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Old 25th February 2015, 22:49   #1
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Default Sandakphu (erstwhile land of Land Rovers) reloaded!

Preparedness, Planning, Preparation, Precaution, Prevention and whatever there could be beginning with a "P", that is so typical of being associated with the Phase Prior to undertaking a mission to a Perceived challenging destination, was conspicuous by its absence this time. Although there weren't any reports suggesting, a decline in the difficulty attached to reaching this one. One can refer to the documentation of our earlier visit to this very place in the thread below.

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...territory.html (Sandakphu Phalut Kolakham - Unleashing a Mahindra Scorpio on Land Rover territory)


Infact, this time, it was quite the opposite, this trip was not about Sandakphu, or even about undertaking a driving challenge, neither an opportunity to catch clear skies. It was only about spending the weekend away from home, with good food, casual hangouts, no schedules to be adhered to. But in the end, even "adhering" to that became a challenge!!

For the start, this was a long weekend, around the Republic day of India, 26th January 2015. Somehow, both my daughter and me, had been harbouring a wish to visit Darjeeling, again, right from around her winter vacations. However, some job commitments kept me away from making use of her winter vacations, but this long weekend presented a window of hope. Besides, all we wanted to do there, was just hang out. My daughter wanted the Zoo, I was looking forward to the prospect of having good food for 2 days at a stretch, besides Darjeeling has always been close to my heart, despite the recent congestion and the concrete jungle it has turned out to be.

Writing about Going to Darjeeling, is something, I will choose not to dwelve on. Mainly because, in this part of the world, there is enough documentation on just the topic. Even one from me a few years back.

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...th-bengal.html (Ikon 1.6 with weak clutch takes us to Darjeeling and a few forests of North Bengal.)

However, the drive itself is quite charming.

As you drive up the narrow roads, you are greeted and accompanied, almost throughout, by the Iron snake, the Rails of the Darjeeling Hill Railway and it isn't long before you actually catch one on the same route, two of my favourite hindi songs were picturised on

Right from the start, the greeting is fabulous!

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However, after reaching Darjeeling there wasn't a schedule driven initiative to undertake a sequence of events or visit places. Hence will also follow the same pattern in this Travelogue.

My daughter's main attraction was the Zoo, so we spent time there, and yes, we did not go to the Mountaineering Institute next door, wasn't really interested this time.

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This Black Panther seems to have confidence issues!


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Darjeeling Zoo has within its exhibits, these elusive creatures, that could probably be potentially lethal to people, due to its ultra cuteness.

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The Ghoom Junction, claimed to be the worlds highest Railway Junction at 7407 feet (2257.65 meters), built in 1891.

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One of the other attractions for the trip being the prospect of having good food, hence a customary visit to the "Keventer's" was always on the cards

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A Platter like this can actually serve three, you can order additional fried eggs separately.

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However, the visit to Keventer's was only a customary one, for the sake of Nostalgia, the quality of their offerings have gone down drastically over the years. None of the meats, probably apart from the Ham, tasted good. To top it, the Sausage in the hot dog had potato stuffing!! The coffee is excellent though, so is the Ham sandwich.

However, being end of January on a winter, that has been particularly chilly, it was really cold. We were happy to find this fire on the far side of the Mall road, where we had gone for a nightly walk and it had become terribly freezing.

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We also spent some casual time at the Mall, the Chowrasta as they say it, always bustling with life.

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Even sometimes from an innocent little life deriving pleasure in chasing Pigeons!

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Then, some more casual time at the Glenaries, which till now, remains one of my favourite joints anywhere.

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Glenaries is actually a Bakery, a fantastic one at that, with the upper floor being a restaurant and the lower floor, also a restaurant, called "The Buzz".

"The Buzz" is where, we like to be in, mainly because of the exhibits there, like the one below of the Darjeeling Steam Locomotive.

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And some other interesting miniature exhibit's of transportation platforms.

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But, transportation platforms are quite diverse in nature, so we went out to experience one that can make you fly without wings!

Like this cable car

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flying over the tea estates!

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But when you fly over the tea estates, you cannot probably resist the temptation of tasting some of the brew that is a result of that cultivation.

So we stop by a little further to taste some "Chai" (which never tastes as good when you buy the stuff and bring back home!) and pose with a "visibly bored" Marengo (my 2010 Mahindra Scorpio mHawk VLX 4WD)

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There was a lot of time at hand over the two days, so thought of giving the spiritual side of ours, a replenishment.

The Mahakaal temple, near the Chowrasta, and a walk up from it, did offer that option as well.

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A wedding ritual was going on, but before I could get to a better vantage to capture the action, alongwith the background, the time was up.

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So we took the opportunity to shoot this ritual instead. Beside, this ritual is universal, doesn't require interpretation or a language.

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The Shrine of the Mahakaal

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We did not catch a good glimpse of the third highest peak in the world, namely the Mt Kanchenjungha (or some call it Mt K, Big K and what not), but instead, we caught something, quite often, that is man-made and equally charming.

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Posing with a Tibetian snow puppy at another of my preferred food joints, the SangriLa.

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What's a visit to Darjeeling without a walk on the Batasia Loop!

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However, my faithful Horse, named Marengo, was getting all too bored and had to take him to something that would probably lift its spirits a bit. The drive down to Rock Gardens.

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The drive down to Rock Gardens, as many would already know, from around the Ghoom monastery, is known to be very very steep and indeed it is, the first few kilometers being the deadliest, that too, the descent being more tricky than the ascent. On the way down, you have to make way for vehicles coming up, otherwise, you'll have to face the consequence of having to reverse uphill on a slope that could burn your clutch and tyres. It happened to me this time.

On a hair pin, while going down, we encountered a Sumo coming up, I was at fault of not noting early enough, to avoid blocking its natural climb up the hairpin. Although the Sumo was quick to acknowledge, stop and reverse downwards, I was insistent on not taking that generosity. I tried to reverse up as a compensation for having killed his momentum (he did not seem to mind though, probably because he knew what was coming next). All I ended up doing was, keep spinning the rear tyres hopelessly, as the rear was perched way above the front, with very little reaction on the rear to help gripping, infact the rear of Marengo slid inwards into the turn, when suddenly we found grip and moved backward (probably a front wheel drive would have fared better). Probably the Sumo driver also knew what I would go through and hence moved back right at the onset, in anticipation. The road being paved with good surface does prohibit shifting to 4WD, although one could do it for a wee little bit without any harm.

Seen here is the better sloped portion of the road to rock garden.

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Marengo at the entrance to the Rock Garden

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The Rock Garden and its landscaped waterfall with pedestrian bridges.

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We went further down to Gangamaya park, just for the sake of it, it was closed, and from what we had seen before, having seen Rock Gardens, this one is quite redundant.

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The town of Darjeeling, seen from the Rock Garden-Darjeeling Road

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It was here, while shooting the above photograph, I probably, simultaneously :-
  1. Received a call from Bhpian Blackpearl
  2. Made up my mind that this trip turned out boring, not only for Marengo, but for me as well, needed to do something, even if the very next day we were scheduled to drive back to Siliguri.
So casually remarked to Blackpearl about wanting to visit Sandakphu again, without any thought going into it.

Drove upto Darjeeling, spent the night eating at Glenary, did not give much thought on how to spend the next day, will attempt going to Sandakphu in the morning, after checking out from the hotel and will drive down to Siliguri from there, the same day.

So thus, the real trip began at the end of the Trip!!


Sandakphu (erstwhile land of Land Rovers) reloaded!-img_9089.jpg

Last edited by 1100D : 27th February 2015 at 01:34.
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Old 26th February 2015, 01:34   #2
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Default re: Sandakphu (erstwhile land of Land Rovers) reloaded!

The last day of the trip began with an intent of injecting a much needed sense of adventure, to an otherwise, laid back and unimpressive trip, though with a lot Food and quality time, but no excitement.

We checked out of the Hotel at Darjeeling, this anyway was a day, we were scheduled to head back to the plains, to Siliguri, for a Drive back to our home the next day. But we decided, that instead of driving down to Siliguri, we will try to see if we could drive upto Sandakphu in the intervening time.

Sandakphu, as many already know, besides details are already available in my earlier thread mentioned in the post above, is about 31 kms from Monebhanjan and around 48kms from Ghoom. Not a big deal, but those 31 kms to Sandakphu (from Monebhanjan) are gruelling. The first 3 km climb to Chitrey and the last 3 km climb from Bikhebhanjan are steep, the later more deadly, strewn with rocks all around.

Those 31kms are enough to test man and machine. However, on this very trip, since not much adventure was expected, Marengo wasn't pampered prior to the trip. On a negative note, after an OTR last November, the Fuel Tank Guard was damaged and a replacement hasn't yet arrived, besides, the 4x4 hardware was somehow not engaged prior to this for a few weeks. On a positive note, the Michelin LTX AT2 tyres are relatively newer, although of a narrower profile (stock profile) than the one used last time. But there could also be a prospect of ice enroute. So all in all, I was prepared to turn back should conditions get mildly unfavourable on the way up.

At 10:30am we were at Monebhanjan, somehow got stuck in traffic there, people did take the opportunity to ask where we were headed to. The answer to this question, at Monebhanjan, should be "Chitrey" (and not Sandakphu!).

After Chitrey, it was time to get into 4WD mode, mainly to distribute the power, strain on drivetrain and make the ride better. Within one hour we were in front of this sight.


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Not a very clear sky though and the mighty Kanchenjungha wasn't visible, but seeing that wasn't even the intent either.

The view just off Tumling (where we had halted overnight last time, but this time, it was just a photostop)

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At Tonglu (though in sequence, this picture should be ahead of the previous one!)

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Another 40 minutes from Tumling, came up Gairibash. The section between Tumling and Gairibash runs through a little denser forest, inside the Sangalila National Park. What we saw this time was that, right from the entry into the Sangalila National Park to about a couple of KM's before Gairibash, the road has been concretised.

Although this is a positive step, but there is a serious drawback, the width of the concrete surfacing. The concrete surfacing is not wide enough at most places for two Land-rover (Scorpio) sized vehicles to pass each other. The concrete Surfacing is thick and hence the drop from the surface (on the slope side) is quite a big one which wont allow vehicles to put one wheel on the slope side as before (prior to the surfacing). Besides the charm of driving through a raw untamed forest is lost.

At Gairibash, its customary to stop and have some tea.

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And if you do not have tea, have some hot water in a tea cup and pose with it, all the same!

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In the picture above, the group of trekkers were heard discussing how Marengo will fail royally in the last 3 kms. But what came as a pleasant surprise, was the driver of the Land-rover seen parked ahead of Marengo, with whom I have had no interaction that day prior to this, telling them, that this vehicle has already gone up earlier. It was unbelievable, then I noted, it was the same Landrover (WMX 217) that I had photographed in detail in my previous trip at Tumling at Shikhar lodge (post number 2!) !

From Gairibash, the climb last time looked steep and imposing, this time it looked pedestrian, probably, I have had a lot of other experiences in between.

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Even the rest of the climb to Sandakphu went uneventful, only thing was that, there was ice on small sections and the trail surface was more uneven with sharper rocks and in places landslides were just cleared upto the width of barely one vehicle.

Soon we were at Sandakphu, but contrary to our expectations, it was devoid of any snow. However, within just one km from Sandakphu towards Phalut, on the otherside, it was like this.



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Snow requires posing.

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Driving back to Sandakphu, last time on the third day of or trip there, the Mt Kanchenjungha showed up, on the backdrop of a similar image.

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The "Sherpa Chalet" Lodge, where we had stayed over last time, this time, it was going to be just a touch and go over some Maggi. It was already nearing 2 o'clock in the afternoon and being the Winters, the light wont last long. So we really did not have much time to spend at Sandakphu.

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Yet, there was an expectation that probably if they take a little longer to make the Maggi, this view would clear up!

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But Maggi done, a long cup of tea followed, but what we saw in the picture above, did not change, only the minute hand of the clock went one full circle, though it was futile to hope either!!

We still made a lethargic move out from Sherpa Chalet compound, spending a few minutes shooting near the forest rest house at Sandakphu

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Infact apart from this board at Sandakphu, there was no other board with a legible sign of the place (and ofcourse the non-descript signboard of Sherpa Chalet) this time round.

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The Indian National Flag flutters proudly at 12000 feet, after all its India's Republic Day today

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Soon it was time to unwillingly head back through the deadly switchbacks.

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Just like last time, there was another Sandakphu'ite bowing to Marengo!

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However, this was probably the trickiest bit of the whole trip, the descent. Like last time, even this time, on the way up, we were able to negotiate the switchbacks one-shot, without having to reverse on any. But on the way down, it was again a different and difficult story.

Sandakphu (erstwhile land of Land Rovers) reloaded!-img_9383.jpg

The right turns were not a problem, as you could precisely place the wheels visually, but the left turns like the one below, were tricky. Besides, this time my Navigator was a 9yr old!!

Sandakphu (erstwhile land of Land Rovers) reloaded!-img_9386.jpg

The problem is, on turns like this (left turn), when the vehicle is perpendicular to the road, the front section is sloping right to left, and the rear, left to right. So while taking the turn, for a bit, the front left gets airborne and then due to the engine weight drops down, causing the rear right to lift up and probably, helped by the angular momentum and the slope of the road ahead a propensity to overturn on the left side.

The only solution is to stay a little outside of the turn, away from the inside apex, but here, the space also is limited.

Coincidentally, on this very turn, all that I have typed above had occurred (apart from the overturning bit - only because I dropped the front left end real real slow). Last time, I think, this hairpin had more width on the apex.

Sandakphu (erstwhile land of Land Rovers) reloaded!-img_9384.jpg

I would say, going to Sandakphu is one story, coming back, a different one. So a suggestion to all, who plan to drive there, is to assign more time to the descent, its much more critical and dangerous than the ascent.

Soon we were at Kalipokhri, the black water lake!

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But its sacred and its presence at such a location, is pristine.

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It took us 15 additional minutes down to Gairibash than it took us on the way up. However there was a thick veil of fog/cloud enroute. So stopped for a quick cuppa before heading down again.

But light wasn't on our side, neither was the fog or mist. However what followed was a drive experience close to nothing I have experienced ever. Yes, the pictures below are enhanced a bit, to represent the situation that we were seeing unfold, especially while switching off the headlights. Somehow, the camera caught up more light than ambient, but the entire area was lit up by trapped scatter of the twilight

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Ice on the track and very slippery one at that.

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Slush and ice and the blue fading glow.

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View from the Driver's window with the headlight turned off!

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The road below to Lumeydhura. It was Psychedelic, unreal, was probably sure I was going to meet up either God or the devil himself and why not, I had washed my hands on the water from Kalipokhri prior to this.

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However, I met neither or may not have recognised the presence. Am here typing this, at the fag end of this Travelogue, so we are all safe. Yes we did not see Kanchenjungha, but the Road to Sandakphu is a journey close to nothing, its a world on its own, a connection to one's own inner self probably, a spiritual one maybe. Am not sure either, if someone (probably from the forum or elsewhere, barring the locals) have driven back on this route after dark prior to this.

So thanks for bearing with my ranting on this thread!

One Picture to conclude the TL, taken prior to the blue haze!

Sandakphu (erstwhile land of Land Rovers) reloaded!-img_9413.jpg

Ciao!

Last edited by 1100D : 27th February 2015 at 01:59.
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Old 27th February 2015, 02:40   #3
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Note from Support: Thread moved to the Travelogues section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 27th February 2015, 10:03   #4
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Default re: Sandakphu (erstwhile land of Land Rovers) reloaded!

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1100D View Post
Although this is a positive step, but there is a serious drawback, the width of the concrete surfacing. The concrete surfacing is not wide enough at most places for two Land-rover (Scorpio) sized vehicles to pass each other. The concrete Surfacing is thick and hence the drop from the surface (on the slope side) is quite a big one which wont allow vehicles to put one wheel on the slope side as before (prior to the surfacing).
So, what if another vehicle comes approaching from the other side?

Quote:
However, this was probably the trickiest bit of the whole trip, the descent. Like last time, even this time, on the way up, we were able to negotiate the switchbacks one-shot, without having to reverse on any. But on the way down, it was again a different and difficult story.

The right turns were not a problem, as you could precisely place the wheels visually, but the left turns like the one below, were tricky. Besides, this time my Navigator was a 9yr old!!

The problem is, on turns like this (left turn), when the vehicle is perpendicular to the road, the front section is sloping right to left, and the rear, left to right. So while taking the turn, for a bit, the front left gets airborne and then due to the engine weight drops down, causing the rear right to lift up and probably, helped by the angular momentum and the slope of the road ahead a propensity to overturn on the left side.

The only solution is to stay a little outside of the turn, away from the inside apex, but here, the space also is limited.

Coincidentally, on this very turn, all that I have typed above had occurred (apart from the overturning bit - only because I dropped the front left end real real slow). Last time, I think, this hairpin had more width on the apex.
I was picturing this turn seeing your narration. You had to reverse a bit here? 4H mode all along (unless 4L's presence was felt)

And how come the width narrowed itself?

5*****

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Old 27th February 2015, 12:09   #5
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As can be expected from you, a superb travelogue! Regarding Keventer's, I agree that their quality has really deteriorated in the past few years, my latest outing there being last September during the Puja holidays. However, Glenary's (both floors) continues to remain among one of my favourite eating joints in Darj - the sausage rolls for breakfast are to die for

A parting thought - I wonder how a Gypsy would fare on the Sandakphu route.
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Old 27th February 2015, 13:00   #6
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Great! That's the way to travel - fun for fun's sake.

At this rate, the local Land Rover owners are going to sell out their ageing machines and plonk their money on 4wd Scorpios en masse!
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Old 27th February 2015, 16:46   #7
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Even at the cost of repetition, could you atleast summarize your Kolkata to Siliguri drive in a nutshell(road conditions, time taken, etc). Would be of immense help for a poor soul looking to go to the hills in a humble hatchback. More than the hills, it's this part of the journey that seems a bit unnerving as always.

Thread deservedly rated 5 stars. Thanks.
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Old 27th February 2015, 19:29   #8
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Great stuff as-usual! Rated 5*. Interesting write up to keep the reader glued with some superb photographs. The road looks too tempting specially for most of the 'LIVE TO DRIVE' tagged people. I am holding back from going to Sandakfu only for one reason. I want to drive to Sandakfu! The day i get a 4x4/AWD, Sandakfu will be a must go destination!

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Great!

At this rate, the local Land Rover owners are going to sell out their ageing machines and plonk their money on 4wd Scorpios en masse!

Very true. If some agencies want to take there clients/customers to Sandakfu in more comfort they can definitely consider vehicles like the Scorpio 4x4 or the Thar over these ageing Land Rovers!

Last edited by Samba : 27th February 2015 at 19:33.
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Old 27th February 2015, 20:46   #9
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Great TL with superb pics as always!

I have a few questions regarding the Darjeeling part.
1. Did you get a hotel where you could park your vehicle? If yes, then which one?
2. When I went to Darjeeling, no vehicles where allowed up to the zoo and my parents had hard time walking all the way up from the main road. How did you manage to get your vehicle up to the gate of the zoo?
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Old 27th February 2015, 20:50   #10
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I am in dearth of words. Appreciating this travelogue is like appreciating an artist for his masterpiece. Period! Not for anything else but for the very fact that you took us through this journey of yours so nonchalantly, even when those hairpin turns gave me goosebumps looking at the pics.
Mountains are godly, and being from the land of Himalayas (Dehradun) myself, I can say that with confidence. An amazing travel and beautiful pics to complement it. Thanks for sharing with us this wonderful place...
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Old 27th February 2015, 22:30   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sheel View Post
So, what if another vehicle comes approaching from the other side?
There are areas, where the road is wide, if you spot the vehicle on the opposite side early enough, you can probably wait at one such point for the other vehicle to pass. Otherwise, one vehicle has to reverse to one such wide point.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Sheel View Post
I was picturing this turn seeing your narration. You had to reverse a bit here? 4H mode all along (unless 4L's presence was felt)

And how come the width narrowed itself?
When you have 4L, there are no brownie points for not using it!! Besides, it reduces the load on all other upstream drivetrain components. Although, this time I felt, 4H would have taken us up, with a lot of clutch usage (completely unnecessary).

The Width probably narrowed itself on the outside on this very turn, due to a probable Landslide.

However, I was thinking there was another culprit. Some portions were concretised for better grip. But to reduce the ramp slope, they have extended the ramp forward, encroaching into the turn

Refer image below

Sandakphu (erstwhile land of Land Rovers) reloaded!-img_93841.jpg

Earlier, as far as I recalled, the slope was higher, but the portion shown by the arrows, were actually filled with rocks and soil and had a gradual curve leftwards and downwards. Now its a drop, besides the left needs judicious placement. For short wheel-base Landrovers, this isn't a problem, and as I learnt, with familiarity, it wont be a problem for the Scorpio too.



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Originally Posted by Babuda View Post
As can be expected from you, a superb travelogue! Regarding Keventer's, I agree that their quality has really deteriorated in the past few years, my latest outing there being last September during the Puja holidays. However, Glenary's (both floors) continues to remain among one of my favourite eating joints in Darj - the sausage rolls for breakfast are to die for

A parting thought - I wonder how a Gypsy would fare on the Sandakphu route.
Sausage rolls at Glenary's, infact, they could also be the single reason to visit Darjeeling, isn't it? Just kidding.

Gypsy would fare pretty well and infact the Army uses them. As a matter of fact, Land-rovers are used mainly because there were a lot of these leftover after the commercial usage of these vehicles were stopped at Darjeeling, so these were available at throwaway prices. Besides, most of these run Bolero underpinnings.

However, the ride in a Gypsy would be "Rocking", literally.


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Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
At this rate, the local Land Rover owners are going to sell out their ageing machines and plonk their money on 4wd Scorpios en masse!
This time though, there were quite a few Mahindra Pik-ups, Bolero Pik-ups that we saw. Its only a matter of time that the Landrovers would be probably extinct from this route too, sadly (save probably WMX 217 as it is a petrol one!!)

Moreover, according to this article on Darjeeling Chronicle, the route is to be entirely paved (concretised, I guess)

https://www.facebook.com/TheDarjeeli...=1&pnref=story

Interestingly, they took the picture from Team-bhp, my previous thread on Sandakphu!

Quote:
Originally Posted by mi2n View Post
Even at the cost of repetition, could you atleast summarize your Kolkata to Siliguri drive in a nutshell(road conditions, time taken, etc). Would be of immense help for a poor soul looking to go to the hills in a humble hatchback. More than the hills, it's this part of the journey that seems a bit unnerving as always.
I had documented the journey this time on this thread, though only a part of it, as we had taken an alternate route to Bhagalpur

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/route-...ml#post3630464 (Kolkata - Siliguri route via Dumka, Bhagalpur. Avoiding NH34)

However, if you go through the thread, you will get an overall idea of what to expect. Generally the section between Bhagalpur and Hansdiha is in a pretty bad shape now, but factoring in a 30kmph average (for a Hatchback) might help, rest of the route is pretty much, as in the thread. Feel free to knock even if you have questions after going through that thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samba View Post
I want to drive to Sandakfu! The day i get a 4x4/AWD, Sandakfu will be a must go destination!
Going by the Darjeeling Chronicle article, there might be a day, a Tata Nano will reach Sandakphu!! So probably an Attempt with your K10 will be far more satisfying!


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Originally Posted by Samba View Post
Very true. If some agencies want to take there clients/customers to Sandakfu in more comfort they can definitely consider vehicles like the Scorpio 4x4 or the Thar over these ageing Land Rovers!
At the risk of sparking off a debate here. On the usage you mentioned, the Thar would probably not be very appropriate with its rear suspension setup and its ride quality aft of the Driver. The Scorpio 4X4 benefits from coil springs and by nature they work better at cushioning ride.
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Old 28th February 2015, 10:47   #12
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The drive down to Rock Gardens, as many would already know, from around the Ghoom monastery, is known to be very very steep and indeed it is, the first few kilometers being the deadliest, that too, the descent being more tricky than the ascent. On the way down, you have to make way for vehicles coming up, otherwise, you'll have to face the consequence of having to reverse uphill on a slope that could burn your clutch and tyres. It happened to me this time.
Did you see small front wheel drive cars reaching there? Or does one need rear wheel drive cars only, for getting better traction? Is it even steeper than Pankhabari or Peshok route?
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Old 28th February 2015, 15:34   #13
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Originally Posted by rahul4640 View Post
Did you see small front wheel drive cars reaching there? Or does one need rear wheel drive cars only, for getting better traction? Is it even steeper than Pankhabari or Peshok route?
Wanted to ask the same question to all of you. Is it possible for a hatchback to complete this journey, say a Wagon R?
Any mods required?
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Old 28th February 2015, 17:43   #14
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Thanks a lot for sharing your travelogue. I had read your first travelogue and am amazed to know you did it again.

Switchbacks for sure look very tight, but do you feel its the unpaved nature which causes a greater challenge?
Matheran near Mumbai had such tight switchbacks long time ago, but were decently paved.

Its really nice to know it will be accessible for more cars soon, hope they put up mirrors on the hair-pin bends to make things easier.

Suzuki Jimny/ Fiat Panda 4WD are perfect for these roads IMO.
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Old 28th February 2015, 21:35   #15
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Originally Posted by psurelia View Post
Great TL with superb pics as always!

I have a few questions regarding the Darjeeling part.
1. Did you get a hotel where you could park your vehicle? If yes, then which one?
2. When I went to Darjeeling, no vehicles where allowed up to the zoo and my parents had hard time walking all the way up from the main road. How did you manage to get your vehicle up to the gate of the zoo?
We usually stay at the West Bengal Tourism near Gymkhana. However to reach the Zoo and the HMI, usually people follow the hill-cart road and proceed onwards to Lebong, even the navigators guide that way. But in that case, as you noted, you'll have to walk a considerable distance up.

I checked in Google maps to see if I could give you a visual, but even Google Maps is incorrect in depicting Darjeeling roads. From the Railway station, do not follow the Hillcart road into the Bazaar. Instead, go up towards the Chowrasta (they do not allow vehicles till Chowrasta though) and at the junction near the Taxi stand/Keventers/Planters, follow the road that goes straight down (the upward road goes towards Chowrasta/Mall and is out of bounds to vehicles). Follow this road as it goes down (beside hotels like Central Heritage) and then goes steeply up, towards Gymkhana (or ask for directions to Darjeeling College). This road will take you to Zoo/HMI, after crossing the College. But its quite Narrow but at places, two SUV's can cross each other.


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Originally Posted by rahul4640 View Post
Did you see small front wheel drive cars reaching there? Or does one need rear wheel drive cars only, for getting better traction? Is it even steeper than Pankhabari or Peshok route?
Quote:
Originally Posted by DevilzzzzOwn View Post
Wanted to ask the same question to all of you. Is it possible for a hatchback to complete this journey, say a Wagon R?
Any mods required?
I have myself taken my Ikon 1.6 Nxt (a front wheel drive down to Roack Gardens). Infact that time the roads were worse. The road from Ghoom Monastery is very very steep, steeper than Pankhabari. However, I have seen Santro's Matiz's and Alto's take this road, probably not so heavily loaded.

Front wheel drive here, will have an advantage if you need to reverse up the slope for any reason. At the same time, it will be tricky to restart if you happen to loose momentum (and stop) on the way up. Tata Nano will fare better here!! (Owing to its configuration)



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Originally Posted by silverado View Post
Thanks a lot for sharing your travelogue. I had read your first travelogue and am amazed to know you did it again.

Switchbacks for sure look very tight, but do you feel its the unpaved nature which causes a greater challenge?
Matheran near Mumbai had such tight switchbacks long time ago, but were decently paved.

Its really nice to know it will be accessible for more cars soon, hope they put up mirrors on the hair-pin bends to make things easier.

Suzuki Jimny/ Fiat Panda 4WD are perfect for these roads IMO.
Actually, it was unpaved all right, but it was still a rocky trail, prepared that way for the Landrovers to ply on. Those things even do not have perfect condition tyres. Paving, if done properly, would make it easier. But they are trying to do it, probably wrongly.

Firstly, limited width and a huge drop on the side not allowing utilising the mountain saide.

Secondly, near the turns, the concrete paving has made edges that were non existent earlier, the turns were steeper, but the hairpin corners had a rocky/soily curved natural ramp (not a drop). Hopefully in a few days, these corners will give away and restore normalcy!!

Besides, I think, apart from the Ice/snow months, Grip was ever a problem, otherwise the Landy's wouldn't have made it with very sorry tyres.
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