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Old 21st February 2019, 08:34   #1
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Default Mesmerising Meghalaya in a Duster & Thar

It had been a very long time since our last visit to the Himalayas. In fact cannot remember the last time there was such a long gap!

A teaser photo, as is the trend nowadays. Don't know whether it increases viewership or not, but worth a try

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Meghalaya had been on our bucket list for a long time. We had planned to visit in 2017 August, but went to Sikkim instead. This time there was not going to be any change of plan. Our good friend from Shillong, Mr. Phillip, had sent me an itinerary and it was extremely detailed. As per that plan it would need a minimum of 10 days to visit all the places. But we could not spare so many days and had to cut down on it. Bhpian PapaBravo and his wife Meghna would be travelling in their Duster as well. We chalked up a draft plan and it looked very aggressive. The plan was to start for North Bengal the day after we would land in Kolkata! That would give me no time to get the Thar serviced. But I have always been privileged to have good friends around me and I take full advantage of that

Bhpian and my college mate Rajarshi agreed to get the Thar serviced and ready for the trip. Like a true gentleman, he kept his word and a gleaming white beautiful Thar was waiting at the garage when we landed in Kolkata! It took me sometime to get used to drive the Thar after driving the Mini Cooper for a year. At first it felt really strange, specially the vague steering. But after a few minutes started enjoying it like old days.

We had an invitation at bhpian GhostRider's son's rice ceremony the next evening and they had specifically changed the dates so that we could attend! The plan was to attend the ceremony and leave for Siliguri from there.

A group pic! Bhpian Navsjab and his wife Bhavneet had flown down from Bangalore for this event.

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From left to right - Navsjab, BlackPearl, Shaswat, GhostRider28, PapaBravo
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After taking our leave from the ceremony there was a small change in plan. Instead of starting for the trip, we went back to our respective houses, got refreshed and started after half an hour. By 10:30 PM we were out on the road for the eight days trip to Meghalaya.

The planned itinerary -

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Day 1: Kolkata to Chel Chittong

The route taken was the usual one, Kolkata-Burdwan-Moregram-Malda-Raigunj-Siliguri. The road conditions have drastically improved in West Bengal and the trip to Siliguri was uneventful and fast except for a stretch of dense fog after Raigunj. We took the Botolbari route after Raigunj in order to avoid the dreaded Dalkhola. But after travelling just 500 meters or so we realised that it was very difficult to drive along the narrow road in the dense fog especially due to the high density of villages on this route. PapaBravo looked up the map and found that traffic was not showing as red along the Dalkhola stretch. So we decided to turn back and take that route. Fortunately it was a breeze to cross Dalkhola and we reached Siliguri without fuss.
We reached Chel Chittong by 11:30 am.

The place in Chel Chittong was beautiful and we were the only people there.

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We had called up the manager earlier to place the order for lunch and it was was ready by the time we freshened up. The lunch was so good and we were so famished that we took pics of the starter only and forgot to take any more picture!

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Post lunch it was time for an afternoon nap. Fresh after the rest, we went for a stroll around the place. There was a waterfall nearby, but the amount of water was very less as it was winter. There was Chel river nearby as well and we spent sometime beside it listening to the sound of flowing water and birds.

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It was quite cold in the evening and the manger arranged for a lovely bonfire.

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The dining area
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The bedroom in Chel Chittong
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We called it a day quite early as we had to start at 3:30 in the morning the next day for Shillong.

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Old 2nd March 2019, 23:09   #2
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Day 2: Chel Chittong to Shillong

As planned, we were ready early in the morning. Bid goodbye to the manager of the resort and others and started for Shillong. The resort is highly recommended for the location, seclusion and the behaviour of the people. But please note that it is not at all recommended for the elderly as the 150 plus steps to the resort are quite steep.

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Breakfast break and a selfie on the way towards Guwahati

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The road towards Guwahati was through the beautiful forests of North Bengal like Chalsa, Gorumara etc. The road till Guwahati was mostly good except a patch of about 20 Kilometers. Road work is going on, so hopefully it will be fixed soon. The drive was uneventful except a near miss. I was doing about 90 kmph when a Bolero Camper on the left lane of the road suddenly swerved into my lane when I was just 20 meters from him. I was sure that I would not be able to stop the Thar whatever I did. The screeching sound of the brakes helped as the moron swerved back into his lane. I was so mad at him that I stopped the vehicle and got down. When I went near him, he was already half out of his car and was pleading that he was sorry for what he did. I did not know what to say! Traffic was building up and I did not want to drag this further. But it was very close shave. Unfortunately both Pawan's and my dashcams were not switched on at that time.

We did not enter Guwahati, instead took the bypass. But even the bypass was extremely congested and we lost a lot of time negotiating through dense traffic.

The road after Guwahati towards Shillong was pure bliss. The Duster and Thar had a lot of fun on the curves of the well paved roads

We reached the outskirts of Shillong by noon. From Umiam Lake to Shillong city the traffic was again extremely slow moving. But there was no mayhem like we see in the other cities of India. Traffic was well behaved and honking was quite less. To alleviate the pain of slow moving traffic there were beautiful English songs played on the radio! Shillong is called the Rock Capital of India.

The Google map started playing up within the city and Pawan took a lot of pain in asking his way around the town to Cafe Shillong Bed and Breakfast, our destination for the day. I was closely following him and tried my best not to lose sight of his Duster.

Cafe Shillong B&B
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The Cafe Shillong B&B was nice and the rooms were neat and tidy.

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After lunch we had planned to go to Umiam lake, but the traffic that we saw while coming was not encouraging. So we stayed in the hotel and did what do best - chit chat

I was not feeling well and took a nap in the evening while the others went to Dylan's Cafe.

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In the evening Pawan saw this beautiful Invader coming up the steep slope of Cafe Shillong towing a big water tank. Later he told me that he was impressed with the torque of the Di engine. If someone had clicked my pic it would be written all over my face - "I told you so!"

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Old 5th March 2019, 03:04   #3
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Day 3 - Shillong to Laitkynsew

This was going to be a long day as we had a lot of places to see. But that did not stop us from having a long photo session before starting from Cafe Shillong!

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The first stop was at a roadside shop for breakfast, maggi to be precise.

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Next stop was Daińthlen Falls. There was hardly any water in the falls, so we took a lot of pics of ourselves.

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Saw a lot of these buses in this area

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The next stop was Nohkalikai Falls. The view was beautiful, but again there was very less water. We realised that we would have to come back to Meghalaya again during the monsoons!

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We had lunch at a nearby shop and the chicken momo was fantastic!

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From Nohkalikai Falls we went to Mawsmai Cave. After seeing several falls without much water in them, the Mawsmai cave was a different experience and we spent quite a bit of time inside it.

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Next stop was Seven Sisters Falls. When we reached there, a local person joked that none of the sisters are at home today! We realised what he meant after sometime. There was not a single drop of water in any of the seven falls

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This was the last attraction of the day. From seven sisters falls we started for Ibankordor jungle resort in Laitkynsew. It was dark by the time we started and the journey through the jungle was exciting. The road was bumpy and low ground clearance cars might have a bit of a problem on this route.

The cottages in the resort are very basic, in fact Pawan said that basic is an overstatement! But it was neat and tidy, the behaviour of the staff was fantastic and food was equally good.
I was famished and had two plates of momo for dinner. The others had something else, I don't remember what and I did not click any pics either.

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After dinner we sat outside, close to a roaring bonfire and chatted till we fell sleepy and dragged ourselves to our respective cottages.

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Old 6th March 2019, 04:39   #4
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Day 4: Ibankordor, Tyrna and Double Decker Living Root Bridge

This was the biggest day of our trip, the one we had all looked forward to for a long time. This day alone could be put up as a separate travelogue, going by the sheer number of pictures that we took! The plan was to go till Tyrna village, then hike till Double Decker Living Root bridge and if possible visit the serenity pool and rainbow falls. We woke up and the jungle resort was looking beautiful in the morning sunlight.

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Saw this beauty in the parking ground and sought out the owner to chat with him for a while. Crazy Yogi, as he calls himself, had been travelling throughout the country with this Kawasaki.

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After a quick breakfast we started for Tyrna. There was no point in taking both the cars, so all the four of us jumped into the Duster. Tyrna was about 5 Kilometers from Ibankordor.

We took a guide at Tyrna. His name was Minot. A picture before starting the hike

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We descended for about 2 hours to reach the famous Double Decker Living Root bridge called Jingkieng Nongriat. The fitness tracker showed 7000 steps I was shuddering to think that we would have to go back all the way up those relentless stairs.

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From the root bridge we continued to hike towards the natural swimming pool.

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The natural swimming pool. I am not sure if it is called the serenity pool or not, we named it the blue lagoon

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The water was freezing and I was not able to feel my legs after a few minutes.
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Pawan and Rajsri were extremely brave and swam to the other side. I contemplated for about 10 minutes, but finally decided against it. I would surely have got cramps in that freezing water.

That is brave PapaBravo on the other side of the pool!
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The fitness tracker was showing 9500 steps till the blue lagoon. We had to go back all the way up before sunset. After a rejuvenating dip in the freezing water, we started our return journey. It was one of the toughest I had faced till date. I was not looking up at those stairs because it looked like there was no end to it! Even a glance upwards was pretty unnerving. But I would still rate the hike to Taktsang Monastery in Paro as tougher than this one.
We took multiple halts and a 3 kilo camera bag on my shoulders was making life very tough for me. I realised later that I should not have taken the heavy DSLR, as Pawan and Rajsri took better pics with their One Plus and iPhone!

A selfie with our guide Minot

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After around 3 hours of perspiring effort we finally reached Tyrna, the starting point of the hike. The tracker showed a staggering 19000 steps, my highest since I bought it! We were thankful to Minot who kept on encouraging us on the way back. Without his help, guidance and encouragement it would have been even more difficult. Also thanks to Rajsri for forcing us to take the guide, as initially all of us were quite reluctant.
Finally when we sat in the Duster and the vehicle started moving, all of us had a strange feeling that we were able to cover distance without any physical effort! Long live cars

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Old 8th March 2019, 21:47   #5
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Day 5: Dawki and Shillong

After a gruelling hike the previous day, we took it easy the next morning. I was able to feel each and every muscle and bone in my body. Any unplanned movement was receiving a big revolt from the body and jolt of pain in the brain. A steaming hot water bath somewhat relieved the pain and got ready at a leisurely pace. Destination was Dawki.

Pawan and I realised that we were not taking pictures of our cars. That is blasphemous for petrol-heads out on a road trip. So we planned to take frequent halts and take pictures of our beloved vehicles.

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We reached Sohbar after sometime with a halt at Kynrem Falls in between. The water again was so less that I did not take any picture. But Pawan took a pic of the cars.

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From Sohbar we asked a few people about the newly opened Wahrew bridge. After travelling for sometime I saw in my rear view mirror a Maruti 800 approaching at maddening speed. I promptly gave space to let him overtake. I saw a few hands coming out of the car but did not realise what they were showing. I thought they were waving hands after seeing a beautiful white Thar
But the guy continued to drive at that speed and soon started overtaking Pawan. But he did not overtake, went to the side of Pawan's car and started waving madly. Then we realised that they were the same guys whom we had asked for direction for Wahrew bridge. Since we had missed the cut, they drove at breakneck speed to catch us and tell us that we had come the wrong way. I have seen a lot of good samaritans over years of road travel, but this was way beyond imagination. I am still kicking myself for not switching on the dash cam to take a video of that car overtaking me and then stopping Pawan

We took the detour towards Wahrew bridge and after sometime we started thinking that it would have been better if we had missed the cut and the guys had not guided us. The road was non existent. The main problem was that we had to drive so slowly that we lost a lot of time. But nevertheless it was a beautiful drive and we got the distinction of the first vehicles from West Bengal to cross that bridge. This was proudly told to us by a person working on the bridge and he was from West Bengal. I don't know if this brought any joy to Pawan and Meghna as they were quite annoyed with me for taking this detour through horrible roads.

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I had initially planned to take this route after discussion with Phillip. The plan was to cross Wahrew bridge and do some offroading on the river bed. But looking at the mood of the fellow passengers after going through the bumpy roads, I thought it was better to sacrifice the off-roading plan and move forward. The water level was anyways very less and the vehicles would have easily crossed the river. And that was not a "grapes are sour" kind of statement!

The bad roads continued for another 30 or 40 odd kilometers and every time I stopped to get down and chat with Pawan, I got angry looks from Meghna. She was rattled to the bone even in the comfortable Duster (I have run out of smiley quota!). Stopped once more to take picture inside the jungle before reaching good roads.

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We had to skip the plan for Mawlynnong village as we were already quite late and lunch had been pre-booked at Dawki. While entering Dawki we got stuck in a nasty traffic jam and delayed our lunch further.

Lam, our guide in Dawki, was waiting for us on the main road. After parking our car we followed him to the boat. I was relieved when I saw a heap of life jackets. Though I know how to swim, life jacket gives a level of confidence!

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Lam took us to a place on the opposite side of the river to have lunch. He runs a campsite here. The original plan was to stay at the campsite, but we changed our minds as the tents did not look too enticing. Lunch was very good though.

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After lunch Pawan decided to do some kayaking and the rest of us followed him in our boat.

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Our boatman took us up to this place before turning around.

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Soon it was time to go back. Took a few pictures with the boatman and guide before bidding goodbye to Dawki

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From Dawki we started for Shillong. The sun had set by the time we hit the highway. The road was meandering and the drive was a lovely one. I thoroughly enjoyed driving the Thar on the curves of the mountain roads. We stopped for tea and evening snacks at a place named Ka Bri War Resort. It was a nice place. The food was good, albeit a bit pricey.

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The accommodation in Shillong was at an army guest house, arranged by Meghna and Pawan. I was in seventh heaven seeing the accommodation, specially after seeing the tents in Dawki where we were planning to stay overnight!

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Dinner was arranged from the local canteen and it was good.

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Old 8th March 2019, 23:01   #6
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Day 6: Dawki again, Krangshuri Falls and Uniam Lake

Our original plan was to stay at Dawki overnight and go back to Shillong today via Krangshuri Falls and Jowai. But we went back to Shillong directly from Dawki the previous day. So the plan for the 6th day went haywire. Rajsri and I started for Dawki again as I had planned to visit Meghalaya during winter just to see the clear water of Umngot river. We were late the previous day, thanks to me, so we did not see the pristine clarity of the river as we have seen in the pictures. So wanted to give it one more try. Meghna and Pawan planned to stay back, relax and visit Umiam lake.
We started quite early as the plan was to reach Dawki before 11 am. As per the local knowledge, winds starts picking speed after noon and the water does not remain as clear. We reached the Umngot river by 11 and took a boat ride. Before that I was able to take this picture which I really liked.

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We got the ticket for the boat ride from the counter. It was most probably Rs 500 for 45 minutes, can't remember exactly. The boatman was friendly and knowledgeable. He has an instagram profile and he showed me a few pictures that he had taken. I can give it in writing that he is one of the best photographers I have seen. If he can take such pictures with a basic smartphone, I cannot imagine what he could do with a proper DSLR!
He took us to the mouth of the rapids and frankly speaking I was a bit worried. If I had not been wearing life jacket I would have got serious perspiration!

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After that I spent about an hour at a nearby spot to take some good pictures of the crystal clear water of the river, but unfortunately there was quite a bit of breeze.

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From there we went to Krangshuri Falls. But it was already quite late in the afternoon, so did not go all the way down. Took a picture from a midway viewpoint.

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We went back to Shillong from Krangshuri via Jowai. Shillong to Dawki and back to Shillong was a full circle. The route on the geotracker looked like this -

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Meghna and Pawan went to Umiam Lake in the afternoon.

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In the evening, Phillip and his friend came to meet us. We have known each other for quite sometime now, thanks to our love for the Bolero LX 4WD. But we had never met. It was a great feeling to meet someone face to face after interacting for a long time on social media! He was a bit disappointed that I did not drive down to Meghalaya in the Bolero, but I think I was able to convince him that it was not my choice. I had been forced to take the Thar.

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Phillip's Bolero LX 4WD and our Thar
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Day 7: Shillong to Sevoke

We started from Shillong at 4:30 am as we wanted to avoid traffic around Guwahati. The last two days in Shillong at the army camp had been fantastic and we had to say goodbye with a heavy heart. The journey to Sevoke was quite boring except for a few bursts of speeding that we did to keep ourselves entertained. We took a couple of breaks in between, but nothing too long.

Took a 5 minute break near lake Umiam to take these two pictures as I really liked the setting.

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There is a saying called "Man proposes god disposes". In this case, we disposed our own proposal . On the way back to Sevoke, we decided that we will not go back to Kolkata the next day. Instead we would go to Darjeeling as it has been quite a while since we last paid our visit to the Queen of the Hills. Another reason was that Rajsri did not see any snow capped mountain during this whole trip and that was bothering her a bit. But it was difficult to put forward this change of itinerary to Meghna and Pawan as we had planned to go back together. However, during the short lunch break I broke this news and the response was not vehement
We tried to convince them to stay back as well but Pawan had to attend office, so it was out of question. In Sevoke, we stayed at an army accommodation again, thanks to Meghna and Pawan. This place was not as good as that in Shillong, but good enough for a night stay. We spent the whole evening chatting on various topics including the good and bad of the trip. Different people had different viewpoints, except all 3 of them were quite vocal about their disappointment with my decision to go to Dawki via a "shortcut". But I am thick-skinned like a rhino, so no effect on me! I had enjoyed a lot and that was good enough for me. It was a fantastic evening and a much needed one to unwind, because however close people are, there are bound to be differences on a long trip and it is best to discuss and bury all ill feelings before the trip ends. All that remain are good memories to be cherished for a long time to come!


Day 8: Sevoke to Darjeeling

Meghna and Pawan started from Sevoke very early in the morning for Kolkata. We took it easy and started at around 8:30 am. Our booking was done at Mayfair and the check-in time was 2 o clock. However a call to the hotel reception requesting for an early check-in was cordially accepted. From Siliguri we took the beautiful Rohini road, crossed Kurseong and reached Darjeeling by 11:30 am.

The good thing about Mayfair is the parking, otherwise it is a big headache in Darjeeling.

The parking in Mayfair Hotel
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We went to Kunga for lunch. It has been one of our most favourite places for many years
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We spent the afternoon in Glenary's.

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We went for a stroll in the Mall and went back to the hotel. The hotel was looking nice in the dusk.

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In the evening we played a bit of pool and table tennis.

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After that we went for dinner at Glenary's restaurant. We had our favourite fish au gratin.

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The plan next morning was to see sunrise at Tonglu!

Last edited by BlackPearl : 13th March 2019 at 04:01.
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Old 12th March 2019, 05:14   #8
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Day 8: Tonglu and Darjeeling

We woke up at 3 in the morning and by 3:30 were out of the parking lot. It was still quite dark when we reached Maneybhanjan, the famous point from where the drive to Sandakphu starts. We did not have any plan to go till Sandakphu as the owner of Sherpa Chalet had told us the previous day that it had snowed heavily there.
We had planned the start time from the hotel based on our last visit in 2016, but the roads have become so good that we hardly took more than an hour and half to reach Tonglu. As a result we had to wait for a long time to see the first rays of light. It was bitter cold as well!

I wish it was a bit more clear considering it was winter, but nevertheless Kanchenjunga looked majestic even with a lot of clouds around it.

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We came back to Darjeeling by 10 am, got a bit of rest and then followed the same routine - lunch and dinner at Glenary's. I could spend every single evening of my life in Glenary's without getting bored

The next day we started from Darjeeling quite late, drove at a sedate pace and reached Kolkata at night. In between, we got stuck at Farakka for about 45 minutes. The good thing was that we could take the Malda bypass and it saved us almost half an hour.

The Malda Bypass on the Geotracker App
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The route from Darjeeling to Kolkata
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A superb trip came to an end. Time to go back to London and start driving the Mini again. I thoroughly enjoyed driving in India after 8 months. It takes a little bit of of time to get used to it, but nothing beats driving in your own country!

Note: Special thanks to Phillip for chalking out the itinerary. We could not follow it to the tee, but there is always a next time. Moreover we have to go back to Meghalaya during monsoon. Thanks to Pawan for letting me write the travelogue! Could not give picture credit for each and every picture, but this is a disclaimer that I did not take all of them.

Last edited by BlackPearl : 13th March 2019 at 05:55.
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Old 13th March 2019, 07:28   #9
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!

No words to describe! Sufficient to say, my bucket list has only got more convincing after seeing snaps of Dawki. And of course not to mention about the "rock music" capital of India!

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Old 13th March 2019, 08:07   #10
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Beautifully penned down travelogue, Sumitro da! I had been to Shillong and Meghalaya with my family when I was all of 6 years old, and your photographs helped rekindle some of those memories. I do remember the Seven Sisters Falls and the Mawsmai Cave, since I have photographs of those places in an album. One interesting memory that came back to me though, was from the journey from our hotel in Shillong to the Seven Sisters Falls. We were travelling in an Ambassador, and it was raining constantly and the fog prevented us from seeing anything. In fact, as far as I remember, I couldn't even see where the road ended, or took a turn. Our driver drove the entire way with his head sticking out of the window!
At one sharp bend, I remember, there was a truck coming from the opposite side, and since we were some distance ahead, we managed to pull over. However, an Indicab had been travelling on the wrong lane and when the truck came around the corner all of a sudden, the driver was forced to move off the road. The Indicab's right rear wheel was dangling precariously off the side of the mountain, but thankfully a lot of us noticed that, and alerted them in time. I remember my parents and our driver helping the occupants out of the car through the rear left door. This was in 2006.

Loved the pictures of your Thar conquering the mountains, it's one of my favourite vehicles. Thank you once again for this visual treat!
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Old 13th March 2019, 11:07   #11
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Thank you Blackpearl for this wonderful log. I don't know what is wrong with the waterfalls of Cherrapunjee. Almost everyone reports less water in any season. Do give me a holler when you come during monsoons, I would like to join you .

I have fond memories of trekking to the double decker root bridge with my friends and staying there for two nights. We also went to the Rainbow Falls (Blue lagoon!) from there. Trekking up and down those steps in a single day like you guys did takes some level of fitness .

I am sharing a few pictures of the same. I hope you don't mind.

Beautiful roads of Meghalaya:

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Krangshuri:

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Trek to double decker root bridge and Rainbow falls:

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Old 13th March 2019, 12:32   #12
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Read the entire travelogue in one go. Brilliant writeup and love the photographs you all have taken. Btw, please give some info on the Malda bypass. Is the construction work complete, is it open to public?

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Old 13th March 2019, 15:56   #13
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Wow..
Just one word to describe the travelogue. I would definitely like to pay visit this place in monsoon. will take this as the reference.
Again after all the marvelous pictures again Kanchenjunga took my heart, Man what a majestic view.
Superb pics and as usual very informative and great write up, rated 5 stars.
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Old 13th March 2019, 19:50   #14
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Nice read and great pics. The full-frame Nikon has found the right home! You have portrayed Meghalaya beautifully.

The last post on Darjeeling was a icing on the cake! A clear view of the mighty Kanchenjunga is always enchanting. Missed a pic of the Duster with the Thar at Tonglu!

Rated 5*.

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Old 14th March 2019, 00:31   #15
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Beautiful pictures and an amazing read.
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