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Old 10th July 2014, 17:16   #1
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Default Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok

The Story Behind

My wife always wanted to see Darjeeling, the Queen of the Hills. I had visited Darjeeling when I was seven and wanted to go there again. This trip was long pending because of various reasons. We did not go on a vacation ever since we returned to India in August, 2012 after our long term deputation abroad because our baby (born September, 2012) was too small to go on such trips.

Come 2014 and we started thinking of getting our second car. My wife wanted a car with a touch of class and one that is not a very common sight on the roads. My requirement was an SUV with proper 4x4 transfer case with Low Range since I wanted the freedom to go anywhere. We started test driving the shortlisted SUVs. My heart was on Thar and my wife was somewhat inclined to Fortuner. One fine day we came across a Safari Storme test drive vehicle in front of my wife's office during lunch break and asked for a test drive. The sales person happily agreed. Guess what, both I and my wife was completely blown away after taking the test drive and decided on the spot that this is the one we were in search of. It meets all the requirement of both of us. We booked “the” TATA Safari Storme VX 4x4 on 14th February, 2014. What a Valentine’s Day gift from my wife!!!

That's it, Darjeeling started haunting us again! We were almost certain that Darjeeling was going to be our first trip in our new car. We got the delivery of the car on 14th March, 2014 and started planning for the trip. We decided to wait for the first servicing so that the vehicle gets inspected and gets some decent amount of running in before the trip. So, I started using it as my first car to expedite the first servicing which was done in April second half. So, we fought hard to get our leaves in the last week of May approved since we wanted to avoid the monsoon in June and we WON!!!

My wife wanted to add Gangtok as well to our itinerary and I agreed. My parents also agreed to join us on the trip.

The Preparations

We got the hotels booked in Darjeeling and Gangtok. Even though we planned to avoid night driving and stay in hotels on the way at night, we did not book the hotels to have the flexibility of deciding where to stop for the night based on the situation and the progress during the journey. We got travel advice from the paediatrician and got the required medicines ready for my baby. We upgraded the stock first aid kit in the car. I bought a one litre can of coolant and a tyre repair kit with a compressor and one bottle of sealant. We bought an electric kettle to boil water for our 1 year and 8 months old daughter and for making tea (Twinings English Breakfast tea-bags are my favourite). We were all set 4 days before the trip. Cameras used in this trip – Cannon S5-IS, Smart Phones (Samsung Galaxy Grand, Samsung Galaxy Note II, Nokia Lumia 610).

My father did not want share the wheel with me since he believes driving on Indian highways after 60 years of age is not safe! So he suggested that I include his part time driver Dolan also in the trip because he may come in handy just in case I am not in a position to drive due to any unforeseen reason like sickness or injury. I reluctantly agreed because my father had a valid point and Dolan is a good driver and a very nice person.

The Bad Luck

Two days before the trip, i.e. on 22nd May, 2014, we got the weather update that it was going to rain the whole of next week in Darjeeling. All our efforts to make the trip happen in May to avoid monsoon seemed to have gone in vain.

The day before the trip, my little baby Srishti, fell sick following her friends because of the extreme heat in Kolkata. I was upset and wanted to cancel the trip. But my wife and my parents wanted to take the chance. We started her medicines immediately.

Day 1 (24th May, 2014) – The Journey Begins

We decided to reach Siliguri by the night. Therefore we started at 6:30AM in the morning from our apartment complex in New Town, Kolkata. The route we decided to take is Kolkata-Burdwan-Bolpur-Suri-Morgram-Malda-Dalkhola-Siliguri because I found this was the most optimum route considering distance, quality of road and traffic. I travel from Kolkata to our home in Bolpur via Guskara (NH-2 to Burdwan and then NH-2B to Bolpur) quite a few times in a year and know that the road is excellent all throughout barring a bridge under construction and a few humongous speed breakers.

We stopped for breakfast at our usual breakfast stop in Shaktigarh at 8:00AM. We started from Shaktigarh at 8:30AM and reached Bolpur at 9:40AM. We took a 10mins stop in Bolpur to change my baby's cloths since she vomited couple of times due to her sickness and take some extra cloths out from the baggage in the back of the car for the baby. Dolan (my father’s driver), who lives in Bolpur, joined us here and insisted to drive from here. I knew that he wanted to drive my Storme ever since he saw it. I smiled and let him drive.

The road surface deteriorated severely after Suri as we took Panagarh-Morgram highway and considerably slowed down the progress. We took a left onto NH-34 after Morgram. The road is a mixed bag with some stretches with 4 lanes and excellent surface. The other stretches have two lanes in one direction closed due to road work and the two lanes in other direction are used for traffic both ways. The surface is over all pretty good except the areas close to towns and villages and the crossovers between 4-lane and 2-lane stretches.

We could not manage to take many pictures because we were not really in a very good mental state because of my baby's sickness. We stopped for lunch at a dhaba 1km before Farakka barrage at 12:30PM and took our first picture of the trip. - D1

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We started from Farakka at 1:15PM and from here on I took the wheel back from Dolan. We crossed the Farakka barrage and continued on. If you are not familiar with this route then you need to know that the speed limit on the barrage is 20kmph and overtaking is not allowed. Photography is prohibited on the barrage. This barrage is under 24hrs physical surveillance of the Border Security Forces. Therefore, please be patient and abide by the restrictions if you happen to go over the barrage. There is a pair of train tracks parallel to the road on the barrage and trains run in parallel to vehicles – a sight that is not very common. The views of the Ganges and the barrage are majestic and will definitely tempt you to take a few snaps. But as I said earlier, you need to exercise self-restraint in order to stay out of trouble.

We reached Raiganj around 4 PM and took a 15mins tea break. Then we continued on. We faced major traffic jams at Malda and Dalkhola. It took solid 1hr to cross Malda and 1hr 15mins to cross Dalkhola. After crossing Dalkhola we took right onto NH-31. The road surface was rough but there were not many potholes. I managed to maintain a speed of around 80kmph.
We reached NH-31 and NH-31C crossing at Bagdogra around 9PM after 14.5hrs and 650kms of drive including stops and traffic. We searched for hotels but could not find one to our liking. Some people on the street helped us with the information that there are lot of hotels on the Hill Cart Road in Siliguri which is about 10-15mins drive on NH-31C. So we started off to Siliguri. On the way we saw City Centre mall and Spencer's on the left of the road. We saw outlets of all the big brands. That reminded us that Siliguri is the city second to Kolkata in West Bengal and for good reason. Siliguri-NJP (New Jalpaiguri) – the twin cities are the gateway to the entire north-east India. Therefore, they are the most important trade and transport hub connecting all the north-eastern states to the rest of the country by road and by rail.

Having visited three of hotels on the Hill Cart road and not finding any rooms, we started getting worried. Finally the guys at the reception of the third hotel told us that they have opened a new hotel just around the corner one month back where rooms were available. One of guys accompanied us to the new hotel – Vinayak Inn. The hotel is very simple but very neat and clean. I cannot say that the staffs were thoroughly professional, but they were always willing to help. Finally, we got our rooms and settled in at 10:15 PM. After freshening up, we had our dinner in our respective rooms. The food was very nice and homely. We loved it. They provided a single room to Dolan. Srishti was still not able to digest anything, but the good thing is that after the long journey and in spite of her sickness, she wanted to enjoy and seemed full of energy which was a good sign.

We finally retired to bed after putting Srishti to sleep after great deal of effort at mid-night. Before going to sleep we decided that we shall start 8-9ish next day so that we can have enough sleep. I checked the weather forecast in Darjeeling for the next few days on my phone and did not find any reason to be happy.

Day 2 (25th May, 2014) – Siliguri to Darjeeling

Srishti was still on medicine and there was not much improvement. But the moment her “mamma” dressed her up, she started nagging “Talo, talo, talo” (“chalo, chalo, chalo”, i.e. “let's go, let's go, let's go”). I felt really happy about it because I knew she'd get better soon since she wanted to enjoy the first trip of her life.

My wife wanted to visit Hong-Kong market to buy a jacket for Srishti and to check out the market that is so famous. You get almost anything you can imagine in Hong-Kong market. It is especially famous for Chinese electronics and toys.

We checked out of the hotel at 9:30AM after having our breakfast in the hotel and headed off to Hong-Kong market.

Srishti ready to go - D2

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The market was not completely open by then. Therefore, my wife was a little disappointed. After a great deal of asking around in the market we found that they don't sell jackets anywhere in the market at that time of the year. My wife bought some cosmetics and a pair of sandals after I accidentally stepped on the sandal she was wearing and tore its strap. It was 11 AM by then and I asked my parents if they want to have lunch before we start for Darjeeling since, from what I heard from the local drivers, it takes about 3 hours to reach Darjeeling (approximately 80kms from Siliguri). They said that they were not hungry yet and would eat the stuffs we are carrying with us in case they feel hungry. So, we started to Darjeeling.

The first 20kms (approx.) were through the plains. The views were beautiful. My wife was so surprised to see tea plantations in the plains because she always thought that tea can be grown only on the slopes of hills! We took a left from Sukna and passed through the beautiful army cantonment. Then we took a right onto NH-55 (Volka-Alipurduar Road) and reached the foothills in a few minutes. By this time Srishti fell asleep. Good! At least she won't vomit and be able to digest whatever she ate as long as she sleeps.

There is a toll plaza at the foothills. The climb after the toll plaza is pretty difficult for anybody other than the regular transport drivers of this region (i.e. the drivers of the Sumos, Boleros, buses and trucks on this route). While it is true that most of the passenger vehicles you see on this route are Sumos and Boleros and for good reasons, you can also spot some Altos and Nanos! I was so surprised to see that Altos and Nanos actually can climb up these steep inclines. Some of the hairpin bends have inclination well above 40 degrees. This is almost terminal inclination for 2WD vehicles.

After crossing Kurseong, the road became less steep but the road surface deteriorated and it started raining as well. I was able to maintain around 30-40kmph. Some stretches of the roads are so narrow that only one vehicle can pass through. Therefore, if there are two vehicles about to enter such a narrow stretch, one has to yield and let the other pass through. Customarily, the one travelling downhill should yield to the one going uphill. The various Team-BHP posts that I had read in the last couple of months before the trip with tips on driving in the hills were very helpful in coping with this steep and narrow hill road especially in the first half an hour. I was very much at home after the first half an hour and actually started enjoying the drive and the views. So did my wife and my parents since Srishti was still sleeping. And Mr Dolan – The Driver, sitting in the front passenger seat, enjoyed every bit of it since he has never been to the mountains in his life. I switched to 4H during the stretches of the road that had loose and muddy surface to be on the safe side.

We were about to take left at the diversion near Ghoom railway station. I asked the police as per my father’s and my wife’s advice and the cops directed us to take right at the diversion. We reached Keventer’s crossing in Darjeeling, i.e. we officially reached Darjeeling, at 1 PM. That means it took 2hrs from Siliguri. At the Keventer’s crossing the police diverted us to the downhill road on the left since the road ahead is one way. I knew (from Google Maps) if I could take the uphill road on the right, I shall reach our hotel Olde Main Bellevue which is on the near end of the Mall Road. As per MakeMyTrip and TripAdvisor, the hotel has free parking. But you cannot drive to the Mall Road between 11PM and 6AM. Therefore, whatever parking the hotel has is of no use. As I took left from Keventer’s, a Mowgli-like character jumped onto the driver side footboard of the running car and asked me to pull over. So I did. He asked me to let him drive since “outsiders” are not allowed to drive in Darjeeling! Then after a few minutes of talks I came to know that he was a local guide and a driver and that parking at the hotel was not possible. He told me that he would help me get settled in the hotel and find a parking for me and will take Rs 200 for the service. I did not let him drive with the excuse that he was not carrying his Driver’s License with him but I let him in the car. I dropped everyone in the family in a restaurant at the Mall Road for lunch and then went ahead with Amit, the Mowgli-like character, to check-in to the hotel and leave the baggage in the hotel rooms. After the checking in, I joined my family for lunch at 2:30PM. Then I set out with Amit to find a secure parking for the car. After a lot of searching, Amit found a gated parking at a car rental centre (the usual paid parking of Darjeeling at Big Bazaar was full). The parking fee is Rs 600 for 24hrs, non-negotiable. I had no choice but to agree. By then it was 4PM. Amit requested to pay him Rs 300 since he had to spend 3hrs with me. I again agreed and paid him the money. As I was driving through the roads of Darjeeling while looking for parking, I realized that we will spend most of the time searching for roads because Darjeeling has so many roads like scribbles Srishti makes on paper and many of them are one way and some are even restricted. Therefore, I contacted Amit for sightseeing for the next two days for Rs 1700.

I returned to the hotel after 20mins of uphill walk from the parking to join my family there. We decided to spend the evening in the hotel since Srishti had not recovered completely. I and Dolan went out to get the dinner since the hotel does not have a restaurant. It was still raining incessantly.

Srishti checking out the living room of our suite – D3

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Day 3 (26th May, 2014) – Sightseeing in Darjeeling

The hotel is a heritage hotel right on the most happening Mall Road of Darjeeling. We got two suites. My parents’ suite was on the first floor and had a bedroom, a living room and a huge bathroom attached to the balcony. Our suite had one room with a single bed and an equally huge bath room on the ground floor, a bed room and a living room with a balcony attached on the first floor. Dolan stayed in the ground floor room of our suite and we did not have to pay anything extra for that. The living rooms of both the suit and the balcony of our suit had a beautiful view of the town and the hills when the weather cleared up a little. The hotel is beautiful, but ill-maintained and the beds are horrible. I got shoulder pain in the morning which lasted for next three weeks.

Outside view our suites at Olde Main Bellevue, Darjeeling - D4

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Note the Bolero truck underneath the balcony of our suite with two big water tanks. This is how water is supplied to most of the hotels and households in Darjeeling. Fortunately, this hotel did not have any shortage of water unlike most of the hotels in Darjeeling.

Srishti was doing much better that morning. We decided to start by 9AM and informed Amit accordingly. I also asked him to carry his license if he wanted to drive. We left from hotel around 9AM and had our breakfast at the Mall and then spend some time there since Amit was getting late and the rain gave us a break.

Srishti enjoyed the ride so much (at the Mall) that it was a tough job to get her off the horse. - D5

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Shopping time at the Mall – D6

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Amit finally met us in front of Keventer’s at 10AM and showed me his license. I left to get the car from the parking with Amit. Since the time we entered Darjeeling, I noticed that everyone was staring at us. The owner of the parking enquired quite a lot about my Storme. When we were returning to Keventer’s to pick up my family, a few of Amit’s friends on the road enquired him about the car. Then Amit told me that it was the first time that a Safari Storme had been seen in the town. That explained all the attention we have been getting. As we picked up the family at Keventer’s, I found that my wife had already bought a beautiful pink jacket for Srishti.

We headed to Peace Pagoda aka Japanese Temple. On the way, Amit showed us the Lal Kuthi (the Red Bunglow which is in reality green in colour) which has been seen in many movies. We could not reach Peace Pagoda due to heavy traffic jam and decided to try later in the day or tomorrow.

The next stop was an art museum (I don’t remember the name) on the right side of Hill Cart Road soon after crossing the Darjeeling Railway Station on the way to Ghoom from Darjeeling. All the items look like beautiful paintings or sketches, but they are actually works of embroidery. Photography is not allowed in the museum. Therefore, we could not take any photographs there.

The next stop was Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park (the Zoo) and Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) which is inside the Zoo. We had to park our car on the main road and walk up to the zoo since only vehicles with VIP passes can go up to the gate of the zoo. It is the long and steep uphill walk to the gate of the zoo which is not easy especially for the older visitors. My parents made it to the zoo just because they wanted to enjoy with us.

Inside Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park – D7

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Fighting Bears at the Zoo – D8

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We were lucky to spot the rare Red Panda – D9

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(To be continued...)

Last edited by Rehaan : 11th July 2014 at 19:25.
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Old 10th July 2014, 19:11   #2
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Default STORME through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling and Gangtok

(Day 3 continued...)

The next stop was Happy Valley Tea Estate. We took some picture there, had tea and bought a lot of tea for all the friends and relatives back home.

Srishti with Dadu and Dadi at Happy Valley Tea Estate – D11

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Srishti dressed as a little tea picker – D12

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Srishti picking tea – D13

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The tea picker family – D14

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My parents spent the evening in the hotel with Srishti. I and my wife went on a quick shopping run at the Mall since she wanted to buy a sweater for herself.

(To be continued...)

Last edited by Rehaan : 11th July 2014 at 19:26.
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Old 10th July 2014, 21:03   #3
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Day 4 (27th May, 2014) – Sightseeing around Darjeeling

It was again a rainy day without any sign of the sun since morning. We found Srishti completely fit and full of zeal to go out and have fun. We started towards Ghoom after having some light breakfast around 10AM. Amit had reached, more or less, on time.

Our first stop for the day was Barbotey Rock Garden, popularly known as Rock Garden. The way to the rock garden is a steep downhill road through Bloomfield Tea Estate. The last stretch of the road was just rocks and mud. Add to that, three days of continuous rainfall and what you get is a perfect test track for 4x4 “trucks” (the original American term for SUVs, because traditionally SUVs are built on the same platform as the ones pick-up trucks are built on). While returning from the Rock Garden, I engaged the transfer case in to 4L. The baby monster (my Storme) crawled up the steep, slippery and rocky stretch nice and easy while all other drivers were pressing on the gas (accelerator) hard and honking like mad to make sure they don’t lose the momentum. I was happy to know that I invested my money on the right horse. Below are some pictures of the rock garden and the road.

Srishti savouring momos on reaching Rock Garden in her new pink jacket – D15

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The momos and the noodles taste out of the world! – D16

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Parking at the Rock Garden. Note that ours (circled in red) is the only private car in the picture – D17

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Srishti with Dadu and Dadi at the Rock Garden – D18

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Srishti with her mamma with the view of the Rock Garden right up to the top - D19

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Srishti with papa (me) at the Rock Garden – D20

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Farrow of piglets sharing the road with the cars – D21

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Srishti with Dolan and Amit (the Mowgli-like character with a cap) – D22

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The first stretch of the road on the way back from the Rock Garden – D23

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Better part of the road. Note the guy staring strangely at the vehicle as if he had never seen such a thing before – D24

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Through Bloomfield Tea Estate – D25

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Driving above the cloud – D27

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The next stop was Batasia Loop. It is a beautiful circular park (Gorkha War Memorial) with gorgeous views of the distant hills. The DHR track circles around the periphery of the park.

Entrance to Batasia Loop – D28

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Srishti fell asleep on the way – D29

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Srishti sleeping in her mamma’s lap at Batasia Loop – D30

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My parents watching the distant hills – D31

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View of the town Darjeeling, the Queen of Hills indeed – D32

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God’s own brushstrokes – D33

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The DHR track around the park – D34

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Proud to be an Indian – D35

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The next stop was Ghoom Monastery (full name Samten Choling Buddhist Ghoom Monastery). It’s a small but peaceful monastery. It was not overly crowded when we reached.

Gateway to the Ghoom Monastery right by the DHR track – D36

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There is sufficient roadside parking space next to the monastery – D37

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A lady at the monastery gate sold the hats to us – D38

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The statue of Lord Buddha inside the monastery – D39

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I paid a little tribute to the culture in Sifu Paul Koh style (Sifu Paul Koh is my teacher). Two senior monks were watching me. After the short session they greeted me and had a little chat about my Kung Fu lineage.

Clockwise from top left – Tiger, Crane, Black Dragon & Eagle – D40

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We decided to park the car in the hotel for the night since the next morning we had to load our baggage before starting to Gangtok. The route avoiding the Mall road was very long and through a labyrinth of very narrow lanes. That day Amit had come with his brother and demanded double the money that he had originally agreed to, i.e. he demanded Rs 3400 instead of Rs 1700 saying that he had quoted Rs 1700 for one day. Finally I ended up paying him Rs 3000 in total.

We spent the rest of the evening in the hotel packing and preparing the next day’s journey.

Advice: If you are driving to Darjeeling, please call and ensure that the hotel you are going to book has vehicle access and adequate parking space of its own before booking. It is even better idea to stay in a better hotel or resort outside Darjeeling.

(To be continued...)

Last edited by Rehaan : 11th July 2014 at 19:29.
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Old 10th July 2014, 23:14   #4
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Day 5 (28th May, 2014) – Darjeeling to Gangtok

We took our time to get ready in the morning since it was raining very heavily and the visibility was very poor. Finally, we started from the hotel around 11AM when the intensity of the fury of the Gods of rain pacified a little bit. We had a 100kms drive ahead which usually takes about three and half hours. I was almost certain that it was going to take longer because of the weather conditions. As we were leaving the town of Darjeeling, my wife was sad because the Darjeeling trip went without a single sight of the famous Mt Kanchenjunga. The mountain was in the news those days because Ms Chhanda Gayen went missing due to an avalanche at Mt Kanchenjunga on the 20th of May, 2014.

We had to take a left turn to Rishi Road towards Teesta Bazaar / Gangtok at Ghoom. This turn is very easy to miss since it looks like a narrow lane in the middle of a marketplace. Therefore, I would advise to ask the locals on reaching Ghoom if you are travelling this route. A wrong turn in these hills may be quite costly in terms of time since you never know how far you may have to drive before you can take a turn around. Narrow roads and heavy traffic make the affair even more difficult.

We started descending after crossing Ghoom. We had crossed some very beautiful and sparsely populated mountain hamlets. There were some nice restaurants as well. Once again the Gods decided to test my skills and my patience. The rain and the fog both started intensifying rapidly and within 40-45mins of crossing Ghoom visibility got reduced to less than 10 metres. There were no barricades on either side of the road for most part. The road surface was not great either. We shaw workmen clearing water that got logged in a few places. The steepness of the descent kept on gradually increasing. I had to drive very slowly and for most part in 4H and with fog lights on. I never saw nature in such a deadly beautiful form in my life. We could not take any photographs since stopping on this road would mean inviting trouble because other vehicles would not be able to see our stopped vehicle until the last moment. Therefore, I kept on driving without taking any photographs.

We crossed a narrow bridge over a shallow creek at around 2PM and stopped for lunch at Teesta Bazaar. It was still raining. The rice and the hot and spicy chicken curry was homely but of average quality but we enjoyed eating it because of the rainy weather. The window of the toilet of the small restaurant had a beautiful view of the mighty River Teesta.

We started again at 2:45PM and after 5-7mins of drive we took a right turn onto NH-31A towards Gangtok and crossed the bridge over Teesta. The road was much wider from here on, the surface was reasonably good and the gradient was not too steep. The moment we entered into the border town of Rangpo, something did not feel quite right. After a while we realized we were missing the litter there and there that we are so used to in West Bengal. We started gaining altitude much quicker and the roads started to become steeper as we moved on. River Teesta followed us from here playing hide and seek till Singtam. The surface remained good barring a few stretches that had had landslides in the recent past. We stopped for a quick tea break around 4 PM. Here I came to know from a young and very polite cop that fine for smoking in public is Rs 500 when I asked him for a shaded place where I can smoke (it was still raining). After driving for another half an hour we reached the city of Gangtok, but it took us another half an hour to get to the hotel. Gangtok is actually a much bigger city than I had expected a hill “city” would be. The city is beautifully maintained and is very neat and clean (so is the State of Sikkim).

Our hotel, White Conch Residency, was at a walking distance from the famous MG Market of Gangtok. The road (Church Road) to the hotel passes through the taxi stand on the left of NH-31A in the heart of the city. It had a decent parking space where they could accommodate our Safari Storme, one Bolero, one Fortuner (I believe that belonged to the owner) and 3-4 smaller cars. The hotel is neat and clean, service is very good, food is very homely and of good quality (but veg only), the rooms are good and to top it all, the rates are cheap for this city making it an excellent value for money.

Advice: Please keep a printout of your reservation if you book this hotel online.

Hotel White Conch Residency – G0

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By the time we settled in our rooms, it was 6PM. Our prime target of the Gangtok trip was Tsomgo Lake. But on enquiring with the front desk of the hotel, I came to know that permit is required to go there and the Tourism Office issues permit only to Sikkim registered commercial vehicles (with yellow plates). I asked them if they will be able to book a trip to Tsomgo Lake for us for the next day with some local travel agent. They said that due to bad weather and the heavy tourist pressure due to end of season, most of the agencies are booked. Also, it would be very difficult to arrange for permit for the next day. I and my wife were very upset to hear all those. I checked the weather forecast on my phone and found that it was going to be bright and sunny for the next few days. We were even more upset since the weather was very favourable and still our chances of going to the Tsomgo Lake seemed very faint. My wife wanted to check out the MG Market and we thought it would be a good idea to check with couple of travel agencies when we go out.

Srishti, my wife and I started from our hotel at 7PM for MG Market, which closes by 8-8:30PM. We stopped at an agency on the way and in vain as expected. We saw another travel agency, Sunflower Tours and Travels opposite to the taxi stand and landed there. They said they can arrange for the trip. The expense would be Rs 4500 (which is actually a very good rate). We had to pay Rs 2500 to book the trip. They asked us to provide copies of ID proof and one passport sized photograph for each of the passengers except the baby. We told them that we are not carrying any PP sized photographs with us. They asked us to go back to their office with the headshots of each of us in a pen drive or an SD card and the original ID proofs by 9:30 PM and they will take care of the rest. They told us that we would have to start by 7:30AM sharp the next morning since some of the roads become one way after 8AM. So, we happily went to the MG Market and spent some time there. Then we came back to the hotel and took headshot of each of us including Dolan. Dolan volunteered to go to Sunflower Tours and Travels. He came back with the SD card and original documents and told us that we were all set. We had a wonderful dinner in the hotel and ordered breakfast for 7AM next day.

At MG Market – G1

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g1.jpg

Day 6 (29th May, 2014) – Tsomgo Lake and more

I and my wife got up by 5:30 AM as we had to leave for Tsomgo Lake by 7:30 AM. At that time we did not know what a wonderful and long day it was going to be! We started to get ready and pack our bags for the journey before waking up Srishti. Suddenly there was a banging on the door. I knew it had to be my mother since she thinks we can never get up early by ourselves. I was partly right since it was my mother, but she was banging on the door because she wanted to show us something. She asked us to go out of the backdoor of the hotel. So we did and we landed on a wide open rooftop of God knows what. Then as we raised our head, we were stunned. It was a gorgeous and huge silver pyramid over wide green velvet – the grand KANCHENJUNGA, at last. My wife wanted to go out to the taxi stand immediately since the agent at the Sunflower Tours and Travels had told that one can have a very good view of Kanchenjunga from the sidewalk next to the taxi stand and in front of their office. So, off we went putting my mother in charge of Srishti who was still sleeping. Below are some pictures of our Quick Mission Kanchenjunga.

Church road – from hotel to the taxi stand – G2

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My wife with Kanchenjunga in the background – G3

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Closer view of Kanchenjunga – G4

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g4.jpg

Now I think you can touch and feel – G5

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g5.jpg


Then we came back to the hotel and relieved my mother of the babysitting duty. All of us got ready by 7AM but the kitchen staff of the hotel informed us that breakfast would not be ready before 7:30AM. I got a call from a driver from the travel agency at 7:30AM sharp saying that he is waiting at the gate of our hotel. I requested him to wait for a few minutes since we had just started with our breakfast. He requested us to be ready within 10 minutes since it would be a very long day for us otherwise because of the local traffic rules. We were heading out of the city in his Sumo by 7:45AM. He managed to escape the city before 8AM which is when some of the roads of the city become one way. He stopped at a petrol pump for fuelling and asked me to pay the rest Rs 2000 to him. So I did.

We were so surprised when we saw the driver, S. P. Bhutia (Sonam Palsing Bhutia), for the first time. He did not look like a taxi driver from any angle. Rather he looked like a college going kid from a very well to do family in his blue t-shirt and jeans. He was very interesting to talk to as well. Later we found out that he belonged to a poor family, was a graduate, was 32 years old and used to be a teacher. But the money that he used to make from his teaching job was not enough even to feed himself. On top of that, he was posted in a very remote and interior location without any eatery and it was very difficult to get the students to attend school. So, he had quit the noble profession and was making good money with his investment in the black Sumo we were travelling in.

The next stop was a police checkpoint after crossing the city border. There he went into the office to get the permit stamped. We took this opportunity to click a few pictures.

Srishti with mamma outside the police checkpoint – G6

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g6.jpg

After this we started gaining altitude at a very rapid rate. The views started becoming very beautiful and rustic with the roads going from dangerous to dreadly. It was an experience of a lifetime. It was disappointing for me to miss the opportunity to test the mettle of my Storme and enhance my skills on such a track. There were many landslide zones on the road and SP would stop before entering into each one of them and take a quick look up for falling rocks. SP told that nothing was going to happen to our car since we had Srishti on board. They believe that parents are caretakers of their children till the age of 10 and God is the guardian. Therefore, according to SP, God was watching over our car.

My mother, who is an asthma patient, started feeling uncomfortable as the air became thin. So, my parents decided to wait in a restaurant at the last food stop and let us go up to the lake. The altitude at that point was close to 10,500ft. We wanted to get moving quickly after dropping off my parents since we wanted to come back to them as soon as we could. But Srishti found a new friend, a puppy that one of SP’s friends (driver of another tourist vehicle) was carrying with him, and she was not at all ready to get into the car without the cute creature.

Srishti with her new friend, the puppy, and SP (in blue t-shirt) and his friends – G7

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g7.jpg

My father took this picture from the window at the back of the restaurant where they got off – G8

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g8.jpg

After the last food stop, the roads were much better and we could climb the last 2000 odd feet in about 25mins. We saw some red and pink rhododendrons and wild yaks on the way. We reached Tsomgo Lake (altitude: 12,500ft) at 11AM, i.e. it took us solid 3.5hrs to travel the distance of 40kms from Gangtok. You can imagine how the roads must be so that it makes an expert local driver drive at an average speed of 12kmph.

The lake was beautiful, the weather was clear and there were not much crowd since we were pretty early to reach the lake. The lake and the surroundings are extremely clean. One thing that I really loved about Sikkim is that it’s not only the government rules that mandate the cleanliness of the state but also the people who really want to keep their state clean. We spent about 20mins at the lake and then headed back to the last food stop where my parents were waiting. Below are couple of pictures of the lake.

Srishti with mamma having fun on yak – G9

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g9.jpg

The boys with the yaks quoted Rs 450 per head (Srishti got a free ride with mamma) for a very short ride. SP knew all of them personally so he negotiated for us and settled for Rs 200 per head. When I asked if the yaks are so quiet by nature, one of the boys told me that they are very aggressive and they need to be trained for months or sometimes years by special trainers from Gangtok before these yaks can be put to business.

The beautiful Tsomgo (Changu) Lake – G10

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g10.jpg

The road by the lake in the picture above takes you to either famous Baba Harbhajan Singh Mandir (Baba Mandir as the locals call it) or Nathula Pass. Baba Mandir, 16kms from Tsomgo Lake, is dedicated to an Indian Army martyr named Harbhajan Singh. There are many interesting popular beliefs and associated stories about Baba Harbhajan Singh which you can read in Wikipedia.

SP told that drivers like him, including himself, hold international trade licenses and they go into China crossing Nathula Pass in their vehicles to export Dalda and other food items into China during off seasons when the weather and road conditions are hostile. While returning they bring back electronics and toys at a very cheap rate and by weight, e.g. 1kg of cell phones for Rs 1000!

Srishti and mamma in traditional dress called Bakku – G11

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g11.jpg

Me with two beautiful ladies at the beautiful Tsomgo Lake – G12

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g12.jpg

We returned to my parents at the food stop exactly after one hour of dropping them off there. Then we had our lunch - momos and noodles. Then we started heading back to Gangtok. After a few minutes SP stopped the car near a small waterfall and we took some pictures.

The small waterfall on our way back to Gangtok – G13

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g13.jpg

My father took some pictures of the awe inspiring road sitting in the front passenger seat on our way back.

The road on the cloud – G14

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Yes, that’s the road – G15

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The road from a distance –what a tremendous job the Border Road Organization (BRO) does to keep this forbidden kingdom of heaven connected to the rest of the country – G16

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g16.jpg

Looking down a landslide zone – G17

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g17.jpg


Dreadly and beautiful – G18

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g18.jpg

Cloud literally on the road – G19

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g19.jpg

We reached the police checkpoint at 2:00PM.Since we had almost half a day at hand, I asked SP if he could show us some local points of interest. He agreed for extra Rs 1000 and took us to Hanuman Tok, Ganesh Tok and Tashi View Point in order. Below are some pictures.

At Hanuman Tok – G20

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g20.jpg

Garden of medicinal plants at Hanuman Tok – G21

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g21.jpg

The main temple of Hanuman Tok – G22

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View of Gangtok City from Ganesh Tok – G23

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Pines near Ganesh Tok – G24

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g24.jpg

Srishti at Tashi View Point – G25

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g25.jpg

SP dropped us at the taxi stand close to our hotel and MG Market at 4:30PM. We spent 2 hours there eating and shopping. First we had evening snacks and coffee at Baker’s Café. The ambience of this European style café is wonderful, the food is great and the view of the hills from the wide glass windows at the back is beautiful. Therefore, make sure you take a table by the window at the back side if you happen to be there. After Baker’s Café, we went on a quick shopping run buying gifts for people back home. Below are some pictures of the MG Market.

Walking Tall with daddy – G26

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g26.jpg

Catch Me If You Can – G27

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g27.jpg

The Million Dollar Smile – G28

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g28.jpg

Shopping time – G29

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g29.jpg

We returned to the hotel by 7PM and got busy packing our bags since our journey back to Kolkata was planned to start the next morning. We planned to leave from the hotel by 9AM in the morning and visit Rumtek Monastery before starting the actual return journey. Therefore, we had our dinner at 9PM and went to sleep by 10:30PM.

(To be continued...)

Last edited by Rehaan : 11th July 2014 at 19:33.
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Old 11th July 2014, 08:02   #5
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Day 7 (30th May, 2014) – Saying Adios to the Hills

Finally the beautiful vacation was about to come to an end and we had to say goodbye to the beautiful hills. I and my wife were a little sad. I am sure so was my baby Storme since he would be missing the playgrounds he was born to play on. We started at 9 AM after having our breakfast at the hotel.

We started on NH-31A and then took a right turn on to the narrow uphill road right opposite the Mayfair Hotel. A pleasant 12kms drive through this narrow road took us to the Rumtek Monastery. The monastery is quite big and grand. My parents did some shopping at the shops by the walkway leading up to the monastery. We were lucky to witness the morning procession and rituals at the monastery. Then we had tea at a shop opposite to the monastery gate before starting on our journey again. We spent about an hour at Rumtek. Below are some pictures.


At the Rumtek Monastery – G30

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g30.jpg

The daily procession – G31

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g31.jpg

My family watching the ceremony – G32

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g32.jpg

The rituals – G33

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g33.jpg

After visiting Rumtek Monastery, we headed towards Siliguri around 11AM. We faced some congestion due to road work in a couple of places. The overall quality of the road is pretty good except a few landslide zones and road work zones.

Road or no road, no problem – G34

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g34.jpg

We stopped at a road side restaurant after crossing Sikkim-West Bengal border at 1:30PM. We found that the place is a very popular food stop for adventure seekers who come for rafting in the River Teesta and saw many jeeps carrying canoes and kayaks stop at the restaurants by the road side.

We resumed our journey around 2:30 PM. We passed by the famous Coronation Bridge without stopping as we wanted to make it at least to Raiganj. I missed the right turn onto NH-31C while entering Siliguri and took Sevoke Road into the city. The wrong turn added about 45mins to our journey. We stopped at a dhaba 4-5kms after crossing Bagdogra for tea break. The time was 5PM. It looked like a normal highway side dhaba. When we entered the dhaba, we were guided to the backyard. To our surprise, we found that the backyard is a very nicely maintained one with nice little thatched shades and beautiful view of the open farm lands. It’s my mistake that I did not take a note of the location or the name of the dhaba.

Srishti playing at the dhaba – G35

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g35.jpg

We started again at 5:30 PM. I gave the wheel to Dolan since Srishti desperately wanted to play with me after the spending the whole day with her mamma, dadu and dadi. We reached Raiganj around 8:30PM after negotiating traffic jam at Dalkhola and some bad roads. We found a habitable hotel, Hotel Embassy, on the right side of the highway. Therefore, we decided to stop there for the night. The dinner at the hotel was not bad. We decided to start by 8AM next morning.

Day 8 (31th May, 2014) – Back to home

When we woke up in the morning, we found the weather had gotten very bad with rain and thunderstorm. We started from Raiganj at 9AM after having our breakfast. I let Dolan drive as per my father’s suggestion since we would drop off Dolan at Bolpur. We stopped for lunch after crossing Farakka barrage at 1:30PM.

Bad weather and muddy roads (in front of dhaba at Farakka) – G36

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g36.jpg

I took the wheels after the lunch.

The once dreaded jungle of Ganpur through the eye of the STORME – G37

Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok-g37.jpg

We dropped off Dolan at Bolpur around 5:30PM. We took snacks break at Shaktigarh around 7PM and reached home (New Town, Kolkata) at 9PM.

Thus our long planned driving vacation was a success in spite of all the hardships (the baby’s sickness, bad weather, etc.) thrown at us. The day being a Saturday, we had one more day to reconcile with the reality that we had to go back to our mundane schedule from Monday.

Srishti added one word to her tiny vocabulary during this trip – “Mazaaa!!!” (meaning “fun”)

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Old 11th July 2014, 11:23   #6
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Nice and crisp Travelogue psurelia. You brought back memories of my last year's drive (The travelogue of which is still not complete).

The Best photo for me in your travelogue is the Crane-Mantis-Tiger poses

From Siuri, We took the Massanjore-Dumka-Bhagalpur-Naugachia-Purnia-Dhalkhola route based on suggestions from BHPian Sutripta. It was around 30Kms more than your route but it was a nice road all the way (nothing that could trouble the Safari)
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Old 11th July 2014, 13:01   #7
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Thanks Hemanth. I am glad that you liked my story. This is my first travelogue and I found that it's not an easy job! The effort of shortlisting photographs, sequencing and editing them, drafting the story, reviewing and finalizing is in no way trivial. Therefore, it means a lot to me when someone like you recognizes the efforts put in.

I am especially glad that you liked the Kung Fu photographs since they are the results of even greater effort (more than 6 years).
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Old 11th July 2014, 13:33   #8
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Very well written and a nice travelogue. Really enjoyed reading it thoroughly. Loved the photographs too. The view of Kanchanjunga in the morning is really breathtaking which you have to feel, it cant be expressed by words! Thanks a lot for sharing this beautiful travelogue with us.

I had a similar road trip back in 2012 November. In your leisure time you can have a look at it. http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...ota-etios.html (Darjeeling -> Pelling -> Holong in a Toyota Etios)

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The climb after the toll plaza is pretty difficult for anybody other than the regular transport drivers of this region (i.e. the drivers of the Sumos, Boleros, buses and trucks on this route). While it is true that most of the passenger vehicles you see on this route are Sumos and Boleros and for good reasons, you can also spot some Altos and Nanos! I was so surprised to see that Altos and Nanos actually can climb up these steep inclines. Some of the hairpin bends have inclination well above 40 degrees. This is almost terminal inclination for 2WD vehicles.
On contrary i will say Rohini road is a very well tarred road. Driving a petrol Alto specially a k10 will be much easier or more fun than driving the Sumo's or Bolero's with full load of tourists. These light weight cars very easily climb up the hair pin bends and being small its easy to manipulate in the narrow roads too. Till few years back the Maruti Omni were the most preferred taxi in this region. But again of course driving a 4x4 Safari storm in this road has its own charm.

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As I took left from Keventer’s, a Mowgli-like character jumped onto the driver side footboard of the running car and asked me to pull over. So I did. He asked me to let him drive since “outsiders” are not allowed to drive in Darjeeling!
This is not true. With your valid license you can drive anywhere in India. These guys lie a lot to make there own business.

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That day Amit had come with his brother and demanded double the money that he had originally agreed to, i.e. he demanded Rs 3400 instead of Rs 1700 saying that he had quoted Rs 1700 for one day. Finally I ended up paying him Rs 3000 in total.
He simply took you on a ride. As you were a tourist with your family he took advantage of being a local and made some quick money! By spending rs 3,400 + the diesel cost of your car you could have hired a local vehicle for the sight seeings! These types of guys are very common in this part. I have driven to Darjeeling and even then few guys gave me stories like this and i simply ignored them. In hills they discourage us to take our car just to push there own business. Once i was told my Etios cant go to Tiger Hill and for that i have to hire their Santro!!! But lastly we skipped visiting Tiger hills as the view of Kanchanjungha from our hotel at Jalapahar was really awesome! You can see the pics in my travelogue on the link i shared above.

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Old 11th July 2014, 17:42   #9
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A wonderful travelogue, I must say! Just a note though - I noticed quite a few pictures duplicated in your thread. Could you please remove the duplicates, it seems an overhead.

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He simply took you on a ride. As you were a tourist with your family he took advantage of being a local and made some quick money! By spending rs 3,400 + the diesel cost of your car you could have hired a local vehicle for the sight seeings! These types of guys are very common in this part. I have driven to Darjeeling and even then few guys gave me stories like this and i simply ignored them. In hills they discourage us to take our car just to push there own business.
Can't agree more with Samba. These peoples are everywhere, in plain lands too, trying to make quick money out of nothing.
I faced one such incident just before crossing the bridge over Ajay River while taking the SH7 route to Moregram. There was a speedbreaker there and as I was slowing down, a few locals came up and asked me to roll down the window with some bills in their hand. I didn't even bothered and moved on.
I read in a thread, somebody (probably Samba ) faced a "false accident" case somewhere in Murshidabad, where a motorcycle claimed that he has overrun a guy, and had to pay them.
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Old 11th July 2014, 18:28   #10
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Thanks Samba. I shall definitely read your travelogue. To tell you the truth, I find it far more interesting to read the travelogues on Team-BHP than reading a book.

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On contrary i will say Rohini road is a very well tarred road. Driving a petrol Alto specially a k10 will be much easier or more fun than driving the Sumo's or Bolero's with full load of tourists. These light weight cars very easily climb up the hair pin bends and being small its easy to manipulate in the narrow roads too. Till few years back the Maruti Omni were the most preferred taxi in this region. But again of course driving a 4x4 Safari storm in this road has its own charm.
I have my father's Alto-K10 VXi at my disposal and use it extensively within and outside the city. with you totally on the above point. It is a big surprise in a small package with its peppy engine and light weight making it fun to drive, longer wheelbase making it more stable than the 800cc avatar. I totally believe that K10 can take the steeps provided the roads are not too broken. If the roads are broken then these little petrol babies will surely suffer at low speeds due to lack of torque at low RPMs. That means you need to work on the gears and the accelerator much harder than you would with the big boys like Sumo, Bolero and, of course, the Storme.

Alto K10 - 90 Nm @ 3500 RPM
Bolero - 195 Nm @ 1400 RPM
Sumo Gold - 250 Nm @ 1000 RPM
Safari Storme - 320 Nm @ 1700 RPM

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This is not true. With your valid license you can drive anywhere in India. These guys lie a lot to make there own business.
Yes, that was a stupid attempt from Amit and I made him sit in the front passenger seat the whole of first day in Darjeeling since he did not have his license.

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Originally Posted by Samba View Post
He simply took you on a ride. As you were a tourist with your family he took advantage of being a local and made some quick money! By spending rs 3,400 + the diesel cost of your car you could have hired a local vehicle for the sight seeings! These types of guys are very common in this part.
Actually, this was something new to me in my 10+ years of road trip experience and that is why I was not sure what to do. I included it in my post with the knowledge that I will look fool. But, I wanted to make sure that the readers of the post can save themselves from such crooks. I think if one has the time, he/she can drive around and explore on their own in Darjeeling. There are cops everywhere and one can ask them for directions. If time is tight, then it is advisable to hire a local taxi.
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Old 11th July 2014, 20:20   #11
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A wonderful travelogue, I must say! Just a note though - I noticed quite a few pictures duplicated in your thread. Could you please remove the duplicates, it seems an overhead.
Thanks Gearhead. The visual torture due to duplication of the pics has been taken care of by moderator Rehaan. Many thanks to him.

This is my first post on Team-BHP, so I was ignorant of the correct process. The moderators were kind enough to point me to the page with the guidelines to embed pics within posts. I deeply regret the inconvenience.

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Can't agree more with Samba. These peoples are everywhere, in plain lands too, trying to make quick money out of nothing.
I faced one such incident just before crossing the bridge over Ajay River while taking the SH7 route to Moregram. There was a speedbreaker there and as I was slowing down, a few locals came up and asked me to roll down the window with some bills in their hand. I didn't even bothered and moved on.
I read in a thread, somebody (probably Samba ) faced a "false accident" case somewhere in Murshidabad, where a motorcycle claimed that he has overrun a guy, and had to pay them.
This was my maiden road trip in West Bengal. I guess, therefore, I was an easy pray for the jackals of the road . But thanks to you and Samba, that's not going to happen again.
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Originally Posted by Samba View Post

On contrary i will say Rohini road is a very well tarred road. Driving a petrol Alto specially a k10 will be much easier or more fun than driving the Sumo's or Bolero's with full load of tourists. These light weight cars very easily climb up the hair pin bends and being small its easy to manipulate in the narrow roads too. Till few years back the Maruti Omni were the most preferred taxi in this region. But again of course driving a 4x4 Safari storm in this road has its own charm.

This is not true. With your valid license you can drive anywhere in India. These guys lie a lot to make there own business.

He simply took you on a ride. As you were a tourist with your family he took advantage of being a local and made some quick money! By spending rs 3,400 + the diesel cost of your car you could have hired a local vehicle for the sight seeings! These types of guys are very common in this part. I have driven to Darjeeling and even then few guys gave me stories like this and i simply ignored them. In hills they discourage us to take our car just to push there own business. Once i was told my Etios cant go to Tiger Hill and for that i have to hire their Santro!!! But lastly we skipped visiting Tiger hills as the view of Kanchanjungha from our hotel at Jalapahar was really awesome! You can see the pics in my travelogue on the link i shared above.
Totally agree with Samba....they tell stories your car won't go. You won't be able to drive on these roads. they are very dangerous. these guys are there on every tourist hotspots. just to strengthen the point that any car can go. please check out this link. I took a Nano to rock garden, tiger hill and everywhere else. Hotel guys wanted to sell their cars multiple times, just ignored them.

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...tata-nano.html (A Nano trip on a Nano budget...in a Tata Nano)
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Old 11th July 2014, 23:16   #13
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Default Re: Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok

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I read in a thread, somebody (probably Samba ) faced a "false accident" case somewhere in Murshidabad, where a motorcycle claimed that he has overrun a guy, and had to pay them.
Yes it was with me at Behrampur. But i didn't pay them. You will get the details over here. http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travelogues/135421-darjeeling-pelling-holong-toyota-etios-3.html (Darjeeling -> Pelling -> Holong in a Toyota Etios)

In another incident i had an altercation with a crook at Jamuria near Asansol. I penned down that incident too. For that check out my post number 274. http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...detail-19.html

If traveling in a single car specially with family we have to make our stops only at selective places and always have to be alert to get rid of these crooks. But still at the end its all about our luck, at max we can try the most to avoid these unwanted situations!

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That means you need to work on the gears and the accelerator much harder than you would with the big boys like Sumo, Bolero and, of course, the Storme.
Yes the torque definitely matters a lot in case of a steep incline specially with load and bad roads. But for the K10 the light weight and the high revving petrol engine gives it some brownie points. Now i own a K10 and previously i owned a 800cc Alto and have done many steep hill climbs on that too without any fuss. What i feel is, the barrier of these small cars or sedans are bad roads not the steep climbs. When i was driving my Etios Petrol on the way to Darjeeling i was easily taking the hair pin bends in 3rd gears and with out any fuss i was overtaking the Sumo's and the Bolreo's but once on the broken stretch i had to slow down fearing underbelly scraping due to low ground clearance and there the Sumo's and Bolero's went past me like the kings!

Last edited by Samba : 11th July 2014 at 23:31.
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Old 12th July 2014, 00:22   #14
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Default Re: Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok

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Yes it was with me at Behrampur. But i didn't pay them.
I didn't say that they managed to wrong foot you. Just that they tried, maybe a little chill down the spine, but you didn't falter, Vamos!!

Last edited by gearhead_mait : 12th July 2014 at 00:24.
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Old 12th July 2014, 00:46   #15
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Default Re: Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok

Great set of pics and crisp narration. Darjeeling and Gangtok are very close to my heart and I enjoyed your travelogue. I have been to Darjeeling so many times but have not managed to write a proper travelogue. Thanks for sharing this.
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