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Old 16th November 2021, 17:32   #1
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Default Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass

It was during our Golden Quadrilateral trip back in December of 2016, driving our Ford Fiesta we had for 9 years and 1.2 lac KM on Odo, we decided to make trips to North and North East of India.

Fiesta though a great ride for GQ route, was not meant for upcoming trips and thus the hunt started for a capable replacement which had to be as fun to drive as Fiesta or better. Nothing met our requirements (within our budget) of decent clearance, strong build, good braking, great handling and power), rest all were good to have features. 2017, Jeep Compass was announced and that’s when we realised this is what we need.
Loving every mile in the Jeep.

For various reasons north drive never happened. Finally opportunity appeared in November 2021 (4 years after buying Jeep). It was a couple of days notice and we set on out trip to North East.
Writing is not my cup of tea, however here is an attempt to summarise our experience and learning.


Planned Destinations: Darjeeling, Sandhakphu and Sikkim. If possible Nepal. Bhutan had restrictions related to covid.

Summary:
Day-1: Bangalore to Nagpur via Hyderabad – 1100 KM – Refuel at Hyd.

Started around 5:30 AM on Saturday. Reached Hyd ORR around 1PM. Once on Hyd Nehru ORR, there are no food courts, or fuel pumps for approx. 69KM until exit. Plan lunch break accordingly.
Nagpur is approx. 475 KM from Hyderabad ORR exit. Halted at Nagpur, MH.


Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-brkfst.jpg
Halt for breakfast opposite Kia factory


Day-2: Nagpur to Mirzapur – 670 KM – Refuel at Nagpur (cheaper than Hyd)

Just outskirts of Nagpur, on NH there is good restaurant (MKHS highway plaza). Mix of One and 2 way roads on this leg.

Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-mp_sttch.jpg
Stretch of road at MP, after Pench park

Caution: G Maps started to freak out nearing Mirzapur and show all misleading routes as the new highway connecting Mirzapur is non-existing on Map. It showed us poorly lit narrow routes to Mirzapur. We did not want to enter unknown zone after dark. Varanasi was near but I chose not to enter Varanasi to avoid crazy traffic and save time, instead set target as Siliguri. Plan was to halt at any good hotel at next big town en route.
This turned out to be a Big mistake.
There were no good roads past Mirzapur, G Maps at some point decided to deviate from planned route and led us into isolated areas in Bihar. There were no towns and good rated hotels found. This was the precisely the situation which we wanted to avoid by not entering Mirzapur.

Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-mirzboard.jpg

We kept pushing, late night, the roads were bad and 2 way traffic was at its worst. Several hours of driving and fatigue was making it difficult to focus, yet no hotel/lodge found. At one point past mid night we came across a well-lit fuel pump in Baidrabad Bihar. Decided to park there and take a power nap. The pump in-charge then walked over and acknowledged our presence.
Varanasi should be the place to halt in this leg of journey. Roads we found in Bihar after UP towards Siliguri are under construction (as on November 2021).

Day-3: Near Patna to Siliguri via Muzaffarpur – 500 KM (refuel in UP, cheaper than Bihar)

After crossing Patna the roads get better, 1 way until Araria. After that till few KM from Siliguri (aprox 120KM) is 2 way roads. Around 5 PM we checked in Siliguri.
Our 12yr old was getting the hang of checking hotels online and he highly recommended ‘The Loft’ to stay based on his understanding. We decided to go with his choice and it indeed was a great pick after spending a night in vehicle. "The Loft" has parking space, great food and stay overall, and is not far from Highway.

Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-rd_siliguri.jpg


Day-4: Siliguri to Darjeeling – This drive was slow paced, basking in the scenic terrain and weather.

Darjeeling is beautiful town but with no space to park once you enter. Ensure there are parking options at your stay. The Airbnb place we found was near to a pay n park that charged around Rs 300 per day. Entering in and out of Darjeeling is faster by foot than drive.

Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-darj-teastop.jpg
Restaurant with great views.

Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-darj-train.jpg

Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-darj-tracks.jpg
Iconic rail line from Rajesh Khanna's mere sapno ki rani song


Day-5 In Darjeeling – exploring Darjeeling. Sunsets (dark) after 5PM.
There is another pay and park near Darjeeling railway station and city center like mall road are walkable distance from parking area. Steep paths though.
Katmandu Kitchen, Glenary's and some cafes we liked.

Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-lovedarj.jpg
My son reluctantly posing for pics


Day-6: To Geyzing, West Sikkim via Lamahatta. Sunsets by 5PM.

Geyzing from Darjeeling is 65 KM (3 hrs) but via Lamahatta is 105 KM 5 hrs.

Lamahatta is worth visiting and stalls nearby serve local cuisines.
Caution: Road after Lamahatta is insanely steep decent for many many kilometers. You need to master slowing with gear and avoid burning out brakes.

Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-lamhattrail.jpg
Trail to lake the on top

Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-lamhattlake.jpg
Lake on top of Lamahatta

Once crossed into Sikkim we found numerous land slides and water crossings. It gets dark after 5PM, recommend reach early as the roads and are rough, slippery and narrow. This increases travel time. A wrong turn will drop you into river Teesta.

Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-lamhat_downhill.jpg
road passes through small villages

Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-enroute_lamhatt.jpg
Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-sikkmboard.jpg
Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-welcome-sk.jpg

People are so cool and chilled out.

Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-sk_roads1.jpg
Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-sk_roads2.jpg

Our Airbnb host has shared location on maps, this helped us find the location with ease. We were also treated with BBQ on terrace and great stories from our host Danny

Day-7 In Geyzing and Pelling. Fuel price in Sikkim is the lowest of all states we drive through. Also govt announced tax cuts this day.

Pelling is town about 45 mins from Geyzing. You can visit Buddha statue, experience para gliding from here.
All monasteries were closed for visitors due to covid.

Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-enroute-peling.jpg

Our host Danny was great (superhost on Airbnb). Danny owns a cozy place with kitchen, great WiFi, Washing machine, Hot water, BBQ options, is a great cook. Danny organises hiking, treks, overnight camps and is an expert in the terrain and local culture. Car park is on street, a minutes walk away from his place. Has great neighbors, great conversations.
Highly recommend stay at Danny’s (phone +91 70760 49984).

Sikkim is also known for locally brewed drinks like Tongba and many more. Ask Danny.
I wanted to try Tongba but could not find it here. Missed that in Darjeeling too.

Day-8: Geyzing to Gangtok via Ravangla

While Geyzing felt close to nature, Ravangla is Peace.
The Buddha statue, the surroundings, the atmosphere it creates has something surreal about this place. We loved every minute of being in Ravangla.

Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-ravangla.jpg
Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-ravngla-flag.jpg
Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-rvnglasel.jpg

Roads to Ravangla, from Ravangla to Gangtok are non-existent for most parts. Mud, slushy water crossings, water falls at every corner makes it a adventurous drive.

Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-rvngl13.jpg
Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-rvngl12.jpg
Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-rvngl11.jpg

Reached Gangtok after dark. Sun still sets at 5PM here.

Day-9:

Gangtok is a lovely city. Tried cafes and food we had noted down all lived up-to the hype. Could not find Tongba.

It is upon reaching Gangtok we got to clarify a lot of grey areas on visiting North Sikkim.

North Sikkim Permits:

There are several details posts on net on the permits required. I will only mention about what I understood.
Objective: Drive to north Sikkim in my personal vehicle (Karanataka registration white plate).

Tours operators here without hesitancy say only local taxi's allowed to north. However, a fellow TeamBhpian, Gurha had detailed his experience (Dusted: Zero Point, North Sikkim, 15748 FT)hence I enquired further.

Per the above post I found CityNews. This is a small shop on the right side of the street, at the entrance of MG Marg. A few shops after Sikkim Tourism Information. The person here ( I forgot to save his name and contact) explained the process and also confirmed that private vehicles can get permit, also offered to help secure one.

Other than govt issued ID like DL or passport for all occupants, One other condition here is that the said vehicle must be registered to one of the occupants. My vehicle was still under corp lease (which was to end next week ) and that threw a challenge as registered owner was the corp name and not mine. We could not get a work around this as no declaration, authorisation was allowed.

Visiting North Sikkim:
Few places (POI) in north sikkim are said to be accessible based on condition of weather and hence not billed and confirmed with package. Has to be discussed and negotiated with driver. Prices range from 2000 to 4000 per POI.

What I found:
Note: To me it appeared like this is one way the driver could earn some extra money other than is regular salary. We must consider that taxi and tours have no business during some seasons while negotiating price and in no way mean to hurt their earnings.

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We reserved a vehicle just for us (known as reserved cab). From Gangtok taxi's drive to Lachen, a nights halt and then to Lachung after visiting the POIs in Lachen.
overall 2 Nights must be minimum stay to enjoy North.

Day-10: Lachen

Gurudongmar Lake is part of package. Drivers and few locals at Lachen told us there will not be any snow at Lake, so you must visit Kala Patthar for snow. Our driver demanded 3500 just for including visit to Kala Patthar. When checked on maps, Kala Patthar was a 11KM detour from route to the Lake. 3,500 for each point seemed to high and the attitude of driver was not appreciable. Finally we agreed at some discounted price to visit Kala Patthar.

Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-z_kala.jpg
Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-z_kala2.jpg
View of Kala Patthar

Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-z_lake.jpg
Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-z_lake3.jpg
View of Gurudomgmar Lake

One could also drive up to Lake, check for availability of snow and then add Kala Patthar on return if snow is must. There are places in Lachen that rent Gun Boots.

After visiting Kala Patthar and Gurudongmar lake we set to Lachung.

Note: Gurudongmar lake is at high altitude with little or no Oxygen. Watchout for signs of AMS. Recommend to carry oxygen can if possible and avoid climbing down to the lake.

Day-11: Lachung

Lachung is a smaller village than Lachen (from what we saw). That evening in Lachun we had time to stroll around and also visit a house where they served local food veg and non-veg.

"Pemas Cafe" is one such home we visited. Sitting in living room, they served chilly chicken, maggie and momo. This was a unique and a very different experience for us.

Day-12: Back to Gangtok

Yumtang valley was the POI in Lachung. We included no extra POI. The same day after noon we reached back to Gangtok.

Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-yumtang.jpg

A special mention of Hotel Muscatel Delamere Central at Gangtok (walking distance from MG Marg) for their great hospitality. They arranged for a secure private parking for our vehicle while we travelled North, even though we had checked out from there.
Enjoyed the great food at Taste of Tibet

Day-13: Drive back to Siliguri.

Though from Gangtok to Siliguri is 115 KM it took us 5+ hrs to reach Siliguri.
Checked-in "The Loft" and they surprised us by offering an upgrade to their Suites. Wow !

Day-14: Siliguri to Varanasi

Left early from Siliguri with Varanasi as destination. No way we will wander around this time. But, no trip via Bihar is complete without a puncture.
Despite having checked pressure (slightly over recommended PSI) our new tyre just done 6k KM went complete flat.

I suspected a tear on tyre wall as it is unlikely for a tubeless to go flat in seconds. When inspected was not sure to be happy or sad to find a deep hole but no object stuck. This seemed repairable so all 3 sprung into action and got the spare wheel fitted in matter of minutes (less than 15). Great Team work as family.

Later that day about 50 KM from Varanasi we got stuck in a jam for over an hour. This was due to an accident on Highway.

Day-15: Varanasi to Nagpur

Nagpur was the plan. However, traffic in Varanasi and 2 way roads until Mirzapur kept us from covering distance.
Around 6PM we passed a well lit up hotel beside the Highway at Jabalpur, MP.
Royal Orbit it was, when called their number found on Google, they offered great discount for an overnight halt (including eve tea and breakfast).

Day-16: Jabalpur, MP to as far as we could drive.

Plan was to halt at Hyderabad. Upon reaching Hyderabad around 7PM we did not feel tired. Thanks for good roads and great ride quality of Jeep, Others in the Jeep were like, if you are okay to drive then lets hit the road and aim Bangalore. And thus we reached home - a distance of 1300 KM done in 17 hours, the longest leg of drive for me. Having driven Blore-Mumbai 1000KM in 1 stretch several times this seemed easy.

Here concludes a great trip for us, after a long gap. Happy to be home. Already planning for Himachal.

Sandakphu, Nepal did not happen as we had to return a week ahead to keep an appointment.

Below Youtube video is a compilation of stretches we encountered in Sikkim. Ignore the incorrect timestamp and gibberish heard in the background

Last edited by Aditya : 23rd November 2021 at 19:29. Reason: Multiple errors
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Old 23rd November 2021, 05:14   #2
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 23rd November 2021, 09:33   #3
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Default Re: Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass

Thanks for the endearing travelogue, Dee.
And your Pavlov's Dog like craving for the elixir adds to the reader's mirth. Tongba was Latin for me till you clarified

Google Maps seems to be maturing into a double-edged sword. I have had bad experiences aplenty and will be doubly careful when planning my Northeast trip.

Any issues with fuel quality? Do we need to carry cannisters?
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Old 23rd November 2021, 11:25   #4
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Default Re: Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass

That blacked out grille looks fantastic! Excellent writeup.
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Old 23rd November 2021, 12:16   #5
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Default Re: Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass

Thanks for the lovely travelogue…

Was wondering whether taking the Vizag Bhubaneswar Kolkata (skirting it, without entering) siliguri is also a workable option.
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Old 23rd November 2021, 12:30   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KANNURAN View Post
Any issues with fuel quality? Do we need to carry cannisters?
No complaints on quality and availability.

However, many pumps on NH have big nozzle/dispencer (not sure what they call) meant for trucks. Had to spend time finding a fuel pump with narrow nozzle that fits LMVs

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dibyendu Bose View Post
Was wondering whether taking the Vizag Bhubaneswar Kolkata (skirting it, without entering) siliguri is also a workable option.
Thanks. We opted for NH44 route as this was new for us.
Bhubaneshwar route we covered during GQ drive. Besides that, were unsure on weather. It was not calm towards east coast during that time.

Thank You. That is a DIY wrap attempt to de-chrome, vinyl available on amazon.

Mod Note: Please use the EDIT or QUOTE+ (multi-quote) button instead of typing one post after another on the SAME THREAD!

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Last edited by Rudra Sen : 23rd November 2021 at 16:51.
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Old 23rd November 2021, 17:28   #7
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Default Re: Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass

Great travelogue and nicely written. I think the day 1 target is a little extreme. Driving beyond 600 kms on a single day leads to many issues. You have driven 1100, were you planning to break any records?
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Old 23rd November 2021, 18:19   #8
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Nice pics, lovely travelogue, how did it performed during off-road, is it 4x4 version?
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Old 25th November 2021, 12:00   #9
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Default Re: Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass

Wonderful account of a grand trip from South to east across the country, the compass commanded every road it went over. You covered all key points in the bengal sikkim Himalayan belt in one trip, what more can be expected. The photos of kalapathar and gurudongmar came very well.

On the permit in Sikkim your case kept aside, I think only luxury category suv muvs are being allowed, essentially local government helping indirectly the cab associations. Recently one of my accquaintences were refused permit citing he was driving an wagon R.

Seems you missed out on Sandakphu even though it was part of your original plan, probably to cover in another trip and then you can also cover kalimpong, lava, kolakham, etc

And finally 1300 KM in straight shot and that too with family is an achievement in itself. Kudos. Keep more of these coming.

The Araria route you took to reach siliguri via Bihar is something we also once took last year and roads were indeed good and we got to see Kanchenjunga too from Bihar, here is a click.

Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass-img_20211125_115949.jpg

Last edited by haisaikat : 25th November 2021 at 12:01.
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Old 25th November 2021, 17:04   #10
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Default Re: Bangalore to Darjeeling & Sikkim in a Jeep Compass

Very nice write-up with some excellent pictures.

Your second day drive was adventurous, driving on an unknown terrain and unable to find a place to stay. Maybe a better planning would have helped you.

Sandakhphu was a bad miss. Any specific reason for not taking the Kolkata route during the return?
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