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Old 29th April 2020, 23:43   #1
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Default Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo

This was our 3rd trip out of 7 trips to the hills, the first being West Sikkim & Darjeeling and second one was East Sikkim Silk Route circuit. Our 1st Semester exam just got over and Durga Puja Holidays were about to begin.
Slivina and I have been dating for 7 years now. It was only 3 years ago, when we joined our MBA course, that we started travelling together. Since then we’ve been to the hills several times, though this one was one of our initial trips together. Before that we have done innumerable day trips.
This was a tight budget trip as we both were students. It was just two of us this time as the time didn’t coincide with anybody else travelling that way. Darjeeling and Chitrey were on the cards. As usual we didn’t make any prior bookings and decided to look for arrangements after reaching the destination.

Got the car checked at VW workshop a week in advance, so that we could leave immediately after the exams ended.
Being overoptimistic like every time, planned to start the journey at 3 in the night, set the alarm at 2 and went off to sleep. Our MBA semester exam ended the previous night and we were sleep deprived for a week.

DAY 1 - Neither of us woke up to the alarm and Slivina called me at around 8 am to wake me up. The first one hour was spent on blaming each other for not waking up on time. We were in the dilemma to start that day or postpone it by a day. We decided to leave anyway and halt wherever we reach at a comfortable time. By the time we managed to get ready and leave, it was 10.30 am.
As soon as we hit the road, I started making up for the lost time by maintaining higher than standard highway speeds. The Kolkata-Siliguri traffic was as usual without any exceptions that day as well. Lost some time at Farakka because traffic was still one way back then. We took the yet to be completed Malda Bypass, it was pitch dark, and being still under construction, there wasn’t any tarmac in most of the stretch. We covered quite a distance in a short span of time and reached Raiganj by 7 in the evening. Expected arrival time for Siliguri was 12 midnight. My friends from the driving community suggested us to give a halt at Raiganj and start for Darjeeling the next day as we might find difficulty in finding a hotel at such late hours in Siliguri. I was also feeling quite tired and drained as we didn’t take any considerable rest on the way; so we called it a day and put up at Raiganj Tourist Lodge. Accommodation was decent and food was average.

Enjoying the sunset at Farakka Barrage
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-farakka.jpg

DAY 2- Being well rested the previous evening, this time we woke up on time by setting multiple alarms and managed to start by 4.30 in the morning from Raiganj. Took the Dhantala-Botolbari route. Traffic was scarce, we crossed the 65 kms stretch in about an hour. Enjoyed the beautiful sunrise enroute.

Onset of dawn at Botolbari
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-sunrise-botolbari.jpg

We stopped at Ghoshpukur BP for tanking up the car and emptying my tank as well. Had breakfast there at the adjoining restaurant; behavior of the staff was good, quality of food was poor.

Approaching the hills
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-journey-hills-starts.jpg

Darjeeling nearby
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-approaching-darjeeling.jpg

After crossing Siliguri we availed the Rohini Tea garden route and reached Darjeeling at around 12 noon. We checked into Darjeeling Tourist Lodge.Rooms were excellent, had the British old-world charm, and the cherry on the cake was the spectacular view of the Kangchendzonga.

Darjeeling Tourist Lodge parking, it has the most generous parking space among all hotels in Darjeeling
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-darjeeling-torist-lodge.jpg

Had lunch at Glenary’s and spent the rest of the day exploring Darjeeling. Ordered Indian for a change, it was horrible to say the least; it is best to stick to continental in Glenary’s. Had conventional chinese dinner at Shangri-La to be on safer side after a disastrous lunch.

The lawn of Darjeeling Tourist Lodge
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View from the lawn
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-view-lawn.jpg

The magnificent Mt. Kangchendzunga
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-tourist-lodge-view.jpg

The Showstopper
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-kangchendzonga.jpg

Slivina with the Kangchendzunga
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-slivina-kangchendzunga.jpg

DAY 3- It was an adventurous day for us. We woke up as early as 3 am and got ready to visit Tiger hill. As soon as we started the journey I realized the pace of the Taxis were faster than usual, they were literally racing with each other to reach Tiger hill. Being an adrenaline junkie, I dropped few gears and managed to keep pace with them. On reaching the top, got the understanding that they were racing with each other for a better parking position. The later you reach the further away your parking spot is going to be from the hill top, you may even have to walk a mile or more uphill if you are the last ones to reach.
Even though the attraction of Tiger Hill is the sunrise, the star-studded night sky is an experience in itself. We enjoyed the sun rise and started our journey back. If you’re lucky, you can even spot a glimpse of the Everest from Tiger Hill. It was a cloudy day, so we couldn’t even see the Kangchendzunga from up there.
On the way back, we decided to give Rock Gardens a try. On consulting with the Taxi guys they suggested not to take my car as its ground clearance and my driving skills being from the plains, may not be enough for the terrain. But then the usual me, we took the turning towards Rock Gardens from Hill Cart Road. Followed Google maps religiously and missed a turn and as a result we went further downhill, soon we found ourselves stuck because of a road closure. The road was so steep and narrow that it was impossible to take a U-turn. Somehow managed to reverse burning the clutch a bit and took an U-turn anyhow. This was the last time I trusted Google maps blindly. This time on reaching the junction, asked one of the passers-by and reached Rock Garden.
It was an amazing experience. The beauty of the place made the drive worth it.

Rock Garden
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-rock-garden-waterfall.jpg

We two enjoying the Rock Garden
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-subhayan-slivina.jpg

The uphill drive was exciting and challenging being one of my first few drives to the hills, but Ameo’s torqy engine made it feel like a cake walk and compensated for my lack of experience.
We came back to the hotel, freshened up and headed towards Kunga on Bhpian Archisman Guha Roy's [handle name: Hokkolorob] recommendation. And boy! What an experience that was. Absolutely loved the food, especially the juicy momos. This place is highly recommended. Do not miss it when you’re in Darjeeling.
After lunch we visited the Darjeeling Zoo and met quite many of my prototypes.

Spotted the famous Red Panda at Darjeeling Zoo
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-red-panda-1.jpg

The rest of the day was spent exploring the markets of Darjeeling.

DAY 4- As planned we left for Chitrey, taking along few packets of frozen sausages from Keventers as we were expecting bare basic food and amenities in the home stay.
Chitrey is a small mountain village and is the first place on the way to Sandakphu where trekkers and tourists halt for a while. The road and the trekking trail from Maneybhanjan up to Chitrey is considered one of the steepest in the entire stretch to Sandakphu. Chitrey is located at an altitude of 8,340ft and about 3 km from Maneyhanjan.
We spent some time in Batasia Loop and took right from Ghoom Railway station towards Maneybhanjan. The climb to Chitrey from Maneybhanjan was thrilling to say the least. I could only see my car’s bonnet at the hairpin turns upwards and till date it is the steepest climb I have taken up with the Ameo . Ameo’s excellent low end torque came handy.
We put up at Finjo’s home stay a.k.a. Hawk’s Nest. The stay was bare basic but Finjo’s hospitality was exceptional. He allowed us to stay at one room and use the adjoining room’s washroom (as it was slightly better). Chitrey is known as the Scotland of Eastern India because of the beautiful green meadows it offers. There is a monastery in Chitrey which we visited in the evening.
The weather deteriorated at night and we were cursing ourselves for not carrying the room heater with us. It rained heavily all throughout making it all the more difficult to spend the night.

Ameo parked at lush green meadows of Chitrey
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-chitrey.jpg

Yours truly
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-yours-truly.jpg

Again the two of us posing
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-two-us-1.jpg

Chitrey Monastery
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-monastery.jpg

With Finjo and his wife
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-finjo.jpg

DAY 5- We started on our way back home from Chitrey at around 11 am. On the stretch it is very common for localites walking long stretches. We found 4 of them, 2 kids along with their fathers walking down from Meghma. The kids were on their way to school in Maneybhanjan and requested us for a lift as the local traffic were less that day. We willingly obliged. Had to use brakes strongly along with engine braking with 6 people and luggage on board.

Journey Downhill
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-journey-downhill.jpg

Golpahar Tea Estate, the tea sold in the local shops are highly recommend
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-golpahar.jpg

We stopped for lunch at City Centre, Siliguri. We had a sumptuous lunch at The Gourmet Central Restaurant. The food was quite good and it was our 2nd time there. After finishing lunch we started on our way back home at around 5 pm.
We took the Botolbari-Dhantala route and reached Malda at around 10.30. We decided to call it a day and checked in at the newly constructed Malda Pathasathi. Food was outright bad and the stay was bare basic with just an AC in the room. This property is run by an all women team. There is no lift either, so you have to carry your luggage yourselves, by the stairs. Due to pocket crunch Pathasathi was the unanimous choice, otherwise The Golden park is the best place to stay in Malda. Both these hotels, The Golden Park as well as the Pathasathi are situated on the highway right at the beginning of the Malda Bypass (when coming from Siliguri side), hence a convenient location to stay while avoiding the city traffic completely.
We met Bhpian Debjit Mondal [handle name: Delix] at Raiganj, he was on his way to Siliguri in his Duster AWD. Such unexpected meets always make the journey refreshing.
With Bhpian Delix
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-debjit-da-1.jpg

DAY 6- We had a relatively lesser distance to cover that day so we woke up late and started our journey by 10 in the morning.
We stopped for Lunch at Moregram BPCL, popularly known as Moregram COCO dhaba. There we met Bhpian Soumyajit Maity [handle name: gearhead_mait], he was on his way towards Sikkim with family. Again it was a pleasant surprise for us.
Bhpian gearhead_mait with his family
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-gearhead-maity.jpg

The journey was going normal till half way, when we took an impromptu decision to pay a visit to shantiniketan as we craved for some Baul Sangeet. On SH-7, took right at Futishanko junction and went towards Bolpur. The roads are a treat to the eyes with green agricultural land and wind mills on both sides; rural Bengal at its best.
We reached Shantiniketan Khoyai Haat at around 4.30 in the evening and enjoyed Jaga Khapa’s melodious baul sangeet and the colourful offerings of Khoyai Haat till the sunset. The haat disintegrates with the setting of the sun.
We started our way back home at 6.30 pm and reached home by 10 pm sharp.

The colourful Sonajhuri Haat
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-haat-2.jpg

Offerings of the Haat
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-shantiniketan-haat-1.jpg

The last sunset of the trip
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-last-sunset.jpg

We faced huge congestion on NH-2 as it was Durga Puja in Kolkata and trucks were barred from entering the city limits. Had to drive quite a distance on the opposite flank to save time.
It was Saptami night and Maa Durga welcomed us warmly.

The final odo reading at the end of the trip
Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-final-odo-reading.jpg

The car performed flawlessly and is still performing in the same way after 45000 km when I'm writing this. Totally in love with Ameo's performance, both on hills and plains.

The trip through my eyes.
Glimpse of uphill drive to Tigerhill giving an idea of the pace of local taxis.

Beautiful Chitrey.

Roads after taking right from Futishanko towards Bolpur. Rural Bengal at its best.

Last edited by Highway_Nation : 8th May 2020 at 21:01. Reason: Removed all invalid attachments & videos.
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Old 9th May 2020, 07:41   #2
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Default re: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 9th May 2020, 19:00   #3
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Default Re: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo

You & Slivina are a great couple. I always liked the bonding between you two, specially the way Slivina controls you from driving fast!

Keep road tripping and keep sharing such nice travelogue's. You mentioned you have done 7 trips to the Himalaya and this is your first travelogue. So should we expect another 6 during this lock-down period?

This dog at Chitrey was quite friendly with me, it belonged to the home-stay where both of you stayed.

Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-75388210_3535713686500499_1946656668070707200_o.jpg

Wish both of you all the best, for both of your future plans.

Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo-40024123_2392596497478896_7640409999658713088_o.jpg

Last edited by Samba : 9th May 2020 at 19:02.
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Old 9th May 2020, 21:02   #4
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Default Re: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo

Loved to read the full travelogue. Yes, the taxi drivers rush for space in the morning towards Tiger Hill. I also faced the same situation. Chitrey photographs are stunning, literally pulling me to visit the place. You are lucky to meet Bhpians en route. Hope to get few more travelogues soon as Bhpian Samba said.
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Old 12th May 2020, 19:33   #5
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Default Re: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo

Very Nice Subhayan, and Slivina, well written. However, sorry to say, having Indian food at Glenary's is nothing but blasphemy.
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Old 29th May 2020, 13:02   #6
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Default Re: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo

Beautiful travelogue, enjoyed a lot reading the blog. Very nice.

Maneybhanjan to Chitrey is very steep, have you faced any issue of skidding?
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Old 11th June 2020, 22:01   #7
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Default Re: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo

Great going both of you.
Well written travelogue and detailed. Driving upto Chitrey in Ameo without burning the clutch itself adds star on your shoulders.
As Samba said we all love the way Slivina controls you and your Ameo.

Wish you both a great life ahead!
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Old 15th June 2020, 17:36   #8
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Default Re: Kolkata to Darjeeling & Chitrey, in a VW Ameo

A beautiful read. Loved your story and the pics. Reminded me of my trip a few years ago to Kurseong and Darjiling. Keep the stories coming. Best wishes to you both for all your future adventures.
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