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Old 23rd November 2021, 00:35   #1
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Default Sailed through North Bengal & North Sikkim in an Ecosport & a Duster AWD

Clicked at the same spot after 7 years!

Sailed through North Bengal & North Sikkim in an Ecosport & a Duster AWD-desktop.jpg

October 2014

We showed our permit at Chungthang check-post & the person asked us in disbelief, you guys want to go to Gurudongmar in Hatchbacks & sedans?

Our plan was to visit Yumthang, but our permit had Lachen & Gurudongmar too, we told him, our plan was only to visit Yumthang & Zeropoint. He was relived.

The travelogue of that trip-

https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/trave...backs-suv.html (Sailed through North Sikkim in Sedans, Hatchbacks and an SUV)

Fast forward to April 2021.

We planned for Gurudongmar.
Roads improved. The roads in North Sikkim were no longer challenging. The cars we were driving, were all having a ground clearance of above 200 mm. So it was a smooth sail, but with a twist! It snowed heavily & the road to Gurudongmar was closed. It turned out to be an awesome snow drive to Katao from Lachung.

The travelogue-
https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/trave...bond-cars.html (North Sikkim - A tale of snow, nature & three vagabond cars)

Fast forward to November 2021

In April, I decided to visit Gurudongmar within this year itself. So planned for it again in November.

This time it was a bachelors trip & our only motto was - 'Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara', so let's enjoy it to the core!

The Team-

The king! Bhpian Sayata

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The heartthrob! Bhpian AviC93

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Yours truly, the most boring one!

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The cars-
Two cars for a trio? We 'LIVE TO DRIVE'!

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The itinerary -

7th November- Start from Kolkata at 4 pm
8th November- Reach Kalimpong in early morning
9th November- Kalimpong to Lachen
10th November- Lachen to Gurudongmar & back to Lachen.
11th November- Lachen to Dzongu
12th November- Dzongu sightseeing
13th November- Dzongu to Chalsa
14th November- Chalsa to Kolkata

Things we carried for the trip-

For us-

Medicines
Pulse oxymeter
Oxygen cans
Camphor
Sanitizers and surface disinfectants
3ply and N95 masks
Dry food
Mineral water bottles

For the cars-

Jump start cable
Tow rope
Extra fluids like coolant, engine oil, brake oil.
Few sealants
Tool kit

Few teaser pics to begin with-

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& a couple of teaser videos-




Last edited by Samba : 24th November 2021 at 01:40.
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Old 23rd November 2021, 16:08   #2
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Default Re: Sailed through North Bengal & North Sikkim in an Ecosport & a Duster AWD

Day 1 (Kolkata to Kalimpong & Delo, 685 km, 15 hours)

Our meeting point was in front of Mother Dairy, Dankuni at 4 pm. Team Ecosport reached Dankuni 5 mins before time and to surprise us, Bhpian Mountain_deep came with his Duster AWD to wish us Bon voyage. He was sad, as he wont be a part of this trip due to his college projects. We were sad too, to leave him behind and proceed for the trip.

We started at 4-30 pm and took the road till Krishnanagar through Mogra, Kalna & Nabadwip. The road surface was smooth with decent traffic. Took us 2.5 hours to reach Krishnanagar from Dankuni. This stretch is approximately 125 km.
Krishnanagar to Berhampore took us 1.5 hours, with 90% of it being a 4 lane highway. At places there were few diversions. Before entering Berhampore, we took the riverside road and and joined back Nh34 just before the level-crossing. After the level-crossing, it's again 4 lane. Berhampore to Moregram was a breeze.
At 9 pm we were at Moregram Bp for dinner.

Post dinner the drive was smooth till Raiganj with a 30 minutes coffee break at Pardesi Dhaba, Malda.
Google maps showed congestion at Dalkhola, so we were contemplating to take the Botolbari road.
Heard many stories of robbery during night in this stretch. So we stopped at a small Dhaba at Raijang to inquire about the current scenario from the local drivers and shopkeepers.
Locals told us to proceed via Botolbari. They told us, in the recent past no robbery was reported and there is police posted throughout the stretch.
We entered Botlbari at 1-15 am.
The road was deserted. We stopped at the first police barricade within 5-6 km to inquire about the safety of this road in midnight. The policemen told us to proceed, there was nothing to worry.
Still we were a bit cautious and gunned through the empty roads. By 2-45 am we reached Dhantola.

Because of the Islampur bypass, Dhantola to Bagdogra was an easy drive. We stopped at Ghoshpukur Reliance to refuel both the cars. It was 3-30 am.
With 1.5 hours break and maintaining a steady speed between 70-90 km/hr, it took us 11 hours to reach Bagdogra from Dankuni.
We took another 30 mins coffee break at the petrol bunk and started by 4 am.

The Balason bridge at Siliguri was not operational due to maintenance work. Gps led us through Ghoshpukur- Fulbari road- Medical More- Matigara & connected us to Sevoke road. It was 5am.

Reached the Sevoke bridge at daybreak.

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Due to the recent flood in North Bengal, road surface was not good till Melli.

A glimpse of Kanchanjungha just before Melli Bazar.

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Took right for Kalimpong through Rishi road. The climb was steep and twisty. It was fun to drive.

By 7 am we reached our hotel at Kalimpong. But the check-in time was 2 pm and we reached by 7 am! On request they agreed to get us the room by 10 am.
We got a clear view of Kanchanjungha from their garden.

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Hence we decided to drive till Delo, enjoy the majestic sight of Kanchanjungha, then return to hotel by 9 am, have breakfast and check in to our room by 10 am.

Delo was just 10 km from our stay, hotel Mayfair in Kalimpong. It took us 30 minutes to reach Delo.
The morning view was majestic. It was refreshing after a whole night drive.

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After spending an hour, we returned to our hotel, had a fulfilling breakfast and checked in to our rooms. Slept for 4-5 hours.
Afternoon and evening was spent in the hotel.

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Mayfair Kalimpong is an excellent property in a great location, with good food and proper parking. This property is highly recommended, though a bit expensive.

Last edited by Samba : 23rd November 2021 at 23:49.
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Old 23rd November 2021, 16:48   #3
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Default Re: Sailed through North Bengal & North Sikkim in an Ecosport & a Duster AWD

Day 2 (Kalimpong to Lachen, 158 km, 9 hours)

It was a sunny morning and Kanchanjunga view was clear. We checked-out at 9am.

Took the upper road which goes towards Delo to connect us to Rongpo. This road is a bit steep, but traffic is sparse.
It is a much scenic route than the usual Rishi road to Rongpo via Melli.

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By 11-30 am, we crossed the Sikkim border. Though we had our Sikkim Travel cards and Double Vaccine certificates ready, no one really asked us to produce them for checking.
From Singtham, we took left towards Mangan via Dikchu. This road was mosty good with few bad stretches.
Reached Mangan at 1-30 pm. Refueled our cars, had lunch and collected our permit for North Sikkim.

At Mangan

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Have been to Lachung quite a few times, this was the first time I was driving towards Lachen.

The road to Lachen was a bit narrow in comparison to the road to Lachung.
So one had to be cautious enough to give space for the incoming traffic. When we were going towards Lachen, many cabs were returning towards Mangan from Lachen. So had to stop many times to give them space. Local drivers were mostly co-operative.

A small photo break on the way to Lachen.

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Reached our hotel 'Himalayan Residency' by 6 pm.

Evening was spent chit-chatting in our hotel room.

Last edited by Samba : 23rd November 2021 at 23:55.
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Old 23rd November 2021, 17:26   #4
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Default Re: Sailed through North Bengal & North Sikkim in an Ecosport & a Duster AWD

Day 3 (Lachen - Gurudongmar - Lachen, 127 km, 7 hours)

We wanted to beat the morning queue at the checkposts, so started at 5-15 am from Lachen.

It was still dark and temperature outside was -1 degree C.

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At the onset of daybreak

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We reached Thangu checkpost near kaleep at 6-30 am. We were told that the checkpost will open at 7am. Ours were the first two cars to reach there. While going to the checkpost through the stairs an army man shouted at me to be careful and slow, by the time I heard him, I slipped and fell! The stair was full of black ice. Getting up was a challenge. My shoes had no grip. Finally managed to get up and I carefully went up. A local dog effortlessly overtook me on the stairs and reached the top before me!
The army man asked me, if I got any injury, I smiled and told him, am fine.

Two or three local drivers reached there by that time and I told them, the dog is 4wd while I am 2wd, hence the struggle while climbing up on the black ice. We all had a good laugh.

Got our permits stamped for Kalapathar too. But the local drivers told me, there is enough snow at Gurudongmar, so there was no point going to Kalapathar. Instead we should spend more time on the way to Gurudongmar.
They were 100% correct.

From the Thangu check-post till the next check post road was bad. It had boulders, slush and black ice at places. But the road was wide enough. Any car driven carefully can negotiate this stretch.
We reached the 2nd check-post by 8-15 am.

Bhpian AviC93 was not feeling well. I check his O2 saturation level & the pulse oxymeter showed 52!
We were carrying few oxygen cans. Immediately, I told him to take oxygen puffs and start to deep breath. We had some popcorns and asked him to keep chewing.

Doing this for few minutes, his oxygen saturation level crossed 80.
While going up, I was having a slight headache, in spite of drinking loads of water. I reluctantly checked my Oxygen saturation level & it showed 78. I was fine, but still took a couple of O2 puffs. Was feeling a lot better. Bhpian Sayata had headache too, but he refused to check the O2 saturation level. Still he took a couple of O2 puffs and he was feeling better too.

In Ladakh or Spiti we gain altitude gradually. But here, Lachen is at an altitude of 8,500 feet while Gurudongmar lake is at an altitude of 17,000+ feet. We gain this height in just 3 hours and our bodies do not get enough time to acclimatize.

The last 10-15 km to Gurudongmar lake was a fascinating drive. The surroundings were covered with snow and the road was twisty with a smooth tarmac.

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The last 800 m to Gurudongmar was in bad shape. It was not tarred and there was slush and black ice. When weather is bad, 2wd cars struggle to cover this stretch. But on our day, it was not a tough one. At places the 2wd cars struggled, but a bit of momentum helped them to get through.
With the AT tyres, it was an easy climb for my Duster in 2wd.



Few pics from the top.

Not always the reverse camera shows such an ecstatic view!

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Old 23rd November 2021, 17:37   #5
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Day 3 continued

As Bhpian Avic93 had a low O2 saturation level & the rest two of us also had mild headache, we decided not to spend more than 15 minutes beside the lake.

By 9-30 am we started our descent. As we were going down we decided to take more photo breaks.

A video on the way back.



With decrease in altitude, everyone were feeling better. We got enough snow, plus due to low O2 saturation level, we decide to skip Kalapathar and enjoy the vista's by driving in a slow pace till Lachen.

Pics on the way back.

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The congested Lachen town.

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We reached our hotel by noon.

Had nothing to do for the rest of the day. So three friends had a good chit chat with loads of food!

Himalayan Residecy, Lachen is a basic hotel with neat & clean rooms, 24 hours running hot water, inverter backup, good food (veg) and had parking for 3-4 cars. It's recommended.

Last edited by Samba : 24th November 2021 at 00:08.
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Old 23rd November 2021, 18:57   #6
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Day 4 (Lachen to Dzongu, 77 km, 5 hours)

We just had to cover 77 km. So we woke up late, and started around 10 am. At the 1st self the Duster refused to start, it came back to life in the 2nd crank. It was fine.
The Ecosport started at the 1st crank but it was vibrating and emitted smoke for a minute. The local Boleros opened the bonnet and kept them in sunlight.

I have no clue about the exact reason. The outside temp was 12 degree C, but our cars were parked in shade. May be that's the reason the engine didn't get enough heat after the chilly night.

In the morning, the road till Mangan had sparse traffic.

At Chungthang

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Just before Mangan

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We refueled at Mangan and headed towards Dzongu.

Showed our permits at Dzongu checkpost and crossed the bridge to enter Dzongu.

Our resort was located at upper Dzongu. It was a 12 km uphill drive from the checkpost.

We had our room booked at Munlom resort. The resort was located, 1 km ahead off Hee-Gyathang school, which can be used as a good landmark.
The last 500m stretch to the resort was off-road. It was a steep climb with big rocks and slush. I took the Duster in 2wd, just to see, if the Ecosport can make it or not. But in 2wd mode Duster got a couple of underbelly hits. So we decided to keep the Ecosport parked below and use the hotel's Mahindra Marshal to bring Sayata and Avi with their luggage from the Ecosport. That way my car could climb up lighter too.
On day two, I took this climb on 4wd lock and crawled up, this managed to save my car from any underbelly hits.

This was at the beginning of the trail. Couldn't stop & click the boulders on the incline. They were much bigger with moss!

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Our cottage

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On arrival, the hot waiwai with fried egg tested Yummy.

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The view of Mangan city from Dzongu in evening

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Some photo session with Bhpian AviC93!
Smoking is injurious to health.

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The chicken preparation for snacks and the dinner were simple yet tasty.
Had dinner by 10 pm and called it a day.

Last edited by Samba : 24th November 2021 at 01:43.
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Old 23rd November 2021, 20:34   #7
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Day 5 (Dzongu sightseeing, 48 km)

This day was kept just to soak ourselves in the lap of nature.

The morning view from our resort balcony

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Our resort guys offered us to take us to a waterfalls, where we can cook and have our lunch. We agreed promptly.
Bhpian Avic93 is an excellent cook and he wanted to cook. But when we reached the spot, it was beautiful, we decided to have fun with our cars and told the resort guys to cook for us!

The waterfall looked scenic, so we decided to click our cars on the water. First I took the Duster down and had to reverse 3-4 time to turn the car on the water. The wheel was slipping, so engaged 4wd to turn the car.
Once the pic of the Duster was clicked, we decided to take the Ecosport in reverse, so we do not have to turn it on the water.
We did so. While taking it up, the front left wheel was spinning, but with a bit of rocking and momentum it managed to get up by itself.

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The place where we had lunch.

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The chicken they cooked tasted awesome.

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These glasses were hand made by the resort guys by cutting bamboo!

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Post lunch, around 20 km from our place locals were having a festival on paddy harvest. We decided to have look. It was one of its kind and we enjoyed it thoroughly.

Pics from the Lepcha Paddy Harvest Festival

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Last edited by Samba : 24th November 2021 at 01:13.
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Old 23rd November 2021, 20:53   #8
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Default Re: Sailed through North Bengal & North Sikkim in an Ecosport & a Duster AWD

Day 5 continued

Mr.Kim, the owner of our resort.

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These Donuts were lip-smacking

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First time we tried Momos made of Millet instead of flour & it was damn tasty!

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The Golgappas looked different, but tasted yummy.

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A mobile ATM was kept handy for withdrawing money. It was parked just outside the entry gate.

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Us, with Mr Kim.

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A local Lepcha dressed in their local attire

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A bit of fun!

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Few clicks on the way back to our resort.

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The drive back to our resort-



The last 500 m stretch to Munlom resort, where I engaged the 4wd lock this time. The incline was quite steep. We won't be able to gauge it from the video.



Evening was spent around a bonfire and some good snacks.

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The simple yet tasty dinner we had.

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Munlom at Dzongu is one of the best property available here. It offers breathtaking views, with all amenities like 24 hours hot water, room heater, inverter backup, electric heating mattress, a comfortable room with great view from the balcony. Parking is also available. Cars which wont be able to come till the resort parking can be safely parked 500 m before. Resort guys will pick up and drop till the parking in their car.
Highly recommended.

Last edited by Samba : 24th November 2021 at 01:16.
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Old 23rd November 2021, 21:16   #9
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Default Re: Sailed through North Bengal & North Sikkim in an Ecosport & a Duster AWD

Day 6 (Dzongu to Chalsa, 168 km, 6 hours)

The day we come down from hills is always sad. So instead of Siliguri we planned to stay at Dooars, Chalsa.

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These Aloo Paratha's can give 'Amrik Sukdev' a run for their money!

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Finally, we started at 10 am from Dzongu.

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Via Mangan and Dikchu, road till Rongpo border was a breeze. From Rongpo to Coronation bridge, it was pain to drive with dust, traffic congestion and broken stretches.

Again, it was a refreshing drive from Coronation bridge to Sinclair's Retreat in Dooars, Chalsa. We enjoyed the drive through the tea estates.
Reached our resort by 4 pm.

Evening was spent in the resort premises.

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This was the 3rd time that I was staying at Sinclair's Chalsa. I love this property. One can spend a lot of time in it's lawn itself. A nice place to relax after a tiring drive.
Highly recommended.

Last edited by Samba : 24th November 2021 at 00:28.
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Old 23rd November 2021, 22:00   #10
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Default Re: Sailed through North Bengal & North Sikkim in an Ecosport & a Duster AWD

Day 7 (Chalsa to Kolkata, 835 km, 19 hours)

Okay, it's a 630 km drive, then why 835 km?

Because Nh34 is always unpredictable.

As we knew, on the last day it's going to be a 600 km+ & 14 hours drive, so we decided to take it easy after a sound sleep. We woke up late and had our breakfast.

Spent an hour in the resort lawn. It offered a breathtaking aerial view of Dooars.

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Finally we started from Sinclairs at 10-30 am.
We took the route through Gajoldoba - Teesta Barrage - Ghoshpukur - Islampur - Botolbari- Raiganj and took our first break at Banoful Gajol.

Somewhere near Falakata

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At Ghoshpukur Reliance

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The mutton curry at Banoful, Gajol tastes superb! We reached Gajol by 3-30 pm.

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The trio!

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Started from Gajol at 4-30 pm and we reached Moregram at 7 pm. Crossed Berhampore at 8 pm and reached 10 km before Krishnanagar at 10 pm. The 4-lane highway was stuck. Small cars were taking the wrong side. We took it too. After driving for 10 km, where the 4-lane ends the traffic was standstill. It was raining heavily. I asked a local driver, he told, he was stuck for the past 3 hours. Locals told, the congestion won't ease out before morning!
We turned back and again drove back to Berhampore, took the road to Kuli and connected to Sh7. From Kuli 30 km on Sh7 was broken.

A small break at a petrol bunk in Kuli. It's 1 am!

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We reached Burdwan at 3-15 am, took a small tea break at Shaktigar. Reached home at 5-15 am!
The traffic congestion at Krishnanagr cost us an extra 4 hours and 200 km!

2100 km of memories added!

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Last edited by Samba : 24th November 2021 at 01:20.
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Old 24th November 2021, 08:11   #11
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Default Re: Sailed through North Bengal & North Sikkim in an Ecosport & a Duster AWD

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 24th November 2021, 09:39   #12
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Default Re: Sailed through North Bengal & North Sikkim in an Ecosport & a Duster AWD

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samba View Post
2100 km of memories added!
It's not always one gets to be the first to post a comment on your travelogue! Anyway, congratulation to you Samba, Sayata and AviC93, for completing another "Sailed through" edition of your trade-marked travelogues with mesmerizing pictures. The pictures of your steeds surrounded by snow-capped mountains look so amazing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samba View Post
The traffic congestion at Krishnanagr cost us an extra 4 hours and 200 km!
It looks like your timing on the day clashed with the procession ceremony of famous & historical Jagaddhatri Pujo of Krishnanagar.

Cheers,
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Old 24th November 2021, 13:59   #13
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Default Re: Sailed through North Bengal & North Sikkim in an Ecosport & a Duster AWD

Mindblowing photos. Loved each one of them.
How did the Ecosport perform in that boulder filled road? Its a Tdci if I am not wrong.
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Old 24th November 2021, 15:16   #14
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Default Re: Sailed through North Bengal & North Sikkim in an Ecosport & a Duster AWD

This is a treat to read through how you spent those days. Even with so much intent in mind I really have not been able to inscribe the memories like you do! Congrats to the Duster and Ecosport for covering this much sought after destination in Sikkim. The harvest festival you witnessed is a unique experience. The Krishnanagar fiasco was indeed a bad luck as gmhossain pointed! Thanks for sharing and the lovely pictures!
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Old 24th November 2021, 16:44   #15
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Default Re: Sailed through North Bengal & North Sikkim in an Ecosport & a Duster AWD

So, this is where those offroading lessons and practice sessions are put to test and this is how one comes out with flying colours and then even takes audacious pictures!

I wish I would be able to drive like that someday when snow, forests, inclines, boulders, and waterfall would all seem like a highway under my wheels!

Last edited by DogNDamsel12 : 24th November 2021 at 16:46.
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