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Old 12th July 2014, 22:39   #1
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Default A weekend above 4000 meters...at the Chanshal Pass

This is a short travelogue of a weekend trip to Chanshal.

The spring is always the most special time of the year. The landscape gets painted in the choicest of colours. The Rhododendron reds, Jacaranda blues , Gulmohar goldens. And what better way than to witness this great spectacle in mother nature's own theatre -Himachal. Errr but I do live in Himachal! Right?

Well I do live in Himachal, Simla to be precise. But then Simla is no more that beautiful , quiet little hill station that attracted romantics. It carries the burden of ever growing population trying to squeeze itself into an already limited area. The jungles have been cut to make way for concrete slapdash boxes, the hills have been lacerated to build roads , its capital city status adds to the pressure on resources and then their is always the weekend rush of tourists heading towards the hills to beat the summer heat of Punjab plains. The town cannot bear so much and it is beginning to take on a jaded look. So even we Simla people feel the need to head out to more 'greener pastures'.

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May 30
I was in Chandigarh and my friend who works there asked my plans for the weekend. I had none. So I asked him to come back with me to Simla. Maybe we could go trekking to the nearby Shalli Tibba. But my leg hadn't really healed from a sprain so I was a little hesitant about hiking. We spent the Friday evening pondering over various options to head out to for the weekend. Almost every thing had been covered, except Chanshal. I had been upto Rohru many times but had never gone beyond, to Chanshal and Dodra Kawar. And so it was decided, Chanshal it was going to be.

May 31 day 1
We started on the morning of May 31 from my house in Simla. We decided to take the Duster although it had still not undergone second service. My hiking equipment -rucksack, carry mat, sleeping bag, clothes- always remain in the trunk of my car as I camp on weekends, therefore we did not have to worry about packing. But we had only one sleeping bag, so we carried a quilt and a blanket.

We beat the morning rush and headed along the Kufri route. It's one of my favourite driving routes. Since we had to reach Chirgaon by night we did not stop for photos or meals. We had packed fruits, cucumbers and biscuits for lunch because we did not want to waste time on an already known route. From Theog we would take a turn towards Hatkoti. Big Mistake !

About the car
This spring of 2014 brought with it a few surprises. The government announced excise duty cuts. We had no plans to buy a new car for at least another year, but the 50k discounts lured us into buying a new car. I wanted SUV , mum wanted sedan so dad settled for a crossover. And so we brought home a Duster 85 RXL+. I'll take this opportunity to thank the TBHPian duster owners who helped me in zeroing in on this particular vehicle. Neil Roy , Hillman, Himadri and all others who've contributed to this wonderful forum, thank you.

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The Route
We took the Kotkhai road to Rohru. I did not know that road was under construction. It is in an extremely bad shape. Axle breaking bad. And stays that way right up to Hatkoti. Apparently the work for road construction was given to some Chinese company but the Central Govt. cancelled their visas and the work came to a halt. Then election code kicked in. It's a sorry state of affairs. Local people suffer the worst since this entire region is an apple growing belt and the economy is heavily dependent on road network. Anyone driving to this area in the next one year avoid this route and take the Narkanda -Baggi-Tikkar route. After a couple of hours you are joined by river Giri. It's not as beautiful as the Beas near Kullu but has a charm of its own.

Spotted a Himalayan Griffon enroute. They were feeding on a dead sheep and there were about 10 of them. Majestic King of the mountain skies. The woods are really dense after Kotkhai right upto the Jubbal descent. We've spotted a glade right on top and have decided to trek there in the coming months. For now road it is.

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A short Stop at Hatkoti temple also known as Hateshwari Temple. My friend was visiting this area for the first time and wanted to see the temple. From Hatkoti we drove to Rohru.

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After about 15km from hatkoti we entered the Rohru valley. River Pabbar joined us and flowed along the road. Soon the views opened up as the valley broadened. We got our first sighting of the destination. The Pabbar river , the Rohru town and Chanshal pass in those distant mountains.

We reached Bandli, a small village few kilometres before Chirgaon and stopped near the iron bridge which straddled the two banks of feisty Pabbar.

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The village fields and relative flats appeared to be a good place to camp. After deciding the camping place we headed to Chirgaon to have dinner. Chirgaon is the last stop on this entire route where you can find shops and dhabas. Good place to stock up.There are two or three small restaurants here. Food is nothing much to talk about. Chicken Kadhai was acceptable. We picked up stuff for the next day -fruits, cucumbers, buns, biscuits, chips,bread ketchup to survive a night at Chanshal peak. After dinner we headed back 5 km to our camping site. After a tiring drive it was time to hit the bed. It turned pitch black and starry skies shone like small jewels reminding us that even in the darkest of times there is always a light somewhere. We just have to look. I don't know when I was carried into the dreamland but it was a blissful sleep.

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June1 Day 2
We woke up to a glorious sunrise next day. The sound of a gushing river, joyous chirping of the birds in the adjoining fields and a gentle mountain breeze caressing your hair .. the essence of life encapsulated in a single moment. I realised what CS Lewis meant. "life is too deep for words". In the distance we could see our destination. Nestled in the snow capped peaks it called out to us.

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Hey! the jar is for rain water harvesting

Last edited by vibhavraghav : 13th July 2014 at 01:44.
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Old 12th July 2014, 23:44   #2
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Default re: A weekend above 4000 meters...at the Chanshal Pass

A few curious children came to see our tents and then a few village folks came by. Spent time with them, found out more about Chanshal. Every one assured us it was doable in duster. In Maruti 800 I would not have had second thoughts , it simply goes anywhere. About duster I wasn't very sure. Soon village woke and there was activity all around. The Children could be seen with their school bags , heading along the fields to their schools, women were bringing the cattle out of the sheds, stopping occasionally to look at our funny equipment. I assume it was funny, they did seem amused , even had confused smile on! Others just went about their usual stuff . It was summer season and that means a flurry of business activity. Men were heading to the local mandi to sell peas. We too packed up our bags and tent, cleaned the place and got ready for an exciting day ahead.

We started the ascent from the Pabbar valley, and soon reached the thick woods. The path narrowed and the patches of tarmac disappeared. The muddy road soon turned slushy. But who cared?

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The views were just beginning to turn better. The pink rhodos adorned the oak forests. The earth was mossy and ferns grew in abundance. Little pink and blue flowers added to the drama. Little streams rushed their way downwards playing some sort of cosmic music along.

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Stopping, a few times, when you just can't contain yourself and you have to climb those rocks and pose. Call them silly stops.

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After a few more hours of driving we reached the heights where you are compelled to stop to just gaze and admire the views. We could see Chandra Nahan peak stading in all it's glory reaching into the clouds.

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It was now time to head towards the pass. The roads got worse. The pebbled path made me worry about side-wall cuts. The ice melt made it quite slushy. Duster however marched on indifferent to the conditions.

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Tree line was crossed and snow line fast approached. Chanshal was in sight, a highland of rolling meadows bathing in the afternoon sun in full resplendence.

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Boy ! was it beautiful. BB King's 'Thrill is gone' played in the background. We turned off the music, drove silently , absorbing as much as we could. The stillness of the place was slowly making its way into our own hearts and minds. Anxiety was gone, worries were gone, plans were gone. we were just drowned in an overwhelming sense of amazement. They say with amazement comes admiration and with admiration comes gratitude. I parked the car and sat down in reverence on one of the grey stones that dot the landscape. I had come for this, and it was given to me in plenty. I sat in a silent gratitude. Bruce lee once said “A goal is not always meant to be reached. It often serves simply as something to aim at.” Perhaps it was one such occasion.

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And then it was time to pose

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Time to check signals and inform mum dad. No signal

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We then trekked up to the highest point that we could see. We had plans to camp at the Chanshal pass site. I was strung out on the beauty of this place and really felt like camping. we had rations for a day, clothes and if things got bad a duster to sleep in. But the weather turned extremely bad by 3pm. Rains and then hail lashing with full fury. We waited in the duster. Heavy snowfall could not be ruled out. We weren't prepared for such extreme weather. There was every possibility that we could be stranded, and God knows for how many days. I knew from my mountaineering experience that it is unwise to let your desire get the better of you. Food supply was short and firewood we were carrying would last only one night. Unwillingly we started our journey back to Chirgaon. Nature has a funny way of telling you that nothing is permanent. It shall 'PASS'.

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We decided to camp again at last night's camp site. It was after all a beautiful village site and some sort of consolation. Had dinner at a dhaba at Chirgaon. At the campsite we got a small fire going and over the drinks discussed the mysteries of life (read jobs and gals)

Next day it was time to head back home. This time we took the Tikkar route that forks out about a Km away from Rohru. It was narrow but in somewhat better shape than Kotkhai route. The car was a mess so decided to treat it with a wash enroute. What's life without these beautiful machines? The Tikkar route is lovely and passes through thickly wooded deodar forest. On the way gave a lift to a babaji who gave my friend a 2 mukhi rudraksha. My friend believes it was a beginning of a lucky chapter in his life and this trip was 'divinely planned'. Talk about 'unplanned' trips !!

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Last edited by vibhavraghav : 13th July 2014 at 00:03.
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Old 13th July 2014, 00:46   #3
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Default re: A weekend above 4000 meters...at the Chanshal Pass

A little about Duster's performance in the hills.
I too went through the wrist-slittingly confusing dilemma of choosing between Duster and Ecosport and then between Duster 110 and 85. TBHP was a wonderful source where I read several ownership reviews and travelogues about duster and ecosport. I asked few members about my doubts and their replies helped me in clearing the fog. So I think I should too type down my experience with this car. Remember I have always called it a car. I make no pretence about it being an SUV.

The car has performed very well and my doubts about a mere 85 HP mill were more than cleared in my various trips. I don't think I need 110 BHP , 85 is quite sufficient for my needs.This car was bought to serve as a workhorse and it's doing its job rather well. It does well in the plains and it does well in the hills. I always get decent fuel efficiency of above 18 kmpl and have clocked 20 on highways. It's super comfortable. I needed a car with clear visibility,big boot, and space and big glass area and thus chose Duster over Ecosport. I also do like require much electronic gadgetry in a workhorse and therefore was okay with what 85BHP RXL+ offered. I was also apprehensive about the boot mounted spare tyre in Ecosport. In my experience these tyre mounts end up getting loose after a few years and rattle. Though ecosport mount appears sturdy I am pretty sure that it would give away given my kind of usage. But I also love rear mounted tyres in SUVs. It adds to the butch looks of an SUV. Look what they did to safari storm !! It now feels like a lion with his mane shaven off. With a gillette Mach 3. Besides I have a bicycle rack for my MTB which is suited for hatchbacks so it would be a straight fit to my duster. I am quite surprised by the audio system quality. To me it's pretty decent. I had read about the poor quality audio but my car has a decent setup. I did hear they've changed the system on newer models , but I cannot confirm it. Maybe my car came with the new one. It is 2014 model. I like the stick mounted audio controls and prefer it to steering mounted. It has Airbags and ABS and so safety is taken care of. The headlight beam both low and high is quite poor and I would like to change it. Mine came with Appolo Hawkz H/L tyres and not the wanderers and they are good. I took the car to Haridwar and Rishikesh via Ambala Yamunanagar highway which was under construction and was in an extremely horrible condition and the tyres performed fine. Couple of times it rubbed against the jutting stones but there was never a cut on the side wall. I also took the car to Rohtang and it did not disappoint me. Performed okay on slippery roads. My take on 110 BHP vs 85 BHP. 85 is more than sufficient if your highway speeds do not go beyond 130. It will serve you well even for your JK, HP and UK and NE trips. I regularly use it in Simla and on weekends head out to Chail or Sadhu Pul to camp. It's sufficient for the use here. But the fact remains crdi engines just don't have the same grunt at low end and it becomes really frustrating if you have to tail a bus or truck on a narrow road. A 67 hp Bolero or Camper does way better than 85 hp duster in hills.I am quite disappointed with the 2nd gear performance. It just does not pick up when you are moving on a slope and sometimes you have to change from 3rd to 1st esp when there is a vehicle ahead of you. 2nd works well after the turbo kicks in but before that I sometime have to lug the engine. I have noticed this in a lot of new diesel cars but it is more pronounced in duster. Other than this I am completely satisfied that I've got what I paid for. The Chanshal trip has really helped me in clearing all my doubts about power and torque.
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Old 14th July 2014, 21:58   #4
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Default re: A weekend above 4000 meters...at the Chanshal Pass

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 15th July 2014, 00:12   #5
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Default re: A weekend above 4000 meters...at the Chanshal Pass

I like your writing style. The narrative is crisp without being too brief - except that the trip itself was just too brief!

Look forward to a travelogue of your extended travels sometime soon.
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Old 15th July 2014, 15:36   #6
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Default Re: A weekend above 4000 meters...at the Chanshal Pass

Hi Vaibhav. I just skimmed though your travelogue. It looks interesting. Planning to read it on the weekend. But what interested me the most at first glance is the section you wrote about your sweetheart Duster. It's a very nicely written piece and I liked it a lot.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vibhavraghav View Post
Remember I have always called it a car. I make no pretence about it being an SUV.
I have never seen anyone, who has bought a Duster, speaking so honestly about its pedigree. It is a wonderful, rugged and comfortable car, but still it's a car that can perform most of the tasks an SUV would do.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vibhavraghav View Post
Look what they did to safari storm !! It now feels like a lion with his mane shaven off. With a gillette Mach 3.
I could not stop laughing when I first read it. I have never heard such a humorous criticism about Storme's looks. Removal of the tyre from the read door definitely took away some brawn out of its looks. But now with all the changes put together, it looks like a rather civilized beast that you can take to the extremes and to meetings with your clients. Mane or no mane, a lion is always a lion at heart! You must be wondering why I am so protective about the Storme, aren't you? So, here it goes, my love story with the Storme Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok.

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Originally Posted by vibhavraghav View Post
But the fact remains crdi engines just don't have the same grunt at low end and it becomes really frustrating if you have to tail a bus or truck on a narrow road. A 67 hp Bolero or Camper does way better than 85 hp duster in hills.I am quite disappointed with the 2nd gear performance. It just does not pick up when you are moving on a slope and sometimes you have to change from 3rd to 1st esp when there is a vehicle ahead of you. 2nd works well after the turbo kicks in but before that I sometime have to lug the engine. I have noticed this in a lot of new diesel cars but it is more pronounced in duster.
I believe it is more to do with the injector performance at higher altitude. Here is an unusual tip I got from a hill driver which seem to work pretty well in my Storme.

As you shift gear and prepare to release the clutch, pump the accelerator 2-3 times to rev up the engine and hence the turbocharger. When you release the clutch after doing so, you won't feel the lack of torque any more. The Boleros and Campers that you see wheezing pass your shining baby are no better in any way. It's just that their masters know some tricks which we don't. I just got one of them. Please let me know if that helps.
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Old 16th July 2014, 13:55   #7
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Default Re: A weekend above 4000 meters...at the Chanshal Pass

This is an amazing write up, and thanks for clarifying the Duster's role in the whole adventure. You seem to know the area like the back of your hand, if I plan a trip to Shimla will definitely look you up.
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Old 16th July 2014, 15:36   #8
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Default Re: A weekend above 4000 meters...at the Chanshal Pass

excellent travelogue and the pictures are breathtaking. I agree about the rohru kothkhai road, ive travelled on it twice this year and the condition is really bad. Do u always keep your camping equipment with you? where else do you go camping in and around shimla?
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Old 16th July 2014, 17:02   #9
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Default Re: A weekend above 4000 meters...at the Chanshal Pass

Vaibhav
You have a gift for describing things which you see, in a way that will make the reader feel what you felt.
Since you stay in Shimla , it would appear you have been to the touristy and non-touristy spots. Time you dug up the old photos, and relive a few memories...
!
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Old 18th July 2014, 12:26   #10
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Default Re: A weekend above 4000 meters...at the Chanshal Pass

Chanshal is pending from such a long time in my bucket list too but with your pictures I had a virtual tour of the place and I am going to visit very soon. Your pictures and great narration has made this travelogue one of the best.
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Old 18th July 2014, 20:34   #11
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Default Re: A weekend above 4000 meters...at the Chanshal Pass

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
I like your writing style. The narrative is crisp without being too brief - except that the trip itself was just too brief!

Look forward to a travelogue of your extended travels sometime soon.
SS-Traveller. It's people like you who've led the way. Perhaps it's rubbing on us as well. Yes the trip was really a Weekend trip and an unplanned one hence brief. I look forward to some exciting long journeys too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by joshiviv View Post
This is an amazing write up, and thanks for clarifying the Duster's role in the whole adventure. You seem to know the area like the back of your hand, if I plan a trip to Shimla will definitely look you up.
Thank you for your kind words. Yes duster's performance was indeed satisfying.
Well it's been more than 25 years in the hills. Dad was often posted in remote or border areas. Thus got to see a lot of HP with him. But there is so much more to discover ! Would be glad if I can be of any help, let me knnow whenever you plan to visit.

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Originally Posted by bullrun87 View Post
excellent travelogue and the pictures are breathtaking. I agree about the rohru kothkhai road, ive travelled on it twice this year and the condition is really bad. Do u always keep your camping equipment with you? where else do you go camping in and around shimla?
Thanks for the narrative Bullrun87 , but the picture's haven't been clicked by me. I absolutely suck at photography. My friend Amit who accompanied me clicked these and he was really pissed after the trip when he saw his pics which I had clicked I always keep the camping equipment along with some basic stuff in the duster. It has a big boot that gulps in my stuff along with any other luggage that I carry when I travel with family. I've travelled to Manali and Dharamsala recently with family and didn't have to take out my stuff to accommodate other luggage. In fact a bigger boot was also one of the reason why I chose duster over ecosport. I usually camp around Shalli Tibba , Mashobra, Sadhu pul or Taradevi. I've also camped near Darlaghat once.

Quote:
Originally Posted by joybhowmik View Post
Vaibhav
You have a gift for describing things which you see, in a way that will make the reader feel what you felt.
Since you stay in Shimla , it would appear you have been to the touristy and non-touristy spots. Time you dug up the old photos, and relive a few memories...
!
Thank you joybhowmik. There are two reasons I feel one should travel to Shimla- history and geography. The town is steeped in history especially the modern Indian history and of course there are a few good spots for views as well though for purely scenic purpose there are far better places than Shimla. There are a few very beautiful 'heritage walks' that one must do when in Shimla. But then most 'tourists' are not used to so much of walking especially in the hills so they avoid these walks. My personal favourite is the Annadale ground walk that starts near Vidhan Sabha. Cycling has really picked up in Shimla lately and maybe we'll have somebody offering cycles for hire , like they do in Manali. Unfortunately I have a very basic Kodak point and shoot cam and I am horrible at photography. But there are a few pics I have which I will upload. Just don't kill me for those


Quote:
Originally Posted by amit_shimla View Post
Chanshal is pending from such a long time in my bucket list too but with your pictures I had a virtual tour of the place and I am going to visit very soon. Your pictures and great narration has made this travelogue one of the best.
Amit don't we all live vicariously in this forum so many times. Please post pone your visit for next summer. Rains make that place horrible and with clouds you'll not be able to admire the great views. November start could also be a window but no snow that time.

Last edited by vibhavraghav : 18th July 2014 at 20:39.
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Old 18th July 2014, 21:41   #12
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Default Re: A weekend above 4000 meters...at the Chanshal Pass

Quote:
Originally Posted by psurelia View Post
Hi Vaibhav. I just skimmed though your travelogue. It looks interesting. Planning to read it on the weekend. But what interested me the most at first glance is the section you wrote about your sweetheart Duster. It's a very nicely written piece and I liked it a lot.
Psurelia, Yes indeed duster's performance was satisfying. I was quite skeptical when buying it especially because I had chosen the 85 bhp one. On top of that rumours of new model were flying around the net. But all is well that begins well



Quote:
Originally Posted by psurelia View Post
I have never seen anyone, who has bought a Duster, speaking so honestly about its pedigree. It is a wonderful, rugged and comfortable car, but still it's a car that can perform most of the tasks an SUV would do.
Can't agree more. It's very comfortable. Mechanically it does appear rugged. But I can't say the same about body-shell which is very thin.

Quote:
Originally Posted by psurelia View Post
I could not stop laughing when I first read it. I have never heard such a humorous criticism about Storme's looks. Removal of the tyre from the read door definitely took away some brawn out of its looks. But now with all the changes put together, it looks like a rather civilized beast that you can take to the extremes and to meetings with your clients. Mane or no mane, a lion is always a lion at heart! You must be wondering why I am so protective about the Storme, aren't you? So, here it goes, my love story with the Storme Storme through the Hills: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Gangtok.
Oh I only meant to complain about it's looks. Fact remains it is THE INDIAN SUV. And from what I gather, the storm quality too has improved. But I am just too fond of that rear wheel on SUVs. Don't like SUVs without them at all whether it's safari or a land cruiser. And that's a lovely log. I am in absolute love will travelogues from the North East.

Quote:
Originally Posted by psurelia View Post
I believe it is more to do with the injector performance at higher altitude. Here is an unusual tip I got from a hill driver which seem to work pretty well in my Storme.

As you shift gear and prepare to release the clutch, pump the accelerator 2-3 times to rev up the engine and hence the turbocharger. When you release the clutch after doing so, you won't feel the lack of torque any more. The Boleros and Campers that you see wheezing pass your shining baby are no better in any way. It's just that their masters know some tricks which we don't. I just got one of them. Please let me know if that helps.
Ah well the problem is when you have to constantly trail a vehicle at very slow speeds and at low rpms. the turbo kicks in at around 1900 rpm, but then at that time the speed is too much. Even if I pedal 2-3 times I will not be able to sustain those speeds that the turbo requires to stay spinning. I've never faced this problem in a non common rail engine and i've been driving for the last 10 years in hills. Plus Shimla doesn't really count as high altitude @ 2200m. But to be double sure I tried it at altitude less that 1500 m , the problem however exists. Even in Figo the 2nd gear doesn't act funny. So either it has to do with the engine or the way gearing is built for this car. I'll have the service centre guys check it when I go for 2nd servicing of the car and even try the 2nd gear on a demo duster there.

Last edited by vibhavraghav : 18th July 2014 at 21:45.
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Old 19th July 2014, 09:49   #13
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Originally Posted by vibhavraghav View Post
Ah well the problem is when you have to constantly trail a vehicle at very slow speeds and at low rpms. the turbo kicks in at around 1900 rpm, but then at that time the speed is too much. Even if I pedal 2-3 times I will not be able to sustain those speeds that the turbo requires to stay spinning. I've never faced this problem in a non common rail engine and i've been driving for the last 10 years in hills. Plus Shimla doesn't really count as high altitude @ 2200m. But to be double sure I tried it at altitude less that 1500 m , the problem however exists. Even in Figo the 2nd gear doesn't act funny. So either it has to do with the engine or the way gearing is built for this car. I'll have the service centre guys check it when I go for 2nd servicing of the car and even try the 2nd gear on a demo duster there.
I see your point now! It definitely has to do with the gearing ratio. I haven't faced this problem with Storme since the torque surge kicks in somewhere in between 1600 and 1700. I believe Duster is primarily designed as a city+highway animal by Renault - nimble, fast and car-like.
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