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Old 6th April 2012, 19:41   #1
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Default Yet another roadtrip - Hyderabad to Gangtok

Start of Summer in Hyderbad - An opportunity to escape into the snows of Sikkim...even if its only for a few days!

Me and Sreekanth decided to do this 5000 km road trip with our families, we hit the road on 16th March. The proposed route is as below:

Hyderabad-Suryapet-Vijayawada-Rajahmundry- Vizag-Bhubaneshwar-Balasore-Calcutta-Malda-Siliguri-Kurseong-Darjeeling-Rangpo-Gangtok.

Thanks HVK for the detailed trip guide!

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Day 1

Made a late evening start from Hyderabad; last minute stuff cropping up in office as usual on a Friday afternoon. . We had no definite plans to halt for the night or for food…take it as it comes was the mantra for this trip.
The Hyderabad – Vijayawada stretch is a pretty busy route and is currently undergoing widening..so it was a not so enjoyable experience. We stopped at the Dhaba 7 at Suryapet for Dinner. This joint is the only decent place in the stretch to Vijayawada. After dinner we decided to soldier on, no plans for the night in place yet. After Vijayawada, the roads opened up and traffic thinned down; it was the GQ after all. By the time we hit Rajahmundry it was 2 AM and we decided to park in a petrol bunk and catch a few winks; the norm for the trip as it turned out!


6:30 AM on Day 2 we hit the road again from Rajahmundry , the plan being to drive-on. We caught the morning rush-hour in Vizag; there being no by-pass for the city.



We stopped for breakfast after crossing Vizag and promptly carried on. By afternoon were at the Chilika Lake in Orissa and found a nice resort run by the tourism guys where we had a hearty meal.
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That's Chilika Lake in the background. The lake is a massive 1100 Sq.km in all.


By evening we were at Bhubaneshwar and soon after in Cuttack; we never realized Cuttack and Bhubaneshwar were so near each other. After a quick dinner at a Dhaba near Cuttack we carried on towards Calcutta. We had also realized that we needed a proper break in Calcutta.
So far all towns we had crossed through had no by-passes; the roads were good and traffic was not disturbing – except in Vizag.

Soon we crossed into West Bengal and took the detour into Calcutta city. Until this point we were following the trip guide provided by HVK – after the detour into Calcutta we relied on Map my India GPS loaded onto Sreekanth’s Tab. Calcutta was a shocker for both our families – all of us have lived in Mumbai, but Calcutta was something else…seeing the action in the city @ 5 AM, we could sense how busy things would get once there was daylight. We decided against risking a stay in Calcutta even though we were very tired. Since we didn’t want to take a U turn and follow HVK’s map from where we took the detour, we punched in Darjeeling on the GPS and followed directions.

Trams - a first for us!
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Fancy a free ride in the time machine?

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Soon we were on the outskirts of Calcutta and took a sleep and dine break at a hotel near Khilkapur More.

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After a good sleep and sumptuous lunch we hit the road taking the Ranaghat - Krishnanagar - Berhampore - Banipur – Farakka- Malda – Siliguri route.

This obviously was not the preferred route to Darjeeling, the roads were narrow and quite pathetic. We could see firsthand what 40 years of communist rule had done to WB. We had seen our share of commy rule back in God’s own country, but I believe the voters in Kerala were smart in bringing in the commies every alternate time…and not for 40 straight years. One got the feeling that the people in these regions didn’t have many options, transportation was mostly on bicycle, LCVs were homemade and trucks were from pre-history.

Pedal Power:

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Homemade LCVs - These operate with puny diesel engine used otherwise in pumps. Max speed around 15 Kmph.

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Nothing out of norm here..

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Calcutta to Siliguri took us 16 hours, the last 150 kms were great when we hit the NH 31 from Dalkola to Siliguri. Its quite a feeling to hit the expressway after like 10 hours of crappy roads. We had chai from the wayside in Siliguri and promptly headed to Kurseong through neatly manicured tea gardens and finally started to get the feel of the hills and what our next few days would be like..

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Kurseong is a quaint little town near Darjeeling; not too crowded, nice little shops and great weather. We look a much needed rest in Hotel Amarjeet. Its a cosy little place with a nice restaurant. We hit the local market for a little bit of shopping that evening.

Parking is a worry in this hill town, but there is a saving grace in the form of the train lines. They run along the main roads and can be used as parking if you know the train timings. You be near-about and move the car off the tracks once the trian honks..its quite funny to see the train honking and waiting for someone to remove a bike parked right across the track. Shopkeepers nearby actually push the bikes away from the track after getting fed up with the train honking...

Thats Pulsar ended up on its side eventualyy..

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I did park on the tracks too..just had to take the car off once at 1 PM..otherwise all perfect.

Next morning we had to attend the farewell ceremony of our aunt who was retiring from St.Helen's school - the trouble is the aunt insisted me and Sreekanth come in clean cars for the function. So we set about the task of cleaning our very dirty cars..we were quipped with salvation in the form of ONR. This stuff is really amazing..u literally don't need buckets of water to clean a very dirty car. Mix a capful of ONR - Optimum NO Rinse - in half a litre of water in a sprayer, spray and wipe-off with a microfiber towel. Do it a few times and the shine is unbelievable. The locals were quite amused with all this activity and also quite surprised with the absence of buckets and the stream of water expected near cars getting washed.

So we drove into St. Helen's School in our shiny cars and enjoyed the time as chief guests...

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Even if you dont have a green thumb, spare yourself some time and step into any garden in Kurseong..you should not miss the Blooms of Kurseong..

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So after the sumptuous meal fit for chief guests we set off to Ganktok. The route being Kurseong - Darjeeling- Ramgpo - Gangtok.


The road from Kurseong to Darjeeling was not so bad, there was lots of traffic though - mostly tourist jeeps.

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Darjeeling was a dampner - we didnt even want to stop for a chai; it was all too crowded, vehicles inching along and lots of brokers peddling hotels and parking lots. We hit the road to Rangpo soon and things began to get less crowded, this road is quite fun - twisty and passes through several small villages where you can have good momos and chai.

Somewhere along the way you start seeing pine trees and prayer flags..never fails to conjure up images of snow and ice capped peaks..

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The road crosses the river Tista and onto Sikkim.

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We stopped in Rangpo for a cuppa. Rangpo town is on the border and have plenty of shops - mostly owned by Noth Indians. Men will have a smile seeing the price tag of booze - Sikkim has really cheap booze. We could see a lot of cars from across the border in Rangpo for the obvious..

We reached Gangtok an hour later and immediately sensed that finding reasonable accommodation with parking for the two Safaris would be the big challenge. We did drive into a few expensive looking hotels and beat a hasty retreat.

Not before we clicked this pic of fabulous and well-lit Gangtok City!

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So we punched M.G Marg on the GPS and drove into winding narrow roads. After much searching we found our perfect home for the next few days - Bamboo Grove hotel just off M.G Marg. This place has really friendly staff, is inexpensive, has parking for big cars and serves great food. The hotel staff was told to arrange passes for the trip next day to NathuLa.

As it turns out; Passes to NathuLa are limited and available only on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays...and it's tough getting passes on Wednesdays since its like the first day of the week and would have too many applicants as it turned out. Nevertheless we did secure a pass for Tsango Lake ; which would get us to the frozen lake and Baba Mandir at 14000 ft ASL.

So we set off the next day in a Xylo run by Sikkim Tourism. The driver was a young local and was belting out some cool music - lamb of God was in the menu as well! He had a great driving style - very subtle on the controls and heel'n'toeing like it was nobody's business.


We did stop for climate acclimatisation below the Tsango Lake and had some hot momos and chai.

That's our driver in the red jacket...

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The roads to Tsango are quite tough to navigate, these is a little bit of slush and ice, but the big worry is falling rocks.

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The driver did tell me that the main reason private cars weren't allowed on these roads was because inexperienced drivers would swerve on seeing falling rocks and end up in the valley - a very believable reason.

We had a great time in the snow and ice around Tsango lake.
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A cottage right out of a fairy tale..


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Sreekanth does the customary ring at the Baba Temple.
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We didn’t spend a lot of time at that altitude since it had apparently started to rain downstream and could result in more landslides : not a nice place to be stuck with the three kids. The drive back was quite treacherous and we reached the hotel by early evening.

The next morning we did a quick round of the M.G. Marg a beautiful bit of now-closed-to-traffic shopping street.
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The street had a very nice vibe about it; there were wrought iron chairs neatly arranged in the centre and very nice shops on both sides. We didn't spend much time shopping since we had a long day’s drive looming large…


We hit the road back to Hyderbad @ 11:30 AM and headed towards RangPo, where we stopped for a quick lunch. We drove through Siliguri and headed on towards our destination for the night halt - Malda.

The scenery reminded us of the roads in Kerala - only the palm trees were different!

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Some of the roads passed through National Parks and was quite nice ...but the parks themselves looked like the places only homo-sapiens would live in..
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It was night halt for us at Malda. Non-discrepant mostly...we headed on next morning; the aim being to cross West Bangal and park ourselves somewhere in Orissa.

A few Kilometers after crossing Farakka Barrage we hit the GQ; its the bit between Delhi and Calcutta. It was smooth sailing all the way and at Calcutta we carried on in the Chennai-Calcutta stretch of the GQ. We halted for the night after crossing Orissa border in a town called Balasore.


Tranquil lakeside somewhere in Orissa.

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The next day was a fast dash from Balasore to Rajahmundy; where we decided to take a power nap at the wayside.

We continued at 6 AM for the final dash to Hyderabad - taking a brunch break at Suryapet and the cars posing for the customary end-of-trip picture at the Outer Ring road in Hyderabad.

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It was a memorable 5000 Kms: 9 days spent mostly in our cars, smell of the hills, some ice and snow and lifetime of memories...adios.

Last edited by josepeter : 7th April 2012 at 15:03. Reason: Reformat pictures
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Old 6th April 2012, 19:43   #2
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Default Re: Yet another roadtrip - Hyderabad to Gangtok

Good write up josepeter. Whats with the pictures. They are not viewable. Please recheck. I am guessing you have included pictures of your ride, but you mentioned nothing about it in the write up.

Last edited by HorsPwr : 6th April 2012 at 19:48.
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Old 6th April 2012, 20:28   #3
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Default Re: Yet another roadtrip - Hyderabad to Gangtok

This is great. Good to see so many Hydees taking long road trips. Ranjit took to Rajasthan, you to Gangtok, I am taking to Rajasthan in near future.

Nice writeup.
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Old 6th April 2012, 21:02   #4
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Default Re: Yet another roadtrip - Hyderabad to Gangtok

Nice TL,

Can you upload few more pics of gangtok, and where and all you people went for sight seeing in Gangtok.

The map makes me believe that manasarovar lake is some where near from gangtok, how far is it ?

Would love to see few more details about gangtok..

Thanks
~The Red Paladin a.k.a Karthik
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Old 7th April 2012, 11:29   #5
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Default Re: Yet another roadtrip - Hyderabad to Gangtok

Nice travelogue it reminds me of my trip to Gangtok in 2007.
It looks almost non stop except for power naps you were on the road upto Siluguri.
Chilka lake need to visit once again.
Is the four laning complete from Berhampur to Balugaon.
The roads looks to be the same between Kolkatta and Silguri.It took the same time as
you have mentioned previously.
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Old 9th April 2012, 11:42   #6
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Default Re: Yet another roadtrip - Hyderabad to Gangtok

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 9th April 2012, 15:30   #7
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Default Re: Yet another roadtrip - Hyderabad to Gangtok

Nice travelogueLooks like a lot of time spent in the car and less time to smell the hills and flowersBut must admit was quite some drive that you guys did and that
too in the hills.Excellent writeup as well.

Thanks for sharing.
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Old 10th April 2012, 09:23   #8
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Thumbs up Re: Yet another roadtrip - Hyderabad to Gangtok

The prime aim of the trip was to go to Darjeeling (which none of us liked - was quoted as a market in freezer) and Sikkim came as an add-on. We took the retirement function to convince ourselves to travel; and the non availablity of tickets and shortage of leaves as the reason to drive all the way!

This was one hell of a drive - to go through the eastern coast of India - well reaching out into China. We saw sign boards which read "You were being watched by Chineese Posts"; and that too in 9 days. Having said that none of us were tired after the marathon drives - all thoroughly enjoyed it; Thank God and Thank Safari. The only health issue we had from the trip is the blown oil seal - my kiddo suffered - probably since he was first time in hills. Way to go my baby.
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Old 10th April 2012, 09:44   #9
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Default Re: Yet another roadtrip - Hyderabad to Gangtok

Thanks for the valuable tip that Nathu la permits are available only on certain days of the week.

Did you try getting permits to take your own car? What did you hear about how difficult it is to get them?

I understand that the main Siliguri-Darjeeling highway is still closed after landslides last year - any update on its repair? Which route did you take from Siliguri - the Pankabhari or the Mirik route? Are there time restrictions on one-way traffic on this road?

Did you enjoy the Darjeeling-Ghoom-Teesta road on the way to Gangtok?

Can you also share details of the hotels you stayed en route, including the one at Gangtok?

How did you manage car parking in Gangtok?

Which are the incomplete sections on NH5 in Orissa?
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Old 10th April 2012, 14:00   #10
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Default Re: Yet another roadtrip - Hyderabad to Gangtok

Quote:
Originally Posted by HorsPwr View Post
Good write up josepeter. Whats with the pictures. They are not viewable. Please recheck. I am guessing you have included pictures of your ride, but you mentioned nothing about it in the write up.
Was getting a bit rusty, HorsPwr! Couldn't figure out how to get the images in between paras.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheRedPaladin View Post
Nice TL,

Can you upload few more pics of gangtok, and where and all you people went for sight seeing in Gangtok.

The map makes me believe that manasarovar lake is some where near from gangtok, how far is it ?

Would love to see few more details about gangtok..

Thanks
~The Red Paladin a.k.a Karthik
Our tight schedule meant that sight seeing would be limited to NathuLa...all we got to see of Gangtok was M.G Marg and the roads that took us there. I loved Gangtok city so much that I wouldn't mind another trip there just to soak in the city; if only we could get leaves for months instead of weeks!

I heard it takes 2 days to get to Manasarover via NathuLa pass.



Quote:
Originally Posted by gajadonga View Post
Nice travelogue it reminds me of my trip to Gangtok in 2007.
It looks almost non stop except for power naps you were on the road upto Siluguri.
Chilka lake need to visit once again.
Is the four laning complete from Berhampur to Balugaon.
The roads looks to be the same between Kolkatta and Silguri.It took the same time as
you have mentioned previously.
You said it..Power naps mostly..

There is a bit of road work going on in the stretch; we had to deviate and cross railway tracks near Chilika lake.

On the way up we took the Ranaghat - Krishnanagar - Berhampore - Banipur – Farakka to Siliguri from Cal. On the way back we took the deviation after Farakka via Morgegram - Siuri to Calcutta.


Quote:
Originally Posted by ranjitp1 View Post
Nice travelogueLooks like a lot of time spent in the car and less time to smell the hills and flowersBut must admit was quite some drive that you guys did and that
too in the hills.Excellent writeup as well.

Thanks for sharing.
5000 Kms in 9 days equates to more time in-car. But I wouldn't call the trip tiring at all. Lots of credit to Safari - this thing is made for 1000 kmpd trips

HVK : Replies on the way...
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Old 10th April 2012, 14:46   #11
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Default Re: Yet another roadtrip - Hyderabad to Gangtok

Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
Thanks for the valuable tip that Nathu la permits are available only on certain days of the week.

Did you try getting permits to take your own car? What did you hear about how difficult it is to get them?

How did you manage car parking in Gangtok?
That is correct the passes are available only on certain days of the week. We did make the Sikkim trip incuding Nathula last Nov. We did not drive to get there but used the taxis available to do all the sight seeing.
It would be best to leave your vehicle and take on the various options for taxis especially for Nathula trip such as Premium - Scorpios / Xlyos, Economy - Sumo / Maxx for the reason that they have a well oiled machinery to work with the Police who dish out the permit. It is not only safe for you and the vehicle but also hassle free as it comes as a package of transport cum permit acquisition services. However never heard of any limit to number of vehicles per day etc. since during peak season there would be hundreds of them travelling every day.
The good thing to do is to pass on your ID and photos a few days prior to the local contacts (hotel personnel where you plan to stay etc) so that they have it ready for the day of the visit since it is safest to believe that the earliest bird get its worm (here its the permit). Also parking may not be a major problem as you would get accomodated by your hotel to park your vehicles somewhere in the bylanes etc where they have a tieup.
Also we stayed at Dekeling at Darjeeling and Tashi Tagey at Gangtok. Very economical and clean hotels with great hosts indeed. Read my reviews in the tripadvisor thread -
Tashi Tagey at Gangtok - Tashi Tagey (Gangtok) - Hotel reviews, photos, rates - TripAdvisor
Dekeling in Darjeeling - Dekeling Hotel (Darjeeling) - Hotel reviews, photos, rates - TripAdvisor
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Old 11th April 2012, 15:36   #12
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Default Re: Yet another roadtrip - Hyderabad to Gangtok

Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
Thanks for the valuable tip that Nathu la permits are available only on certain days of the week.

Did you try getting permits to take your own car? What did you hear about how difficult it is to get them?

I understand that the main Siliguri-Darjeeling highway is still closed after landslides last year - any update on its repair? Which route did you take from Siliguri - the Pankabhari or the Mirik route? Are there time restrictions on one-way traffic on this road?

Did you enjoy the Darjeeling-Ghoom-Teesta road on the way to Gangtok?

Can you also share details of the hotels you stayed en route, including the one at Gangtok?

How did you manage car parking in Gangtok?

Which are the incomplete sections on NH5 in Orissa?

Thanks HVK!

Did you try getting permits to take your own car? What did you hear about how difficult it is to get them?

This was Vetod by the travel agent; he claimed that it would be difficult unless you get it from Army / Home dept through inside influence. The Sikkim tourism office also sang the same song and they diverted us back to the travel agents.

I understand that the main Siliguri-Darjeeling highway is still closed after landslides last year - any update on its repair? Which route did you take from Siliguri - the Pankabhari or the Mirik route? Are there time restrictions on one-way traffic on this road?


We took the "Hill Cart Road" through Rangtong; lot of turns, but the road was good - Single lane road with space for two LCVs to cross. Since it was early morning, we didnt get much traffic from opposite direction. This road seems to be closed till early morning 6 ( was told by a lone chai wala at Darjeeling More)


Did you enjoy the Darjeeling-Ghoom-Teesta road on the way to Gangtok?

The road from Darjeeling to Gangtok, a detour before reaching Darjeeling - at Jorebunglow, narrow stretch but well laid, goes through Peshock. Have some small hotels which sells tasty Momos and chai. This narrow stretch joins NH31A at Teesta


Can you also share details of the hotels you stayed en route, including the one at Gangtok?

Here's where we stayed :

Rajmundry - Wayside

Calcutta - PM Inn ( INR 700) near Khilkapur More

Kurseong - Hotel Amarjeet ( INR 1500)

Gangtok - Bamboo Grove (INR 2000)

Return:

Malda - Hotal Chanakya (INR 1500)

Balasore- Hotel Barjorjis Banjara (INR 1500)

RajMundry - Wayside


How did you manage car parking in Gangtok?

We scourged around M.G Marg for hotels that could accommodate both Safaris. It was quite a task; some hotels did say that they will keep the cars on the by-lanes and their people would move it around if there was cop trouble etc. But we managed to find Palm Grove Hotel nearby that could accommodate both cars.

Which are the incomplete sections on NH5 in Orissa?

There is one section as we near the Chilika lake where a detour has to be taken on single lane roads and cross a railway track; I believe that stretch was around 10 Kms.
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Old 12th April 2012, 15:04   #13
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Default Re: Yet another roadtrip - Hyderabad to Gangtok

Lovely travelogue. Reminds me of my trips in the 80s and 90s to Darjeeling and Gangtok.

I must confess that your families have been very accomdative to spend some nights on the wayside. I know it is safe in AP, but not advisable in WB, which is dacoit-infested.

You guys are lucky to see Changu Lake frozen. I was not that lucky in Oct 1994. But the drive up that road was exhilerating. We went on a mini-bus from Gangtok bus stand.

Please post more pictures if you have them.

And how come you guys don't visit or act on the Hyd Meet's thread?

Edit: I do get to see your Safaris parked every other day in the Vega parking
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Old 14th April 2012, 00:34   #14
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Default Re: Yet another roadtrip - Hyderabad to Gangtok

Thanks vnabhi!

We never did Wayside in WB

Shall meet you in Vega ( just write your mobile number on the car's bonnet...it'll always be dusty - Sreekanth's will be squeaky clean- no luck there...)
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Old 14th April 2012, 08:54   #15
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Default Re: Yet another roadtrip - Hyderabad to Gangtok

Amazing story there! More than you two guys. kudos goes to your families who chugged along and chose to live in car while on the drive!
That is one fantastic effort.
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