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Old 26th March 2008, 03:51   #1
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Default Another weekend trip to Darjeeling in an esteem

Another trip decided in a haste. My colleague Saugata and I were having tea on thursday (20th March)afternoon at our office canteen when we suddenly decided that we could be at Darjeeling this weekend and taste the excellent food at Keventers . Planned to take my Baleno, but we called up Rajarshi, he told us that we should take his esteem as it has a higher ground clearance than Baleno. Called up two more friends and decided to start the trip that night. Rajarshi picked me up at 10:30 pm and the final person was picked up at 12 am after a lot of delays in between. We finally hit the highway at 12:30 am and did not stop till Panagarh at 2:30. Rajarshi and I drove aternatively and we reached Malda at 8:30 am. After quite a few halts reached Siliguri at 1 o clock. Had lunch and went towards Darjeeling. Reached Darjeelng at 4:45 pm and started searching for rooms. Luck was on our side we found a decent 5 bed room at only Rs 1000 per day. Had to bargain a lot though. The initial asked price was Rs.1650, but thanks to Saugata's superior bargaining skills and lack of tourists due to the recent political turmoil we were able to convince the manager. Had dinner at Kev's that night and went to sleep as we were quite tired after almost 17 hours of travel. The road condition through the entire stretch was quite good except a 10 Kilometers stretch after Moregram. Next morning Saugata and started looking out for old jeeps and land rovers, but could not find any. Asked the local cab drivers and a few of them promised to find a good one for us but nothing fruitful happened. We went to Mirik after that and reached Mirik at 2 pm. Spent a lot of time there and met a few local school students and they told us to visit the nearby Helipad. The helipad was at the top of a nearby hill and we had awesome fun there. The helipad was completely deserted and did some 180 degree turns there . Here's a video of one -

Started the return journey to Darjeeling at 5 o clock. After travelling for more than an hour we found that we were completely lost in the hills and that too at night. Managed to find a person in that almost deserted place and he told us that we were almost near Siliguri. He told us that here was short cut ahead but drivers from plains should not try that road as it was very steep. I did not pay any heed to his advice and decided to go ahead. After travelling for a few minues reached a place where the sign board read - Siliguri 21 Kilometers to the right and Pankhabari 4 Kilometers to the left. Now we understood why the person had told us not to take this road as it was the famous Pankhabari road, but thankfully he did not mention the name earlier. As soon as we read the signboard, Rajarshi became skeptical and told us that we should return as his car would never go up that road with 5 people on board. But I was bullish and went ahead and it was the experience of a lifetime. Its the steepest road I have ever encountered and had to gain tremendous momentum before the steep turns. The esteem lived up to its reputation and did not hiccup for once. We reached Kurseyong in flat 30 minutes and passed by the famous Makaibadi tea estate en route. Reached Darjeeling safely at 8:30 pm. Next day all except me went to see the sunrise at Tiger Hill but were disappointed as it was heavily clouded. Passed that day without any major events and planned to start for Kolkata at 1 o clock in the night. Ultimately we started at 12:15 am, went down another road which met at Teesta and then Sevoke. Travelling at night with Teesta on the side under the bright moonlight was an experience many tourists may not have cherished in their lifetime, but I can vouch that it has to be seen to be felt. No amount of words can explain the feeling. We reached Siliguri at 4 am and then Malda at 8:30 am. After that we slowed down quite a bit with a lot of halts and reached Siuri at 1 o clock. We were held up for quite a few hours after that as the highway was blocked due to an accident. Curiosity got the better of me and I did what I should have never done. Went to see what had happened and it was an extremely gruesome scene. A Tata Sumo had smashed into an oil tanker and there were 5 dead bodies lying on the road. I was shaken and took quite a bit of time to clear up my head. The road was cleared after a few hours and we continued our journey. Reached Kolkata safely at 7 o clock. An eventful trip came to an end. The esteem travelled 1661 Kilometers and gave an overall mileage of over 14...
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Last edited by BlackPearl : 26th March 2008 at 04:00.
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Old 26th March 2008, 08:35   #2
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Bp, Looks like you have become bachelor again. Back to friends, drives and masti.
That was some amazing pics but it have been more fun to experience had you captioned the pics so that we could gauge the exact location.

Dont worry about the pankhabari road, if a road has been designed then the modern cars are capable to do it. Moreover, it cannot be more steep than the 36Hairpins in Masinagudi - Ooty stretch.
That person was refering to the older cars (Ambys and Fiats/PPs).

BTW, How much time one take on an average in the Moregram - Malda - Gajol - Raiganj - Dalkhola stretch?

Tata Sumo smashing is an everyday affair on DarjeelingMore - Moregram stretch. They are very reckless to say the least.

Abhi

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Old 26th March 2008, 09:23   #3
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Loved the 180 turn. Nice travelogue blackpearl
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Old 26th March 2008, 09:26   #4
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Great to see you had a good trip, other than the sumo incident. I can vouch for the Esteem's mountain capabilities. My parents had driven their office Esteem to every state in the North-East, in mountain roads, no-roads conditions! My dad has always been very very impressed with the Esteem since then.

PS: you are now making me hungry for Momos!
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Old 26th March 2008, 09:51   #5
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BlackPearl, have you driven up to Sandakpu? Tried to drive up to it in a bike in 1994, but could not climb the steep kuchcha road - they told me only some old Land Rovers did it at that time. How is that road nowadays?
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Old 26th March 2008, 11:33   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by akroy View Post
Bp, Looks like you have become bachelor again. Back to friends, drives and masti.


Quote:
Originally Posted by akroy
That was some amazing pics but it have been more fun to experience had you captioned the pics so that we could gauge the exact location.
I tried but could not find out how to do it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by akroy
Dont worry about the pankhabari road, if a road has been designed then the modern cars are capable to do it. Moreover, it cannot be more steep than the 36Hairpins in Masinagudi - Ooty stretch.
That person was refering to the older cars (Ambys and Fiats/PPs).
Amby's and Fiats have a huge advantage over the modern cars as they are rear wheel drives and as such can climb much steeper inclines than the front wheel drive ones. Moreover, the more you put load on the RWD cars the more they get the traction at the rear wheels and is exactly opposite to what happens in a FWD. Once you lose momentum in an FWD you will never be able to climb a steep incline.

Quote:
Originally Posted by akroy
BTW, How much time one take on an average in the Moregram - Malda - Gajol - Raiganj - Dalkhola stretch?
It basically depends on which time of the day you are travelling. If you can hit Malda early morning the entire stretch can be easily done in 5 Hours.

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Originally Posted by esteem_lover
Loved the 180 turn. Nice travelogue blackpearl
Thanks esteem_lover

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Originally Posted by DriverR
PS: you are now making me hungry for Momos!
to be more specific, pork momos

Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar
BlackPearl, have you driven up to Sandakpu? Tried to drive up to it in a bike in 1994, but could not climb the steep kuchcha road - they told me only some old Land Rovers did it at that time. How is that road nowadays?
did not get the time to go to Sandakphu, but would not have taken the esteem there. I have heard the the road condition is very bad with lots of rocks and boulders. Would have loved to try in a rally prepared esteem but who is going to lend me one??
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Old 26th March 2008, 11:57   #7
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Wow, great pics and a great write up, BlackPearl!!
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Old 26th March 2008, 12:34   #8
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Nice snaps and well written travelogue, Blackpearl. Loved the view of the Esteem on a mountain U turn. Loved the foggy cloudy scenes. Wasn't cold, it seems from your clothing.

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PS: you are now making me hungry for Momos!
Man, I read this post at lunch time, and now I don't know how I am going to live on my roti and sabzi. I still remember the momos at Darj and also at Samchi and Phuntsholing, Bhutan. Amazing stuff. In fact even the momos on Bishop Lefroy road, Cal were yummy.

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BlackPearl, have you driven up to Sandakpu? Tried to drive up to it in a bike in 1994, but could not climb the steep kuchcha road - they told me only some old Land Rovers did it at that time. How is that road nowadays?

I have trekked to Sandak Phu and Phalut. The roads I remember were pretty steep for vehicles. Land rovers did do the stretch then (in the 90's). Some u turns were so sharp and narrow, we used to stop and watch the drivers stop halfway up the steep sharp turn, and roll back to move
to the edge of the road to enable the jeep to make the turn. It was fun to watch the faces of the passengers as they kept an eye on the edge of the cliff as the jeep tyres got close to it.

I wonder what the roads are like now. As trekkers we always hoped the roads would not improve, for that really would take away the fun of a quiet trek.
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Old 26th March 2008, 12:39   #9
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I have trekked to Sandak Phu and Phalut. The roads I remember were pretty steep for vehicles. Land rovers did do the stretch then (in the 90's). Some u turns were so sharp and narrow, we used to stop and watch the drivers stop halfway up the steep sharp turn, and roll back to move
to the edge of the road to enable the jeep to make the turn. It was fun to watch the faces of the passengers as they kept an eye on the edge of the cliff as the jeep tyres got close to it.

I wonder what the roads are like now. As trekkers we always hoped the roads would not improve, for that really would take away the fun of a quiet trek.
I tried to go to Sandakphu/Phalut in 1994 in my 100cc bike, but fell down into a pit on one of the steep gradients and had to take help to lift the bike again. This route promises to be one hell of a mean ride....and am sure spectacular too.
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Old 26th March 2008, 12:45   #10
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oye polished head - lovely travelogue! awsome pics re!

you said that you took lots of pics - what about the rest? take care and have loads of fun. drive safe man!

ask rajarshi to get registered with tbhp. i hope he is doing good.
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Old 26th March 2008, 13:09   #11
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Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
I tried to go to Sandakphu/Phalut in 1994 in my 100cc bike, but fell down into a pit on one of the steep gradients and had to take help to lift the bike again. This route promises to be one hell of a mean ride....and am sure spectacular too.

Spectacular is just the word. I remember we had reached Sandak Phu at 3 in the afternoon, with clouds all around. So, we got to see very little beyond 50 metres. Next morning, we were in for a surprise. We were up and about in the biting cold, a while before sunrise. It was getting clear and the moment we stepped out of our "trekkers hut", we stopped lost for words.

The Himalayas were almost within arms' reach (150 km actually, but with nothing obstructing the view, and the size and majesty of the range was breathtaking) and the Kanchenjunga right in front of us in all its glory. We were at 3636 metres and the Kanchenjunga was a full 5 kilometres taller than us, and we could really feel its size. We could see the entire range for hundreds of kilometres both to the West and the East, till the end of the earth.

Then the sun rose. The Kanchenjunga took on a golden colour at its peak and the colour slowly spread. Not a cloud in sight. We just sat there quietly and stared. After a while, far to the east, we saw the sun touch the Everest before the Makalu or the Lhotse, though it looked shorter than the others. Proof to the naked eye that it is the tallest. We were looking from West Bengal, across Nepal and at the border of Nepal with China/ Tibet.

That was quite an elevating experience.
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Old 26th March 2008, 13:16   #12
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Wow! What were the facilities there like? Village? Trekker tents? Possible to go there year round?
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Old 26th March 2008, 13:24   #13
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Wow!!! Nice travelogue and fantastic pics.
I liked the 180 degree.
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Old 26th March 2008, 13:39   #14
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Wow! What were the facilities there like? Village? Trekker tents? Possible to go there year round?
Almost all the places we visited, there were Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) cottages, made of stone and corrugated sheet roofs. Dormitory type rooms with beds and foam matresses and blankets. Food was a trifle expensive and choice was limited. Some private facilities too, but poorer quality and more expensive. Only when our route meandered into Nepal did we stay at a private lodge of sorts in Kalpokhri. You don't need to carry tents but sleeping bags help.

Open all year round, but to be safe, its best to book in advance from Cal or Darjeeling. Of course this information is about 15 years old, and things may have changed.
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Old 26th March 2008, 13:42   #15
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Thanks vnabhi, prabuddhadg, kpzen and planet_rocker.

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oye polished head - lovely travelogue! awsome pics re!

you said that you took lots of pics - what about the rest? take care and have loads of fun. drive safe man!
had taken a lot of pics but can't reduce most of them to below 500 Kb

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ask rajarshi to get registered with tbhp. i hope he is doing good.
Rajarshi is already registered but does not log in frequently.
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