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Old 5th October 2009, 19:57   #1
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Default Kolkata-Siliguri-Mangalbaria-Ravangla-Geyzing-Siliguri-Kolkata

It started with an idea to do a road trip to Araku. It came out of a general discussion to utilize the Durga Puja vacations, but it was too late. Frantic search for accommodation resulted in vain and then it dawned on me to try out some parts of Sikkim.

I had always wanted to test the abilities of “Black Hawk” in the mountains and I was extremely happy that I would be doing Sikkim in it. More on “Black Hawk” later.

I started searching for hotels. The plan was to start on 25th Sep and return to Kolkata by 3rd Oct. It was more of a relaxation trip, so only 2 places were chosen - Mangalbaria and Tinchuley.

I spoke to my booking agent and decided to stay 3 nights each at Mangalbaria and Tinchuley. I was a bit skeptical about Tinchuley, due to uncertain political conditions in the Darjeeling hills, but at the same time, I have heard nice things about this place, so decided to go ahead with the bookings.

Things were fine until just 2 days before start. On 23rd Sep, my travel agent called me up at 11:30pm, saying that something very sad has happened and I need to change my plans. The accommodation at Tinchuley, called “Gurung Cottage” is basically a home-stay kind of arrangement. Gurung-ji’s mother has expired and they have decided to close down the resort till 3rd Oct. I was completely at a loss and it was just 2 days before our start.

I ran to my agent the next morning and finally managed to confirm bookings for the later half of my trip at other places. Tinchuley remained unexplored for me this time. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. My new stay options now became as follows:

Mangalbaria – Bliss Resort – 3 nights
Ravangla – Mt Narsing Resort – 1 night
Geyzing – Tashi Gang Resort – 2 nights.

Kolkata-Siliguri-Mangalbaria-Ravangla-Geyzing-Siliguri-Kolkata-dsc_0340-large.jpg

Stay tuned..
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Old 5th October 2009, 20:04   #2
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Eagerly awaiting the rest.
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Old 5th October 2009, 21:43   #3
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Circuit that is less travelled - we are all eyes and ears. Please share route details also.
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Old 6th October 2009, 00:06   #4
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Nice teaser! Waiting for full details including road conditions, time taken, accommodation, etc.

Waiting for your full travelogue.
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Old 6th October 2009, 02:24   #5
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Hah Saurabh, I was waiting for this travelogue. Hope your drive was wonderful.

As kumar said, eyes and ears all open.

Abhi
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Old 6th October 2009, 10:52   #6
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Great to know that you did do the trip. Waiting eagerly for the rest of the trip. Please don't "tease" too much and post the pics and details soon, especially the details on the BH's performance.
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Old 6th October 2009, 14:01   #7
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While I prepare the rest of the travelogue, here is Black Hawk. Kolkata members are familiar with it.

BH performed flawlessly, irrespective of the roads/no-roads that I threw at it. I would take it to the mountains again, just for the reverbations of the FFE through the winding roads.

Kolkata-Siliguri-Mangalbaria-Ravangla-Geyzing-Siliguri-Kolkata-p9300129-large.jpg
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Old 8th October 2009, 04:13   #8
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Default Day 1 : Kolkata - Siliguri

Day 1 : Kolkata - Siliguri

Finally the D-Day arrived. I had got the car checked a couple of days back and everything was alright. Had the fluids topped up and Black Hawk was ready.

I tanked her up car the previous night, 24th Sep and returned early from office. The plan was to leave by 3am on 25th Sep, so that we could reach Siliguri well before dark.

As many of you would know, there are 2 route options to Siliguri from Kolkata.

One is to take the usual NH34 route through Krishnanagar. The feedback was that the road surface is excellent all the way, but the flip side is that travelling along this route during day time would mean, negotiating a lot of local traffic. I did not want to do an overnight drive though.

The other option is to take NH2 till Panagarh-Darjeeling Morh and then follow NH60 through Suri, Rampurhat and Nalhati and join NH34 at Moregram. The benefit of taking this route is that this route has much less traffic and you can do good speeds. Abhi (@AkRoy) informed that this road is also in pretty good shape.

Since I have never travelled along the 2nd option to Siliguri, I thought of trying it out.

We finally left home, on 25th, at 4:40am. At the wee hours of the morning, there was very less traffic, though it was in the middle of Durga Puja. The air was fresh and had a thin veil of mist hanging around. Soon we crossed Kona Expressway and were blasting along NH2. At those early hours, NH2 was virtually empty. The sound of the FFE was music to my ears.

Blasting along NH2
Kolkata-Siliguri-Mangalbaria-Ravangla-Geyzing-Siliguri-Kolkata-p9240001-large.jpg

The idea was to go as far and fast as possible, before we have to stop for breakfast. I was able to maintain a steady speed of around 130-140, occasionally slowing down for the large truck ahead to give way. We zipped past the "famous" lyancha (sweet) shops of Shaktigarh and by the time we reached Panagarh, it was 6:40am.

The Panagarh town stretch continues to be bad and we took it easy. Took a right turn at Darjeeling Morh towards Ilambazar. There are some major potholes upto Ilambazar, but not many in number. We crossed Ilambazar at 7:20am and then left towards Suri.

This stretch of NH60 is a joy to drive. Though an undivided carriageway, you can easily maintain 100-120 without much effort. The surface was absolutely perfect and I was already calculating my earliest arrival time at Siliguri. The GPS was showing an arrival time of 5:30pm and I was out to beat it.

Excellent NH60 road conditions
Kolkata-Siliguri-Mangalbaria-Ravangla-Geyzing-Siliguri-Kolkata-p9240004-large.jpg

By this time, we have started feeling hungry, so, stopped for breakfast around 10km before Rampurhat. We were carrying some dry food, so it was a break of only 20 mins. After this brief stop, it was time to move on. We crossed Rampurhat by 9:25am and Nalhati by 9:45am. From this point onwards, the road started deteriorating fast and at some points, its extremely bad. After negotiatng these craters, we finally reached Moregram at 10:20am.

Breakfast break before Rampurhat
Kolkata-Siliguri-Mangalbaria-Ravangla-Geyzing-Siliguri-Kolkata-p9240005-large.jpg

Kolkata-Siliguri-Mangalbaria-Ravangla-Geyzing-Siliguri-Kolkata-p9240006-large.jpg

The gas tank was already 3/4th empty, so pulled into a BP pump, enquired the road conditions ahead and moved on again. From this point, its the usual NH34. The surface was one of the best that I had ever seen on this NH. We crossed Farakka Barrage by 11:40am and then ran into a major traffic snarl at Kaliachak. This is the most dreaded part of travelling along NH34 during day time. It was pretty hot outside as well and I was cursing myself for not taking an overnight drive.


Beyond kaliachak, the road opened up again. With the FFE firing at full blast, I was desperately making up time. Crossed Malda by 12:50pm and Itahar by 1:40pm. By the time we reached Raiganj, it was 2:00pm. We pulled into a dhaba, a fairly neat one and had some nice roti-tarka. After a break of around 45mins, it was time to hit the road again. We crossed Dakhola at 3:25pm and it was the 4 lane highway again. Crossed over Kishenganj (3:55pm) and Islampur (4:25pm).

Beyond Islampur, the 4 lane magic vanished around Bagdogra and we landed right in the middle of evening traffic of Siliguri.

It was Durga Puja (Saptami) evening and the traffic was moving very slowly. We decided to stay near the NH31/NH34 junction and checked into the WB Govt Tourist Lodge - Mainak, at 6:00pm. The rooms are decent and above all, the car would be safe here. Right next door is a HP pump. I tanked up the car again, bought a couple of cartons of mineral water, had an early dinner at around 8:30pm and retired for the day.

Overall, we had covered the distance of 671 kms in 12hr 20mins, including breaks and was quite happy with it. So far, Black Hawk (BH) has not let me down and while it took a well deserved rest, I had a very light sleep - out of excitement of hitting the hills the next morning. I only prayed that the road conditions should not be too bad.

The journey has just begun..

Last edited by Dippy : 12th October 2009 at 10:09. Reason: Removing requested pics
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Old 8th October 2009, 12:30   #9
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Nice pictures. Good to know that the road is in good shape.
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Old 8th October 2009, 16:19   #10
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Great start. Eagerly waiting for the rest..
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Old 8th October 2009, 16:30   #11
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Good start and wonderful timings. NH34 is better now I guess to what it was, isnt it?

Yes, the Siuri - Rampurhat stretch is very broad and smooth but I fail to understand why dont they do some markings on it. That would help drivers a lot specially in night.

Waiting for more travelogue and pics. Keep them coming.
Abhi
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Old 8th October 2009, 17:14   #12
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Nalhati to Moregram was quite pathetic in May as well but thankfully it's a short distance. Luckily enough I have never faced any jam in Kaliachak. In May you get excellent "lichus" over there.
By the way Saurabh, did you see the huge white building on your left hand side near Omarpur with a massive kettle on the rooftop? If yes, could you please post a photo of that if you snapped it?
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Old 8th October 2009, 19:13   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by akroy View Post
Good start and wonderful timings. NH34 is better now I guess to what it was, isnt it?

Yes, the Siuri - Rampurhat stretch is very broad and smooth but I fail to understand why dont they do some markings on it.
Abhi
Thanks Abhi. The nice condition of NH60 really amazed me. Its sheer pleasure driving along those sweeping corners. NH34 is also in excellent condition.

One thing that I appreciated was that, near conjested areas, they have put up offset metal blockades on the road, to slow down the traffic. These are much better compared to constructing bumps on the road, which would invariably be unmarked and its easy not to notice them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sudipto-S-Team View Post
By the way Saurabh, did you see the huge white building on your left hand side near Omarpur with a massive kettle on the rooftop? If yes, could you please post a photo of that if you snapped it?
I am sorry, but I missed that building. Will keep an eye next time

Last edited by Saurabh M : 8th October 2009 at 19:14.
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Old 8th October 2009, 20:26   #14
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Hi Saurabh, Nice pics of Farakka Barrage. I stayed here for couple of years in late 80's. The barrage used to be manned by CISF and photography as well as overtaking were strictly prohibited in those days and speed limit was 40kmph, I am not aware of the present scene. CISF had around 8 or 10 posts in 3kms long and 108 (or 109) gate barrage over river Ganga. I can notice the CISF posts in one of your pics.

Slightly; I travelled lot in 2 lane NH33 in WBSTC superfast service "Rocket" between Calcutta and Malda/Balurghat in 80's and 90's and its pleasant to notice now NH33/34 has been upgraded to 4 lanes. Is the red color Rocket service still up and running?
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Old 8th October 2009, 22:13   #15
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The barrage is still manned by CISF and overtaking is still prohibited. The speed limit now is 20kph

I did not find any notice about photography restrictions, though I was expecting it and hence took a couple of shots. I think they have given up to Google Earth.

Only the Dalkhola-Islampur stretch of NH34 is 4 laned. The rest is same, though widened at places and the surface at its best. "Rocket" service is still on. The red one may be a NBSTC though.
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