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Old 4th March 2016, 12:52   #1
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Default Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD

A few Bhpians met mid September for a cup of coffee at a neighborhood CCD. The Bhpians were Blackpearl, Samba, psurelia, djsr78, imove, dip27in & yours truly. Blackpearl was discussing his Sikkim plans which are beautifully put Here. (Zuluk from the back seat) He invited us to join them but we had already booked accommodations so had to give it a miss. We (my wife & I) had planned Darjeeling for that weekend. Since Blackpearl is a Sandakphu veteran & since I was visiting Darjeeling I asked him about the trail. He gave me the insights & told me that he would be going there around Feb, so we can go together as there will be backup. The discussion ended there.

A picture of our rides at CCD

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-rides.jpg

The Owners (Bhpians)

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-ccd-ppl.jpg


____________________

The last trip to the hills was in my Brio in June which is documented here (Sikkim - The Abode of Gods). If you have read that travelogue you would know that purchasing the HULK (Duster AWD) was a decision based on the experience we had in the Sikkim trip. The HULK was approx 4k kms & 3 months old, and the itch for making a trip to hills was pertinent. So as soon as we found ourselves 3 days free, we finalized on the Darjeeling plan. So basically we had 72 hours of which 55 hours were spent driving.

Day 1 : Kolkata to Darjeeling

We started from Kolkata at 0300 hrs & chose the route thru Bihar-Jharkhand after our bad experience 4 months back on NH34. This route has been discussed in length on another thread. I posted an update (Kolkata - Siliguri route via Dumka, Bhagalpur. Avoiding NH34) after completion of the trip. Thanks to Sheel's help we were able to byepass Bhagalpur without a hitch. Both the byepasses have been explained in the post mentioned above.

We were near Purnea around 3 pm & then coordinated with fellow bhpian Sheel to have a cup of tea at the Mahindra workshop.

With Sheel near Purnea

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-sheel.jpg

There was some news on a bridge that was broken near Sukna due to landslide but I could find any online news item to tell me the exact place where it happened. Sheel connected us with a bhpian from Siliguri rahul_kej who updated us with the road conditions. People familiar with this part of the country might know that there are multiple routes to go up to Darjeeling from Siliguri. We had planned to go up thru Pankhabari. rahul_kej was surprised as the route was now rarely used since it was quite steep than the other options. He asked us about the car we will be driving & was relieved to hear that we were traveling in HULK.

Around 7pm, we reached Matigara. The sun had set. We thought of taking a break at a momo shop at the foothills. Had wonderful momos & tea & started our ascent thru Pankhabari. This is the steepest climb to Darjeeling & the visibility due to fog had dropped down. It was pitch dark. We only crossed one vehicle, a police SUV on its way down till Kurseong. We finally reached our hotel at 2130 hrs & it was raining cats & dogs. We were staying in the Gymkhana club. I parked my on a narrow uphill road just besides the Gymkhana wall & went out with an umbrella to ask for parking. Came back with the bearers who helped us unload the luggage & pointed me to the parking. The parking was in the opposite side for which I had to take a U turn. The road was so narrow that I had to drive around 500m uphill just to get some space for a U turn.

We were glad to see the room which had a fireplace.Immediately fired it up & ordered our dinner. Had a sumptuous meal & slept.

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-room-fire.jpg

Day 2 : Around Darjeeling & a dash of adventure.

The heavy rains thru the night meant that the weather would be cloudy, with no chance of any sight of the mighty K. Woke up in the morning to find that true. Had breakfast & checked out of the club.

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-breakfast.jpg

As we came out we saw this next to HULK

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-thar.jpg

For those planning to go to this place, this is the parking & it has good space for parking which is a luxury in Darjeeling.

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-hotel-parking.jpg

The first thing on our itinerary was the rock garden. Some pictures enroute Rock garden.

PS : We found out enroute Rock garden that we had left our camera back at home. All pictures are phone cam pics, so please excuse the quality.

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-rg1.jpg

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-rg2.jpg

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-rg3.jpg


contd...

Last edited by PapaBravo : 4th March 2016 at 15:19.
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Old 4th March 2016, 14:44   #2
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Default Re: Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD

Day 2 contd..

The entrance to Rock Garden :

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-rg-entrance.jpg

Some pics inside.

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-rgp-me.jpg

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-rgp-me2.jpg

A beautiful web

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-rg-web-.jpg

After rock garden the weather seemed clearing up (which we later realized was only temporary) and we decided to give Sandakphu trail a try. We had already decided that if the trail turns dangerous we will turn back.

On the way to Manebhanjan the point where the climb starts from

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-mb1.jpg

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-mb.jpg

We reached the climbing point of Manebhanjan. We saw the Sandakphu milestone & saw the climb up chitrey.

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-sph-up.jpg

I have already posted bits of this experience in a 4x4 thread, so will be quoting from there

Quote:
Stage 1 : Climb upto Chitrey. Road is tarred, but very steep. As fellow member himadrimondal said the picture doesn't do justice to the steepness. Chitrey is a place till where 2WD vehicles can go. But I only found Sumo's there. No hatchbacks. It would be a difficult climb for a loaded hatchback.
Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-chitrey.jpg

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-chitrey-2.jpg

Quote:
We stopped at Chitrey to enquire about road ahead. The Sumo drivers had no idea since it is only 4x4 territory & strictly no vehicle goes above that point except the SWB Landrovers. I found a LR driver & asked him about the trail ahead. He looked a bit shocked & asked whether the car is 4WD. I confirmed, but that didn't convince him much. We decided to climb ourselves & see. He warned us about the width of Duster & told us about roads being narrow.

Stage 2 : Rocky & Muddy road to Sandakphu. The tarred road ends just after Chitrey & the rocky road starts. The terrain looks like it has been made only for leafsprings. The road is quite narrow with some very steep hairpins. After some point we encountered this
Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-rock.jpg

Quote:
I had my doubts whether duster will squeeze into this gap. Got down of the vehicle to inspect. It looked like we could make it with proper navigation. Remember there is no safety guard on the gorge side. You go down if you are not careful. While going up there was literally a gap of 5 mm with the rock & at most 5mm from the gorge. Since I was at the gorge side I could push the vehicle to the edge of the gorge. While coming back I wasn't that luck. Gauging your front left tyre position down to millimeters & that when you know that there is a gorge next to it not easy. To top it all it was raining. I was overcautious & scraped the rear of my duster with the rock. Better than falling down.
The beautiful hilly jungle trail

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-sp-trail-1.jpg

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-sp-trail-2.jpg

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-sp-trail-3.jpg

Ascent

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-steep-ascent.jpg

contd...
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Old 4th March 2016, 15:16   #3
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Default Re: Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD

Quote:
After this encounter we were slowly climbing up. The Dusters Power to weight & AWD performed flawlessly. At no point did it feel less powerful. There were many wheelspins though not the ones that would scare you to back off. Things were going good till we reached Tumling. After that, the rains started heavily, making temporary small streams on the climb & reducing the visibility substantially. The sunlit time left was less too since we were a little late to start the climb. We decided to return from Tumling, which is halfway Sandakphu.
Visibility at Tumling

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-visibility.jpg

Some pics while coming down

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-descent-1.jpg

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-descent-2.jpg

Ok. That is steep.

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-descent-3.jpg

Oh. That one is even steeper

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-descent-4.jpg

Oh this one is steep & without any road surface

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-rock-steep.jpg

Then we met this creature oblivious of the fact that it is blocking our way.

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-creature.jpg

What goes up comes down

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-sp-down.jpg

We caught a football match at 6600 ft.

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-football.jpg

We then returned to Sukhia Pokhri & proceeded towards our next night halt at Mirik. We reached Mirik & wifey did some shopping from the local market.

Day 3 : Mirik to Kolkata

We started at 0300 hrs from Mirik. It was for the first time that I was starting so early from hills. It was pitch dark & for about 35 kms we did not see a single soul.

A sight of the lonely drive :

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-img_7327.jpg

We were in plains by day break & took the same route back to Kolkata, except for one detour. A costly one. While going from Bhagalpur to Dumka, instead of going thru Deoghar, we took the Bounsi route. The route was bouncy for sure. I think we will skip Lamaryu Moonland on our leh trip since we already saw lunar craters on this stretch. It took us 3+ hours to cover 40 kms.

Rest of the journey was uneventful & we reached home around 1900 hrs.

A parting picture

Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-img_7330.jpg

Hope you guys enjoyed reading thru it !!

Regards,

Pawan
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Old 4th March 2016, 21:54   #4
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Default Re: Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD

Moving from Assembly Line to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 5th March 2016, 06:43   #5
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Default Re: Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD

Excellent travelogue Papabravo! You seriously had some guts to attempt the Sandakphu trail with such bad weather at bay. Well done!
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Old 5th March 2016, 13:03   #6
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Default Re: Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD

Wonderful travelogue Pawan

Very inspiring pictures too.
Wish there were more pictures

Last edited by ultimatechamp : 5th March 2016 at 13:10.
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Old 5th March 2016, 13:22   #7
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Default Re: Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD

Great travelogue and nice pics too.

The inclines look really exhilarating to drive on. The weather seems to have been the only factor that stopped you from reaching Sandakphu.

More pics of the climb would be appreciated.
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Old 5th March 2016, 13:38   #8
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Default Re: Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD

Lovely travelogue and nice pics. Driving in the rain on such steep inclines, You are a brave heart. Hope to meet you soon may be.
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Old 5th March 2016, 18:41   #9
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Default Re: Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD

Nicely written travelogue Pawan . Pictures of the trail are awesome, and I particularly loved the snap of the cobweb with shining dew drops!
And, kudos for attempting the trail even in such weather.

PS: Do you need membership to stay at the Gymkhana club? (if not, is there any option for online booking)
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Old 5th March 2016, 20:52   #10
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Default Re: Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD

Thanks for sharing pictures from an exciting trip. I think this is the first TL I've seen of someone attempting Sandakphu amid rain, esp a first time driver in those parts.

That said, was the clearance literally 5mm? I simply cannot comprehend a regular human being able to maneuver that closely - makes no sense. Or did you mean 5cm? Apologies - I mean no disrespect but 5mm clearance is beyond any of my experience even considering motorbikes. Hence the confusion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PapaBravo View Post
I had my doubts whether duster will squeeze into this gap. Got down of the vehicle to inspect. It looked like we could make it with proper navigation. Remember there is no safety guard on the gorge side. You go down if you are not careful. While going up there was literally a gap of 5 mm with the rock & at most 5mm from the gorge. Since I was at the gorge side I could push the vehicle to the edge of the gorge. While coming back I wasn't that luck. Gauging your front left tyre position down to millimeters & that when you know that there is a gorge next to it not easy. To top it all it was raining. I was overcautious & scraped the rear of my duster with the rock. Better than falling down.
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Old 5th March 2016, 21:58   #11
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Default Re: Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD

Well done Pawan! It's amazing how much confidence a capable car can instill in you. Some super scary pictures in there. Congratulations!!
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Old 5th March 2016, 23:40   #12
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Default Re: Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD

Love such quick-fire short and sweet travelogues like these. Took too many of them at one time. 55 hours of driving a new car through a 72-hour holiday sounds like great fun - but what did the Missus say once you got back home?

Wonder who the braveheart with Mudzilla tyres was, risking his life and car with poor traction and lateral stability on the rainy mountain roads...


Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD-thar.jpg

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 5th March 2016 at 23:43.
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Old 6th March 2016, 09:49   #13
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Default Re: Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD

Quote:
Originally Posted by ultimatechamp View Post
Wonderful travelogue Pawan

Very inspiring pictures too.
Wish there were more pictures
Thank You Doctor Saab !! Will add more pictures.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheStranger View Post
Great travelogue and nice pics too.

The inclines look really exhilarating to drive on. The weather seems to have been the only factor that stopped you from reaching Sandakphu.

More pics of the climb would be appreciated.
Thanks TheStranger ! Pictures on the way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Red Panda View Post
Lovely travelogue and nice pics. Driving in the rain on such steep inclines, You are a brave heart. Hope to meet you soon may be.
Thanks Avishek !! Will meet in the next adda session.
Quote:
Originally Posted by GhostRider28 View Post
Nicely written travelogue Pawan . Pictures of the trail are awesome, and I particularly loved the snap of the cobweb with shining dew drops!
And, kudos for attempting the trail even in such weather.

PS: Do you need membership to stay at the Gymkhana club? (if not, is there any option for online booking)
Thanks Sayantan. We found that cobweb in Rock garden. Was clicked from an iPhone since we forgot to take our camera.

No membership required. You can contact them thru a number given on their site or at 03542252328. Although the rack rates start from Rs. 5000 w/o tax you can negotiate a lot. I think we had managed a 30-35% discount.

Quote:
Originally Posted by phamilyman View Post
Thanks for sharing pictures from an exciting trip. I think this is the first TL I've seen of someone attempting Sandakphu amid rain, esp a first time driver in those parts.
Thanks !!

Err. First time on Sandakphu trail. Have done the rest of the circuit multiple times.

Quote:
Originally Posted by phamilyman View Post
That said, was the clearance literally 5mm? I simply cannot comprehend a regular human being able to maneuver that closely - makes no sense. Or did you mean 5cm? Apologies - I mean no disrespect but 5mm clearance is beyond any of my experience even considering motorbikes. Hence the confusion.
Apologies. Please read it as 5cm. Infact, it is better to keep it as a figure of speech. It was quite narrow.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mi2n View Post
Well done Pawan! It's amazing how much confidence a capable car can instill in you. Some super scary pictures in there. Congratulations!!
Thanks Mithun. Yes it does. In the Brio, some of your attention went on making the car climb the steep inclines & rest on maneuvering. With the duster, you usually do not worry about the climbing part. The car has enough power. You have more concentration on the for the maneuvering part.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
Love such quick-fire short and sweet travelogues like these. Took too many of them at one time. 55 hours of driving a new car through a 72-hour holiday sounds like great fun - but what did the Missus say once you got back home?
Thanks you SS Da. You know how we become kids when the new car comes home & can't stop playing with it. Missus was quite cool with the trip except the Boun(cy)si stretch. She knows there is no way out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
Wonder who the braveheart with Mudzilla tyres was, risking his life and car with poor traction and lateral stability on the rainy mountain roads.
+1. Infact, there are some narrow stretches as well. God knows how he manages to drive there.

Regards,

Pawan
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Old 6th March 2016, 13:45   #14
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Default Re: Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD

Congrats on the maiden voyage to hills with your new car The pics remind me of my Darjeeling trip last year which was very memorable for me. I am sure you will take your car to Sandakphu one day when the road conditions / weather are favorable and probably be the first Duster to do so. Nice write up and lovely pics, rated & thanked
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Old 6th March 2016, 17:28   #15
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Default Re: Weekend Trip to Darjeeling in a Duster AWD

Lovely write-up and pics PapaBravo! Rated 5 stars. I have been a fan of Duster AWD ever since it was launched and I am really happy that you are putting it to good use, be it weekend off-roading or taking it to off-beat places.

Last edited by BlackPearl : 6th March 2016 at 17:54.
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