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Old 10th November 2020, 00:12   #1
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Default Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling

Introduction
Our previously planned trip to Darjeeling in the month of May was cancelled due to the lockdown, had a tough time getting back the refund eventually. The mountains were calling us day and night and end of October seemed to be the perfect time to execute the idea. One one hand its ahead of the December / Christmas peak season time and is hence supposed to be less crowded and on the other side autumn promises excellent weather. Also this was supposed to be my first ever drive to the mountains along with night driving.

Route
This was going to be my first drive to Siliguri, the most debated route. After weeks of discussing with BHPians, colleagues and acquaintances who have traversed in recent times we decided to take the Dumka - Bhagalpur route owing to the reports of Moregram and Bengal to Bengal routes being in bad shape around end of October. For the return route we kept things flexible and open ended.

Itinerary
  • Day-1 & 2 / 30 & 31-Oct : Start driving from Kolkata in the evening of 30-Oct and reach Gorumara / Murti on 31-Oct, link
  • Day-3 & 4 / 01 & 02-Nov : Jungle Safari of Gorumara / Chilapata, Visiting nearby attractions from Gorumara, link
  • Day-5 / 03-Nov : Drive to next stop Delo in Kalimpong, link
  • Day-6 / 04-Nov : Visit nearby attractions in Kalimpong, link
  • Day-7 / 05-Nov : Drive to next stop Darjeeling, link
  • Day-8 / 06-Nov : Roam around Darjeeling, link
  • Day-9 & 10 / 07 & 08-Nov : Drive from Darjeeling to Kolkata, link

Accommodations
We made all hotel bookings directly with the respective hotels avoiding any intermediaries to the extent possible. All booking interactions happened over website, phone and email along with online payments for advances.

Emergency Road Survival Kit.
Considering limited road side support owing to the terrain as compared to regular highways on plainlands, I took the below items for emergency survival in the middle of nowhere, added product links for reference. Inspiration drawn from reading previous checklists and TLs of other BHPians.
  • Digital Tyre Inflator with auto cut off, link
  • 3 Ton Towing Cable, 150% capacity w.r.t the weight of Crysta, link
  • 20 feet jumper cable which should be able to jump start my car from another car standing at the front or back in the same lane, link
  • Emergency Window Glass Breaker & Seat Belt Cutter, link
  • 20 feet nylon rope, this is multi utility item, can be even poor man's wheel traction chain (if the wheels lose traction in any situation)
  • Swiss Army Knife, link
  • Fevikwick, they are very handy
  • A pair of Scissors
Unfortunately the tubeless tyre puncture repair kit from amazon did not arrive on time, so had to go without it

A few additional things carried / installed
  • Sanitization kit as per my previous thread, link (How to travel with precautions as India opens up)
  • Disposable Toilet Seats for road side hygeine, link
  • Vomit Bags, for road side hygeine, link
  • Our usual set of disposable plates and cutlery
  • Added dashcam to car, mounted on dashboard upside down, DDPAI Mola N3 non-gps version with 128 GB card support
  • Other road trip essential personal items

Considering my garage is not next door, the excitement of the trip inspired to gradually load the car over last 2-3 days prior to the trip. In total we had variety of items starting from big suitcases, to laptop bags, even 2 card board cartoons for disinfection backup supplies and other equipment which we kept in the car all the time. The boot of the Crysta after folding up the 3rd row seats engulfed 12 bags and suitcases plus 2 cartoons. We had 1-2 more while we returned and we still had some more room to dump. The other advantage with RWD cars is that the rear weight increases traction to rear wheels.

Putting up a few pictures from the trip, read on to find out more details.

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-12.c-sun.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-08.-wow-tea-garden.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-09.-road-elephant.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-01.-golden-kan.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-10.-white-horse-front-hotel.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-37.-jhalong-rocks.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-dsc05030.jpg

Last edited by Aditya : 6th December 2020 at 04:59. Reason: As requested
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Old 10th November 2020, 00:16   #2
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Default Day-1 & 2 / 30 & 31-Oct, Drive from Kolkata to Murti / Gorubathan, Dooars

Day-1 & 2 / 30 & 31-Oct, Drive from Kolkata to Murti / Gorubathan, Dooars

Our initial plan was to start from home by 7 pm but since Friday 30-Oct was a working day the last minute hustle in wrapping up got extended and we eventually started a little after 9 pm and with a little traffic on Friday night crossed the city limits in 30 - 40 mins.

Crossing Vidyasagar Setu
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-01.-2nd-hoogly-bridge.jpg

Around 9-45 pm, we gave a 35 min halt outside a BPCL Petrol Pump near the Kona Expressway Crossing where it meets NH-2 for savoring our home cooked dinner and continued to cruise along NH-2. With lesser trucks as compared to day time, the only thing to tackle was the high beam throws from the vehicles in the opposite lane. The Cruise Control of the Crysta came very handy in this stretch and we were able to maintain steady speeds for a fairly long time. Driving during night for the first time for onward journey was a different feeling altogether.

Around 12-30 am we left NH-2 after crossing Raniganj and continued along GT Road and after than another right to take the Asansol-Gourandi road, the road condition dropped but was still drivable. Moment we entered Jharkhand the road condition improved and although it was a completely dark road with limited vehicles plying we went ahead smoothly.

Everything was good except a diversion through a narrow village road due to road closure in Katania. There was a truck in the middle of nowhere completely blocking our advance loading some construction materials. After negotiating passage ahead, it was village road up until we merged with Dumka-Hansdiha Road once again, note we encountered one huge crater and 2 big sized mounds. The road thereafter was good but had frequent speed breakers citing wild animal crossing zones. Around 3-30 pm we gave a small halt for 10 mins around a BPCL pump in Nunihat and continued once again.

Somewhere past Nunihat, it was a Poornima / Full Moon night, the moon lit up the surroundings
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-01.-moon-night.jpg

But we met a huge jam of trucks before entering Bihar on the Dumka-Bhagalpur route where we were stagnant from 4-15 am up until 5-30 am and even though the blockage eased after 5-30 am and we resumed towards Bhagalpur the traffic was moving slower than usual.

While we were stuck at the Bihar border, early morning hours
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-01.-sky-dawn-colors.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-02.-kaktarua.jpg

We gave a short break at a HPCL petrol pump in Rajmani around 7 am and continued forward, roads were good but the problem was market and town areas were starting to become congested slowing us down. Just a little before 9 am we crossed the Ganges river where we met some congestion a little before making our breakfast halt.

Crossing Vikramshila Setu Bridge over Ganges
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-04.-851-crossing-ganga.png

Congestion after crossing the Ganges
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-04.-852-reg-congestion.png

Arriving at Vaibhav Highway Inn, near Khagra Chowk. their Sanskriti Restaurant allowed outsiders thankfully and offered excellent hospitality and food
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-04.b-9-breakfast-vaibhav-inn-sanskriti-restaurant.png

We resumed our journey around 10-20 am taking a sharp right soon towards Purnea Highway.

Tetri Durga Mandir on Road No 14 on way to Purnia
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-05.-durga-mandir-tetri.jpg

Crossing the Kursela Koshi Bridge over Koshi River
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-06.-1043-crossing-river-good-road.png

Crossing Maranga Toll Plaza
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-06.-1143-toll.png

Congestion on Purnia Bypass
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-06.aa-1206-congestion-2.png

Somewhere around Araria
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-06.b-nice-highway.jpg

Congestion before Khekhat
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-06.c-132-congestion.png

It was past 1 pm and we were badly in search of a restaurant for lunch but this route was completely dry. We did not want to make any detour so whatever dry food we carried along we resorted to them as stop gap including for our kid.

Around 2-30 pm, the route gave us the biggest positive surprise while we were passing through Salgori, my wife suddenly pointed out snow capped peaks in the distant horizon. Was it Kanchenjunga? Most likely, but there was no one around to tell us.

First citing of the peaks
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-07.-peak-first.jpg

The peaks continued to show itself and became bigger and clearer
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-08.-peak-road.jpg

The peaks slowly faded in the horizon as we advanced towards West Bengal through Kishanganj
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-08.-309-snow-peaks-conitnue.png

We entered West Bengal around 3-15 pm and continued towards our destination through Sevoke Road. The road condition was so far excellent to say the least up until the last leg in Bihar.

Approaching Siliguri, the distant hills welcoming us
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-08.b-327-regular-hills-approaching-siliguri.png

Congestion in Siliguri
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-08.c-354-siliguri-congestion.png

We made our long overdue stop around 4 pm at Siliguri and had a late lunch.

Approaching Hotel Malisca, Sevoke Road, Siliguri
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-09-404-hotel-malisca-lunch-evening.png

Inside Malisca Hotel, Sevoke Road, Siliguri
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-09.-evening-restaurant.jpg

We resumed once again around 5-15 pm, crossed Coronation Bridge around 5-45 pm and after a small refuel halt at Oodlabari eventually reached Murti WBFDC Banani Tourist Lodge by 7-24 pm. The roads were completely dark in the final leg while we were driving through the jungle area but condition of the road was excellent even though a bit narrow.

Evening traffic in Siliguri was indeed slow
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-09.-515-evening-congestion.png

At the gate of the Murti WBFDC Banani Tourist Lodge
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-18.-reached-murtui-gate.png

We had booked the Myna Cottage and after settling in, we came down for walkaround of the property. One of the security guards were kind enough and opened the private gate to the Murti River for us which is inside the premises. We have been hearing the river burble for long but this place offered something more, the river was glowing in the dark reflecting the moon light with the distant hills posing as a blue wall with small dots of light from the villages.

Moonlit Murti River with the distant hills
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-19.-moonlit-murti-distant-places-hills.jpg

Clouds in the sky
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-20.-moonlit-sky-clouds.jpg

After that we completed our set meal dinner at the restaurant (call it canteen) of the WBFDC lodge, returned to our cottage. We had covered 790 KM and including delays, halts, everything it took us 22 hours, enough reason to crash hearing the barbling of the Murti river before falling asleep.

Next morning, it was a clear day and the river peeked through every window of our cottage amidst the boundary of the trees.

The hotel lawn in the morning, just before the sun came out, our Crysta parked out in open
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-01.-morning-lawn-car-parked.jpg

Early rays of Sun
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-02.-sun-window.jpg

The Murti river behind the trees
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-03.-back-lawn-river-muti-sun-shadow.jpg

Last edited by BlackPearl : 3rd December 2020 at 18:01. Reason: Minor typo. Thanks.
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Old 10th November 2020, 00:17   #3
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Default Day-3 & 4 : Jungle Safari of Gorumara / Chilapata and visiting nearby attractions

Day 3 / 1st Nov : Jungle Safari
After breakfast we got ready and came down to reception and booked a slot at the last Jeep Safari of the day, it was late and we knew that any local sight tour would not be possible. Set out around 12 noon from our hotel for a local tour keeping in mind we have the pickup from our hotel at 2pm for the safari.

Crossing the bridge over the Murti River
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-04.-murti-crossing.jpg

Entered the Chilapata forest
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-05.-crossing-chilapata.jpg

A small watch tower in the Chilapata forest
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-05.-jungle-watchtower.png

Locals, around Upper Tendu Forest Area
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-06.-nice-highway-local-cycle.jpg

Us, around Upper Tendu Forest Area
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-07.-nice-highway-selfie.jpg

Under time crunch, we completed our lunch with Momos and Maggi in a small eatery near our hotel and found our Gypsy waiting at the gate of the hotel from well ahead of 2 pm. We parked our car inside and left sharp at 2-15 pm in the Gypsy for the Jungle Safari. The driver bought the entry ticket for Gorumara from the Forest Department counter a few KM away along with taking a guide and went ahead along the jungle route.

While the inner Jungle disappointed us but we were lucky to spot a herd of 6 elephants before entering the inner jungle right on the main road itself. We decided to skip the Jatraprosad tower safari since we have already witnessed at least something for the trip

The Gypsy tour pictures
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-09.-road-elephant.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-10.-jungel-car-shoot.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-11.-deep-jungle.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-14.-jungel-nala.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-13.-mayur-jungle.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-16.-rhododendron.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-17.-us-jeep.jpg

We returned back to the hotel by 4-30 pm and called it a day. Next day's plan was the local site tour and the folks at the hotel suggested to visit Bindu first.

Hotel in the early evening, we were staying at the cottage building on the right
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-19.-returned-wbfdc.jpg

Rest of the evening we spent at the hotel with some nice snacks and also dinner was done by 10-30 pm.

Day - 4 / 2nd Nov : Local Site Tour
We had planned site tour route in this order : Garibas View Point --> Jaldhaka Stage 2 Hydel Project --> Bindu Barrage --> Paren --> Jhalong --> Samsing Tea Garden --> Rocky Island --> Suntaleykhola

Our initial plan was to start by 8-30 am but due to delays in serving breakfast at the WBFDC Lodge we could start only by 9-50 am.

Owing to some poor road conditions clubbed with local street congestion from Jhalong to Bindu, it took us almost 2+ hours to reach Bindu Barrage with 2 halts in between at Garibas View Point and Jaldhaka Stage 2 Hydel Project.

Garibas View Point
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-23.-view-point.jpg

Halt at a checkpost before advancing to Jaldhaka Hydel Project
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-24.-some-checkpost.png

Approaching Kaldhaka Stage 2 Hydel Project
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-27.-stage-1-power.png

The Jaldhaka River overlooking the Hydel Power Station. Note that permission is required from WBSEB to go inside
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-27.-power.jpg

Approaching Bindu Barrage
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-28.-approaching-bindu.png

Lock Gates at the Bindu Barrage, again WBSEB permission required to see the other side where rivers meet
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-28..-bindu-power-side.jpg

Souvenir shops at Bindu
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-28.b-bindu-shops.jpg

We stayed for around 40 mins at this place and decided to make a lunch halt at whatever decent option we get on the road. But the internet connection was completely down and I lost google map guidance. So recalled seeing a restaurant on our way to Bindu and we have to anyway traverse that path back hence we started the return. The restaurant at Apple Stone View point was perfect fit for us and we reached it soon after leaving Bindu.

At the Apple Stone Restaurant and View Point
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-29..-apple-stone-pupu.jpg

A pan shot from the Apple Stone View Point


Lunch was awesome with set meals and we were ready to start by 1-45 pm. The owner of the place guided us by hand drawing a map route to Paren and Jhalong and advised us to go down and climb through Samsing for reaching the next set of attractions. We followed the suggested route by heart and reached next set of attractions with some minimal local inquiries.

The hand drawn route map
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-29.-apple-direction.jpg

Approaching a village in Paren
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-32.-paren.png

A farm in Paren with hills in the background
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-32..-paren-khet.jpg

Jhalong Bridge
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-37.-jhalong-bridge.jpg

View from Jhalong Bridge
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-37.-jhalong-rocks.jpg

A Pandal, just on the opposite side of Jhalong Bridge, correlating the timing this seemed to be a Durga Puja pandal
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-33.-durga-puja.png

After crossing Jhalong, the moment we came down, got back the internet connection, I did not waste time anymore and downloaded the offline maps for securing the rest of the route and proceeded through Samsing Team Garden towards Rocky Islands. Once again met bad roads and congestion. Considering it was past 4 pm and daylight was slowly depleting we headed first to Rocky Islands

At Rocky Islands
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-38.-rocky-islands.jpg

We decided to drop Suntaleykhola assuming it would be offering similar terrain and came back towards Samsing. Spent some time in the tea garden and headed back to our hotel where we reached by 6 pm and called it a day.

Samsing Tea Garden
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-39.-car-into-tea-garden.jpg

Samsing Tea Garden
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-39.-samsing-road.jpg

We made some re-packing of luggage considering we have to checkout on the next day and owing to the delay in serving breakfast in the morning, we decided to have it on the way which would allow us to leave early.

Last edited by Aditya : 6th December 2020 at 05:01.
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Old 10th November 2020, 00:25   #4
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Default Day - 5 : Drive to Delo, Kalimpong

Day - 5 / 3rd Nov : Drive to Delo, Kalimpong
After some early morning packing of leftover stuff, we checked out from the Murti WBFDC hotel at 9 am sharp. Following yesterday's trend of delayed service we skipped the breakfast here and planned to do it on the way.

The route for the day was planned like this:
WBFDC Murti Lodge --> Chel River Picnic Spot --> Gorubathan Bridge View Point --> Kolakham --> Changey Waterfalls --> Delo

Picked up some backup memory cards from Malbazaar for the dashcam. Google showed us a way through Ranichera Tea Estate Gate which was closed. We patiently waited for 5 mins while debating whether to enter or look elsewhere when suddenly a truck was coming out and the guard opened the gate. I drove towards the gate and without asking any question the guard let our Crysta in. Drive was awesome inside with tea plantations on both sides. If this is the usual route then its fine, if not probably the guard mistook us for club members which was inside the estate.

Driving through Ranichera Tea Estate
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-06.-ranichera.png

When we reached the banks of Chel river it was all dried up and we saw dump trucks on the bed. We turned back but the view was awesome.

Chel River Banks
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-06.c-dried-river-ranichera.png

Soon after Google showed us an exit route from the Ranichera Tea Estate and merged with Gorubathan road. We stopped at a hotel named Suyog Hotel around 10-30 am for 30 mins and completed our breakfast while remaining in the car. Moving ahead, made an express halt at the Gorubathan Bridge View Point for some clicks and proceeded via Lava road towards Kolakham.

View from Gorubathan Bridge
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-07.-gorunathan-bridhe-view.jpg

Crysta crossing over the Gorubathan Bridge
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-07.-crossing-innova-gorubathan-bridge.jpg

One one hand the road was so scenic that we made frequent halts to stop by and savor our eyes and on the other hand the BRO maintained roads were mostly in excellent shape to give a pleasurable driving experience.

Tea Garden along Lava Road
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-08.-wow-tea-garden.jpg

The dashcam video of the scenic drive along Lava road, split into 2 parts


Greens along the Lava Road
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-09.-fauna-roads.jpg

A short video of the green brigade of pines along the sinusoidal roads


Around 1-30 pm we showed up at the entry checkpost of the Neora Valley National Park. Paid Rs 100 for entry, made the customary log book entry and went inside towards Kolakham.

However there was a surprise waiting inside. After the initial 1 Km of concrete roads the next stretch until Kolakham was completely unpaved with rocks & gravel. We encountered narrow roads, hairpins with minimal turning radius, dark passages through forest where there is no help around. I was insanely worried about tyre punctures, thankfully the little over inflation may have helped us to an extent and we cleared this portion clean.

At the entry checkpost of Neora Valley National Park
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-10-.entering-neora.png

All the nature walking trails were closed
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-10.-closed-walk-trails.png

A few stretches were indeed narrow
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-10.b-roads-clouds.png

At a hairpin
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-10.d-hairpin.png

After around 13 KM of travel we finally arrived in Kolakham past 2-30 pm, a beautiful cosy little village, the last 1-2 KM was broken concrete yet somewhat better. It was late when we reached Kolakham and Changey Falls was still a few more KM. So we decided to have lunch in Kolakham but to our surprise none of the homestays had anything available for lunch.

Considering our situation with a kid on board we decided to drop going to Changey Waterfalls which even needs a few hundred meters of trek which would delay us further. So we started the return hoping to reach Lava for getting a descent place for lunch which was not far away.

Of course some chocolates we carried along came in handy for us and the kids to keep ourselves topped up with a mini recharge.

Kolakham
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-11.-kolakham.jpg

Kolakham
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-11.-kolakham.jpg

Drifting Clouds Timelapse, at Kolakham


During our return
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-10.-inside-neora.jpg

During our return, a sunny stretch
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-10.c-narrow-roads-pines.png

Returning was more confidence building but the hairpins which we descended earlier, now we were climbing up and I did hear a few wheelspins at those narrow hairpins what sounded to me may be the rear wheels losing traction momentarily. Found one bike having 2 riders losing wheel traction and struggling to move forward among the stony stretches in order to give way to the car.

I had to get down from the car here to remove a few nasty rocks from road
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-12.b-neora-return.jpg

We witnessed some stunning views of nature with sunny stretches in the open, changing to darker roads with sun playing hide and seek immediately after and with little advancement getting into foggy zones.

Getting into dense forest again
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-12-.-retun-sun-hide.png

Into the dense forest ahead
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-12.-neora-return.jpg

Sun playing hide and seek
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-12.c-sun.jpg

A Timelapse recorded within Neora Valley National Park

A memorable capture
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-12.d-car.jpg

A sudden entry into the foggy zone
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-12.e-fog.png

It was a remarkable and short adventure ride, albeit an unintentional mild off-roading especially when it was not anticipated.

Before writing this TL, I checked that BHPian 1100D had a remarkable adventure on this same route several years back on his Scorpio and comparing the pics between now and then I can conclude the roads may have been way worse back then, so hats off to him.

Around 3-15 pm we reached Lava exiting the Neora Valley National Park and after some searching at this odd hour finally found a cosy restaurant named New Orchid Restaurant at the basement of a homestay for lunch. Had to do some innovative parking of the Crysta in front of the restaurant considering it was a narrow road with just enough width for 2 cars.

All this time we had noticed the outside temperature gauge on the car mid steadily dropping from what was 26 - 27 degree Celcius in Dooars to 16 in Lava so whatever warm clothes were kept handy we wrapped them and got out.

Approaching the restaurant in Lava
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-13.-reached-lava.png

Us inside the restaurant, the host and owner was very kind lady and attended to us with great warmth
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-13.b-lava-restaurant-us.jpg

Mementos on display at the restaurant for sale
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-13.c-lava-restaurant-sale-feng-shui.jpg

The famous Dalle Khursani chili of this area, they serve in halves, per wife's opinion of taking just one small bite, it is military grade
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-13.d-lava-restaurant-chilli.jpg

Innovative sapling plating outside the restaurant
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-13.e-lava-restaurant-outside-bottle-tree.jpg

We were done with the lunch within the hour over some delicious hot soups, noodles and momos, the plates were emptied in no time. The excellent hospitality from the owner was icing on the cake. Bidding good bye to Lava we advanced towards our destination of Delo.

On the way to Kalimpong from Lava
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-14.-way-logs.jpg

Pines on the way to Kalimpong, slowly with the advent of dusk the fogs were settling in
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-14.-way-pines.jpg

Visibility became poor in some stretches of road over dense fog, dash cam video hence the grains
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-14.-fogs.png

The setting sun over pine forest in the distance
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-29.-setting-sn.jpg

The road from Lava to Delo was under maintenance resulting in several stretches resulting in being bad to worse without a concrete tarmac so had to be slow and careful.

Finally around 6-15 pm we reached our hotel, the Delo Tourist lodge atop the Delo Hill, highest point in Kalimpong
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-29.-reached-delo.png

The staff at Delo Tourist Lodge was very cordial and helpful and after initial check-in formalities we settled in our room 202. It was was dark and close to freezing cold outside so we had to keep ourselves warm wrapped thoroughly. Their room sanitisation and cleanliness was way more impressive, so much so that I skipped fumigating the room myself.

We had an early dinner, in spite of we being the only guests in the entire lodge received great hospitality and delicious meals. The caramel pudding is missing in the picture and is supposedly the best item we had.

Last edited by BlackPearl : 3rd December 2020 at 18:28. Reason: Minor typo. Thanks.
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Old 10th November 2020, 00:29   #5
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Default Day - 6 / 4th Nov : Roaming around Kalimpong

Day - 6 / 4th Nov : Roaming around Kalimpong
The alarm went off at 5 am, intentional, came out in the balcony, nope - its still not there, set another alarm for 5-30 am and fell asleep.

Still nothing at 5-30 am either. Next alarm set for 6 am.

Came to the balcony at 6 am, and there it was eventually, what a splendid view !!!

Kanchenjungha, golden peaks at the early hours, walked to the park observatory point to capture this on mobile
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-01.b-kan-mobile-golden.jpg

As the day progressed, it became whiter, taken from our balcony
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-01.-kan-room.jpg

Thought of a B&W effect, its majestic even in grayscale
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-01.c.jpg

The Delo Tourist Lodge
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-02.-morning-hotel-delo.jpg

We completed our breakfast in the room, Aloo Paratha was just out of world, and ventured out in the Delo Park right in front of the hotel which was slowly getting filled with tourists from outside and handful of stalls were opening up too.

Ready for the day outing
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-02.c-room-pic.jpg

Flowers in and around the hotel and the park
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-03.-ganda.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-04.-fl.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-05.-fl.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-img_4814_560.jpg

Getting a lush green field to freely run around and that too atop a hill on a pleasant sunny day is a boon in disguise, our little one had a great time in the park and so did we enjoying the wonderful weather and the surrounding.

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-07.-pupu-bridge.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-08.-black-horse.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-8.-pupu-wheel.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-9.-balck-horse-rde.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-10.-white-horse-front-hotel.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-11.-trio.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-12.-2-horses.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-13.-chili-plant.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-14.-fl.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-dsc05439.jpg

Around 12-30 pm we setout for lunch which we had preplanned at Green Gale Cafe, maintained by Army overlooking the Army Golf course in chandraloke.

Buddha Park nearby to Delo Park
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-16.-buddha-bottom.png

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-16.b-buddha-statue.jpg

Dumbar Chowk Crossing, Kalimpong
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-17-.aa-crossing.png

By 1-30 pm we arrived at Green Gale Cafe for lunch and found that Morgan House, just opposite to it is closed for outside tourists.

Morgan House Closed
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-16.c-morga-closed.png

The Green Gale Cafe
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-17-.-golf-cafe.jpg

The Golf Course
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-17.-golf-course.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-18.-golf-course.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-19.-golf-course.jpg

There was not much variety in the menu but we got some Plain Dosa and Kerla Paratha meals (veg and non veg) which were nice. Spent a little over and hour enjoying the golf course view while having our lunch. After that we left for Durpin monastery, on top of the other hill at Kalimpong, the Durpin hill.

There was repair work going in some stretches in the road up the Durpin Hill
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-20-.-way-durpin.png

Unfortunately the Durpin monastery was closed for outsiders owing to the pandemic
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-20.-durpin-monastery.jpg

There were some fog around so we could not see the surrounding view from the top and retuned empty handed. We did make an attempt to visit Gouripur House where Rabindranath Tagore stayed for some time but there was a truck unloading furniture on the way up preventing us to go further resulting in drooping that too. Google Maps was also behaving weird, showed us some absurd routes killing about an hour time.

We returned to hotel by 5-30 pm and it was already dark outside. We advanced our packing owing to the next day checkout before calling it a day post our dinner in the room. Did not forget the caramel pudding even today. Although I should have gone out in the pitch dark park at the front but the night sky was still visible pretty good from the balcony, enjoyed it thoroughly while wrapped in jackets to the teeth.

Night sky from the balcony
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-22.-stars.jpg

Last edited by haisaikat : 3rd December 2020 at 16:04.
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Old 10th November 2020, 00:35   #6
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Default Day - 7 / 5th Nov : Drive from Delo to Darjeeling

Day - 7 / 5th Nov : Drive from Delo to Darjeeling
We did not plan on missing the morning glory of Kanchenjungha from Delo so once again woke up at 6 am and witnessed the grandeur. It was clearer than yesterday. Some early morning fog made the surrounding look even more like a dream scene. The view point in Delo Park remains completely empty in the early morning hours making it an almost private view point for the guests of the Delo Tourist Lodge.

The Snow Capped peaks in the distance
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-01.-golden-kan.jpg

Dispersing Fog with the rising sun
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-02.c.jpg

From the Delo Park View Point
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-03-.-morning-view-point.jpg

A Timelapse of evaporating snows on the distant peaks, recorded on phone, sorry for the shaking of hands


Colors of Nature in the Delo Park
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-03.-fl.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-04.-fl.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-05.-ganda.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-06.-big-fl.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-07.-fl.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-08.-fl.jpg

The entire range of peaks being visible at a distance
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-03.-white-range.jpg

The range as visible from our room while having the breakfast
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-03.b-kanchen-room.jpg

Thereafter we wrapped up the leftover packing, checked out by 11 am being delayed by around 2 hours since the receptionist handling the billing only arrives at 10 am.

We headed to Darjeeling following the route : Delo --> Rishi Road --> Chitrey Waterfalls --> Teesta Bridge --> Peshok Road --> Lovers Meet View Point --> Peshok View Point --> Lamahatta --> Batasia Loop (Ghoom) --> Darjeeling

Parting with Delo Tourist Lodge
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-10.-stair-groupfie.jpg

Descending from the Delo Park
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-11.-leaving-park.jpg

Mangber Forest Area
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-11.-way.jpg

Chitrey Waterfalls
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-13.-falls.jpg

Crossing the Teesta Bridge
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-14.-crossing-river-bridge.jpg

From Lovers Meet View Point overlooking Tribeni, the meeting point of Rangeet and Teesta
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-15.-view-point-river.jpg

Peshok View Point
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-15.c-pupu-tea.jpg

The road after crossing the Teesta bridge was through a few steep inclines in comparison to what we had seen in Kalimpong. Around 1-40 pm we halted for an hour to have our lunch at a small roadside hotel named Good Morning Dhaba near Peshok Tea Garden

Reaching the Good Morning Dhaba
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-16-.-reach-lunch.png

The set menu at the Good Morning Dhaba
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-16.-lunch-plate.jpg

Passing through Tukdah forest on our way to Darjeeling
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-16.-pines.jpg

Soon after we reached Ghoom and halted for an hour at Batasia Loop, the local police did not allow us to park near the counter although roads were semi deserted in the afternoon hours, so we had to park 200-300 metres further down and come back walking.

Ghum Station
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-17.-ghum-station.jpg

At Batasia Loop
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-18.-batasia.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-19.-batasia-cloud-rays.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-21.-batasia-flo.jpg

Around 4-20 pm we resumed once again and eventually after Google Map route anomalies lead us to super narrow roads of Darjeeling near the mall, we arrived at our final destination and checked in to Mayfair Hotel in Darjeeling a little before 5 pm.

Arriving at the gate of the Mayfair Darjeeling
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-21.-reached-hotel.png

After settling down in our room we set out in the evening for a stroll around the mall.

Way to the mall
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-dsc05526.jpg

The fountain
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-22.-dar-fountain.jpg

The market
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-23.-dar-market.jpg

We arrived at Glenary's for dinner after some healthy shopping by 8-30 pm only to find that the open dining area is completely filled up with just 1 table left indoors that we ended up occupying. We completed our dinner over some snacks and sizzlers and returned to our hotel by 9-30 pm to end the day.

In front of Glenary's
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-26.-glena-selfie.jpg

Last edited by BlackPearl : 3rd December 2020 at 18:27. Reason: Minor typo. Thanks.
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Old 10th November 2020, 00:37   #7
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Default Day - 8 / 6th Nov : Roaming around Darjeeling

Day - 8 / 6th Nov : Roaming around Darjeeling
We knew this was our last stop and we had no ambitious local touring planned so a leisurely start of the day did fit the bill with the good buffet breakfast at the Mayfair.

We finally got a chance to meet Mr Biswajit whose name is all over TripAdvisor reviews for his excellent caring ability of the guests. And indeed the man lives up to the reputation. He came up to our table at the breakfast asking about quality of food and service, and soon moved over to our tour plan only for us to find that he already knows we came last evening, we had lots of luggage and how that relates to travelling with kids including what car we came in and that his residence in Kolkata is close to where we stay. Such conversations make you feel at home with a familiar face around. Remarkable hospitality indeed.

At the breakfast, it was mostly empty at the early hours
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-01.-breakfast-hall.jpg

That is what our little one loved, a bit of everything with emphasis on sweet things
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-02.-breakfast-plate.jpg

At the lobby
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-03.-sitting-lobby.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-04.-hotel-loby-statuue.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-05.-lobby-stairs.jpg

By 12 pm we set out for our only planned destination at Darjeeling, the Zoo. The toy train and rope-way was closed anyway. But the hiccup was parking space, although available near the zoo we did not park since local drivers scared us of cars getting seized. Eventually we parked half a KM away at the parking plaza and came all the way back to zoo walking.

Getting out of parking lot
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-06.-set-out.png

On the way to the zoo
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-07.-roads.png

Entering the car park
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-08.-enter-parking.png

At the zoo
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-08.-harin.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-18.-wolves.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-09.-harin.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-10.-harin.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-14.-panther.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-11.-harin.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-12.-kuk-harin.jpg

"Shhhhhh, silence, Red Panda is coming forward otherwise"
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-13.-shhhhh.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-15.-leopard.jpg

The glory of freedom is in not grabbing father's hand during the walk
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-15a.-me-him-walking.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-16.-macau.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-17.-white-peacock.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-19.-us-zoo.jpg

We skipped the photoshoot in local dresses available at the zoon in spite of their assurance that the dresses are sanitised. By 2-40 pm we were done in the zoo and went back to the parking lot to fetch our car and drove back to hotel by 3 pm. Thanks to their day round operational kitchen, entire menu was available past 3-30 pm allowing us to complete the dining in our room, we did not venture to their restaurant in light of how difficult managing the little has been in the open places.

Exiting the parking lot, it did have a good mountain side view in the ramp
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-20.-exiting-parking.png

The baked yogurt was excellent at the lunch along with the Chinese menu served
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-21.-dessert.jpg

Our affinity to get to the mall was not yet over, so in the evening we went out to the mall once again to sit and relax

A short visit to the kid's room
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-22.-pupu-games-room.jpg

Walking towards the direct mall road exit of our hotel, they are constructing a lift, will be ready next year
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-22.-evening-hotel-reception.jpg

At the mall
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-23.-tanz-mall.jpg

We came for some evening snacks at Glenary's once again and this time got a place in the open terrace.

At Glenary's
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-25.-glen-caffe.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-dsc05644.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-26.-glen-tanz-pupu.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-27.-glen-surrounding.jpg

From our experience we had realised one thing, the kitchen at our hotel was way better than the local options and hence we reserved the dinner for hotel only and once again got wowed with superb range of continental.

We hired one of the hotel appointed drivers for washing our car in the morning hours of the next day before we checkout. We completed our packing and called it a day.

Last edited by BlackPearl : 3rd December 2020 at 18:26. Reason: Minor typo. Thanks.
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Old 10th November 2020, 00:47   #8
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Default Day - 9 & 10 / Nov 7 & 8 : Drive from Darjeeling to Kolkata

Day - 9 & 10 / Nov 7 & 8 : Drive from Darjeeling to Kolkata
Again, another leisurely start with the thought of a of the day our trip coming to an end making us savor the final moments at Darjeeling. Surprised to see our car being cleaned beyond expectation in spite of the water shortage in the area.

While we were at the restaurant, Mr Biswajit came to our table once again and inquired about our plan forward while making a nice gesture of packing some bakery items for the road in consideration of our little one.

Considering some latest news around improvement of the Farakka - NH34 road conditions we decided to take this route for our return. Since we would be ditching the Bengal to Bengal Road decided to take the Purnia More diversion to go via Dalkhola.

So the finalised route was : Darjeeling --> Margaret's Deck (Kurseong) --> Pankhabari --> Matigara --> Purnia More --> Dalkhola --> Raiganj --> Gazole --> Malda Bypass --> Farakka --> Moregram --> Berhampore Bypass --> Krishnanagar --> Kolkata. Since I did not force Google Maps to take Islampur it showed me shortest route through Bihar via Ghurna - Bastakhola, lessen for next time.

By 12-30 pm we checked out of Mayfair and headed towards Margaret's Deck in Kurseong where we had lunch plans and it would be on our route, as wife said no detours.

The engine shed near Ghoom
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-01-.-engines.png

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-01.-engine-parked.jpg

On our way to Kurseong
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-02.-descent-kurseong.png

Approaching the parking lot of Margaret's deck
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-03.-reached-margaret-deck.png

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-03.-reached-margaret-deck.jpg

At Margaret's Deck
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-03.b-margaret-deck-logo.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-inside-margafet.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-03.c-menu.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-03.d-view-deck.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-03.e-tea.png



Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-04.-brownie.jpg

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-03.f-tanz-deck.jpg

This is the same table where Mir sat in the famous Foodka youtube series, thankful to his YT channel for the reference
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-05.-selfie-md.jpg

After spending a leisurely one and half hours of enjoying the tea, sandwiches and wraps and the excellent desserts at Margaret's Deck, by 3-30 pm we resumed our descent. The view from the Margaret's deck was excellent but since our stock of tea was already purchased yesterday we did not but anything from here.

Descending from Kurseong
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-06.-further-descent.jpg

Way to Makaibari Tea Estate, we skipped it and took left towards the proper route down
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-07.-tea-estate.png

Sunset through Long View Tea Garden
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We made a half hour halt around Baniakhari and resumed once again towards Dalkhola before entered Bihar. Owing to the election times, we saw lot of para military forces on trucks being transported.

Trailing some migrating (had lots of luggage) bikers through a narrow village road near Ghurnia
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We made a 15 minute halt around Chekamari before entering into Bengal once again crossing Kisangani and proceeded towards Dalkhola. There was moderate traffic of trucks and buses and we slowed down by around 30 mins. After crossing Dalkhola we refuelled at a Reliance Petrol Pump and then halted at a roadside food outlet for dinner, owing to some delays in serving food it took us 1 hr 45 mins to start again. This part of the road was newly opened and completely empty with some small bad stretches and few single lane roads owing to diversions.

We crossed an almost empty Farakka a little before 2-30 am and then made two halts for some power nap around Gazole Toll Rax Plaza and then again around Umarpur Bus Stand totalling around 1 hour while continuing our return. Therafter around Nawdapara, Berhampore Railway Crossing we met a huge traffic of trucks and were stuck in spite of gaining some off road manoeuvre advantages from 4-15 am to way past 5-30 am.

Crossing Farakka
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The truck jam at Nawdapara Crossing
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After clearing through the jam, except for a police check post stopping us for regular paperwork checking around Berhampore in the early morning hours rest of the road was uneventful till the next stop for the breakfast at Mother's Hut, Krishnanagar.

Crossing Ramendra Sundar Tribedi Bridge over Hoogly River, Berhampore
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Crossing Jalangi River to enter Krishnagar
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Reached Mother's Hut around 8-30 am
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Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-15.ab-us-inside.jpg

We gave a leisurely 90 mins halt there availing their super fast service and variety of options, never saw a food joint serving Aloo parathas, Kashmiri Alurdam, Tandoor items, Pastry / Bakery all fresh and from own kitchen at 8-30 am in the morning and that too at such a nominal price. Moreover their facility was parking clean and we saw them following excellent sanitisation hygiene. In the rest of the route except a combined halt of 2 hours we did not stop for any other breaks. We had packed some pastries from Mother's Hut that came in very handy on the rest of the route back to Kolkata as we conserved time for a separate lunch halt.

Crossing Badkulla
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Crossing Ranaghat
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Crossing Kalyani Expressway
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Finally touched the familiar line, went past the Kolkata Airport Gate 1 and back into familiar zone
Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-22.-airport-road.png

Eventually by 4-30 pm we arrived home and thus a much awaited and longed for Himalayan Trip came to an end with tons of memories and a bigger desire to visit again.

Some Key facts and figures
  1. Total distance covered in the round trip was 1863 KM and fuel cost was around 13,500 INR.
  2. The Crysta performed excellent on hilly roads, the power available is almost never ending and the automatic gear is a boon in the hills where in several inclines I came to a standstill without worrying about the car rolling backwards. Again during descent kept in manual S2 mainly for gaining some engine braking although that did not eliminate the usage of brakes.
  3. I got momentary wheel spins twice, once in Neora Valley National Park hairpins on a road of lose stones and gravel. Another time in Darjeeling on a steep incline where I had to go down backwards first which went fine and then go up forwards where after some wheelspin I gained the traction. This never happened again on any inclines.
  4. While 99% of the bad roads were handled by Crysta very effortlessly, I believe 2-3 times due to my driving inexperience in the hills the car got kissed underbody, of course with no damage. Now I know how to tackle.
  5. Parking is a big pain in Darjeeling if you plan to roam around in your own car, better keep it at your hotel and take a hired cab unless you can walk around to all your places of interests.
  6. The tyre pressure increases with altitude and vice versa due to changing atmospheric pressure, I found difference to be upto 5 PSI. So thanks to the Tyre Inflator, I could adjust these on the days of ascent and descent from the mountains to keep optimal tyre pressure.
  7. The advantage of the Jharkhand - Bhagalpur route was the excellent wide roads but sadly if you have kids along there are not many standard hotels on the way for stop overs. The Bengal road has this advantage otherwise. Also the 180 km extra that we drove on the onward journey through Bihar easily adds 3 hours to your journey if driven during day times.
  8. The starting time of the journey is the most crucial such that we can avoid crossing state borders and railway crossings around early morning. I would start for the onward journey next time by 7 pm sharp and for the return from North Bengal definitely by 9 am sharp. Both cases with minimal halts.
  9. There are limited hotels near mall with car parking, even if any hotel says 200 metres from mall, you may have to climb steep stairs inside the hotel to reach to the mall road exit before that 200 metres start. Mayfair is constructing a lift to ease this out for the guests, may be after few months it will be completed.
  10. In the WBFDC Banani resort at Murti, the main building on the 1st floor has rooms on the sides with a common hall and wide balcony. Even if in-room view of river is not that great, the balcony offers the best rover view if someone were to stay at hotel and enjoy the water stream flowing.
  11. As I learnt from my colleague, Bihar - Jharkand route is suitable for return during the night that makes passing through congested areas of Bihar easier, something that slowed us down while we crossed them during the day. The Krishnanagar route is suitable for night travel on the onward journey from Kolkata for the very same reason.
  12. Around autumn and winter, owning to limited daylight, better to start bu 7-30 am / 8 am for local sight tours in Dooars to avoid inconveniences during night time hill driving. Same applies for location transfers.

My sincere thanks to the fellow TBHPians whose TL inspired greatly to make this happen and special mention for turboNath, ABHI_1512, akshay, topse, my colleague Subhadeep for all ideas and suggestions and guidance provided.

Thank you all for patiently reading this TL, until next time, good bye. See you around.

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Last edited by BlackPearl : 3rd December 2020 at 18:26. Reason: Fixed typos. Thanks
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Old 3rd December 2020, 18:30   #9
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Default re: Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling

Thread moved from the Assembly Line to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing the lovely travelogue haisaikat!
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Old 3rd December 2020, 19:29   #10
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Default re: Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling

Great travelogue Saikat Da.

Kudos to you on driving for nearly 24 hours as a solo driver, that too with family .

Your steed is one of the most reliable companion one can get to travel with family.

The pics are great & with all the required details shared. Wish you many more such wonderful trips in future.

Sharing a pic of my old Toyota from North Bengal.

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-12273748_961877327217494_8751314445587514489_o.jpg

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Old 4th December 2020, 00:47   #11
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Default re: Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling

First of all, many congratulations on your first hill drive with that brute of a vehicle. Lovely log of a wonderful journey with beautiful pictures and descriptions. North Bengal as a destination never disappoints anyone. I was actually looking forward to your log before I wrote one of my own and now that I have gone through it, I know why the wait was worthy enough.

Just two questions :
1. Why didn’t you take the Araria-Bahadurganj-Khoribari-Naxalbari-Siliguri route ? It is way better then through Kishangunj(NH31) and the driving surface is a dream. Asking because you did take the road to Araria instead of moving from Purnia towards Kishangunj.

2. How was the road surface to Bindu? Last time I visited, the road was dug up at places but of course many years have since passed by.

Wishing you many more trips to the hills and hope that we get to read more such wonderful logs.

Regards.

P.S- A picture of Baahon from Murti bridge, the one just beside the WBFDC lodge.

Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling-a00003d045ec49a3899a103b033b794c.jpeg

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Old 4th December 2020, 11:07   #12
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Default re: Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling

Just one word, awesome! Driving overnight with a child in these harrowing times earns you many kudos and plaudits, bravo!

Do you mind sharing the expenses of this trip? Especially one ones incurred on lodging and meals?

Wish you many happy miles on the Crysta!
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Old 4th December 2020, 13:25   #13
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Default re: Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling

Amazing travelogue and many thanks for sharing the wonderful trip. The pics are drool worthy and bring out the beauty of North Bengal. The greenery is so addictive and those pics of the Kanchenjunga are blissful.

Kudos for solo driving for nearly 24 hours with family. Your travels are an inspiration for many that if you want, it can be done.

I am sure the Crysta was the best companion on those roads. Ever so smooth and non tiring, must have been a joy to cover the miles.
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Old 4th December 2020, 21:32   #14
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Default re: Autumn Drive in an Innova Crysta to Dooars, Kolakham, Kalimpong & Darjeeling

Story telling is an art and keeping the reader glued to the writing is quite a challenging exercise. When I go through your travelogues I find that you excel as a story teller.

And this being one gem of a travelogue! Long distances, overnight drives, great vehicle and some equally enticing photographs!

Btw, I had visited most of the places around the Murti area last year. But wanted to see some more photos of the undulating tea gardens around Matelli.

Quick Q: Do you think a Swift can reach Kolakham? Was reading somewhere its a strict 4x4 zone.

Keep travelling! And yes, you always seem to be on a roll

Cheers,
Sayak

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Old 5th December 2020, 13:26   #15
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Default Re: Day-1 & 2 / 30 & 31-Oct, Drive from Kolkata to Murti / Gorubathan, Dooars

Quote:
Originally Posted by haisaikat View Post
We had covered 790 KM and including delays, halts, everything it took us 22 hours, enough reason to crash hearing the barbling of the Murti river before falling asleep.
That's a heck of a drive. Kudos to you! Anyway, it's wonderful to read this very detailed travelogue of yours. Looks like you got to see mount-K from almost all possible locations, be it the plain or the hill. Keep traveling and keep posting.

Best,
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