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Old 26th April 2016, 19:30   #1
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Default Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar

We have been planning to do a camping trip for ages but the determination to do it was lacking. The last camping that we did in India was way back in 2012 in Zanaskar (Ladakh). This time nothing short of a calamity was going to stop us. The destination was finalised, Sandakphu.

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-img_20160324_133336.jpg

Preparation started in full swing. Thanks to cr4nkshaft for lending us a new Quechua 2 person tent.

Can you imagine all these went into the Thar along with 4 people!!
Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-img_3820.jpg

Then there was the eternal dilemma of choosing between the Bolero and the Thar. I was more inclined towards the Bolero for several reasons, but finally people were able to convince me to take the Thar.

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-img_20160322_194119.jpg

Four of us started the journey from Kolkata at around 9 in the evening, took NH34 all the way. Kaliachowk was a mess, but we were able to follow an ambulance and then did some off-roading to get out of the mess. Thanked my stars for choosing the Thar because I had to cross a ditch where the Bolero would have bottomed out due to the longer wheelbase. Dalkhola was a breeze and we met the Kolkata bhpian gang just before Siliguri. They were heading towards Zuluk.

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-img_20160323_083616.jpg

We reached Kurseong at around 11 in the morning and stopped at Kurseong Tourist lodge for the customary momos and Darjeeling tea.

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-img_20160327_080155.jpg

We reached Darjeeling just after noon. Rooms had been booked at Sinclairs.

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-img_20160323_131330.jpg

Parking was a bit of a problem at Sinclairs as there were a lot of tourists and the parking place is very narrow.

A trip to Darjeeling is incomplete without a session at Keventer's
Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-img_4286.jpg

Next morning we started at 4 o clock and were supposed to meet Bhpian sinsha en-route to Sandakphu.

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-img_20160324_050831.jpg

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-img_20160324_052057.jpg

Sinsha and Rajib had travelled in a Duster AWD and wanted to test whether it could up to Sandakphu or not. We found their Duster parked at Chitrey.

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-img_20160324_053048.jpg

Woke them up and continued towards Lamey Dhura for breakfast. They were supposed to catch up with us there. As we waited for the Duster gang at Lamey Dhura, several Land Rovers passed by and we kept on asking each one whether they had seen a Duster coming.

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_0469.jpg

The answer was negative each time. After about an hour or so, the answer was affirmative from one Land Rover driver. But then he asked why that vehicle was going. He went to on to say that it would not reach Sandaphu at any cost and he was willing to give his Land Rover for free if the Duster made it

Photo session as we waited at Lamey Dhura
Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_0435.jpg

Spotted these cuties
Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_0452.jpg

From Lamey Dhura onward both cars traveled together with the Thar leading the way. However after sometime I realised that the Duster needed a lot more momentum at the sharp and steep turns than the Thar. So we let the Duster lead the way from there on. We had to maintain a fair amount of distance between the two vehicles as the exhaust smoke of the Duster as well as the dust kicked up was entering the cabin of the Thar.

Early setback and bhpian to the help

As we were approaching Jaubari, sinsha pointed out that the rear left tyre was looking quite deflated. At first he thought that I had purposefully deflated the tyres to tackle the rocky terrain. However it turned out to be big nail that has caused this. sinsha fortunately was carrying a tyre repair kit and an inflator. I must say that he is one of the most helpful people I have traveled with. He was the first person to jump out to help during our Ladakh trip as well. It took quite an effort from him and two guys from our vehicle to get the nail out and repair the tyre without taking it off the vehicle. Unfortunately I could not help much due to an injured left shoulder.

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-img_3844.jpg

After about 30 minutes, the Thar was back on road.
The route to Sandakphu at this time of the year is beautiful, specially through the Singalila forest. We stopped innumerable times to capture the beauty in digital form.

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_0488.jpg

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_0495.jpg

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_0541.jpg

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_5273.jpg

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_5264.jpg

Rhododendrons were in full bloom. We wanted to stop at almost every turn to grasp the beauty of the place.

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_0934.jpg

Kalapokhri
Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_0619.jpg

Till Beekaybhanjan the Duster went up without too much drama though there were places where it was struggling a bit. The real antics started after that, during the last stretch of 3 kilometers to Sandakphu. Passengers had to come out of the vehicle, place stone behind the rear tyres, driver had to rev the engine hard to get going. All these had to be repeated every time the Duster came to halt in the middle of a steep slope. The engine was also getting overheated.

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_0629.jpg

But even after all this, sinsha and Rajib Da did not back out. The finish line was near and they were able to smell victory.

The jubilant Duster team just 1 Km from Sandakphu
Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-img_20160324_125937.jpg

Finally after an epic struggle and some skillful driving, the Duster made it to Sandakphu. As confirmed by the owner of the Sherpa Chalet hotel, this was the first Duster to have made it till Sandakphu. I was glad that the accolade went to a team-bhpian!

The Land Rover drivers had said that the last three kilometers would have been easy from the Nepal side, but then the naysayers would have said that the Duster did not take the steepest route to Sandakphu.

The trip beyond Sandakphu

The Duster gang were on a shorter trip than us and they did not want to push till Phalut that day. They planned to return to Siliguri the next day and it would be very hectic to do so from Phalut. On a hindsight it was a great decision as the road after Sandakphu deteriorated drastically and the Duster would not have made it.
If the route to Sandakphu can be called stunning, then what lay beyond can be termed as out of the world. The rolling fields called bugyals, the wild horses, the grazing yaks and the blue skies combined with the sheer remoteness of the place is bound to have a lasting impression on a traveler for years to come.

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_0644.jpg

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_0641.jpg

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_0655.jpg

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_0724.jpg

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_0826.jpg

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_0835.jpg

It was almost dusk when we reached a remote village, if it can be called a village with just one civilian hut and a few army tents.

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-img_20160325_053019.jpg

To be continued......

Last edited by BlackPearl : 2nd May 2016 at 18:16.
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Old 2nd May 2016, 18:45   #2
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Default Re: Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar

We were running against time and were hard pressed to set up the tents before it was completely dark. Moreover, we could not get the vehicle near the camp ground. We did not have a wireless inflator with us for the inflatable beds. That meant we had to inflate the beds near the vehicle and carry them all the way to the camping site. Not the best thing to do in the failing light at 11000 plus feet and an uneven terrain. But all's well that ends well. We were able to put up the tents in time.

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-img_20160324_174453.jpg

Once the tents were up, we concentrated on preparing dinner.

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_0694.jpg

As soon as the sun went down the chill factor started increasing. By 7 o clock it was already bitter cold. Cooking was over in an hour or so and dinner was over by 8:30. The cold was getting unbearable and we decided to call it a day and scampered into the tents. By midnight temperature had fallen down to minus 3 (shown by garmin tempe). It was not one of the most comfortable nights in our life, but the view in the morning made up for it.

The Sleeping Buddha
Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_5342.jpg

Just as we had started to pack up the tents and the belongings, we saw around 20 to 30 inquisitive Yaks had surrounded us. Yaks are usually shy animals and avoid humans, but we were pleasantly surprised at the friendly attitude of these Yaks.

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-img_4304.jpg

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-img_4321.jpg

We spent the entire morning with these Yaks and then roamed around the place for a while. Tried my hand at bird photography a bit. Singalila forest is a birder's paradise and I wish I could take better pictures.

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_5336.jpg

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_5338.jpg

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_5356.jpg

Soon it was time to start the return journey. Initially we had planned to return to Darjeeling the same day. But by the time we started it was evident that we would have to drive after sundown if we were to go till Darjeeling. Though I have been to Sandakphu several times I did not feel too comfortable to drive at night in those roads. Also there was no point in rushing back when on a vacation. So we decided that we would stop at driving at dusk irrespective of the destination. Time now being out of the equation, we had a relaxed drive back, stopping at almost every possible location.

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_5325.jpg

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-img_4300.jpg

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_0734.jpg

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_0735.jpg

By the time we crossed Sandakphu the weather had deteriorated. It was all misty and spooky. Said our goodbyes to the Sherpa Chalet owner who was sweet enough to run down the moment he saw our vehicle approaching.

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-img_20160325_133635.jpg

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-img_20160325_135103_01.jpg

There are a few Monasteries and Stupas on the route and we stopped at each one of them.

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_0021.jpg

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_0133.jpg

We reached Tumling by 4:30 p.m. and decided to hang up the keys for the day. Found a sweet little place to stay for the night.

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-img_20160325_175610.jpg

Had some typical Bengali chit chat session with a few tourists in the evening, then a motorcycling funda session with the fellow junior travelers Those guys were eager to go back to the place with their motorcycles. I think I will join again as a backup vehicle!

The dinner served was delicious with some typical roti only made in those areas and hot anda curry. Had our fill and hit the bed soon after dinner.
Next morning we started a bit late and headed for Darjeeling. The journey was uneventful. Darjeeling was hustling and bustling with tourists on the Holi weekend and it felt strange to see the crowd after two days of absolute solitude.

The Mall in Darjeeling
Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_0179.jpg

We stayed at Sinclairs again and next morning started for the journey towards home. Breakfast was done at the same old Kurseong tourist lodge. Left the lodge at around 8 in the morning and 12 hours 45 minutes later were back at home. This was our fastest time for a Siliguri Kolkata journey in recent times.

Before finishing the travelogue, would like to thank Abhijit and Souravan for their indomitable spirit amidst adversities. The Thar was loaded to the gill, they were not even able to sit properly at the back, were thrown around in the hills, got hit several times in the head, but never for once did they complain. The trip would not have been the same without them.

Abhijit
Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_0774.jpg

Souravan
Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_0817.jpg

Special thanks to team-bhpian sinsha (Shantanu). He is a fun guy to be around with, always cheerful and a jolly good driver.

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-img_3848.jpg

And finally a parting shot of the one and only - The Sherpa

Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar-dsc_0917.jpg

The End

Last edited by BlackPearl : 2nd May 2016 at 20:24.
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Old 2nd May 2016, 20:42   #3
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Default Re: Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar

Note from mod: Thread moved to travelogues section, thanks for sharing
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Old 2nd May 2016, 21:24   #4
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Default Re: Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar

Hey BlackPearl !!

Your first travelogue after you got the stature of being a Distinguished BHPian and that too with a Travelogue on Sandakphu; yet once again !! My heartiest congratulations to you !! A very crisp travelogue; delighted to go through every bit of it with those amazing clicks as well. Rating it 5* too

Good to see the updated rooms of Sinclairs, Darjeeling. By any chance did you get Room 101 or 201 ? The view of the Kanchanjunga Range is the best from these rooms.

Never knew that such unseen, unexplored natural beauty after Sandakphu ever existed in the state of West Bengal and that it indeed could be so mesmerizing. Thanks for sharing. Keep inspiring, keep enlightening us and keep writing such wonderful travelogues.

For everyone who wants to know more about the achievement of the Renault Duster AWD scaling Sandakphu, here's the link : http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/4x4-ve...ml#post3942554 (Can the Duster AWD scale Sandakphu, the highest peak in West Bengal?)
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Old 2nd May 2016, 22:05   #5
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Default Re: Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar

I actually have no words to express the feeling after reading the travelogue. There seem to be an extraordinary sense of overwhelming happiness seeing you tent above the snow lines. Nothing new about driving up to Sandakphu as you have done that time and again but what brought a smile on me is you trying your hand at bird photography. Terrific photographs, as if I am seeing things live. The only sad part is we still could not tent together till date.
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Old 2nd May 2016, 22:33   #6
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Default Re: Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar

Yet another great travelogue from you. Awesome pics and narration. Though i feel jealous of you for having the 4x4 option's and visiting these places at your will but i still wrote these nice words as your travelogue truly deserve them.

Great to see the Duster AWD reaching the top. If a Duster can scale Sandakphu, am sure with a Duster AWD one can have the peace of mind of reaching 99.9% of the toughest spots in India! (Am not talking about tough 4x4 trails, am speaking about destination's) Plus on yesterdays OTR in Harinkhola, this Duster driven by Bhpian Santanu da and Rajiv da plus Bhpian Papabravo really impressed us with there Duster AWD's off the road capability.

Last but not the least Sherpa looking great in all the pics.

Last edited by Samba : 2nd May 2016 at 22:38.
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Old 2nd May 2016, 22:46   #7
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Default Re: Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar

Very nice travelogue BP.
I wish someday I could narrate they way you do with pictures with information and with details.
Just two more clarifications from my side as it might scare duster owners.
As this was my first drive on this route I was being careful and was not carrying speed in blind corners and sometime was stopping in the apex just to finalize the line of exit but then moving from the apex was being tough but I believe if someone knows the route, he can take duster or any awd with not very long wheelbase without the struggle we had through the route.
The duster engine never overheated (I was warned by the possible overheating by another bhpian 1100D) as the radiator fan was stopping intermittently as it should (duster doesn't have a temp gauge).
But due to multiple stop and go in the bends we could smell some clutch burn sometime.
My friend (the owner of the duster) thought that opening the bonnet would help the clutch to cool faster (I am not sure that it works that way but as no harm thus didn't object) and that might have given an impression of overheating.
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Old 2nd May 2016, 22:55   #8
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Default Re: Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar

Again a Crisp Travelogue with all the important details, great pictures and beautiful write-up.

As AJ mentioned, what a Travelogue to write after becoming a Distinguished BHPian.

Lucky I am, to be in the same frame with a D-BHPian in his own TL.

Lost this opportunity due to our planned trip of East Sikkim, but would surely like to join you next time.
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Old 2nd May 2016, 23:59   #9
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Default Re: Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar

Dear Blackpearl,

What a great travelogue you have come up with. Absolutely stunning pictures and great narration.

You are an inspiration to me to explore our beautiful country. I absolutely envy your rides ( tusker and sherpa). You really make use of your cars in a way they are meant to be. Congrats buddy.

BTW did you change black alloys back to sherpa? or is it just a temporary fix for this trip.Anyway sherpa looks better with those alloys.
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Old 3rd May 2016, 01:20   #10
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Default Re: Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar

Here is a video of the Duster going up the last 3 Kilometers of the trail to Sandakphu.




Quote:
Originally Posted by AJ-got-BHP View Post
Hey BlackPearl !!

Your first travelogue after you got the stature of being a Distinguished BHPian and that too with a Travelogue on Sandakphu; yet once again !! My heartiest congratulations to you !! A very crisp travelogue; delighted to go through every bit of it with those amazing clicks as well. Rating it 5* too

Good to see the updated rooms of Sinclairs, Darjeeling. By any chance did you get Room 101 or 201 ? The view of the Kanchanjunga Range is the best from these rooms.

Never knew that such unseen, unexplored natural beauty after Sandakphu ever existed in the state of West Bengal and that it indeed could be so mesmerizing. Thanks for sharing. Keep inspiring, keep enlightening us and keep writing such wonderful travelogues.
Thanks Arav. Those are really inspiring words. I don't remember the room numbers but I am sure there was no view of the Kanchenjungha from the rooms we stayed in.

Quote:
Originally Posted by himadrimondal View Post
I actually have no words to express the feeling after reading the travelogue. There seem to be an extraordinary sense of overwhelming happiness seeing you tent above the snow lines. Nothing new about driving up to Sandakphu as you have done that time and again but what brought a smile on me is you trying your hand at bird photography. Terrific photographs, as if I am seeing things live. The only sad part is we still could not tent together till date.
Thanks a lot Himadri. I am sure we will be able to do a camping trip pretty soon. Regarding bird photography, my respect knows no bounds for those who excel in it. The patience needed is beyond imagination. At least 5 or 6 times in this trip I have seen a beautiful bird, but the moment I tried to click it would fly away. Utter frustration!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samba View Post
Yet another great travelogue from you. Awesome pics and narration. Though i feel jealous of you for having the 4x4 option's and visiting these places at your will but i still wrote these nice words as your travelogue truly deserve them.

Great to see the Duster AWD reaching the top. If a Duster can scale Sandakphu, am sure with a Duster AWD one can have the peace of mind of reaching 99.9% of the toughest spots in India! (Am not talking about tough 4x4 trails, am speaking about destination's) Plus on yesterdays OTR in Harinkhola, this Duster driven by Bhpian Santanu da and Rajiv da plus Bhpian Papabravo really impressed us with there Duster AWD's off the road capability.

Last but not the least Sherpa looking great in all the pics.
Thanks a lot Samba. Don't be jealous because the feeling would be mutual

Quote:
Originally Posted by sinhsha View Post
Very nice travelogue BP.
I wish someday I could narrate they way you do with pictures with information and with details.
Thanks sinsha.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sinhsha View Post
The duster engine never overheated (I was warned by the possible overheating by another bhpian 1100D) as the radiator fan was stopping intermittently as it should (duster doesn't have a temp gauge).
But due to multiple stop and go in the bends we could smell some clutch burn sometime.
My friend (the owner of the duster) thought that opening the bonnet would help the clutch to cool faster (I am not sure that it works that way but as no harm thus didn't object) and that might have given an impression of overheating.
I have nothing against the Duster, in fact most people on this forum will vouch that I am a big fan of the Duster AWD. I wrote about the overheating part because you had mentioned it. Sorry for the sting operation on you. My dash cam was on and during the last leg of the climb it clearly captured you mentioning about the engine getting overheated It is there in the video I shared... "running away icon"

Moreover, Duster might be having problems with engine overheating at high altitudes. It was nothing against your driving. Even Pawan (PapaBravo) had mentioned that his Duster was overheating in Sikkim. As far as I remember GhostRider28 (Sayantan) faced some coolant level issues in Ladakh. If there is really a problem, we should highlight it in this forum so that Renault can pay heed and rectify it. It will only make the Duster AWD an even better vehicle.


Quote:
Originally Posted by SouraC View Post
Again a Crisp Travelogue with all the important details, great pictures and beautiful write-up.

As AJ mentioned, what a Travelogue to write after becoming a Distinguished BHPian.

Lucky I am, to be in the same frame with a D-BHPian in his own TL.

Lost this opportunity due to our planned trip of East Sikkim, but would surely like to join you next time.
Thanks a ton Soura. Will surely go to Sandakphu together some day, hopefully in your 4x4!

Quote:
Originally Posted by DrANTO View Post
Dear Blackpearl,

What a great travelogue you have come up with. Absolutely stunning pictures and great narration.

You are an inspiration to me to explore our beautiful country. I absolutely envy your rides ( tusker and sherpa). You really make use of your cars in a way they are meant to be. Congrats buddy.

BTW did you change black alloys back to sherpa? or is it just a temporary fix for this trip.Anyway sherpa looks better with those alloys.
Thanks a lot DrANTO for the lovely words! Yes the black alloys are back on the Thar and for good. Even I feel that the Thar looks better with those alloys.
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Old 3rd May 2016, 11:36   #11
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Default Re: Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar

Dear Blackpearl,

Congratulations for such an adventurous,tenting holiday and also for becoming a D-BHPian! It serves quite an inspiration for us. Heres wishing you many more adventurous miles!


I trekked the Dhotrey/Sandakphu/Phalut/Srikhola circuit during the Poila Boisakh weekend. Weather was bad; but rhododendrons were in full bloom, the sight of yaks grazing on the pasture lands, waking up in the mornings with the call of a rooster and the rolling meadows which were bustling with life compensated for it. Splendid experience indeed, I must say!


OT: This was the first time that I stayed in Sherpa Chalet. The behavior of the owner was absolutely disgusting and we found a lot of fellow travelers complaining on the same. Did you have any poor experience while staying there? I must admit though, their food was absolutely lip smacking.

Warm Regards,
Sayak

Last edited by sayakc : 3rd May 2016 at 11:38.
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Old 3rd May 2016, 12:15   #12
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Default Re: Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar

Awesome trip and some gutsy driving.

Just out of sheer curiosity, what was your fuel comsumption no this trip? Thar vs. Duster AWD.
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Old 3rd May 2016, 13:40   #13
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Default Re: Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar

Hello Blackpearl,

Kudos.

Your travelogues are an inspiration for me to take the plunge and get my self a Thar

Alas it doesnt really suit my requirement of space for long hauls and off course two dogs.

I had a query about the camping bit, is it some thing that you've explored before and is it generally safe, with females aboard ?
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Old 3rd May 2016, 13:45   #14
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Default Re: Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar

Awesome. Just loved it. The more I read about your trips in your Thar, the more I fall in love with that car. Its a conqueror I would say. Going to places where driving skills and car power goes hand in hand. All the best for your future trips with The Sherpa.

And BTW... Congratulations for now you a Distinguished BHPian.

Cheers.
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Old 3rd May 2016, 14:41   #15
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Default Re: Sandakphu and beyond in a Mahindra Thar

Hello BlackPearl, It is always nice to see your travelogue and your Thar or Bolero. Your travelogues always inspires to take ‘that’ long journey.

Your photographs are awesome. In the videos I see the Duster doing high speed climbs, hope they were not risky!
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