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Old 30th November 2015, 15:33   #1
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Default Darjeeling, Parts of Sikkim & Dooars in a Toyota Etios

On 5th September night i returned back from our Ladakh road trip ( http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...r-kolkata.html (Sailed through the high passes in Hatchbacks, SUVs & a Sedan - Our Ladakh chapter from Kolkata) ) and was having dinner with my family.
The conversation went like this-

Dad : How was the trip ?

Me : Awesome.

Mom : You must be tired now, take some rest.

Dad : Yes take some rest, tomorrow we will talk in details and mean while let me think for a small trip to the Himalaya's! You had so much of fun all these days, now let us have some fun too!

Me : Where?

Dad : Kashmir.

Mom : We already did Kashmir last year and he is just back from Kashmir and Ladakh. So Kashmir will be an over Kill.

Dad : Okay then lets do Darjeeling by road.

Mom : Agreed!

Me :

The very next day a rough itinerary for the trip was chalked out.

It goes like this-
14.11.2015 - Kolkata-Siliguri
15.11.2015- Siliguri- Mirik- Darjeeling
16.11.2015- In and around Darjeeing
17.11.2015- In and around Darjeeing
18.11.2015- Darjeeling - Temi tea Garden
19.11.2015- Temi tea garden- Ravangla- Namchi
20.11.2015- Namchi- Rajabhatkhawa- Bauxa tiger reserve- Jayanti
21.11.2015- Jayanti - Malda
22.11.2015 - Malda- Kolkata.

At the beginning the plan was just for three of us. Later on Arindam Bandyopadhyay (Teambhp handle- Arindam_xeta) decided to join us till Temi tea garden with his family in his gorgeous red Tata Zest. From Temi he had plans for Kalimpong and we went forward with our plans. Later we again met at Malda and did the Malda-Kolkata run together.

At first we decided to take our diesel Figo but later Etios won the heart over brain battle yet again and it was selected for the trip.

A teaser pic from the trip-

Darjeeling, Parts of Sikkim & Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_8429.jpg

And a teaser video-

Last edited by Samba : 5th December 2015 at 02:02.
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Old 30th November 2015, 20:56   #2
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Day 1, Kolkata - Siliguri- 618kms

The planned time for us to start was by 4am and meet Arindam da at Dankuni toll booth by 4-30am. But due to certain delay and bad traffic jam, by the time i reached Dankuni toll booth it was already 5am. I had to squeeze through trucks and take the service lane to reach the toll booth. It was absolute chaos in the early morning. I called up Arindam da to know he was stuck in a long truck que as he was coming from the Bally side. It will take him at-least another 1-2 hours to reach Dankuni. It was a bad and frustrating start for the day. Once i entered Nh2 there was fog and the truck snarl continued for 10kms on the opposite side. So vehicles started taking the wrong side. It was dark, there was some amount of fog and big vehicles were coming on the wrong side. All in all it was a total mess up just after crossing the bad truck traffic.

This continued till Singur. Once i crossed Singur every thing came back to normal. Less traffic and no fog. I started to make up the lost time. By the time i reached Panagargh it was 6-45am.

I gave a call to Arindam Da and came to know he managed to came out of the traffic jam at Dankuni and he was crossing Singur. So we decided, i will continue ahead and keep him updating on the road condition. From then with regular contacts between us we kept on moving. I reached Malda at 11-45am. Had an hour lunch break and started by 1pm. Reached Dalkhola by 2-50pm. Was stuck here for flat one hour ! By the time i managed to get out of Dalkhola railway crossing and hit Nh31 it was already 4-15pm. From here roads were okay with less traffic and reached Siliguri by 6pm. We checked in at Hotel Monarach Anchal and booked two rooms for Arindam's family who was about to reach in next few hours.

Kolkata- Siliguri route is always a gamble and was happy to complete the run in 13 hours including 30 mins lost at Dankuni traffic jam, 15 mins tea break at Panagargh, 1.30 hour lost at Kaliachowck and Malda traffic jam, 1 hour lunch break at Malda and 1 hour traffic jam at Dalkhola level crossing. But at the end there is a saying 'all's well that ends well'. Same applied for both of us.

Our target for the next day was Darjeeling via Mirik. So hills beckon. Despite a tiring day we all had smile in our faces.

Day 2, Siliguri-Mirik- Darjeeling 95kms

So Finally the day to climb up arrived! Lazily we started around 11am after having a sumptuous breakfast. As planned instead of taking the Rohini road we took the road which goes via Mirik. This is a very scenic road with good road condition. By 1pm we reached Mirik.

The Mirik lake
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We spent around half an hour and left Mirik. Our next target was Pashupatinagar market. The road goes through beautiful tea gardens.
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We reached Pashupatinagar market around 2pm. Pashupatinagar is in Nepal. So to take our cars inside we had to do few paper works at the border. That's why instead of taking that pain we hired a Maruti Omni for rs200. They took us to the market and gave around an hour time for shopping.
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By 3pm we were back to our car and just on the opposite side where i parked my car i saw this board. Couldn't resist myself from clicking this pic.
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From here till Darjeeling we had to drive through dense to light fog. I absolutely loved the foggy drive through the pine forest and twisted hill roads.
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After a wonderful drive we reached Darjeeling by 5pm and checked into The Retreat. The hotel is located just beside Rajbhavan and the location was excellent. Since cars are not allowed in front of this hotel we parked our cars at Darjeeling Church paying the caretaker rs300 per day per car. Weather at Darjeeling was less cold than what we expected. It was really comfortable. Had a short walk around our hotel, had food and retired for the day.

Day 3, Tiger Hill, a drive towards Senchal from Sonada. 70kms

In the morning we decided to take a walk around the famous Darjeeling mal. Darjeeling, Parts of Sikkim & Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_8395.jpg

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It was again a foggy day. So in the morning we can't even see a glimpse of the mighty Kanchanjungha. In such days people avoid going to Tiger hill. So we decided to drive to Tiger hills to enjoy the Fog. Arindam da decided to keep it as a rest day, so we three of us went ahead. Tiger hill is at an altitude of 8,800 feet. So the intensity of fog must be higher! We crossed Ghoom and took the road for tiger hill. It was an empty stretch devoid of any tourist vehicle. Plus we were going up around 11am which is not the time for visiting this place. The drive was very scenic through the fog. Sharing few pics.

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By 1pm we were back to Ghoom. So we decided to have a visit at Senchal lake which goes from Jorebangla. But instead we got an info from the locals that the road which goes through Sonada is more scenic but thats a difficult road to climb up. I decided to take the Sonada route and see till where i can do it. Its a sharp left turn from Sonada Bazar and the road is very narrow and immensely steep. I had to continue in 1st gear for the first 1.5kms. After that came an incline with broken road. This was really really steep. I asked the locals whether this road leads to Senchal or not. They told yes it leads to Senchal but the road is like this. Its broken and steep. If we continue on this road the car will take a toll. Plus the more scenic road is if we go further 12kms from Sonada, an airforce road goes up till Senchal forest gate. So i decided to turn back and take the airforce road. But this road was so narrow there was no place where i could turn back my car. So had to go up the broken road further ahead and i found a house back yard where i could turn back my car with 3-4 front and reverse maneuvers. Now a local Santro followed me taking this road. In the final incline where i managed to go up in one go the Santro got stuck. It tried 4 time but in vein. Finally on the 5th attempt it some how just managed the climb up with a burning smell coming from the clutch. After it came up i started going down back to Sonada.

From Sonada i took left continued for 12kms and took the airforce road. This road was really beautiful. The drive through this road in dense fog was really something to cherish for long. Even this road is really steep but after driving on the previous road this seemed like a peace of cake~! At places the visibility was less than 5 feet with few sharp bends. But i didn't face much problem driving in that condition. From near the Senchal forest gate we decided to turn back and drive back to Darjeeling. Few pic of this road.

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We thoroughly enjoyed this days drive with no fixed destination. We were simply enjoying the foggy hill drive. By 5-30pm we were back to our hotel and parked our car at Darjeeling church, which was just a 5 minutes walk from our hotel.

The Darjeeling Church.
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In the late evening we had not much to do, so me and Arindam da decided to try our luck in some night photography.

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After the photography session, the evening started to get colder so we were back to our respective rooms, had food and retired for the day. In short it was a day well spent and well enjoyed.

Last edited by Samba : 4th December 2015 at 22:29.
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Old 2nd December 2015, 17:47   #3
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Day 4, No drive day, went till Ghoom in a hired car.

This was the day to have some good food and take few photographs in & around Darjeeling. Parking around Batasia loop or Ghoom/Darjeeling station is always a problem with once own car. So instead we decided to hire a Qualis and go for these short distances. The driver agreed for 600rs.

In the morning the fog cleared a bit and we could see a very faint glimpse of Kanchanjungha.

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We had our breakfast and had a walk towards Darjeeling Mal.
A couple of pics on the way.

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Darjeeing is famous for Darjeeling tea and there are plenty of shops. We went in one of them and could find out they were selling tea leaves worth rs 34,000 per kg! I hesitantly asked them whether they were willing to sell that flavor in a ready cup of tea! And surprisingly the answer was yes! We ordered them 3 cups for rs120 per cup. In one word the flavor was strong and awesome.

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After this we headed to Glenary's and had our lunch. The food was awesome.

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As soon as we finished our lunch we were all set to move out to Batasia loop at Ghoom and visit the Darjeeling railway station in the hired Qualis.

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We were back to our hotel by 5-30pm & had tea at the roof top restaurant of our hotel. The view was foggy and it was really cold.

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This was the last day at Darjeeling. Next day we had plans to drive till Temi Tea garden.

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Old 4th December 2015, 14:56   #4
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Day 5, Darjeeling to Temi Tea garden. 100kms

Today it was foggy out side. So kanchanjungha luck continued to be on the unlucky side this time from Darjeeling. We checked out at 9-30am and took Peshok road. This road is steep and going down from Ghoom to Melli on this road was a bit of task. As i had to drive continuously on steep downhill road so had to always think of the brake pads getting heated. This road is around 30kms and i had to do 90% of it in 2nd gear with occasional 1st and 3rd. We stopped at the view point where Teesta meets Rangit.

Most of the cars stopped there and i could not find even one car without a burning smell from the front brakes. This is the second time i took this route, last time i took this route was in 2012.

Darjeeling, Parts of Sikkim & Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_8552.jpg

From here the drive till Temi was nonstop. We went via Singtam. The drive was nice with most of the roads in good condition except the last 20kms.

We reached Cherry resort by 2pm. I have been here last year too. But that was a trip with friends. So a trip to this place with my family was definitely on the cards.

Arindam da's kids were also very happy to be here again!

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We had a late lunch and in the evening went to the government Tea shop to buy some organic green tea from Temi tea garden. This place is a bit isolated and we had not much work to do in the evening. So I & Arindam Da decided to do some night photography around our resort.

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It was moderately cold over here. So after the photography session we had our dinner and called it a day.

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Old 4th December 2015, 15:28   #5
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Day 6, Temi - Ravangla - Namchi - Namchi Sightseeings. 70kms

Dad called me from my deep sleep at around 5-30am and wow! Kanchanjungha luck was with us this time!

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Even they were basking in the morning sun!

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After having a great breakfast, we started for Ravangala. Arindam da had plans for Kalimpong. So we parted our ways and we met again later at Malda while returning. The drive from Temi to Ravangal was a picturesque drive.

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At Buddha park Ravangla

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From here we had to drive back till Dantham and take right for Namchi. We reached Namchi by 1pm and checked in at Hotel Summit Sobralia. This hotel was located in upper Namchi, so the view from this hotel was really nice. After lunch we went to Chardham and Helipad at Namchi. I loved the Helipad over here.

Chardham
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AT Helipad
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The view from our hotel

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At night we ordered Chiken Thupka for dinner and retired for the day.

Darjeeling, Parts of Sikkim & Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_8739.jpg

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Old 4th December 2015, 15:33   #6
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Day 7, Namchi to Jayanti 218kms

This was our last day at hills and Kanchanjunga again greeted us in the morning.

Few pics from our hotel roof top.

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By 9am we bid adieu to hills as jungle beckons!

We took the road towards Melli Bazar. On the way Sikkim police flagged us down for a routine paper check and we were given green signal within 5 minutes. Soon we crossed Melli Bazar and drove till Coronation bridge. From there we took left. This road is scenic and the road condition is excellent. In less than couple of hours we crossed Holong, Jaldapara and we reached Hasimara. From here two roads lead to Jayanti. One is the main highway which goes via Alipurdooar and the other one goes via town. The road which goes via town is 20kms less and locals suggested us to take that road as the road condition is good and traffic is less too. So we took left from Hasimara drove for 2kms and took right from old Hasimara. This road goes via old Hamilton and it goes parallel to Alipurdooar railway track. The traffic is less though i had to cross few small town traffic, but that's easily negotiable.

Soon we crossed Rajabhatkhawa station and reached the entry point of Bauxa tiger reserve and Jayanti. We got our permits for rs250. It depends on the number of persons. We drove for 10kms inside Bauxa tiger reserve and took right for Jayanti. Checked in to our resort (Bonante) by 3-30pm. The location of this resort is simply excellent. Its just 10 feet away from the river bed!

Around 4pm few Gypsy guys approached us for going on a jeep safari on the river bed. They were asking for 1000rs + 200rs guide charge. On further inquiry i got to know i can drive on the river bed in my own car too. But locals were discouraging us as high ground clearance vehicles are more advisable. I took the risk and hired a guide for rs 200 and went ahead in my own car. The surface to drive on is bad but with careful driving one can manage it. After driving in Ladakh and north Sikkim this drive was fairly an easy one to me!

Sharing few video's from the drive.









Few pictures from the drive.

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On the drive we got to know from our guide that this place is infested with snakes and there are two big king Cobras in close proximity from our resort! So going for a walk after sun down is not recommended. We listened to his advice. So had an early dinner and retired for the day.

Last edited by Samba : 4th December 2015 at 23:22.
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Old 4th December 2015, 16:42   #7
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Day 8, Jayanti to Malda 413 kms


Well this was going to be a fairly long day ahead. So we decided to leave Jayanti by 9-30am and have small breaks at Bauxa and Rajabhatkhawa on the way. After a heavy break fast we left Jayanti at 9-30am. The drive from here was stop, click and go!

Getting ready to start from our resort.
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At Bauxa tiger reserve.
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At Rajabhatkhawa.
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Soon we reached Hasimara by 10-15am. Till now the trip was awesome and the only glitch was we couldn't spot any wild life throughout the jungle trip. But we had some surprises in our store. While crossing Bagarkote before Sevoke we could see many people running towards the jungle on the left. On further inquiry i could confirm a herd of elephants were crossing that area. I instantly parked my car and ran with my 300mm lens!

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So god fulfilled our wish to see some wild life too! Soon we started from there, crossed the coronation bridge and was driving through Sevoke road. Again the police flagged us down to check the car documents and since everything was in ordered we were ready to move with in 5 minutes. We reached Siliguri around 1-30pm. Had lunch at city center and started for Malda by 2-30pm. From here the drive was uneventful and we reached Malda by 7-30pm. Even Arindam da reached there at a similar time. So we had a chit-chat session among us. We had our dinner and called it a day.

Day 9, Malda - Santiniketan - Kolkata 387kms

The return leg of the journey is always sad but its necessary to plan for the next trip!

We started from Malda around 9-15am and crossed Kaliachowk through Muthabari detour, soon we crossed Farakkha and was stuck in a long 3-4kms long truck que. Some how managed to get out of there by a bit of off-roading or rather soft-roading. Arav Da (Aj-got-bhp) was at Dhulian too on the very same day. So we decided to catch up for a small tea break and i will continue for my return journey and he will continue with his business trip. Etios and Figo were happy to be clicked again together after the memorable Ladakh trip.

Darjeeling, Parts of Sikkim & Dooars in a Toyota Etios-img_5397.jpg

After a 20-30 minutes break i started from Dhulian and our next destination was at Kharimati, Santiniketan to have lunch. We reached Kharimati by 2-30pm had lunch and started from there by 3-20pm. Stopped at Shaktigar, bid adieu to Arindam da & his family and we were back home by 6-30pm.

Total kilometers for the trip- 1970
FE returned by Etios- 15.5 with 30% ac.
Again Etios proved out to be super reliable, highly comfortable & fast for these long trips.

Thanks for reading. Will be glad to answer any queries regarding the trip.

Last edited by Samba : 4th December 2015 at 20:28.
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Old 4th December 2015, 20:47   #8
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Few reviews of the hotels we stayed in-

Hotel Monarch Anchal (Bagdogra/Siliguri) - Its a nice hotel with proper parking space.
On the flip side the room maintenance was on the poor side. Its good for a one night stay as the location is on the main highway.

Recommended for stay.

The Retreat (Darjeeling) - Excellent hotel with excellent rooms & location. The food is good too.
On the flip side this hotel do not have its own parking space.

Highly recommended for stay.

Cherry resort (Temi tea garden)
- Excellent property in a mind-blowing location. Rooms are big and comfortable. Food is okay. Has got huge parking space.
On the flip side the service is a bit slow.

Highly recommended for stay.

Hotel Summit Sobralia (Namchi) - Excellent hotel in a very nice location with tasty food and proper parking space.
On the flip side this hotel has some maintenance issue's like a broken tap in the washroom or availability of 24 hours hot water is not very regular. These are not acceptable from a hotel with this kind of price tag.

Recommended for stay.

Bonante resort (Jayanti)- Jayanti is an offbeat place, so luxury accommodation's cant be expected. The rooms are clean and big. Food is excellent and has nice parking space. The location is excellent. Nothing against this resort.

Highly recommended for stay.

Hotel Golden park (Malda) - This hotel is located right beside NH34. The rooms are nice , clean and big. The food is good too. Plus has a big parking space. On the flip side this place is good for those who have cars. As this place is a bit away from the main city.

Highly recommended for stay.

Last edited by Samba : 4th December 2015 at 20:49.
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Old 5th December 2015, 09:59   #9
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 5th December 2015, 12:56   #10
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What to say. Drooling till the last word. Spectacular. Made my day. Keep it up.
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Old 5th December 2015, 14:07   #11
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Lovely write up.Excellent pictures and loaded with lots of useful information.Rated a well deserved 5 stars.
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Old 5th December 2015, 20:54   #12
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Another amazing travelogue coupled with beautiful pics You could have taken Figo for a change this time. Your TL threads have become a treasure trove for aspiring travelers like me looking for new destinations
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Old 5th December 2015, 21:40   #13
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Default Re: Darjeeling, Parts of Sikkim & Dooars in a Toyota Etios

Nice travelogue, but seems a bit hurried. But thanks to you for atleast jotting down the travelogue. Awesome pictures and wonderful and diverse landscapes covered. Kudos to your Etios as well.

Rated 5*

Last edited by gearhead_mait : 5th December 2015 at 21:41.
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Old 6th December 2015, 00:34   #14
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Congratulations on a wonderful trip. Here is wishing you and your parents many more happy miles in the future. Saying nothing about your photography and driving skills, because that does not need any more recognition. Keep going.
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Old 6th December 2015, 02:43   #15
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Default Re: Darjeeling, Parts of Sikkim & Dooars in a Toyota Etios

Hi Samba, amazing travelogue, just wanted to know how is the road condition from Kolkata to Darjeeling? can it be done in low GC cars like Honda Civic?
Did you chose any specific route etc?
I drive a Honda Civic.
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