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Old 27th July 2015, 17:16   #1
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Default Sikkim - The Abode of Gods

Hi Friends,

This is my first travelogue or for that matter my first thread (barring the meet ones) on TBHP, so please bear if there are any mistakes

A glimpse of Kanchenjunga

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One fine day while sitting in the office, I see a thread on the Homepage named Sikkim - Baptism by Fire by Mi2n. While going thru the thread, I suddenly felt an urge to go visit the wonderful place myself. The next day, a friend/colleague told me that he has already planned a Sikkim trip in June by train.

Well now could not control the urge & excitingly gave a call to wifey about the trip. Got a User busy message with "In a meeting" text. Messaged back with the suggestion of Sikkim trip. Bang came a reply with merely an "OK". Well couldn't expect more from a meeting.

In the evening a close friend called & I told him about the plan. Now there were four of us going. Friend + his wife & Us. Finalized the date of departure to be 20th June 2015. Booked all the Hotels & started planning on the route. Spoke to fellow bhpians - Sheel, gearhead_mait, Samba, himadrimondal (our in house Sikkim expert) & gmhossain.

Car : Honda Brio SMT 2012
Mileage at trip start : 31k kms
Load on vehicle : 4 people(Me + wife, Friend + Wife) + Luggage

Day 1 : Kolkata-Burdwan-Bolpur-Siuri-Massanjore-Dumka-Deoghar-Banka-Amarpur-Bhagalpur-Islampur-Siliguri.

We started at 5 in the morning. Kolkata-Burdwan was smooth on the Durgapur expressway. We reached the Bolpur turn by 6.30. The Bhedia Underpass was blocked by a broken down truck. Those aware of this underpass know that if a truck breaks down in the middle of the underpass it gets completely blocked. Took a U turn & went in thru the Bhedia town thanks to the tips provided by 1100D on the Siliguri thread. We were soon at Massanjore & were greeted by this

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Just after crossing Deoghar, we realized that we were running low(not alarmingly - 3/10) on fuel. I had orginally planned on topping up at Deoghar but somehow missed it. After crossing Deoghar we entered Bihar & could not spot any fuel bunks for the next 30 kms. Since the tank capacity of Brio is just 35 litres, we went on reserve pretty fast. Now we were anxiously looking for fuel bunks. We even asked the locals & were prepared to go to an interior town to get fuel if required. Finally the first bunk came at Banka 60kms after entering Bihar. I was shocked to see no petrol bunks for this 60 km strip (There may have been one but we couldn't spot it). Topped up at Banka & headed towards Bhagalpur. I was in constant touch with fellow bhpian Sheel who was guiding me to byepass Bhagalpur. We crossed Bhagalpur & Vikramshila in 50 minutes. Not much by Bhagalpur standards. Missed meeting bhpian Sheel as we were about 45 minutes apart & time was quite costly since we had a lot of distance to go. We finally reached Sevoke, Siliguri where our accommodation for the first day was booked.

Day 2 : Sevoke-Melli-Jorethang-Zoom-Soreng-Kaluk

We started by 9 am for Kaluk. Soon we were enjoying the drive beside the beautiful Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary. We stopped en route for Momos.

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Soon we were at Melli. A quick show of Voter Ids & we were in Sikkim. The road to Jorethang from Melli was in a mess. The roads looked something like this

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Soon we were in Jorethang. Post Jorethang, we had decided to take the Zoom route rather than the conventional Rinchenpong or Rabongla route. Little did we know what was in store for us. As per my interactions with Samba & gearhead_mait the route to Zoom was steep but doable. It never clicked me that both of them had told me about their stories of coming down from Zoom rather than going up on it. To provide a fair idea this stretch is 6 km long & gains 3000 ft altitude in such a short span. It has some very tight hairpins & narrow roads with very high gradients. We started our journey to Zoom. The drive was unnerving. Brio with 4 people + Luggage was really struggling going up. The rpms were constantly above 4k on 1st gear. I could smell the clutch burn. But U turn wasn't an option as losing momentum while going up would be deadly. 2-3 kms up the climbs a rash driver coming down didn't stop at a very narrow stretch & I had to brake. Tried going up again but faced two problems, one, the handbrake wont hold the car stationery & as soon as I lifted my leg from the brake the car would roll back. Also, the engine wasn't making enough power to pull up the car. I offloaded the passengers. My friend put a brick/stone behind 3 tyres. Now without load & with stone behind the tyres, I was able to pull it up. Just after a switchback the gradient softened a bit & I loaded up the passengers again. We were again on our way up but the problems had not ended. At a very tight & high gradient hairpin the rpms began to drop automatically. Slipped the clutch to get some life back. Had to slip the clutch quite a few times before we were finally up at Zoom.
I would strongly recommend not taking this route on a petrol hatchback with low torque.

Finally the milestone we were looking for

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Brio getting its well deserved rest

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After reaching the top, we gave rest to the car & enjoyed some mangoes which we had purchased in Bihar. A Bolero taxi was stranded there with an overheated engine. The engine had become a steam engine. We gave him some water to use for cooling down the engine & proceeded towards Kaluk.

We were welcomed in the resort & a saw our lunch table in the lawn. The view was breathtaking.

Few pictures of the resort.

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Last edited by PapaBravo : 26th August 2015 at 14:56.
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Old 25th August 2015, 17:38   #2
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Day 3 - Kaluk-Singshore Bridge-Rabdentse ruins-Temi Tea garden

We woke up to the wonderful view of Kanchenjunga albeit not a very clear one. Our room did have a very special view.

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We then proceeded towards our next destination. Our first stop was the Alpine cheese factory.

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We then went to Singshore Bridge.

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While returning from Singshore Bridge, we came across some very beautiful waterfalls.

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After clicking some photographs, we proceeded to Rabdentse Ruins which is the ancient capital of Sikkim. One has to take a 1 km long Jungle trail to reach the Ruins.

Trail to the Ruins

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Finally we moved towards our final destination for the day, Cherry Resort, Temi tea gardens.

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Day 4 : Temi-Gangtok

I was not too keen on visiting Gangtok since I prefer country side on a vacation rather than busy hill capitals & also I had been to Gangtok a lot of times before. But since my wife had never been to Gangtok, we included it in the itinerary. Gangtok was usual with some shopping the two highlights of Gangtok was the room view (again) & the live band performance that we saw at one of the pubs.

Room View

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Live Band Performance

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Day 5 : Gangtok - Kalimpong

Since we had extra days in hand, we had included Kalimpong in our itinerary. The two reasons for including Kalimpong were Parasailing in Delo & Rafting in Teesta. Parasailing didn't work out since the clouds well hell bent on leaving us. Rafting would be covered later in the thread. We left Gangtok after a late breakfast & moved towards Kalimpong around 10 am. Our stay in Kalimpong was arranged in Morgan house which is an old bunglow maintained by WBTDC right now.

Brio resting at Morgan House, Kalimpong

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The property is adjacent to this wonderful golf course.

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Kanchenjunga Range from Kalimpong

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We went around the cantonment area to have a l0ok & click some pictures on my parents demands. My father was posted in Kalimpong in 1971. We had a tough time locating their old residence since quite obviously a lot had changed in 44 years.

A special mention to a Cafe called "Cafe Refuel" we discovered just before entering the Kalimpong town. The cafe is run by two petrolheads who belong to Kalimpong but were in Bangalore for quite sometime due to their jobs. They have now shifted back & opened up this cafe. It is an automobile themed cafe. They sell out good adventure sports accessories from the Cafe as well. Wonderful people to have a chat along with coffee. And yes, the food is awesome. Must visit of you are there.

Last edited by PapaBravo : 26th August 2015 at 14:57.
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Old 26th August 2015, 14:54   #3
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Day 6 : Rafting & Parasailing that never happened.

We had plans of Parasailing in the morning & rafting in the afternoon. After calling multiple Parasailing camps we got to know the Parasailing will not be possible for at least 6 hours due to dense clouds. We changed our plan & went for Rafting in the morning. Rafting was exhilarating to say the least. It was a wonderful adrenaline filled experience. Post our return we again enquired about the Parasailing & were disappointed again.

Some picture of rafting - All pictures were clicked by the rafting organizers on extra charge. They shoot videos as well.

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Day 7 : Kalimpong-Siliguri-Malda

While coming back I had made the cardinal mistake of not taking the same route that I had taken while coming. We thought we would explore the shorter NH34. That was our biggest mistake but more on that later.

While we were getting ready to leave Kalimpong, the hotel manager informed us that there has been a landslide on somewhere on Sevoke road & all the traffic is standstill. He was expecting some guest in the morning who had not turned up as well. I confirmed the same with one of my local contacts. The road indeed was blocked. Now we would have to take the Jorebunglow-Kurseong route which is usually taken for Darjeeling. For someone aware of the roads in North Bengal, Sevoke road is on of the major road that connects Kalimpong & Sikkim to Bengal. Since this road was blocked the Alternative route had unusually heavy traffic. The road that connects Kalimpong to JoreBunglow which would finally lead us to the Famous hill cart road passes thru Peshok tea estate & is a delight to drive. But as soon as we started nearing Hill Cart road, traffic started increasing. Now the Sikkim, Kalimpong & Darjeeling traffic was on this single road. It was a nightmare with very long Jams. We were sometime standstill for more than 20 minutes at a stretch.

A picture of Jam at hill cart road.

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We took the Rohini road to avoid some Jam & reached Matigara, near Siliguri in 6 hrs. 4 hrs behind our schedule. We finally reached Malda late in the Evening.

Day 8 : Malda - Kolkata (The Horror story)

Now the part where I said that we had done a mistake by going thru Bengal instead of Bihar-JHK. We left Malda while it was heavily pouring. The rains had not stopped from last night. We crossed the Farakka Bridge & were welcomed by a 6 km long Jam of trucks. The roads were in a complete mess with our Brio bottoming out multiple times.

Crossing the stand still trucks on NH34

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What NH34 does to your wheels

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As soon as we crossed Moregram, we left NH34 & took SH7 in hopes of the roads getting better. The roads were even worse with huge craters. The constant rain had filled these craters & made them Lakes in the middle of the road. The fact that we took 6 hrs to cover this 120 kms stretch states the condition of the roads.

While we were cursing our decision & hoping that nothing bad happens ahead we encountered another mishap. There was a large pool in the middle of the road with no way to go around. It was raining heavily & I stopped just before it to judge the course to be taken. As soon as we proceeded, we realized that the water was quite deep. No problem, will burn some clutch & get out. As soon as we were about to get out we heard a loud bang & the car came out of the pool with a scratching sound. Something had broken & was touching the ground. The damage was due to the rut that is created by trucks. The place where the truck tyres go make that area deep & the are which lies in the middle of the truck gets elevated. I got down to inspect the damage. The Sump Guard had broken & was hanging below bent behind. I had to lift the car up, straighten it out & fix it with a wire in the rain. By the end of this job I was drenched & quite tired. Checked all other parts & continued the journey ahead. We had seen enough for the day, or that is what we thought.

After another twenty kms of very bad roads we encounter this :

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The road was blocked. We took a help of a local & he told us about a road which goes thru towns & meet the same highway 6 kms ahead. We decided to take that road now. All this while it was raining heavily. We did not know what was in store for us. While going thru the towns, there was flash flood that came on the roads. The water started flowing from one side of the road to the other side with quite a heavy flow.

Something like this (Dashcam Snapshot):

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I had two options, one, to go back to the craters which nearly broke down my car, two, to cross the fast flowing water. Decision had to be quick as the water level was rising fast. I could not go back to the Craters, a bolero & a bus went ahead & crossed the flowing water & that gave some confidence. A bus or Bolero is any day heavier than Brio. What if we get washed away ? Again after discussing for 3-4 minutes took the plunge & went thru the flooded stretch. Luckily we went thru with some clutch slipping & keeping up the momentum. Some Dashcam snapshots of the crossing

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Finally we were back on the SH7 & crossed Burdwan. We reached home by 7 in the night.


Epilogue : Blessing in disguise

During the whole trip my wife & I felt that although our Brio was great on highways it could not do too well on the hills & bad roads. We travel quite a bit ( We have made a plain, a hill & a sea trip already this year) and so need a bigger vehicle which can tackle these roads & make our hill trips easier. This thought process materialized and my wife & I finally decided to take the plunge & bought ourselves a Duster AWD RxZ. Duster has already made a short trip as seen in the picture below

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Thanks a lot to everyone for reading. Do let me know if you require any details regarding the trip.

Regards

Pawan

Last edited by PapaBravo : 26th August 2015 at 14:59.
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Old 26th August 2015, 16:31   #4
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Default Re: Sikkim - The Abode of Gods

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section). Thanks for sharing!
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Old 26th August 2015, 17:13   #5
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Awesome photographs and a equally good naration. Just loved the way you had taken the photographs while travelling, it gives such viewing pleasure in reading such travelogues. The Brio is not meant for Sikkim or NH 34 if you are doing Sikkim even thrice a year. But so is the Duster. Being such a beautiful vehicle, I am sure you will not subject it to the torture. Pamper it.

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Old 26th August 2015, 17:30   #6
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Very nice travelogue, PapaBravo. Very brave of you to attempt this in a Brio, with a full quota of passengers and luggage. Those flash flood pics are really scary when I think of a hatch trying to attempt crossing. Congrats on your new Duster, by the way!
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Old 26th August 2015, 17:55   #7
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Very Nice TL and could literally see many parts in your eyes. Out of interests why did you not venture to Gurudongmar lake or Nathu La pass ?

Appreciate your guts to go in that small car with a full load.

PS: Congrats on your new ride.
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Old 26th August 2015, 18:22   #8
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Congratulations on writing your first travelogue on Team-BHP, and congratulations on getting the Duster 4WD as a replacement for the Brio (which is hardly a touring car by any stretch of the imagination)! What you did was extremely brave, plunging into the crater-filled Malda-Kolkata stretch of NH34 and SH7, navigating through flooded stretches, and bringing everyone home safe. I guess I'd have lost my nerve in your position, hired a truck and loaded the Brio into it, and brought it safely home that way.

Time to write another thread in the Test Drives and Initial Ownership Reports section?
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Old 26th August 2015, 21:23   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PapaBravo View Post

was the room view (again).
Did you stay at Hotel Le-Green or something with similar name? Link (Icy Nathu-La)

Sweet little travelogue, yes as said by Himadri Sir, road pics puts life in a travelogue thread for us BHPians.
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Old 26th August 2015, 21:41   #10
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Congrats on your breathtaking trip and am sure, this experience will be in your memory for a lifetime. I must say it's very adventurous trip, Especially you people have successfully completed it in a Brio..!!

Last edited by Wildy : 26th August 2015 at 21:45.
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Old 26th August 2015, 21:55   #11
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Hey Pawan,

Congratz on your first travelogue!
By the way, after starting at 5 from Kolkata, when did you reach Siliguri on Day 1?
I liked the narration and the pics in between. Zoom route surely have been hard for the Brio and it does give an indication how the likes of i10 would fare up there.
Thanks for sharing and waiting for your maiden Duster travelogue!
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Old 26th August 2015, 22:02   #12
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I just relived my trip to Sikkim reading your log. The fact that you took the same route to Kaluk as I did and faced similar issues climbing up to Zoom and even parked our cars at the same spot at Zoom to release the steam. You definitely managed to take way better pictures than I did and were also lucky to get a good glimpse of the mighty K from Kaluk. As gearhead_mait had said, the road to Zoom is just unforgettable. Every time I narrate my story, the Zoom climb always takes pole position followed closely by the encounter with leeches at Ravongla. I'm also mesmerized by the ambiance of Morgan House. While the Sevoke landslides caused a lot of concern, the pictures of SH-7 sent a shiver down my spine. But all the horror is now behind you since you'll be dusting through such roads now in your AWD Duster.

Congratulations!
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Old 27th August 2015, 06:56   #13
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Congrats on your first travelogue and for your shining new Duster. That was an excellent start of a travel blogger - very interesting story, well narrated and nicely complemented with beautiful and contextual pictures! Hope to see your Duster soon in one of our future off road meets
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Old 27th August 2015, 10:22   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by himadrimondal View Post
Awesome photographs and a equally good naration. Just loved the way you had taken the photographs while travelling, it gives such viewing pleasure in reading such travelogues. The Brio is not meant for Sikkim or NH 34 if you are doing Sikkim even thrice a year. But so is the Duster. Being such a beautiful vehicle, I am sure you will not subject it to the torture. Pamper it.
Thank you Himadri Da. If I would have taken the Brio to Sikkim thru NH34 next time, I would have required a flatbed. Point noted about the Duster.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stryker View Post
Very nice travelogue, PapaBravo. Very brave of you to attempt this in a Brio, with a full quota of passengers and luggage. Those flash flood pics are really scary when I think of a hatch trying to attempt crossing. Congrats on your new Duster, by the way!
Thank you Sir. I beleive the Duster would more apt for these kind of trips. Flash floods were really scary, but there were no other options. Oh, by the way I am a big fan of your photography.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ku69rd View Post
Very Nice TL and could literally see many parts in your eyes. Out of interests why did you not venture to Gurudongmar lake or Nathu La pass ?

Appreciate your guts to go in that small car with a full load.

PS: Congrats on your new ride.
Thanks for the comments ku69rd. To be very frank, I had left Nathula for the next time when I would come in a bigger car. This time it was just West Sikkim. Also, Parasailing & Rafting near Kalimpong were on the to do list.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
Congratulations on writing your first travelogue on Team-BHP, and congratulations on getting the Duster 4WD as a replacement for the Brio (which is hardly a touring car by any stretch of the imagination)! What you did was extremely brave, plunging into the crater-filled Malda-Kolkata stretch of NH34 and SH7, navigating through flooded stretches, and bringing everyone home safe. I guess I'd have lost my nerve in your position, hired a truck and loaded the Brio into it, and brought it safely home that way.

Time to write another thread in the Test Drives and Initial Ownership Reports section?
Thank you Shamindra Da for the wonderful comments. Brio is definitely not a touring car, but it has fared well on the well paved NH2/NH6 trips to Lucknow & Odisha. Regarding the truck, believe me, I had thought of getting a truck & loading my car when I was on SH7.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Sheel View Post
Did you stay at Hotel Le-Green or something with similar name? Link (Icy Nathu-La)

Sweet little travelogue, yes as said by Himadri Sir, road pics puts life in a travelogue thread for us BHPians.
Thank you Sheel. That is a great place shared thru your link. But we did not stay there. We were in an Army accommodation, hence have shared very little pictures of it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wildy View Post
Congrats on your breathtaking trip and am sure, this experience will be in your memory for a lifetime. I must say it's very adventurous trip, Especially you people have successfully completed it in a Brio..!!
Thank a lot Wildy !!

Quote:
Originally Posted by redeye10 View Post
Hey Pawan,

Congratz on your first travelogue!
By the way, after starting at 5 from Kolkata, when did you reach Siliguri on Day 1?
I liked the narration and the pics in between. Zoom route surely have been hard for the Brio and it does give an indication how the likes of i10 would fare up there.
Thanks for sharing and waiting for your maiden Duster travelogue!
Thanks brother. We reached Siliguri by 7 pm & Sevoke by 8 pm. We picked up some food in Siliguri. Glad you liked the narration. Wouldn't encourage taking the Zoom route on a Petrol i10.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mi2n View Post
I just relived my trip to Sikkim reading your log. The fact that you took the same route to Kaluk as I did and faced similar issues climbing up to Zoom and even parked our cars at the same spot at Zoom to release the steam. You definitely managed to take way better pictures than I did and were also lucky to get a good glimpse of the mighty K from Kaluk. As gearhead_mait had said, the road to Zoom is just unforgettable. Every time I narrate my story, the Zoom climb always takes pole position followed closely by the encounter with leeches at Ravongla. I'm also mesmerized by the ambiance of Morgan House. While the Sevoke landslides caused a lot of concern, the pictures of SH-7 sent a shiver down my spine. But all the horror is now behind you since you'll be dusting through such roads now in your AWD Duster.

Congratulations!
Glad I could bring back your memories. Please don't be so modest. It was your travelogue & its pictures that motivated me to do this trip in the first place. Would agree on seeing the might K part.

Zoom will always be unforgettable. Thanks for your wishes on the Duster AWD.

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Originally Posted by psurelia View Post
Congrats on your first travelogue and for your shining new Duster. That was an excellent start of a travel blogger - very interesting story, well narrated and nicely complemented with beautiful and contextual pictures! Hope to see your Duster soon in one of our future off road meets
Thanks a lot PS. Means a lot coming from a travel blogger like you. We will be meeting soon. This Sunday, may be ?
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Old 27th August 2015, 11:09   #15
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Originally Posted by PapaBravo View Post
Thanks a lot PS. Means a lot coming from a travel blogger like you. We will be meeting soon. This Sunday, may be ?
Yes, I guess we are on for the coming Sunday.
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