungle, you have no option but Hollong/ Jaldapara. Don't get conned into Dhupdhara.

Phanskhowa has a (very expensive) Bara Bungalow stay (can't call it homestay, can we) option. Well situated for Jayanti. It is a few Km across the river. Being local, I'm sure they can get things organised.

Just for driving through, Chilapata (Hasimara to Coochbehar road) is nice.

Totally thinking outside the box:- have you thought of Simlipal?

Regards
Sutripta
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