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Old 30th January 2018, 20:48   #1
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Default A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!

Prologue:

Every December/January when the work pressure is on the lower side, we friends try to explore a bit of India. Last January (in 2017) what started off as a trip to the Rann of Kutch turned out to be a mini Bharat Darshan the route of which is depicted below.

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-bharat_darshan.jpg

Last August (again in 2017) myself alongwith a different group of friends decided to travel to Spiti wherein myself and bhpian ragh_bhushan went in his Fortuner, nicknamed Furteela Ghonga (Ownership thread: http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/test-d...la-ghonga.html ). A few other bhpians also accompanied us. The trip although not a total failure, did leave much to be desired and the quest to roam the mountains wasn't completely satiated.

During the same trip, I booked the All New Ford Endeavour (named T-Rex) and it was decided that the first trip to the mountains for the T-Rex would be to the North East, a place where none of us had been to earlier. Ragh_Bhushan the kind of enthusiast he is instantly confirmed the presence of the Furteela Ghonga for the North East trip. As always the trip was planned for December. All of us were well aware that North East in December would be freezing cold but it also meant that it would be off season and the tourist crowd would be the least. Suited us fine.
At that point in time it was just Sikkim on the cards. Bhutan wasn't even a remote thought.

We drove back from Spiti. I got home the T-Rex, did a few short trips. Time flew by. T-Rex and Furteela did some softroading to places close by to Mumbai.

Last edited by @Chaand : 31st January 2018 at 18:58.
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Old 30th January 2018, 23:14   #2
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Default Re: A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!

Cut to the Chase:

Around November, preparations started for the Sikkim trip. Participants and cars were finalised. It was just two trucks, the T-Rex and the Furteela. Although more cars and people were invited for the party no one joined.

Following were the people involved

1. Yours Truly
2. Non Bhpian and fellow neighbour RK
3. Bhpian Ragh_Bhushan
4. Bhpiain mahesh_sn

As part of the preparations, almost all of us went through the trip logs and travelogues of folks who had made it to Sikkim. Most of these travelers appeared to be from the eastern part of India so it was difficult to draw parallels for an ex-Mumbai trip.

I had floated my high level plan in various travel forums that I was aware of and some responses started trickling in. Some of them were focussed but others were way off the point. One guy who led tours to Sikkim made it clear that non Sikkim vehicles could not be taken beyond Gangtok/Mangan This kind of feedback put me off. Would the T-Rex not be able to accomplish the maiden tour which I had thought for it?

In the meantime I came across an avid traveller VS from one of the forums who had covered most parts of India by road. Met up with him and he mentioned that he had indeed taken his Mumbai registered Scorpio to most places in Sikkim and also Bhutan albeit more than a year back. The risk remained that by now the rules would have changed and we would also have leave our cars at Gangtok. The last thing we wanted was to drive from Mumbai to Gangtok, then find out that the risk had materialized and we need to travel in Tourist cabs. The thought did ruffle me. Myself and Ragh_bhushan were clear that we would rather move to Bhutan or call ofF the trip than travel as passengers in tourist cabs, especially after driving all the way from Mumbai to Gangtok!!

After further interactions with VS I realized that if planned well, we can also do Bhutan alongwith Sikkim. RK came up with the thought that Bhutan can be plan B and Sikkim should be plan A. Idea was accepted by all.

A few mails, messages and calls transpired between myself and Vaibhav. Eventually, with help from VS, I drafted an itinerary which covered North, East, South Sikkim and Bhutan (Thimpu, Paro, Punakha). By now the ex-Mumbai drive was spanning more than 6000KM over 17 days. I was salivating already. As of this date, the plan was to do this trip between 1 and 20 December 2017.

Around the last week of November it was clear to me that I would not be able to make it for this travel in the month of December due to some unforeseen commitments at work. Bhpian Mahesh was flexible as long as we returned by the 19 of Jan 2018.

Eventually after some deliberations the travel was confirmed between 5 and 20 Jan 2018. Dates were now cast in stone!

Around the third week of December is when I started with the preparations.

First problem area were the tyres of the T-Rex shod with MRF Wanderers (stock). Enough has been said and written about them. The Official review thread is rife with reports of tyre bursts, sidewall cracks and flats. The spare wheel provided by Ford is not an alloy and to compound problems further, its a space saver (17 incher) One can ride at a max speed of 80 with the space saver in place. After discussing with bhpian PrateekVidya (also an Endy owner), I decided to buy a spare alloy as a long term recourse. I wasnt in the mood to splurge 50K (new alloy+new tyre+taxes) that too on a spare and hence I headed off to my friendly Neighbourhood Tyre shop in Oshiwara and managed to get a one Endy Alloy with Tyre.


A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-ec6ad776715140fbafd959b932f4800c.jpeg


Now what did i do with the space saver? Did I ditch it? No! Instead (keeping in mind the reputation of the Wanderers), I decided to take both the alloy and the stock spare for the trip. I was erring on the side of over-preparation in the tyres department but considering that there were only two guys in the T-Rex there was ample of space - so why bother?

Last edited by @Chaand : 31st January 2018 at 19:18.
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Old 31st January 2018, 13:12   #3
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Default Re: A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!

Now that the tyres were sorted it was time to take care of other essentials.

RK helped in identifying a store which provided high altitude adventure stuff for rent/sale and we headed to that place. Got the following stuff.

1. Hand warmers
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-minihandwarmers.jpeg

2. Back Warmers

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180110_051113.jpg

3. Feet warmers

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180110_051057.jpg


4. Woolen Socks

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-img20180127wa0144.jpg

All of the above were in addition to warm clothes like Sweaters, Jackets, Thermals et al.

RK purchased a water heater which could be used for preparing a quick hot beverage or instant noodles if required.

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180118_072755.jpg



As luck would have it my Transcend dashcam packed up and I was left high and dry before the trip. Was tempted to use app based dashcams like AutoZeel/ but decided against it and got myself a proper dashcam just a day fore the trip. Not the best of choices but considering the very small window I had, this was the best I could do!

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-dashcam.jpg

Another very important and useful purchase done by me. Nescafe 3 in 1 sachets. Just add hot water and you have a steaming cup of Coffee (with milk and sugar) ready. Useful in those situations when you need a cup of coffee but the hotel kitchen has not yet opened, or when you need to relax after/during a long drive and there is no dhaba nearby.

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-19b309dde52d47a5b7dccec55699a99b.jpeg


Also got this portable bluetooth speaker which was useful towards the end of a long hard day playing music and unwinding during refreshments!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-42b53dd601864428a173c44e421ce969.jpeg

Also got a couple of class 10 128gigs micro sd cards at a good discount!

Last edited by @Chaand : 8th March 2018 at 12:10.
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Old 1st February 2018, 21:19   #4
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Default Re: A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!

Day 1 - Friday - 5 Jan 2018
Mumbai to Jhansi


So finally, after days and weeks of planning here we were on the D Day.
The plan was to leave at 12 AM on Friday, the 5th of Jan. However, 4 Jan was a more than usually busy day for me both at work and home and I needed some time for packing et al!

On the night of 4th itself I refueled the T-Rex to the brim and also loaded stuff like the water bottles, warm clothes etc. which were packed separately. Now only bare minimum stuff was left to be loaded which would be done on the morning of 5th.


A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180104_223330.jpg

20 Litre bottled water jars. Helps to reduce plastic waste as we keep refilling the 1 litre bottles from these jars and reduces cost also!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180104_225811.jpg

Due to the hectic schedule the previous day, we decided to leave at 3 AM instead of 12. This would give me some time to pack and also everyone some rest.

Needless to say I couldn't sleep for more than 45 minutes purely because of excitement. This was the first time that I was embarking on such a long drive in the T-Rex and that too a drive which promised a lot of adventure! Another point in common which I share with a few others is that irrespective of the number of long drives I have done, the night before the drive is spent SLEEPLESS!

All said and done, I was up and sipping a hot cup of coffee at 2.15 AM. A quick bath followed and I saw a whatsapp message from RK - ''I am ready''. I also got ready and proceeded to the parking lot with the last bit of luggage.

By the time T-Rex was reversed RK had also come down with his stuff. We loaded his stuff as well and by 3.15 AM we were all set for this trip which had E-P-I-C written all over it!

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180105_031053.jpg

By this time Bhushan had picked up Mahesh and was proceeding to the meeting point, i.e. the first toll after Kalwa.
By the time we crossed the Kalwa toll, we found Furteela waiting along with Bhushan and Mahesh. After a brief discussion, we agreed on Nasik as the next stop for breakfast pushed along. As per the itinerary in the preceding posts, the target for tonight was Vidisha but all agreed to push as much as humanly possible.

Around 7 AM we broke for breakfast near Shirur

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180105_081136.jpg
No, we did not have those fluorescent colored Jalebis!

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-sikkim-bhutan-6.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-img20180202wa0046.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-sikkim-bhutan-7.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-img20180202wa0054.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-sikkim-bhutan-8.jpg


Next stop was for refuelling towards the end of Maharashtra. T-Rex had more than half a tank but as Furteela had not started with a full tank we needed to break for fuel and as we had stopped the T-Rex also tanked up to stay in synch.

Next stop was lunch in MP.


The route we took bypassed Vidisha and we briefly touched Rajasthan as well.

Drove through this wonderful road with windmills all around us.




and around 7 pm we had a diesel halt. During this halt we agreed that the next stop was Shivpuri and that would be the halt for the day. RK took over the wheels and I relaxed. Then I realised that Jhansi was just an hours drive from Shivpuri. Jhansi being a more popular town offered a better choice from a dinner and accomodation perspective. So instead of stopping at Shivpuri, we drove all the way to Jhansi and stopped at the first hotel we saw. Enquired for rooms and the answer was affirmative.
Checked in. Freshened up. Had a relaxed dinner. Hotel staff were hospitable and friendly. They were shocked that we had driven the entire day from Mumbai to Jhansi. I smiled at myself knowing that this was going to be a common shock to many observers during this trip. By 12 AM i dozed off and woke up after a wonderfull dreamless sleep directly at 5 AM after which I had broken sleep till 6. This was going to be the best I ever slept during the entire trip.

Hotel card for those who would like to use this information
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-hotel-card.jpg

Hotel name: Singh Regency
No covered parking. Parking is on the street but there are CCTV's and a security guy is also around.

Rating 3.5/5

Here is the ODO at the end of day 1.
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180105_213522.jpg

Distance covered today: 1138 KM

Last edited by @Chaand : 8th March 2018 at 12:13.
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Old 1st February 2018, 22:53   #5
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Exclamation Re: A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!

Day 2: Saturday, 6 Jan 2018
Jhansi to Muzaffarpur


We were to leave at around 7 AM on this day. By the time we had a bath and checked out, it was past 8 AM. After a quick check up of tyre pressures for both the trucks we left the place. Target for the day as per pre-decided itinerary was Gorakhpur UP, but we had had a headstart on the previous day and decided to make the best of it by pushing ahead as much as possible.

Just after exiting Jhansi city, we encountered thick fog with extremely reduced visibility. Drove on without stopping and in a single file. We drove in a single file with the T-Rex leading. Front and rear lamps on the T-Rex were switched on and the Furteela was behind me guided by the rear fog lamps. Check out the video below. Watch till the end where in the truck ahead of us swerves sharply to the left at the last moment!




After 11 AM the fog thinned out we could move faster now. We had driven all this while just on a cup of tea and by the time we reached Kanpur byepass our stomachs were growling. As soon as the byepass was over we crossed the Ganga river bridge and stopped at a roadside restaurant for a brunch comprising of tasty parathas. Spent more than hour at brunch!

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180106_124644.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180106_125045.jpg


We liked the food here so much that we stopped here again for lunch on the way back as well. Needless to say the guy remembered us!


Resuming after lunch RK took the wheel and we drove into Bihar.

Next stop - Tea in Bihar with snacks from Mumbai!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180106_165915.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180106_170243.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180106_165431.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180106_165231.jpg

We moved on after this break and then a refuelling break. It was dark by now and we reached a place where we were diverted to the service road due to an accident on the main highway. We spent more than 45 minutes there and before the jam was cleared Bhushan identified a mud route which we took as a diversion and reached the highway.

Having lost some time, it was clear that Muzaffarpur (which was decided as the destination for the night) was a while away. So decided to stop at a local dhaba for dinner and then proceed to Muzaffarpur.

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180106_214921.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180106_221700.jpg

Back on the road, we drove non stop to Muzaffarpur. It was slightly scary as night driving in Bihar is not considered safe. Traffic was sparse and whatever little traffic was there was was dominated by trucks. Private vehicles were conspicuous by their absence. obviously There was intermittent thin fog as well which posed another challenge and both the beasts stuck together. Most of the traffic on the road was limited to trucks. Captured the below on my dashcam.



It was heart wrenching to see this but is a common occurrence on the highway!

Immediately after this Furteela encountered a neelgai (bluebull) inches away from the car. Thankfully it did not touch the car. It was captured in the dashcam as well but very hazily and hence i haven't uploaded it.
Reached Muzaffarpur around 11.30. Scounted for a hotel around the station and eventually checked into Hotel Minakshi International located bang across Muzaffarpur Railway Junction

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-minakshi.jpg

ODO for the day
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180107_091107.jpg

Distance travelled today: 845 KM
Distance travelled so far: 1983 KM


Slept by 1.30 AM. Tomorrow's target was Kalimpong!

Last edited by @Chaand : 8th March 2018 at 12:28.
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Old 3rd February 2018, 15:14   #6
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Day 3: Sunday, 7 Jan 2018
Muzaffarpur to Kalimpong


So compared to the initial plan we were still ahead of time. The plan was to keep up the good work and reach Kalimpong tonight which was pretty straightforward and we were confident of making it without stretching too much.
Furteela was nearing the 85k service milestone and would need to be serviced which would be done in GTK.

On inserting the key i found out that the wiper fluid low indicator was on. Fille up the tank and then chekced the tyre pressures. All OK for both trucks. Started moving around 9.15 AM. Fog was expected but we were pleased to find out that it wasn't as much as it was the previous day. Like yesterday breakfast had been skipped and and we were hungry. In Bihar, on the highways, its extemely difficult to locate respectable restaurants. I shudder to think how people with families plan their travel.
On some searching we located a Dhaba and stopped for breakfast.

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180107_110837.jpg


With breakfast out of the way, Mahesh took over the wheels of the T-Rex while I caught up with with my messages.

A few pics of the Bihar highways and my our trucks!

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180107_123213.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-pano.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-sikkim-bhutan-39.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-sikkim-bhutan-45.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-sikkim-bhutan-52.jpg


Now we were presented with a dilemma by gmaps.
We wanted to move towards Siliguri and there were two routes, one of them being an SH and the other was NH 27.
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-bahadurganj.jpg

Consulted with a local and he mentioned that the SH route was quicker. We moved along and then after going ahead for a few kilometers we reaslised our mistake. The roads were absolutely pathetic and the crowds were maddening. Add to it there was a Sunday bazaar en route which added to the crowds and hence our misery as well.



Broken bridge!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180107_132528.jpg

Another view!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180107_132529.jpg

Note the temperature around 1 PM. And its only going to get colder!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180107_130635.jpg

On top of it whenever we had free stretches, there was a danger of hitting the stray dogs/cattle.




After struggling like this the roads opened up a bit and we decided to stop for some tea and photography!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180107_135047.jpg

RK posing in the mustard fields!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180107_135231.jpg

RK distributing sweets to curious onlooking children who had gathered at the sight of two huge SUV's in the mustard fields!


And what do we have here?
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-dung-cakes.jpg

When we were busy photographing, a senior guy came up and said that the place where we were standing is actually a burial ground!

We beat a hasty retreat instantly, had a cup of extremely sweet tea and left the place.

In a couple hours we were pleasantly surprised to reach the Bengal border.
The landscape changed as if instantly by magic. Wide open roads gave away to narrow roads but with lush vegetation on either sides.

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180107_155827.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180107_155913.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180107_160121.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180107_160613.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-sikkim-bhutan-65.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-sikkim-bhutan-68.jpg

All that effort had given us an appeptite. Remebering the only food we had eaten was a bread omlette at 11.00AM. Decided to stop at Bagdogra for a late lunch. Kept driving and encountered a huge flow of traffic at Bagdogra airport. A few more KM and we were into Bagdogra city where we refuelled the machines and also ourselves!

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-sikkim-bhutan-69.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180107_173104.jpg

Bill after eating so much!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180107_175111.jpg

After this we drove non stop to our destination for the night, i.e. Kalimpong and checked into Sud's Garden retreat.
Wonderful hotel with clean and airy rooms. Parking is safe and secure within the four walls of the hotel. Good and hospitable staff.

Rating 4/5

ODO image for the day:
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180108_091102.jpg

Distance covered for the day: 450 KM
Distance covered so far: 2433 KM

Last edited by @Chaand : 8th March 2018 at 12:42.
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Old 4th February 2018, 17:55   #7
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Day 4: Monday, 8 Jan 2018
Kalimpong to Gangtok


Everyone woke up today will renewed energy well relaxed after a good nights sleep and also because today was the day we all were waiting for. We were about to enter into the promised land i.e. Sikkim!

Pictures at the hotel restaurant during breakfast:
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180108_084550.jpg

Pickle bottle was carried by RK from Mumbai. Quite useful I say!!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180108_085130.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180108_085731.jpg

After breakfast checked out the beasts and they were also raring to go.

Check out the outside temperature at Kalimpong
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180108_091050.jpg

After performing the routine rituals with the cars we were about to leave when the hotel staff stopped us for this:



Apparently this is a regular Buddhist ritual with the guests to wish them Godspeed. Was a first time for us though!

Proceeded toward Sikkim and met unusual traffic on the way!

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180108_120511.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180108_101408.jpg

And then we witnessed this accident.



After which the SX4 passengers ran after the truck for quite some distance to claim compensation!



Stopped by en-route for some pics
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180108_105858.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-sikkim-bhutan-76.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180108_105627.jpg

Furteela needed a service today which was already booked and we headed straight to the TASC.

Furteela just before the service
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-sikkim-bhutan-78.jpg



While Furteela was being serviced we scouted around for hotels and liked one which we had passed on the way.
Went back there, checked ourselves in and then had lunch there itself.

Next, we collected Furteela from the TASC, dropped it off at the hotel and all four of us went in the T-Rex. This was the only occasion and night in which there were 4 people in the T-Rex for this trip! We then went to the army office for permits and filled in the form. Over there it became apparent that that particular division in the army had nothing to do with North Sikkim, they only dealt with Nathu-la which was East Sikkim. Permits for North (the most entertaining part of Sikkim) were issued at Mangan. We checked with umpteen locals and travel agents and each of them mentioned that private vehicles cannot go beyond Mangan (for North Sikkim). The risk takers that we were, we decided to go to Mangan and find out for ourselves.

Hence we changed the plan and decided to leave for Mangan early next morning. On the way back from the army office we decided to check out the local market. I was at the wheel. En route to the market we encountered this waterfall and I stopped for a while to enjoy the beauty.

Watch this video (with volume) to understand what happened next. Listen to the THUD at the end of the video.



Apparently that wasn't just a waterfall. Mud and stones were also falling and at a safe place we inspected the damage. I almost laughed. Although it sounded very loud it was just a bruise which could easily be done away with a rubbing compound!

Now the horror of horrors. The way back to the hotel was again through the waterfall
Check out the video below whether the T-Rex made it through safely or not!



Rooms at Orange Village. One of the best in Gangtok for this price range!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-orange-room1.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-orange-room2.jpg

Parking at Orange Village. Enclosed and safe!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-orange-villa-parking.jpg

Food at Orange Village
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-orange-food1.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-orange-food2.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-orange-food3.jpg


After this heavy dinner, we hit the sack. The real adventure began tomorrow!


Hotel Card
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-orange_village-card.jpg

Hotel Rating: 4.5/5


Odo at the end of day 4:
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-odo-day-4.jpg

Total distance traveled today: 111 KM
Total distance traveled till now: 2544 KM

Last edited by SDP : 12th March 2018 at 23:11. Reason: as requested
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Old 4th February 2018, 21:58   #8
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Default Re: A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!

Day 5: Tuesday, 9 Jan 2018
Gangtok to Lachen


Woke up the next day to this view:

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-view_orange.jpg

Left for Mangan around 8.30 AM. Progress was slow due to average quality roads and also due to the twisties. Looked for a Dhaba to stop by and managed to locate one only around 11 AM. Nothing was available to eat, so settled for tea and opened up some biscuits.

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-9.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-12.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-15.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-27.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-29.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-30.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-31.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180109_110450.jpg

Drove on after the makeshift breakfast and reached this place

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-33.jpg

Where we met up a soldier who guided us to the DO office
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-final.jpg
By the way, note the Fuel station in the image above. This is the last pump in Mangan and on the route to North Sikkim. Make sure you tank up to the brim and stock more depending on your route plan and tank capacity.

Once at the DO office we managed to locate the department which isssues the permits. Once located and the process known it did not take us more than 20 minutes to get the permit.
Here we are feeling elated after getting the permit which so far was stuck in a quagmire of doubts and hearsay!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180109_124523.jpg

With the permit out of the way, we decided to tank up and also stock up diesel in the jerry cans. The fuel station mention above was out of diesel and hence we had to backtrack for more than 6 KM to the previous pump. When we reached there and started refueling, there was a power outage and the guy took his own sweet time to switch on to backup and when he eventually started the generator and re started fueling, power was restored !. This circus ensured that we took more than 40 minutes to tank up the two SUV's and delayed our arrival to Lachen. In the mist of this power outage, we nibbled some momos to help save time.

Moved on from Mangan to Chumthang where we stopped for a chai besides this dilapidated bridge
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-bridge-condition.jpg

Just before we reached Lachen we saw what we had been waiting for. SNOW.
Snow was on the road and road was extremely slippery.

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-first-snow.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-first-snow-2.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-first-snow-3.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-first-snow-4.jpg

Met a biker here who was tired and frustrated at skidding repeatedly on the black ice. We could feel for him!

Checked into a hotel, Himalayan Residency which was extremely basic but very pricey for the amount we paid. Would NOT recommend this hotel to anyone. We had no option as the other place we saw was more basic than this one and the price wasn't very less as well.

Ordered dinner while we refreshed. Even washing the face with cold water was an effort!

Hotel rating: 2/5


Check out the night temperature at Lachen! And as night progressed, the mercury would only go south!!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-night-temp-lachen.jpg

This is how we were seated inside the rooms. To add to our misery heaters weren't allowed in the rooms!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-room2.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-room.jpg


Had a basic dinner before we slept off.
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-dinner1.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-dinner2.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-salad.jpg

Odo image for the day.
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-odo-lachen.jpg


Distance traveled today: 149 KM
Distance traveled till now: 2693 KM

Tomorrows target was the mighty Gurudongmar Lake (highlight of the trip!) and Tso La Moh!

Last edited by @Chaand : 8th March 2018 at 12:59.
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Old 5th February 2018, 00:21   #9
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Day 6: Wednesday, 10 Jan 2018
Lachen - Thangu Valley - Gurudongmar - Tso La Moh - Thangu Valley - Lachen - Chumthang - Lachung

The main attraction for today and for this trip itself was Gurudongmar Lake. Finally after weeks of planning, today was the day on which we would get to see this.The key to reach Gurudongmar lake is to be at Thangu Checkpost by 10:00 AM, go ahead to Gurudongmar and return back to Thangu by 12:00 PM. Army allows a bit of slack but not much.

We had agreed the previous night to leave by 5 AM. So I had set the alarm for 4.30 AM. Needless to say, I was up before that and woke the others up as well. Having a bath in this condition was ruled out. Just freshened up, had a cup of tea and we were ready by 5.10. Went down to the cars. As soon as we opened the door of the hotel, the cold breeze hit us. Somehow made it to the parking, loaded our luggage. Both Furteela and T-Rex started in one crank.
The temperature outside was a perfect 0 degrees as per the MID.

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-mid0.jpg


The windshield was completely iced off and there 10% visibility. Fired up the defoggers and it took a couple of minutes for the ice to thaw off. Then tried cleaning the windows with the wiper fluid. To my surprise out of two wiper jets, only one was working. The other one was frozen! that would clear off after 10 minutes, once the hood heated up!

Started moving. After thirty minutes of driving the temperature dipped further!

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-mid2.jpg

Eventually dawn broke through and it was a beautiful sight to see the snow covered peaks with the Sun just coming up. No photograph can do justice to this view and we soaked in the moment to our hearts content.
A few pictures and videos taken en-route Thangu.


Icicles











A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-guru-1.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-guru-2.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-guru-3.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-guru-4.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-guru-5.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-guru-6.jpg

After Thangu, barring some water crossings, there is a 15KM asphalted road which continues beyond Gurudongmar as well.



Just 1KM before the Gurudongmar turnoff we encountered this sign.

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-guru_new-2.jpg

Took this right turn and after that it was pure offroading for approximately 1 KM.




Then we got the first view of Gurudongmar. The semi frozen lake looked blissfully peaceful to say the least!

Went straight to a hillock on the south side of the lake. Other than the wind blowing fiercely, there was not a soul around and we enjoyed the solitude. Later on (i.e. Next day it was brought to our awareness that we were the only team to reach Gurudongmar lake on that day. All other teams of tourists/bikers could not do the trip on that day as their vehicles were slipping on the icy roads)






A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-guru_new-1.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-guru_new-3.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-guru_new-4.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-guru_new-5.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-guru_new-6.jpg

Once done with the photography we moved lower towards the banks of the lake which required more offroading.




A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-guru-7.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-guru-8.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-guru-9.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-guru-10.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-guru-11.jpg



I was feeling a bit dizzy due to the lack of oxygen and after a while Bhushan also started developing a headache. Surprisingly RK and Mahesh seemed to be having a spring in their stride!

We left Gurudongmar and then moved on to Tso La Moh. This is a smallish lake (compared to Gurudongmar) and nothing much to see here. We just saw it from the road side. Then went to two ITBP camps nearby Tso La Moh, spent some time with the soldiers there and headed back to Thangu.

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-tsola.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-baro.jpg


A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-guru-12.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-guru-13.jpg

Simple water crossings en-route to Thangu


On reaching Thangu we again registered at the checkpost and also broke journey to have some momos and chai.

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-guru-14.jpg

With one of the main objectives of the trip fulfilled we started our descent back into Lachen. It was while nearing another Army checkpost (i forgot the name) that we had an unfortunate incident with the T-Rex. An army truck turned without any signal/indicator and this was the result. As an army truck was involved i am not posting videos of the incident.

After we were hit, the first thought which came into my mind - "The trip goes on!". Thanks to the build quality of Ford, the passengers were unharmed and the truck was still driveable!
Met the Furteela which in the meantime had raced ahead. After inspecting the damage a bit more, we concluded that if the mirror is fixed, then the rest of the trip need not be jeopardized.

Bhushan, Mahesh and RK showed remarkable presence of mind and fixed the mirror with a lot of band-aid! Source of the band-aid - RK.

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-dam-1.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-dam-2.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-dam-3.jpg


The rest of the day was uneventful and we drove to Lachung via Chumthang and Lachen. Here we checked into Hotel Diablo (rating 2.5/5).

All travellers to North Sikkim, please do take note of the below pic. Plastic bottles are banned in North Sikkim and polythene bags are banned in all of Sikkim. If found using any of the two a fine may be levied.
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-bottle-ban.jpg

ODO reading for the day
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-odo.jpg

Distance traveled today: 198 KM
Distance traveled till now: 2891 KM

Last edited by @Chaand : 8th March 2018 at 00:15.
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Old 6th February 2018, 13:01   #10
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Day 7: Thursday, 11 Jan 2018
Lachung - Yumthang - Zero Point - Katao - Chumthang - Mangan - Gangtok


After the amazing adventure yesterday, today's was expected to be a relatively low key affair or at least that's what we thought.

Here is how the road to Yumthang was:








First stop was for the day was Yumthang valley. Attractions here include a hot water spring (10 minutes walk in the woods) and lots of snow all around.

Everyone had their fun in the snow and we also rented snow shoes for the rest of the day.

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-snow1.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-snow2.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-snow3.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-yumthang0.jpg

Next on the agenda was Zero Point which turned out to be a crowded and touristy place with lots of ice around. Tourists were having the time of their lives freaking out.

Route to Zero point:



Zero point



A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180111_101415.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-mahesh-front-view-car-zp.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-20180111_102108.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-zp-1.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-zp-2.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-zp-3.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-zp-4.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-zp-5.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-zp-8.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-zp-9.jpg



And that my friends, is the only clue that you have arrived at zero point (if not guided by GPS)!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-zp-board.jpg

We decided to explore a bit more and went a bit ahead of zero point and there was this wonderful road fully covered with ice which had us salivating.


I will let the videos and pictures speak for themselves.

Dashcam view of ice drive


Sunroof view of ice drive


A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-icy-road1-1.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-icy-road1-2.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-icy-road1-3.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-zp-6.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-zp-7.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-zp-10.jpg


The ice drive was the 'first time in my life moment' for most of us and was thrilling and adventurous to say the least.

Having had the time of our lives here, we started the descent back to Lachung and from there to Katao.

This is what we encountered on the way to Katao!




A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-frozen-waterfall.jpg
On reaching Katao checkpost we were disappointed to realise that the area was offbounds for civilians and there was no way we could cross the checkpost. Disappointed we returned back to Mangan, tanked up and then moved on forward to Gangtok where we checked into Hotel Tara Palace.


Hotel Rating: 3.5/5
This had one of the most secure parkings and was also one of the most difficult to get into.

ODO:
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-odo.jpg


Distance traveled today: 271 KM
Distance traveled till now: 3162 KM

Last edited by SDP : 12th March 2018 at 23:08. Reason: as requested
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Old 6th February 2018, 16:21   #11
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Day 8: Friday, 12 Jan 2018
Chill out in Gangtok!


With a very short to-do list for the day, this was a good opportunity to relax and catch up on sleep after many hectic days. Also used the opportunity to do some shopping and enjoy the local hot spots in Gangtok.

After a lazy breakfast and bath, headed out to MG Road in Gangtok. Now this is a hub/happening place in GTK and a not-to-miss destination if at all you happen to be in GTK. Even if you don't shop its fun to enjoy the ambience/window shop/have a cup of coffee or just hang around in general.

The Sikkim Red Panda festival was in progress and there was more than usual crowd at all places. Traffic was also on the higher side. We decided to leave both the vehicles back in the parking lot of the hotel and footed it out instead.

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-red-panda-1.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-red-panda-2.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-red-panda-4.jpg



A few pictures at MG road and thereabouts

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-mg-road-1.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-mg-road-2.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-monk.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-selfie.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-harrods.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-gangtok-5.jpg



A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-gangtok-74.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-gangtok-75.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-gangtok-76.jpg

On display were also the fresh fruits and vegetables available at Gangtok.

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-veggie-1.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-veggie-7-1.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-veggie-pano.jpg

Lunch was skipped due to the late breakfast. Towards afternoon we managed to get the permit for our cars to travel to Nathula pass.

The Sikkim traffic police take the traffic management seriously and the signs mentioned below are usually followed.
Overaking and honking are frowned upon and so are refusals for taxis.


A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-traffic-sign-4.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-traffic1.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-traffic2.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-traffic3.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-traffic5.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-trafficsign-1.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-trafficsign-2.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-trafficsign-3.jpg

The Civil office is located adjacent to MG Road and we went there to check on the timings for the permit to be issued the next day which we later realized would happen between 5 and 8 am the following day.

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-civil-office-1.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-civil2.jpg

Dinner was also taken at one of the Chinese restaurants on MG Road and hence we also got to explore the place by night. All said and done the shops start shutting down by 9:30 PM and the road is deserted by 11:00 PM. This was the situation during the Red Panda festival.

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-mgr-night-2.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-mgr-night1.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-tree.jpg


Tight parking at the hotel that too on a slope!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-tight-parking-hotel-tara.jpg

Hotel Card:
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-tara-card.jpg
Rating: 3.5/5

As it was an early start tomorrow, we retired to bed early with the alarm set for 4.30 AM

ODO:

No change. This was the only rest day for the T-Rex and Furteela was used for short runs!

Last edited by navin : 13th March 2018 at 12:16.
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Old 6th February 2018, 16:23   #12
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Day 9: Saturday, 13 Jan 2018
Gangtok - Changu Lake - Nathula Pass - Harbhajan Mandir(s) - Zuluk - Kupup - Kalimpong


We were given to believe that the queue for permits started to get serpentine after 6 AM. To avoid this we decided to reach there before time.
The day started early and we were all up by 4 AM as we had to be be at the DC office by 5 AM. At 4.45 AM when i proceeded downstairs to check out I found absolute darkness in the lobby and all the staff sleeping Our mistake as well to a certain extent as we had forgotten to inform the staff of our early exit. Although I was feeling bad to wake them up, I had no choice. Eventually, they woke and we got through the settlement. When we went to the parking lot that was locked as well

After all these delays we left by 5:30 AM and reached the DC office within 10 minutes. Being a typical sarkari place we werent surprised to find it shut!

Around 6:45 PM the officer arrived and we were the first to be entertained. Permits done, we pushed off straight to Nathu-la which was the first stop of the day and the main attraction as well.

The coveted permit. Make at least 6 photocopies of this. We did not and then had to run around for the same!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-1.jpg

Reached the third mile checkpost
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-30.jpg

Note this sign at the Third Mile checkpost! Very important!!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-24.jpg

You will find signs like this frequently. Most of them are for heavy vehicles.
For the T-Rex as well as the Furteela, both of them are full time four wheel drives and we did not engage 4L or 4H anywhere on this route.
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-2.jpg

We had a light breakfast at the first pit stop. And this was the only restaurant on the way! We did not encounter any restaurant/Dhaba en-route Nathula.
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-5.jpg


Note the content written on the cardboard. The toilet is a paid one (managed by the dhaba) and this is the situation throughout Sikkim. Public defecation and/or urination is not only discouraged, its also penalised!!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-4.jpg


Stop at Tsongo Lake en route Nathula.
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-6.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-7.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-8.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-31.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-33.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-34.jpg

The Tsongo Ropeway below.
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-35.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-27.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-29.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-38.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-39.jpg

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-41.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-42.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-43.jpg

500 metres and you are in China. We could not photograph after this as it was a restricted area. To add to our ill luck there was a defence event taking place there and that had lead to more heightened awareness!

All said and done, Chinese civilians/tourists can freely photograph us across the border!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-9.jpg

Baba Harbhajan shrine (the second one. The first one is lower down the route.)
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-47.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-10.jpg

Story behind the Baba Harbhajan Mandir. Reminds me of the Pattharsaheb Gurudwara at Leh!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-44.jpg
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-45.jpg

We were fortunate enough to take part in the flag hoisting ceremony there.
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-46.jpg

Last edited by navin : 13th March 2018 at 12:20.
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Old 6th February 2018, 17:11   #13
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Default Re: A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!

Day 9 - Continued...


We continued down the silk route to reach Kupup, then Gnathang Valley and then Zuluk. I will let the pictures do the talking. I dont have words to explain the view because whatever I pen down wouldn't do justice to the view!

A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-12.jpg

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Day 9 continues in the next post.

Last edited by @Chaand : 21st February 2018 at 17:21.
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Old 17th February 2018, 18:24   #14
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Default Re: A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!

Day 9 - Continued...

After Kupup we reached this cafe. We and some army/ITBP guys were the only customers. Helped ourselves to some maggi with eggs.
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-cafe.jpg

Inside the cafe
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-cafe2.jpg


Moving on from the cafe we drove down to Gnathang valley and it was a sight to see. Photographs dont do full justice to the view though.
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-51.jpg

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And if some more luck would have been with us, this place would have been snow covered and we could have captured a brown-forest view!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-87.jpg

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A couple of videos of us going through the clouds!



Moving on downwards, we came across this stoppage of traffic. Reason for the jam - relaying of fresh tarmac on the roads.
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-21.jpg

This road maintenance ensured that we were rooted to the place for more than an hour. Some of us caught up on sleep during this time!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-22.jpg

With all the major attractions done for the day and also most of Sikkim done and dusted it was time to move on to Bhutan. Accordingly we decided to stop once again at Kalimpong and that too at the same hotel where we had stayed on the way to Sikkim, i.e. Sud's International. We reached there without calling. The guy recognized us immediately. Rooms were available and we settled in for the night after a long round of music and celebrations!

ODO:
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-d9-23.jpg

Distance covered today: 207 KM
Distance covered so far: 3369 KM

Last edited by @Chaand : 8th March 2018 at 00:23.
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Old 21st February 2018, 17:23   #15
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Default Re: A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!

Day 10: Sunday, 14 Jan 2018
Kalimpong to Pheuntsoling via Gorumara


We could have driven directly from West Sikkim to Pheuntsoling via Nagrakata but if we would have done that then we would have reached Pheuntsoling on Saturday night/early Sunday morning. THe immigration office in Bhutan is shut on Saturdays, Sundays and other Bhutanese public holidays. To avoid this situation, we decided to take a detour via Gorumara animal sanctuary.

The road from Kalimpong to Gorumara after the coronation bridge is really good and that is where we started sighting Bhutan registered cars.

A few videos of the route









At Gorumara Bird sanctuary. The basic fallacy over here is that Google maps shows a particular location as Gorumara National Park but apparently that it only an access point. The tickets are sold further ahead/behind as the case may be. Due to this reason, we missed the penultimate batch of the day and the next batch was after 3 hours. We first took the tickets and then went to the deer park (entry free) and walked around it for around 45 minutes without hearing/spotting a single deer!

Ticket counter for the park
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-day-10-1.jpg


A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-day-10-2.jpg

Rates. A guide is included and also refreshments and a tribal show/dance at the end of the safari.
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-day-10-3.jpg

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Instructions. Note the CCTV!
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Test tube is the norm in Bengal!
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legging it out at the deer park. Fruitless effort.
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Pollution free electric vehicles for local transport. Ironically in the park no such vehicles go inspite of the road being decent/good.
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-day-10-12.jpg

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The actual entrance to the park as indicated by Gmaps
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-day-10-15.jpg

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Gate opens at 3.15 sharp!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-day-10-17.jpg

Some playful moments while we waited for the clock to tick to 3.15...
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-day-10-18.jpg

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Elephant spotting in the woods.
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Walking back from the Rhino safari
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-day-10-22.jpg

All in all it wasn't exactly a value for money experience. All the animals we spotted were far away to be observed well and we did not have a pair of binoculars as well! All said and done there wasn't much for else to do this day and we had to live wiht what was on offer.

We skipped the refreshments and tribal dance at the end of the safari, had a quick tea with some biscuits and hit the road again.

By the time we reached crossed over into Bhutan it was around 8.15 PM IST, i.e. 8.45 PM Bhutan time.
What a stark difference bwtween the Intdain and BHutanese locations. Everyone in BHutan walking on the footpaths as as opposed to on the roads. Vehicles parked in the right places and cops every few metres! Cops were actually retain law and order proactively. After parking the vehicle we decided to look for accomodation. Checked out a Hotel Druk International as that was the nearest and most heard of place from the travellouges we had read. Even the parking there was full and we were turned away from the reception itself.
Went to HOtel Everest next and even there we were turned away as the place was full. In fact the manager at HOtel Everrest remarked "Idhar kahin nahi milega. India mein dekho!"
We exchanged glances. Everyone was keen on staying in BHutan inspite of India being a stone's throw away!!

Suddenly out of nowhere RK found out a small alley which led to a decent looking hotel with good parking. It turned out to be Hotel Ga Me Ga. Rooms were indeed available. They looked good and inviting but the tariffs were substantially high. We dilly dallied for a while and then decided to give in. Ga Me Ga it was for the night. Sadly, the kitchen in the hotel had closed and we would have to get/eat the food from outside.

Once again we trooped out on to the road. Most of the shops were downing shutters and we learnt the hard way that BHutan shuts down by 9.30 PM. We found out one eatery which looked decent. Order curry-rice and went back to the hotel.


Roaming rates in Bhutan!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-day-10-24.jpg

Odo at the end of the day!
A Dinosaur and a Snail take the Silk Route to Sikkim and Bhutan!-day-10-23.jpg

Distance covered today: 206 KM
Distance covered so far: 3575 KM

Last edited by @Chaand : 8th March 2018 at 00:24.
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