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Old 3rd April 2010, 15:09   #1
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Default The Great Indian Family Road Trip

We've always (well for the past several years at least) been into traveling abroad for the holidays, going to great pain and expense to have something to interest us all (me, wife and 2 sons 15 & 11).
For some time now, it's been bothering me that we seem to have seen more of other countries than our own, so we decided to make up for lost time.
This summer, we're doing our Great Indian Family Road Trip - Bangalore to Gangtok via Central India, and return via the East Coast. The prospect of driving almost 6000 kms over 28 days excites me, but I'd like to be reasonably prepared for any eventualities, and hence this shout out to all those road trip gurus here.
Please do share with me your experiences, tips and recommendations. I'll be the sole driver in my Scorpio mHawk, with the trip broken down as below.
Anything I should know about any of these sections? Any recommendations on places to stay, visit? Any tips on what to carry?

All inputs appreciated.

City Distance Nights
Bangalore
Hyderabad 570 1
Nagpur 490 1
Kanha 273 2
Jabalpur 260 1
Bandhavgarh 253 2
Khajuraho 275 3
Varnasi 375 2
Bodhgaya 253 -
Patna 111 1
Siliguri 456 1
Gangtok 112

City Distance Nights
Gangtok 5 (Nathu la and Changu lake; Pelling; Yumthang)
Siliguri 112 1
Asansol 500 1
Bishnupur 100 -
Kharagpur 150 1
Puri 380 2
Gopalpur on sea 110 2 (Chilika Lake, ferry en route?)
Vijayawada 615 2
Chennai 455 1
Bangalore 327
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Old 4th April 2010, 00:10   #2
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First of all congratulations on the decision. Also happy (and a little jealous) to note the '28-day' vacation.

After a quick glance through the route - may be you can spend 2 nights in Vizag, get one from Gopalpur on Sea and one from Vijaywada. You may want to cover Araku from there.

You need not go to Chennai, coming from Vijaywada to Bangalore, if you don't have any specific reason to.
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Old 5th April 2010, 06:43   #3
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arindam thanks, and yes, i'm fortunate to be self employed and able to make the time for this.
i did think about vizag, visited on work over 15 yrs ago, don't know what's to see around there.
the itinerary is still a work in progress in terms of minor tweaks, i'll be posting the changes today.
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Old 5th April 2010, 09:50   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by float View Post

All inputs appreciated.

City Distance Nights
Bangalore
Hyderabad 570 1
Nagpur 490 1
Kanha 273 2
It will be sizzling hot in these parts. Check out if Kanha will be opwn during this time.

Quote:
Jabalpur 260 1
Bandhavgarh 253 2
Khajuraho 275 3
Kajuraho is out of the way, you will have to take a detour from Katni through Amaanganj to Panna and return via Panna to Satna and Rewa.

Quote:
Varnasi 375 2
Bodhgaya 253 -
Patna 111 1
Siliguri 456 1
I would avoid this route totally thanks to safety issues and terrible road conditions. Assuming you want to visit Bodh Gaya, please visit and return to Nh2 and go to Siliguri via Barhi and Durgapur.


Quote:
Gangtok 112

City Distance Nights
Gangtok 5 (Nathu la and Changu lake; Pelling; Yumthang)
Getting permits to drive your own car to Nathu la and North Sikkhim extremely difficult.

Quote:
Siliguri 112 1
Asansol 500 1
Bishnupur 100 -
Kharagpur 150 1
The Asansol-Bishnupur-Kharagpur stretch is totally avoidable, horrible roads. Stick to Durgapur Expressway-Kon Expressway between Asansol/Durgapur and Kharagpur.

Quote:
Puri 380 2
Gopalpur on sea 110 2 (Chilika Lake, ferry en route?)
You can take a ferry across Chilka from Satapada (40 kms from Puri) to Krishnaprasad, and connect to NH5 after Rambha/Bhalugaon.


You can check out teh following links which have my log books of various sector that you propose to cover:

CENTRAL & SOUTH INDIA, January 2010 - hvkumar | Google Groups

This one has Kajuraho-Katni-Jabalpur-Nagpur-Hyderabad

NORTH EAST 2009 - hvkumar | Google Groups

This one has North East India, drive via Hyderabad, Vijaywada, Vizag, Puri to Siliguri. And rest of North East.

GOLDEN QUADRILATERAL 2008 - hvkumar | Google Groups

This has the Asansol-Kolkata-Kharagpur-Bhubaneswar-Vizag-Vijaywada-Chennai route

COAST to CAPE to COAST 2005 - hvkumar | Google Groups

This has the Asansol-Kolkata-Puri-Chilka Lake ferry

NORTH EAST 2009 - hvkumar | Google Groups
This has details of my latest North East trip, has full details of KOlkata-Sikkhim-rest of North East. It also has the route via Bihar (but not via Patna), you will get useful info on the Begusarai-Purnea-Dalkola-Siliguri route.
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Old 5th April 2010, 09:53   #5
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One supplementary advice, if I may. Why don't you concentrate on the North East part instead of mixing up with a route through central India (Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Kajuraho), all of which deserve a separate trip in cooler season?

I have one more trip plan that I have made for KSM-VTEC, who is currently in teh North East, it is for Sikkhim-BHutan-Assam-Arunachal-Meghalaya

http://hvkumar.googlegroups.com/web/...-BwrUzBGT2hOzg
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Old 5th April 2010, 12:51   #6
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Kumar,
You just made wifey and me stop in our tracks and do a complete re-think. The idea of doing an exclusive North East trip is a seductive one.
Back to the drawing board.
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Old 5th April 2010, 20:19   #7
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Update on the road trip - hvkumar has raised a valid point about trying to do too much in one road trip. The general consensus also seems to be that only mad dogs and englishmen are out in the scorching heat, and since we're neither, it would be prudent to mosey on up to the mountains.
The modified plan now looks at heading straight up the east coast, with a couple of sight seeing stops and then do Sikkim and Bhutan at a leisurely pace over 15-18 days and then come straight back home to Bangalore, again down the east coast.
While we're fleshing out the detailed itinerary the overall plan is to depart Bangalore on April 17th with the following route plan:
Bangalore - Nellore - Vijayawada (660 kms) 2 nights stay with day trip to Undavalli caves and Amravati.
Vijayawada - Vizag - Gopalpur (615 kms) 1 night stay
Gopalpur - Puri (via Chilka lake ferry) 2 nights stay with day trip to Konark
Puri - Midnapur (380 kms) 1 night stay
Midnapur - Malda (420 kms) 2 nights with day trip to Gaur / Pandua
Malda - Siliguri - Gangtok (362 kms)
11 nights in Sikkim

Gangtok - Phuntsholing (240 kms) 1 night
Phuntsholing - Thimpu (176 kms - 7 hrs???)

6 nights in Bhutan

Return via Siliguri / Jalpaiguri

Siliguri - Durgapur (670 kms) 1 night
Cuttack 510 1
Vizag 455 1
Nellore 636 1
Bangalore 381
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Old 5th April 2010, 23:25   #8
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Please bear in mind that the Krishnaprasad-Satapada ferry operates only at certain hours of the day, and the crossing itself takes 1.30 hours on the Chilka Lake.

Do not take Puri-Midnapur route, it is horrible.

Instead, go via Kharagpur, Kolkata Bypass/Dankuni, Panagarh Bazar till Darjeeling More and hit NH34 via Siuri and Rampurhat at Morgram.

From Puri, you can make it to Bardhaman or if you push it, even Malda the same day. Malda is preferable since there are good hotels outside the city itself.

11 nights in Sikkhim - isn't that too much? Even assuming you do North Sikkim and West Sikkhim, I think the max that would be needed is 5-7 days.

Your Bhutan schedule also looks OK.

You could also exit Bhutan at Samdrup Jhonkar, the eastern end. If you are not doing the West-East drive in Bhutan, I think 4 days is adequate.
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Old 6th April 2010, 08:10   #9
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North Sikkim is very beautiful. You should visit the places like Lachung, Yumthog, ZeroPoint (14.5k ft), Lachen, Gurodombar Lake (17k ft). However, only 4x4 vehicles can go to North Sikkim. The roads are adventurous.
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Old 6th April 2010, 09:35   #10
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@hvkumar
Thanks for the inputs.
We know the chilka ferry is a slow / leisurely option, which is why we've given it the whole day to get from Gopalpur to Puri, the idea being, it serves as our Chilika lake sight seeing as well.
Puri - Midnapur, is road bad even for Scorpio? After all the one major reason for buying the damn truck was to sneer in disdain at bad roads. I would bow to your superior experience however, and take the route you suggest, if as you say I can make it to Malda in one stretch. Wifey's set her heart on also seeing the terracotta temples in Bishnupur (Bankura), so have to fit that in on the way up or back.
11 days in Sikkim is a bit excessive, yes; but we always believe in doing things to an excess!!! Seriously though, the idea is to have a few days of chill out, do nothing time in the mountains after the required sight seeing. We're great fans of creative sloth!
The best part about a driving holiday is also the flexibility it offers. While I wanted to also do Meghalaya in this trip, wife and 15 year old are resistant to adding more driving days as opposed to sacking out in the mountains. If we do find time hanging on our hands in Sikkim, I may still be able to convince them to leave early and do a couple of days in Meghalaya.
One question that needs research is the whole permits thing in Sikkim; I know that AD's posts on the subject have in depth info, but I'd appreciate any tips on that, particularly permits to Tsangmo lake and Nathu La. We may hire a local jeep for Nathu La if that's the best option and easier for the permits, but I'd love to have the experience of driving up to Nathu La myself. I'd appreciate any sharing of info on this; wife raised valid point that if I'm driving on treacherous mountain roads, I'll be missing a lot of the breath taking sights, so hired jeep is better.
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Old 6th April 2010, 09:47   #11
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Yes, Bishnupur/Bankura roads are really terrible. A friend who drove by last month in a Xylo was totally repentant that he did that route instead of breezing along on the splendid Durgapur-Kon expressways. Besides, please bear in mind that once you leave NH60/NH6 at Kharagpur towards Midnapur, you plumb in Maoist/Naxal territory which means occasional hartals/bandhs/rasta rokos without any notice. Sadly, I think it sensible not to g to these places at this point in time.

The Sikkhim taxi cartel is powerful enough to ensure that private cars are allowed to Nathu la/North Sikkhim only with a struggle, waiting for permits for upto 2 days, meeting Police Commissioner, and all that. I did not want to waste time on that (plus the uncertainty), so I decided to take the taxi. ADC also had to use all his clout and waste a lot of time getting those permits. Maybe you can try for the permits since you have more time at your disposal.
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Old 6th April 2010, 11:29   #12
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@ottocycle
Yes, we're going to do some of North Sikkim; my Scorpio is 2x4, are you saying it won't be able to make it?

@hvkumar
I'm a little confused
Puri to Kharagpur / Medinipur (Midnapur?) is NH5 till Baleshwar and then NH60 Baleshwar to Kharagpur. There, the road forks NH6 to Kolkata and NH60 continues towards Medinipur, Bishnupur, Bankura and joins NH2 before Asansol.
At Kharagpur if I hang a right onto NH6 towards Kolkata, it would appear I'm taking a huge semi circle to Bardhman. I'm not seeing this Durgapur / Kon road on any of the maps I'm looking at.
If I continue on NH60 to Bishnupur, it seems like a shorter route to Siuri. Are you saying NH60 itself is a bad road through disturbed areas?
While there's enough time, it's probably best to get some clarity on this segment.

Thanks for your help
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Old 6th April 2010, 12:30   #13
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NH60 comes from Baleshwar, and is part of the GQ, hence it is 4-laned. At Kharagpur, it intersects NH6 (coming from Bombay). From Kharagpur onwards, NH6 is a wonderful 4-laned road (also called the Kon Expressway, till Dankuni on the outskirts of Calcutta). At Kolkata/Dankuni, the Durgapur Expressway starts (from Bardhaman onwards, it becomes NH2).

Forget all those online maps, they are wrong in many parts.

NH60 from Kharagpur onwards goes to Midnapur (same place as Medinipur), and is a terrible 2-lane road, bad in may places, and without bypasses, besides ploughing through the heartland of the Maoist problems in WB today.

Forget distances, what matters on highways is good roads and obstacle-free highways, not shorter routes.

Therefore, stick to the NH60 (Baleshwar-Kharagpur), Kon Expressway/NH6 (Kharagpur-Kolkata/Dankuni) and Durgapur Expressway/NH2 (Kolkata/Dankuni-Bardhaman-Darjeeling More) route. From Darjeeling More, you will turn off and go to Siuri.

One you have firmed up your route, I will give you point-by-point driving instructions that will help you during the drive.

BTW, none of the information is from any maps, but based on my actual driving experiences and that of others before and after me. The status update on the bad condition of the Midanpur-Bishnupur roads is less than 1 month old, and the person who did it that way found it the worst experience in his life (he drove his Xylo from Shillong to Madras)
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Old 6th April 2010, 12:32   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by float View Post
@ottocycle
Yes, we're going to do some of North Sikkim; my Scorpio is 2x4, are you saying it won't be able to make it?

@
Any car can go anywhere in Sikkhim. Roads are good, although in the rainy season, roads can become non-navigable for any car. BTW, come May and the North East is best avoided because of the heavy rainfall in the region.
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Old 14th April 2010, 17:46   #15
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Departure date fast approaches - April 17th. I plan to do Bangalore - Vijayawada on that day with the following route:
Bangalore - Hoskote - Chittoor (NH4) - Chandragiri - Nayudupeta (joins NH5) - Nellore - Ongole - Vijayawada
This seems to avoid the hottest Cuddappa portion; I'd appreciate any input on this route or any other suggested best route.

The rest of the route to Sikkim remains as earlier:
Vijayawada - Vizag - Gopalpur 1 night stay
Gopalpur - Puri (via Chilka lake ferry) 2 nights stay with day trip to Konark
Puri - Kharagpur - Malda 2 nights stay with day trip to Gaur
Malda - Siliguri - Gangtok

11 nights in Sikkim

Gangtok - Phuntsholing (240 kms) 1 night
Phuntsholing - Thimpu (176 kms - 7 hrs???)

6 nights in Bhutan

Return via Siliguri / Jalpaiguri

Siliguri - Durgapur (670 kms) 1 night
Cuttack 510 1
Vizag 455 1
Nellore 636 1
Bangalore 381
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