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Old 5th April 2010, 19:33   #91
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Now for some shopping.
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09277k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09276k80.jpg


At this juncture, Ponytail takes our leave and disppears for over 2 hours, on the pretext of getting our permits done for tomorrow's trip to Nathu La. Little do we know what's in store for us tomorrow.
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Old 5th April 2010, 23:14   #92
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Saturday, 27th March, 2010:

We are up at 6 am, and it appears to be a beautiful day outside.
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-nathula1-0.jpg

Last night, Ponytail had brought along a Bolero GLX in pretty good condition, and promised to take us to Nathu La in that, not in the Khatara. This morning, I feel elated about not having to ride the Maxx. Ponytail had wanted us to leave at seven AM, and we are all ready and waiting as he rolls up in the Bolero, fresh after a visit to some temple, swastika bright on the bonnet. The fact that the steering wheel mimicked Ponytail's hair didn't matter to me either. We're on our way at 7 on the dot.

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-nathula1-1.jpg

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We top up the car with Rs.1500 worth of diesel...

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-nathula1-3.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-nathula1-4.jpg


...and come to a halt in a parking lot next to M G Road. Ek minute, says Ponytail, and disappears. Ek minute rolls on to ek ghanta, and there's no sign of him. He's not picking up his mobile either. All kinds of alarm bells go off in our collective heads. They all indicate the same thing - our trip to Nathu La is going to be a non-starter today.

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-nathula1-5.jpg


Suddenly Ponytail is back. He wants one more passphoto of each of us. You mean the passports??? Er... that's a passport-size photo, called passphoto in Sikkim. Kal raatko jo permit diya woh aaj nahin use kar sakte. A lamer excuse was never heard.

At 9:30 am, Ponytail is back, triumphantly flaunting the bits of paper that would allow us to go up to Nathu La? Nathu La? No, we are going to Baba Mandir... and we are taking the Maxx, says Ponytail. Too late to change anything - the permits have been signed, sealed and delivered in our names, with Khatara nominated as our steed.

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-nathula1-6.jpg


I wish I had a pair of scissors conveniently to hand.

Ponytail attempts to transfer some diesel from the Bolero to the Maxx, but Bolero wouldn't part company with its precious rations for Khatara's sake. So we fill up some more for Khatara.

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-nathula1-8.jpg


And then we forget about the 3 wasted hours, paste huge grins on our faces, and make up our minds to enjoy the trip, come what may.

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-nathula1-9.jpg


I whisper plan B to my wife. Be prepared, we may need to come back to Gangtok in a different car. Prophetic. So prophetic.

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 5th April 2010 at 23:24.
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Old 5th April 2010, 23:37   #93
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With Gangtok some 10 km behind us, and with the checkpost also safely behind us,

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-nathula1-11.jpg

we start to enjoy the cacophony that Khatara generates for our ears. The road starts to get a little steeper,

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but the sun is shining brightly, and all is well...

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-nathula1-12.jpg

...until the slopes start to get even more steep...

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-nathula1-13.jpg

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...and I notice the temperature gauge starting to crawl up a little.

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-nathula1-14.jpg

And then it happens. Khatara refuses to climb any more with us on board.

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-nathula1-16.jpg

So we all step out to lighten the car, and let Ponytail drive it up the slope all by himself. Watch the result.



Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-nathula1-17.jpg

This yak standing camouflaged in the vegetation high up above us seems to be enjoying the fun too!

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Last edited by SS-Traveller : 5th April 2010 at 23:42.
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Old 6th April 2010, 01:51   #94
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real bad place to stop the narration. post the next one quickly.
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Old 6th April 2010, 06:54   #95
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arindamray View Post
real bad place to stop the narration. post the next one quickly.
Well, let's go a few km forward then.

By the time Khatara climbs the slope, and we have panted our way up too, Ponytail has figured his car has overheated because the water in the radiator has completely evaporated. I notice he has a pressure cap, but there's no coolant, just plain water. Plain water there's plenty in supply, don't worry, so we fill up the radiator completely! (Um... Ponytail decides to fill up the cold water in a hot switched-off engine, I ask him to keep it running. He looks at me like I'm an alien.)

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Further up the road, we come to a stop at our first landslide of many on this journey to Nathu La.

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-nathula1-20.jpg

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YouTube - ESS76's Channel

The narration will continue in the evening...
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Old 6th April 2010, 08:31   #96
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And you'd lot of patience to tolerate pony tail? If I were you, I would've cancelled everything & plan for something shorter, when the Bolero was switched to Maxx; I think with age comes maturity.
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Old 6th April 2010, 15:54   #97
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Default Help on a Sikkim trip

Hi SS,

Wonderful travelogue and pics. Especially useful for me, since I plan to go on a Sikkim trip next week. I have booked a travel agent who will give me accommodation and transport by a private vehicle for the 4 of us.

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/route-...ml#post1771249 (Travel Information for Gangtok !!)

The places where we will be staying are:
  • Pelling - Aryan Regency
  • Gangtok - Anola hotel
  • Lachen - Village Guest House
  • Lachung - Village Apple Valley Inn
I'm sorry if I'm hijacking your thread but I really need advice from someone who has just been there. Since you have just been there, you are the best person to answer my queries. If you choose to, you could reply on the other thread as well:
  • I wanted a Mahindra Maxx based on feedback on other sites where they recommend it over a Tata Sumo/Spacio. What do you think is the more reliable of the two and what should I as for?
  • How is the weather nowadays? Is it raining/snowing?
  • Did you see rhododendrons? Is it the season now?
  • Any places from this list that we can drop if we don't have time?
  • Any places that I have missed out on?
  • Most importantly, what are the things that I clearly need to tell my travel agent before hand?
And please continue updating your travelogue. Will come in as a ready reckoner for the likes of me.
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Old 6th April 2010, 18:54   #98
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aargee View Post
And you'd lot of patience to tolerate pony tail?... I think with age comes maturity.
How could I give up the temptation to update my engineering knowledge with the seriously ailing Maxx? Especially when we had Plan B in place already? I wouldn't ever drive a car like that myself, but I love to watch cars that self-destruct when my money is not riding on them.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Proxima View Post
Wonderful travelogue and pics. Especially useful for me, since I plan to go on a Sikkim trip next week. I'm sorry if I'm hijacking your thread but I really need advice from someone who has just been there.

And please continue updating your travelogue. Will come in as a ready reckoner for the likes of me.
Thank you.

You're in no way hijacking anything. I replied to your queries on the other thread.

Will update this evening once I manage to process some more pics and upload some videos again.
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Old 6th April 2010, 19:21   #99
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
Bhutan is quite a country!


Bhutan is strongly dependent on India:
- Road links only with India
- Export of power (80% of their forex earnings) only to India
- Fuel is sold by IOC, HPCL and BPCL
- All imported stuff comes only through India
- Indian Army mans the frontiers too with China
- The P'Soling-Thimphu and Samdrup Jhonkar-Trashigang roads are maintained by Indian Army's BRO

As usual, there are several immigrant workers from India working in Bhutan at various construction sites.

While I was in Trashigang (East Bhutan), I met the local RTO cheif (called the RSTA in Bhutan). Surprisingly, he had visited many parts of India, often driving his own car to even places like Kolkata. Needless to say, they sneer at the way Indians drive, their lack of road manners and indiscipline, and rightly so. In Bhutan, cars don't honk, maintain lanes, do not break Qs, use turn indicators and generally drive in a civilised manner. The RSTA offices that I visited in P'Soling and Thimphu were way ahead of the squalour and confusion that you see in India although they are also like any Govt offices.
Few other facts in addition to what are stated above:

1. Population of Bhutan is less then 7 lakh, which less then some small suburb in Mumbai.
2. Bhutanese are free to live and work in India and Bhutanese passport is enough for seeking a job in any Indian private company, no need of work permit.
3. Defense is managed and controlled by India, so they do not have their army or Border force, only local administration is with the Bhutanese king.
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Old 6th April 2010, 20:06   #100
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neeraj_125 View Post
3. Defense is managed and controlled by India, so they do not have their army or Border force, only local administration is with the Bhutanese king.
That is incorrect. The Royal Bhutan Army may be rudimentary compared to the might of the Indian Armed Forces, but it certainly is there, is well-trained and disciplined, and has a role to play in disaster management too. Go back a few posts, the tow trucks and personnel that pulled out the crashed truck are of the RBA.
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Old 6th April 2010, 20:15   #101
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Thanks for the correction, There is one Bhutanese colleague with me in Bangalore, he says Army is there however not a professional one, it is Royal army in control of the king for domestic administration and control, but separate from police. Most equipments are imported from india, including INSAS the rifle.
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Old 6th April 2010, 20:34   #102
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Radiator filled and landslide cleared, we are on our way again. This time, I keep a closer look at the temperature gauge. About 5-6 km up the road past the landslide...

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-nathula1-24.jpg

...the temperature needle starts a serious climb into the red zone.

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-nathula1-25.jpg

I point it out to Ponytail, but his policy is only to stop when the car cannot move anymore. Fine with me, it's his car after all! And finally he stops at another of those little waterfalls along the way.

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-nathula1-26.jpg

Ponytail starts to fill water into the radiator with a bottle. Keep the engine running, I tell him.

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-nathula1-27.jpg

Along comes a good samaritan in a Maruti Wagon-R. He fishes out a bucket from his own car, and before I can say whoa, he has unloaded a full bucket of chilled water onto the engine. ONTO the engine - yes you read that right!!!

There's a sickening ping sound, and suddenly the engine starts spewing smoke from all sides. The black exhaust smoke turns bluish-grey. A cylinder starts misfiring. And there I am, holding my head in wonderment, watching Mahindra's rock-solid engineering continue to move the pistons up and down. I always liked M&M's build quality, I now have before me evidence to prove how good they are. So dumbstruck that I forget to take pictures.

We are on the move again on 3 cylinders. The Wagon R speeds away.

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-nathula1-23.jpg
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Old 6th April 2010, 21:53   #103
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Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
We are on the move again on 3 cylinders.
After the engine bath, our Khatara carries on uncomplainingly, perhaps with a little extra vigour because I have now disconnected the EGR. But it is us who now have cause to complain. The air outside is chillingly cold, and we need to keep the windows rolled up. But if we do, the engine continues to spew out smoke, and it seeps into the cabin like a gas chamber, trying to asphyxiate us. Roll down the windows. Brrrr.... Roll them up again. Cough... cough... Roll 'em down...

Soon we approach Tsomgo (aka Chhangu) Lake, but we are not stopping here now. Our destination is the new Baba Mandir.

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-aaaa-1.jpg

A few quick photographs of Tsomgo Lake as we pass by it. More on the return journey when we stop here.

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-aaaa-2.jpg
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We have not paid the permit fees of Rs.1500 for the last 4-km climb to Nathu La, but in the event it turns out to be money saved. The road to the pass is closed, snowed out. Already as we approach Tsomgo Lake, the surrounding mountains show presence of snow, and there's deep slush on the road.
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-aaaa-0.jpg
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-aaaa-4.jpg

Further up, there's snow along the roadside.
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-aaaa-10.jpg

The mountainous vista that opens up before us is exquisitely beautiful.
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-aaaa-11.jpg
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Small villages dot the way.
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-aaaa-7.jpg
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Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-aaaa-15.jpg

Nature has more in store to reveal to us later on, of which we are entirely unaware now.
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Old 6th April 2010, 22:05   #104
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We are getting closer to Nathu La.

Quote:
The historic Silk Route through Nathu La was re-opened for border trade in 2006 after a gap of four decades in an indication of thaw in Sino-Indian relation.
As per a bilateral agreement, India had set up a trade mart at Sherathang in China and China at Renquingang to allow traders to visit the marts across the border.
India released a list of 29 items, mostly consumer goods for local use against 15 of China.
The Nathu La border trade had grown in volumes since 2006 with the last year's trade volume recording the highest turn over at Rs 9.5 million.
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09357k80.jpg

Despite the stricken howl of the engine and the heart-rending groan of the gearbox, Khatara continues to perform its task. We gulp in the scenery...

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Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09378k80.jpg

...and now Baba Mandir is in sight.

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09380k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09382k80.jpg
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Old 6th April 2010, 22:31   #105
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Posting some visuals from the Baba Mandir, which are mostly self-explanatory.

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-babamandir-0.jpg

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It really IS cold outside. The locals aren't taking any chances either.

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-babamandir-16.jpg


Ponytail keeps Khatara's engine running, for fear of diesel freezing. The environment continues not to benefit because of it.
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-babamandir-17.jpg

But with or without the pollution the waterfall looks as beautiful as ever.
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-babamandir-18.jpg

Suddenly the weather changes, as thick clouds roll in over the mountains, a few granules of ice fall on us, and the armymen tell us abhi nikal jao (leave right now) with a sense of urgency that does not brook any argument.
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-babamandir-19.jpg

One last pic...
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-babamandir-20.jpg

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 6th April 2010 at 22:33.
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