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Old 2nd May 2018, 22:37   #1
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Post Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto

::Foreword::


West Sikkim was in my watch-list for a long time since I moved to Kolkata. But due to unavoidable circumstances, this trip was getting postponed every time. But the itinerary was handy. Moreover, getting leaves from work is, as usual, the first impediment of such trips. But thirsty mind for travel always longed for a trip to the abode of beautiful Himalaya and staying in nearest place to it, Kolkata unlike my previous locations intensified the craving.

Meanwhile, I got my hands on a brand-new Mahindra Thar in February. Although some shorter road trips around southern parts of Bengal I did with it, a trip to the hill was pre-emptive. So, it happened, without any plan while reading a travelogue to hills by a fellow bhpian. Eventually, it was a weekend. Requesting the leave sanctioning authority in the office with my best effort I managed to get a leave on the dreaded 31st March. I sailed for Darjeeling along with my Mom. It was so quick that I didn't even get the time to change my office uniform before the journey and asked my driver to bring the Thar directly to my office. I prefer the Thar as a 2-seater for a long journey. So, this time, it was only my Mom and me.

Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-1resized1.jpg

Last edited by benbsb29 : 3rd May 2018 at 10:38. Reason: Typo corrected as requested.
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Old 2nd May 2018, 22:42   #2
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Post A Trip to West Sikkim with a Dash of Darjeeling

The first stop was Saktigarh where I changed my formal dress to comfy driving apparel. I prefer to drive non-stop except the fuel refilling. But unfortunately, I stopped for a P break in not-so-advised-to-stop Botolbari-Dhantala stretch. It was about 3.00 o’clock at midnight. Despite nothing much happened it was quite scary and could be dangerous for two of us at the wee hours of the night.

Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180329_181015.jpg

Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180329_184508.jpg

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Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180329_202819.jpg

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Old 2nd May 2018, 22:46   #3
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Post A Trip to West Sikkim with a Dash of Darjeeling

This trip was a leisure trip. No way I wanted it to be hectic or to cover more places in less time. As most of the usual tourist destinations in North Bengal as well as in Sikkim we have been to earlier either in a rented car or self-driven car, we didn't even rush for covering places.

By 6.30 am we were at Mirik road and deliberately took several stops before reaching the hotel at Mirik as check-in time was at 12.00 noon. But, even after all my best effort, we managed to reach there by 7.45am! I requested the manager-in-charge to check our booking and grant us an early check-in. He obliged. I ordered chicken and butter-naan for breakfast. My mom didn't take anything as it was a Friday and she was fasting. I slept as soon as I was on the bed and it started raining outside cats and dogs.

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Around 3.00 pm the sunshine amidst the cloud tendered tourists to stroll around the beautiful Mirik lake and we also got ready to roam around it and visit the nearby eateries. After a tasteful dinner and a relaxing day at Hotel Jagjeet we called it a day.

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Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180331_075623.jpg

Last edited by Blooming Flower : 3rd May 2018 at 02:03.
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Old 2nd May 2018, 22:56   #4
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Post A Trip to West Sikkim with a Dash of Darjeeling

Next day at 8.00 am we started for Darjeeling. We didn't stop at Pashupatinagar, at India-Nepal border as nothing new was to see or purchase from there. Not only that, for that short stint one has to get car permit done at the check post.

Some Clicks on Way to Darjeeling

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We reached Batasia Loop garden at 9:30am and saw the UNESCO World Heritage, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Darjeeling toy trains meandering through the curvy loop with dense black smoke emanating accompanied by a heritage steam-engine sound.

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway


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Spot the Thar

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Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180331_104233.jpg

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Old 2nd May 2018, 23:02   #5
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Post A Trip to West Sikkim with a Dash of Darjeeling

After spending around 45mins there, we reached our hotel in Darjeeling at 11:15am. Fortunately, the hotel I booked, Central Heritage Resort and spa has covered parking facility which is a boon for any road-tripper to Darjeeling.

Inside Hotel room

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Soon we freshened up and the weather outside was cloudy. It was drizzling outside. We decided to visit Glenarys which is just the opposite building of the hotel at an uphill stair. We had a sumptuous lunch and chatting while watching the Darjeeling town through the glass wall at the backdrop. For this very enjoyable time sitting at the restaurant I like to come to Darjeeling anytime and umpteen number of times if possible.

At Glenary's

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Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180331_133023.jpg

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Old 2nd May 2018, 23:10   #6
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Post A Trip to West Sikkim with a Dash of Darjeeling

At evening, we went to the Mall and strolled around the Church, Raj Bhawan and the roadside market. We trekked uphill to the Mahakaal Temple and did some shopping at the Mall-market. Last but not the least, without a sip from a cup of famous Darjeeling tea and purchasing some of those at Nathmulls, the trip to Darjeeling seems incomplete.

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We met some fellow members of ROAD group of Eastern India at the mall and it feels quite wonderful to meet someone familiar in a remote place.

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We decided to have buffet dinner at our hotel. But while crossing Glenarys at way back to our hotel I couldn't suppress my wish to dine in there. My Mom also bought into the idea and we landed up inside the Glenary's once more! After a nice dinner, we called it a day.

Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180331_200515.jpg

Last edited by Blooming Flower : 3rd May 2018 at 01:55.
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Old 2nd May 2018, 23:16   #7
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Post A Trip to West Sikkim with a Dash of Darjeeling

Next morning, after the breakfast at hotel we left for home at 10.30am. We crossed Ghoom, Sonada, Kursheong and took Pankhabari road for downhill to Siliguri. As usual, we crossed the some of the famous tea gardens on the way and finally stuck in peak Siliguri traffic before Bagdogra turn.

Descent Through Pankhabari Road


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I drove non-stop to Malda before the first refuel of our return leg. A 1.5hrs road-blockade due to some protests by local people stranded us before Malda.

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After crossing dreadful Malda and Frakka evening jam we were finally at SH7. But outside the weather was so inclement that rain and storm were just making absurd sound with the soft-top Thar; sometimes it was ear-deafening. I was really afraid of my Thar's soft-top canopy being torn apart due to the abnormal speed of the wind. The rest of our journey incessant rain and storm accompanied us. We decided not to stop before Kolaghat. At 2.00am we were at Sher-e-Punjab Inn and had lunch-cum-dinner to tame our hunger for the day. By 3.15am we were at our home.

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Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180402_010307.jpg

The story didn't end here. In fact, it was the beginning of the story. As the very next morning I had to join office in Kolkata and had to take the journey from Tamluk to there we didn't sleep. SO while unpacking our luggage and talking with my Mom I said Ít was indeed a very short trip. We need something more. With a mischievous green in my face, I said, "What if we celebrate our upcoming Bengali New-Year (Poila Boisakh) in Sikkim?'' I was just curious for my mom to answer and I added that our itinerary for west Sikkim is ready and last time also it was cancelled due to some untoward issues in family. She was silent initially and muttered, "What about your leave!" I said it is 2nd Saturday and if I take leave for 2 more days I can squeeze the 6 dayer plan within 4 days! She asked if it was possible we are in and this time my dad will accompany us also. What more I need to chalk out the final map of the next trithe p!

So time finally knocked at our door. It was beginning of the West Sikkim trip.

Last edited by Blooming Flower : 3rd May 2018 at 01:43.
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Old 2nd May 2018, 23:32   #8
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Post A Trip to West Sikkim with a Dash of Darjeeling

::West Sikkim on Bengali New Year 1425 (2018)::

I carefully chalked out the maximum places to be covered within the short span of time and discarded those which were either beyond reach due to time-constraint or not in our wish list as per our previous history of travelling to those places.

I came back from office to my den in Kolkata. My parents came after some while from my hometown finishing their business errand for the day. As it was Bengali new year, a landmark day for Bengali businessman my father told me that he will reach a bit late. But I thought it would be good that the normal calculation for Kolkata-Siliguri shows we will enter dreaded Botolbari-Dhantola road just around 4 to 5 am in early morning. Needless to say, the Thar with NO front facing seat at back would be a source of utter discomfort for the 3rd passenger in a long journey. So, this time I decided to take my long-trusted road trip companion, the Alto 800. Whenever I take it on a long trip it reminds me of fellow bhpian's Gearhead_mait's Sherdil (Eon 800).

We started at 8.30pm from Tollygunge, Kolkata. Our first stop was at Moregram for refuelling. One by one we crossed Farakka, breezed past dreaded Malda town at midnight and as presumed we entered Botolbari stretch at 5.00am. Unfortunately, one bus met with an accident causing unusual bottleneck before Botolbari entry. Surprisingly, in this hot summer also, I found dense fog in that area. Probably, that abetted the bus accident!

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The first sun-shine gleamed on us before we reached Dhantola. We continued towards Sevoke and stopped after Coronation Bridge as Dad wanted tea.

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Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180414_082959.jpg

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Old 3rd May 2018, 00:04   #9
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Post A Trip to West Sikkim with a Dash of Darjeeling

Then after Teesta Bazar, I decided to go towards Lamahatta before checking in our booked hotel at Kalimpong. Our first pit-stop was at Lover's Meet Viewpoint on Peshoke road. Peshoke road always has its own charming beauty to drive on.

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Then we advanced towards Lamahatta road-side garden. This is a growing tourist spot around Darjeeling now-a-days. Midway, I saw a sharp U-turn uphill road going to Tukdah and Tinchuley. I planned to visit Gumbadara viewpoint. No sooner had I started the climb entering the road, a yellow plate Innova from Incredible India came down from the very first blind hairpin. It was no way anyone could give pass on that very spot by reversing. So I decided to reverse around 200m to the entry of the road from Peshok road. While crossing me the driver told me not to climb up with full load lest Alto's front wheel may spin at places as the road is steep and broken at several points. As I already reversed to the Peshoke road itself I decided to cover Lamahatta park first. So we went to Lamhatta road-side-park and it was really beautifully decorated on the lap of lush green hills. After some photo shoot, we went back to the entry of Tinchuley road again.

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The driver was quite right and Alto's front wheel was facing free-spinning at some steep gravel parts of the broken road. But it was quite manageable. We stopped at Gumbadara viewpoint and cave entry although we didn't trek up to the cave.

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Old 3rd May 2018, 00:17   #10
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Post A Trip to West Sikkim with a Dash of Darjeeling

Now, I was feeling sleepy after the long overnight road journey. So we started for Kalimpong. Once again we were at Teesta Bazar and took the road to Kalimpong. This road was fun to drive. Very good tarmac surface as well as quite wide in terms of hilly roads. So, we were at Kalimpong around 12.30 pm. Soon we got freshened up at the hotel and went on to Delo Park. I deliberately decided to skip Graham's House en-route and Morgan House as previously we saw them. On the way, we found a good Bengali eatery and had lunch.

By the time, we were at Delo, cloud and the sun was playing their turns. We spent some time in beautiful Delo park and soaked in the exquisiteness of the garden. While we were on our way back to hotel rain started.

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I also got to see the same HP registered bhpian's Gurkha 4x4 as spotted by bhpian papabravo in his recent trip to Delo.

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I was feeling damn tired with zero sleep since last evening and decided to retire after an early dinner. Initially, we decided to have dinner at The Cafe Refuel but be strolled towards Zakhang rooftop restaurant. This is an authentic Bhutanese cuisine eatery and highly recommended to taste varieties of Ema-datshi and meat preparations, the staple food of Bhutan. After a dinner of different tastes, we called it a day and retired in the hotel room.

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Old 3rd May 2018, 00:22   #11
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Post A Trip to West Sikkim with a Dash of Darjeeling

Next morning, our destination was Pelling. There are several routes to reach Pelling from Melli. The rented tourist cars usually take Melli-Jorethang-Nayabazar-Legship-Pelling route for directly going to Pelling. Moreover, that road is always very much prone to land-slide if little rainfall occurs; plus the road conditions is heard to be in complete shambles and in few places there exist no road at all. But those were not sole deterrent to take that route. We tried to touch upon some other tourists attractions. But the schedule was very tight. I had to chalk out accordingly so that we could cover the desired places as well as can reach Pelling by evening.

First, I decided to move through Kitam Bird sanctuary route from Melli. But as soon as we checked into Sikkim by showing our i-cards at the check-post and some verbal enquiries by the officials there I asked them about the road condition of Tarey Bhir. They assured me with a smile and said it's manageable. So Kitam route was discarded and we were soon into the road to Tarey Bhir.

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The road upto Tarey Bhir is moderately steep at some places, narrow and even broken sporadically. But the scenic beauty of the road itself with the view of valley underneath we all were enjoying. After some time we stopped at Tarey Bhir viewpoint. It's one of the exquisite viewpoints in Sikkim. But unfortunately, very few tourists were seen there. Ours was the only car to be parked when we reached there. There is ₹ 20 entry fee per head for the access to the viewpoint. I was quite interested to walk through nicely laid down stepped route around the hills. But it seemed quite a distance to cover by walking from the entry point. Time constraints dissuaded us going down. Instead, we wanted to enjoy the valley view from the entry itself. But a sinister misfortune was lurking at us when I elatedly asked for the camera for photo-shoot. My Mom just exclaimed at my face and said, 'Where is the camera bag?' I was taken aback, 'Where?'

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Old 3rd May 2018, 00:24   #12
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Post A Trip to West Sikkim with a Dash of Darjeeling

Immediately, I ran down to my car and found it's not there! I went back and asked her whether we left it at the hotel in Kalimpong. Then and there, I called the hotel owner and he was out of town for the time being and he shared the cell number of the manager. After several times trying I got the manager over mobile and within 5 minutes he called me back that indeed, the camera bag was left at their hotel. Although we all were quite disappointed at that moment, the manager's confirmation of the bag being there alleviated half of the worry and a pale-faced grin was found in each other body language. We all were sad but were equally happy to know the bag is at safe deposit with the hotel management. We discussed it would be quite imprudent to go back to Kalimpong at that time so we called back the manager again and asked him to keep it with them. We would collect it on our way back to Siliguri day after tomorrow. It was so nice of him to take this responsibility gladly and assuring us to enjoy the rest of trip without any being bothered. So, we decided to follow his word and enjoy our next destinations. Our phone cameras were in perfect utilization at subsequent places of interest due to this incident.

Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180415_095739.jpg

Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180415_095814.jpg

Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180415_095735.jpg

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Old 3rd May 2018, 00:30   #13
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Post A Trip to West Sikkim with a Dash of Darjeeling

Soon, we started from Tarey Bhir and our next destination was Namchi, Char Dham.

Last time when we came to Namchi the weather was so foggy that we couldn't even see the tall Lord Shiva statue. All the temples were also shrouded in cloud. But this time, weather favoured us. We spent some time there visiting all Çhaar Dham. It was around 12:15 pm by the time we finished. We were a bit hungry also and decided to have lunch in the cafeteria in the temple premises. It offers good vegetarian buffet meal ₹ 250/ head.

Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180415_110233.jpg

Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180415_110404.jpg

Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180415_113013.jpg

After the lunch, we went to Samdruptse. I remember from my last time visit to this place that this is famous for Guru Padmasabhaba's statue at the backdrop of hills. But when I got into the parking lot I found Namchi cable car service has started recently. On enquiry, we found ₹150 per head for a to & fro journey and it takes you to the rock garden at Namchi. I spotted entry of Rock Garden written on a board through downhill trekking road some kilometers back from Samdruptse entry gate. One needs to get ₹30/head ticket for Padmasambhaba's statue for entry. After spending half an hour time there we hit the road again. Our next destination was Tathagata Tsal @ Ravangla.

Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180415_130827.jpg

Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180415_131117.jpg

Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180415_131223.jpg

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Old 3rd May 2018, 00:34   #14
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Post A Trip to West Sikkim with a Dash of Darjeeling

I drove non-stop to Tathagata Tsal and after getting the ticket we entered the Buddha Park. The sun and cloud were playing hide and seek and that poised change was accentuating the natural beauty of the entire place making it a perfect scope of shot for all time-lapse videography lovers. We spend about an hour time at the Buddha Park and needless to say there were a lot of photo sessions.

Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180415_141452_bokeh.jpg

Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180415_141807.jpg

Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180415_141815.jpg

Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180415_142210_bokeh.jpg

Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180415_142304_bokeh.jpg

Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180415_142430_bokeh.jpg

Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180415_142437_bokeh.jpg

When we came back to the parking lot it started drizzling. We decided to head towards Pelling asap. We skipped Ralong Monastery deliberately as we saw it before and the ensuing rain served as a deterrent for making extra 25km up & down for Ralong.

Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180415_143358.jpg

Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180415_151418.jpg

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Old 3rd May 2018, 00:38   #15
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Post A Trip to West Sikkim with a Dash of Darjeeling

Alto Parked in front of Cloud End Retreat

Twin-Trip to Darjeeling and West Sikkim with a Thar and an Alto-img_20180415_152832.jpg

We reached Legship, and then Geyzing. Just before the upper Pelling climb, the drizzling turned into raining cats and dogs. The local drivers at the Bazar advised me to stop and not to climb uphill in that situation. But there was no sign of rain to cease after 15 minutes of waiting and I decided to climb up to Upper Pelling with that adverse situation. It was getting dark outside so we didn't want to delay.

The downpour was so heavy that the wiper at full pace was facing difficulty to provide a clear view from the windshield. Even I couldn't open the window and had to be on AC running as the glass was accumulating moisture inside making the frontal view vague enough. Alto pulled slowly well with AC on but just after half a kilometer on that steep incline a UP registered Santro stopped midway all of a sudden and tried to find someone for asking direction. Within a moment both the uphill and downhill traffic was in a standstill situation. The Santro driver found it too difficult to pull up from zero speed and resulted in perfect wheel spin leaving all of us scared behind. One local driver and I came out from the car getting drenched more than half in the heavy rain. He helped the driver to move the car aside to open traffic flow. Now, even our Alto faced some difficulty for the first time to pull from standstill with AC on and full load. Momentarily, I had to switch off the AC and it again went live and climbed up smoothly.

As soon as I started uphill a strange hammering sound from the Alto’s roof sent all of us into a tizzy. We could understand hail-storm had started. The ice blocks coming down were so bigger in size sometimes we all were afraid of our windshield getting cracked. Even my Dad asked to pull over and find some shed. Unfortunately, there was no such place to cover our car. Our hotel was near the Upper Pelling helipad. And after a super climbing drill, we reached our hotel parking at 5:45 pm. It was raining but not so heavily like while we were on the uphill journey.

Upper Pelling Climb with Hailstorm

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