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Old 22nd May 2017, 15:11   #1
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Default Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim

It all started on a dinner party where four bhpians along with their families decided on a trip to the Hills on the May day extended weekend. The initial plan was to do Sandakhphu. As the dates came closer, two of our friends had to back out due to work commitments. And as luck would have it, the two cars that were left & went on the trip were the TWINS :

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-twins-opening.jpg

On the right is Bhpian Sayantan aka Ghostrider28's Duster AWD named Girgiti & on the left is our HULK.

With the plan finalized on the whatsapp group, bookings were made a month back since I was leaving for a long business trip soon. The destination, or should I say the route that we finalized was the OLD SILK ROUTE. At this point of time, we did not know what was waiting for us on the route, but more on that later.

Day 1 : Kolkata - Burdwan - Khargram - Farakka - Malda - Dhantola - Siliguri - Rangpo - Reshi

We decided to leave on Thursday night. The original plan was to meet at Dankuni toll plaza since both of us live in opposite parts of the city. But some last minute office work got Sayantan to his office which happens to be near our home. So it was decided to leave together from our place. We left at 2000 hrs from our place & reached our first stop, Azad Hind Dhaba BP Gopalpur (also the most famous venue for many TBHP meets) at 2200 hrs. We had home cooked dinner, so didn't bother going inside the Dhaba.

At BP Gopalpur

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-bp-gopalpur.jpg

People from this part of the country know that there are two major routes to Siliguri from Kolkata. On goes thru Jharkhand/Bihar & the other goes from inside Bengal. Post getting OK reports from fellow bhpians, we decided on taking the Bengal route. Our departure timings were perfect & we hardly encountered any traffic once out of Kolkata. Since it was a night drive, we did not stop much & reached Siliguri by 6 in the morning. The first stop in the hills was in Melli for breakfast.

Mahananda forest road in Sevoke
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-mahananda.jpg

Twins resting while we had breakfast
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-melli-.jpg


We called up the hotel where we were to check in that day & inquired about the best road to their place. Once we were about 20 kms from the place, we started GMaps for easy navigation. Somehow, Google seems to be very confused in this area & was suggesting roads that didn't even exist. Bye Bye GMaps, Hello "Ask the local" Map. A tourist cab driver came to our rescue & guided us to Rhenock Petrol pump from where the road to Reshi starts.

Enroute Reshi
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-way-reshi.jpg

Within no time we were on the muddy decline to Reshi Eco Resort on the river Reshi. Reshi river acts as a border between West Bengal & Sikkim. Many bhpians who have been there, know that the vehicles are parked on the Sikkim side & whereas the resort is on WB side. Luckily for us Reshi River had become shallower & we could cross the river in our cars.

Ready to Cross Reshi River
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-river-crossing.jpg


A small video of the crossing


The Wooden Bridge you need to cross if you park your car on the other side
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-wooden-bridge.jpg

Accommodation in Reshi
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-acco-reshi.jpg
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-acco-reshi-2.jpg


Now, there have been many BHPians who have stayed here & this place was highly recommended. Unfortunately, we found the accomodation very bad. Mr. Pradhan who used to take care of this property is now involved in other business & this property is now handled by her daughter. The resort is in a mess. We have stayed in many basic accommodations earlier so we weren't expecting much from this place as well. But the least one expects is hygiene which was missing. The location is superb no doubt. The river was so inviting that instead of resting after the long overnight drive, we jumped straight into it & relaxed there for sometime. After spending an hour there, we finally took some rest at our rooms & gathered again for a late evening walk.

Relaxing by the river
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-relaxing-reshi.jpg


Pixcy - the Wolf in Dogs clothing
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-pixcy-wolf.jpg
Contd...

Last edited by PapaBravo : 24th May 2017 at 12:09.
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Old 23rd May 2017, 16:04   #2
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Default re: Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim

Day 2 : Reshi - Silk Route - Gangtok

It had rained heavily in the night. We knew we had to take the same muddy road back again the next morning & the rain wouldn't make it better. Contrary to our thoughts, the road had become drivable in the morning & both the cars didn't have any problem

The broken approach road while going uphill
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-reshi-approach.jpg
In no time, we were at Rongli to get the permits for Old Silk Route. Things required for Permit are given below :

1. Driver's DL
2. Passenger's IDs (preferrably Voter ID/Passport)
3. Vehicle Registration ( To match it with driver's name). They usually don't allow vehicles if it the owner is not traveling in it.
4. Valid Vehicle PUC & Insurance
5. Permit Form
6. LUCK !!

Yes, there have been instances when people have been denied permits. Mostly because of bad weather but sometimes without a reason.

Happy faces after getting the permits
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-permits.jpg

The permit took half an hour & we were on our way to Silk route by 1100 hrs. Stopped for a waterfall photoshoot just outside Rongli

Ladies at the Waterfall
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-ladies-waterfall.jpg

Sayantan & Sarmistha at the Waterfall
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-waterfall-enroute-rongli.jpg


Our next stop was scheduled at Thambi view point from where one can get a good view of the Zuluk Loops. By the view from any point on this road is surreal. We made multiple stops before we reached Thambi View point.

The stepped loops
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-zuluk-steps.jpg

Casual one on the way
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-after-thambi-hulk.jpg

Zuluk Army Camp
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-zuluk-army-camp.jpg

The Famous Zuluk Loops
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-zuluk-dry-1.jpg

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-loops-steep.jpg


Who could resist a cup of coffee in this weather along with some boiled eggs. Ordered the same from the sole shop at this view point & indulged into some photography.

Sarmistha at the view point
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-moon-lopps.jpg

Selfie moment
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-meg-selfie.jpg

Sayantan ready to do anything for that perfect frame
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-pic.jpg

Coffee Time
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-coffee-loops.jpg

Our makeshift breakfast
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-eggs-thambi.jpg

All of us in one frame
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-thambi-us.jpg

The Ladies
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-thambi-ladies.jpg

& The Gentlemen

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-thambi-guys.jpg

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Old 24th May 2017, 11:53   #3
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Day 2 : Contd...


Post the photography session, we started moving towards Old Baba Mandir, our next halt. Till this time we were not expecting any snow since Zuluk was dry & there was not much of a chill in the air. We had already seen a lot of snow on the upper circuit of Silk Route last time. Details in the travelogue here (White Sikkim in a Duster AWD).

To our surprise, soon after we left the Zuluk loops, it started snowing. Now who doesn't like snow. Till the time we reached Baba Mandir, it was constantly snowing on the way.


On the way to Baba Mandir

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-way-kupup.jpg

Syanatan's steed At Baba Mandir

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-baba-mandir-girgiti.jpg

Since I had been here before, I knew that if snows more, the roads might get blocked anytime. So without wasting much time, we started for Kupup, the next Checkpoint. As soon as we reached Kupup, we saw two Local cars already standing at the checkpoint. At this place spotting other cars is rare, especially in this weather. It meant that nobody was being allowed to cross the checkpoint. We went to the post & our worst fears came true. The road ahead was blocked by snow & will be cleared only once the snow fall stops. This was bad news, very bad news. The weather didn't seem to be opening up anytime soon. Also, this meant we had to go back on the same route that we had come from. And instead of just 60 kms we will have to drive 120 kms now to reach Gangtok. It was already 1430 hrs. After another 15 minutes of wait, we were sure that we will have to backtrack the same route now. Quickly returned to our cars & started our journey back.
At Kupup Lake

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-stop-kupup-lake.jpg


This when things started turning bad. The intensity of the snowfall increased by the minute. Both Girgiti & HULK had tyres that are run approx 38-39k kms. The difference is that while Girgiti had Conti Cross Contact AT, our HULK is equipped with humble MRF Wanderer Sports.

Although Cross contacts are not great for Highway runs, they displayed there mettle in snow. While my car was slipping on any A or B input, Sayantan's car was planted all the time. On braking my car was sliding on the steep slopes without much reduction in the speed. It was scary to say the least. I had engaged 4wd Lock for better control. On hairpins, I had to put the inner wheels off the road on order to get some traction.
Video when the snowfall started increasing



And the drive in Snow



Some pictures in the Snow

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-fresh-snow-all-around.jpg

Girgiti

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-girgiti-snow-back.jpg

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-girgiti-snow.jpg

HULK

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-hulk-epic.jpg

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-hulk-snow-1.jpg

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-hulk-snow-3.jpg

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-hulk-snow-4.jpg

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-hulk-snow-front-2.jpg

Some Posing

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-snow-me-meg.jpg

The Road (?)

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-snow-road-2.jpg


Upon seeing, almost no grip situation, I used first gear with 4 Lock & no accelerator input for almost 25 kms. We took almost 3 hours to cover this distance.

Twins at Gnathang

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-gnathang-twins.jpg

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-twins-snow.jpg

The temperature was dropping quite fast & noticed on the MID that we had hit 0 degrees around Thambi View point. Thought of stopping for some tea. But the sole shop was closed with the owner nowhere in sight. We were carrying Green Tea bags & hot water in a Thermos flask. Hot green tea never tasted better.

Temperature reading (The C logo of Celsius starts flashing when the temp goes below 2 degrees)



Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-temperature.jpg

Tea !!

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-tea-thambi.jpg

My wife & I enjoying the Tea in this weather

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-meg-me-tea.jpg

Sayantan & Sarmistha

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-ms-enjoying-tea.jpg

HULK

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-explorer.jpg


The beautiful loops (Looks like Black Forest cake !!)

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-snow-cloud-zuluk.jpg

And the weather

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-storm-cloud.jpg

I had thought that Zuluk would be devoid of snow since it was quite below & far off from Kupup, but to our surprise, The dry Thambi point we saw 5 hours back was covered in snow on our way back.

The slow descent on the loops continued & thanks to the construction of loops we could see a Bolero in the middle of the road three bends below Just near the hairpin. Even after two bends, the Bolero had not moved. Knowing the great braking ability that we had that time, I knew I wouldn't have been able to stop in front of him & would have bang him head-on if he didn't move from there. So stopped the car much ahead the bend with gradual braking. Got off the car to ask the Bolero person to move to the side in order to let us pass. Upon inquiring, got to know that he had been trying to get up that hairpin bend for a long time but every time his car was slipping back, so they decided to stay there for a while until snow is cleared. On our request, he immediately reversed his car to the side.

The steep turn where we stopped. There was no way my car would have stopped on that slope.

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-bolero-turn.jpg

Passing the Bolero

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-bolero-side.jpg

It was only after Padamchen that we were able to see some tar roads without much snow on them & finally gained some speed. We stopped at Rongli for a Maggi break since everything else was closed due to the storm. It was already dark by this time. We finally reached our hotel in Gangtok at 2230 hrs after 12 hours of hectic but blissful driving.

Contd...

Last edited by PapaBravo : 24th May 2017 at 12:52.
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Old 24th May 2017, 12:26   #4
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Day 3 : Gangtok - Darjeeling

Our intial plan was to go to MG Marg the prior evening but obviously that plan went out of the window as we reached late at night. The ladies weren't leaving before a short shopping bout at MG Marg. This was good for both Sayantan & me since we could relax after the hectic drive that we had on the previous day. We got up late & had our breakfast in the Hotel. We stayed at Sonam Delek Hotel, which happens to be my regular hotel in Gangtok.

Morning at the Hotel

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-gtok-hotel.jpg

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-gtok-hotel-1.jpg


A friend of mine is posted in that region & we coordinated to meet on MG.

The group @ MG Marg

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-mg-group.jpg

Posing while we wait outside the shops !!

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-me-mg.jpg

After some shopping we went to "The Square" for lunch. We love this restaurant as well. Good Food, Good prices, Good Ambience.

Ladies @ The Square

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-ladies-square.jpg

Post Lunch, we started our drive to Darjeeling. This was going to be a fairly shorter drive, or so we thought. We stopped at the AWWA Dosa point for a cup of coffee by the side if Teesta.

Parked at Dosa Point

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-dosa-point.jpg

Sayantan & Sarmistha

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-dosa-ms.jpg

Sayantan enjoying the views

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-sayantan-view.jpg

Just after Teesta Bazar, we were on Peshoke road. The road is a treat to drive. A little steeper than others & tea gardens on the side. We were in Tukdah in no time. Time for another photo op

Twins at Tukdah

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-tukdah-twins.jpg

Tea Gardens

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-tukdah.jpg

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-tukdah-1.jpg

As soon as we reached Darjeeling we were stuck in an hour long Jam & it started raining again. We managed to reach our homestay by 1900 hrs. BUT there was no car parking. We had to park our cars nearby in a Church overnight. Although, we weren't too comfortable doing that but had no choice. Parking is a luxury in Darjeeling. We quickly went to Glenarys for dinner before it closed down

View of Darjeeling from Homestay

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-darjeeling-night.jpg

And in the morning

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-view-dling-.jpg[/b]



Day 4 : Darjeeling - Kolkata

We planned to start early, but a cleanliness drive on the train tracks delayed us a lot. While leaving our homestay owner had suggested a shortcut to avoid Matigara. Now people frequenting Darjeeling know how Matigara can sometime be a big pain with its traffic. The shortcut will not show on google maps but I have marked it in the map below. This way you come out straight near bagdogra turn. The marker for the same is the Sai Mandir that lies on ones right as soon as the descent from Pankhabari stops.

Map of Shortcut

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In this season you get good pinapples on the road near Bagdogra. We indulged into some too.

CAR delivery of Pineapple juice.

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-pineapple-delivery.jpg

The smooth Behrampur Farakka Highway

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-behrampur-farakka.jpg

We encountered rains from Malda to Burdwan that slowed us down a lot & we finally reached home at 2300 hrs.

It was a memorable trip indeed !!

Hope you enjoyed reading the travelogue as much as we enjoyed this trip !!

Signing off till next one

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-me-thambi.jpg

Regards,

Pawan


Last edited by navin : 13th June 2017 at 11:11. Reason: Removed restaurant pic with bottle and glass.
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Old 24th May 2017, 16:25   #5
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Thread moved here from Assembly line. Thanks for sharing
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Old 24th May 2017, 16:51   #6
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Default re: Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim

Extremely good pics and the Duster remains the king of the compact SUV !
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Old 24th May 2017, 17:39   #7
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Default re: Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim

Quote:
Originally Posted by PapaBravo View Post
Day 2 : Reshi - Silk Route - Gangtok

It had rained heavily in the night. We knew we had to take the same muddy road back again the next morning & the rain wouldn't make it better. Contrary to our thoughts, the road had become drivable in the morning & both the cars didn't have any problem

The broken approach road while going uphill
Attachment 1641458

I couldnt take the risk to go down to the river just a week back, though at that time it was full of slush and I was afraid that my EcoSport would fail while coming up. I went till the small factory, where the trucks are parked.

Wonderful pictures and narration Pawan da. The duster looks amazing in the snow. The layer of snow looks very scary. The inclines/declines made the drive more thrilling I guess .
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Old 24th May 2017, 18:22   #8
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Default Re: Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim

Another crisp TL by you. Loved the pictures of the twins together. The loops of Zuluk with and without the snow looks beautiful.

I plan to drive on the Old Silk Route in mid June. Hope I get the permits without much trouble.
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Old 24th May 2017, 18:58   #9
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Default Re: Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim

Quote:
Originally Posted by PapaBravo View Post

Hope you enjoyed reading the travelogue as much as we enjoyed this trip !!

Signing off till next one
A fabulous travelogue. Fantastic pictures of Duster twins in snow - I now wish I could visit Sikkim soon!

Quote:
Originally Posted by BUXX View Post
... the Duster remains the king of the compact SUV !
+1 The Duster may be an getting old and have its shortcomings, but I think it is still THE benchmark for riding comfort and on-road dynamics at its price point - yet to meet someone who said they are tired after travelling in this vehicle.
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Old 24th May 2017, 21:47   #10
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Default Re: Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim

Yet another blockbuster travel blog. Mesmerising narration and perfect pictures. Its been an year almost I got the duster awd after discussing with you and I thank you everytime I go for a long trip.
Duster AWD strikes the sweetspot between comfort offroadability and handling. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful blog, bong duster hopes to meet the twin brothers back in WB sometime soon.

Last edited by ARAY : 24th May 2017 at 21:53.
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Old 24th May 2017, 22:23   #11
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Default Re: Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim

Congrats Pawan and Sayantan on completing an action packed trip. The TWINS were in their true habitat, eh ?

Beautiful photographs and a well written travelogue. Photos of your rides on the snow were droolworthy !!

Thanks for sharing.

Warm regards.

Siddhartha
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Old 25th May 2017, 00:04   #12
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Default Re: Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim

Fantastic travelogue Pawan! Very crisp and thrilling to read! Relived every moment!
Thanks for taking the time out to write it, my attempt to find time and energy for penning this piece would have surely gone on to 2018!
Posting a few more pictures here.

While we were having our photoshoot by the river, the home made Bolero invader had crossed the river countless times and had destroyed, rather unceremoniously, our excitement of crossing the stream earlier!
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-dsc_1315.jpg

We tried to make friends with the guardians of the place - Pixy was the first to break the ice!
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-img_0103.jpg

The morning after, Pawan trying to find a spot by the river for, I hope, a quiet contemplation, and nothing else..!
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-dsc_1322.jpg

Pawan was so mightily impressed by his antics
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-dsc_1326.jpg

That he tried to get into action himself!
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-img_0122.jpg

This picture is the last snow free snap during the ascent, the snow started right after this-
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-dsc_1371.jpg

When hell freezes over!
Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-dsc_1376.jpg

And yes, I have been cursing the Contis ever since I bought them - lack of grip on wet turmac, horrible noise et all., but this trip has shut me up for good; well not really, but at least until the next trip to snowclad Sikkim!

Last edited by GhostRider28 : 25th May 2017 at 00:28.
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Old 25th May 2017, 00:18   #13
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Default Re: Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim

A quick tip if anyone wants to locate the shortcut mentioned on Google maps.
1. The land mark on Mirik road is Sharda Sweets& Restaurant, and
2. On Pankhabari road, it is Sri Satya Sai Mandir
Note the thin white road between them - that is the road to take. Google does not show the area marked in blue square.
Name:  Map.jpg
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(There a steep and very tight hairpin bend at the very end of this road at the junction with Mirik road. Also last few kms of this road is essentially a forest trail. You might want to exercise a bit of caution when taking this shortcut from Bagdogra.)

Last edited by GhostRider28 : 25th May 2017 at 00:43.
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Old 25th May 2017, 00:28   #14
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Default Re: Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim

Am a big fan of this part of the Himalaya's and every time i visit this place or come across an amazing travelogue like this one, it never ceases to amaze me!

Fabulous pics and wonderful narration. Hats off to both of you for your flawless driving on the downhill road in snow. I know how steep these roads are and how difficult it will be to drive on snow on this route.

Rated a well deserved 5* for the pics, narration, taking the pain of sharing this travelogue with us and most importantly for both of your fabulous driving skills!
And off course the snow covered Dusters are looking splendid!

Now let me be typically 'Samba' by sharing few pics from my trips from Zuluk and Darjeeling!

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-img_0522.jpg

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-img_0556.jpg

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-img_0559.jpg

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Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-img_8429.jpg

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-img_8514.jpg

Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim-img_8522.jpg

Last edited by Samba : 25th May 2017 at 00:36.
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Old 25th May 2017, 08:29   #15
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Default Re: Duster AWD Twins drive to Sikkim

Quote:
Originally Posted by PapaBravo View Post
A friend of mine is posted in that region & we coordinated to meet on MG.
..
The group @ MG Marg
..
Brings back a lot of memories! I still remember the time I visited Gangtok. They were laying up MG then. Its been years since then!

Times Fly.
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