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Old 24th June 2024, 00:25   #1
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An Offroad Trip to Sandakphu with Thars and Pajero

It was a march ending month that kept me busy in finishing off yearly closing related work. I was pondering about an after march trip to the unknown and craving for something new. Got a post from Adhiraj Singh, the man behind our KO group. He and few of his friends planned a trip to Sandakphu via Nepal. It was scheduled to start from 20th March till 23 March’24. I had shown my keen interest to join although knew that it will be almost impossible for me to get a 5days leave during this year ending month. 12th of March, I enquired again and to my relief Adhiraj da told me the trip was postponed and will be scheduled during the days between 9th-20th April’24. He informed that he got few Thar owners to join him in the trip. Without much thinking I jumped in. The plan was to go up via Pashupati Side (driving almost through the Nepal side.) I was worried about documentation and he assured that not much documentation will be required since his friend Pemba Sherpa will be there to ensure a smooth passage.

Schedule:
10th April: Land in Siliguri. Drive Pashupati - Tumling

11th April: Drive Tumling - Sandakphu

12th April: Drive Sandakphu - Phalut - Sandakphu

13th April: Drive Sandakphu - Siliguri

14th April: Fly back from Siliguri

Informed my office and got the leave orally approved. Now eagerly waiting for the final day as I was way too much excited to join my first mountain expedition with my beast (Thar diesel automatic). 7th April,24: Started of from Kolkata in the morning and reached Jalpaiguri in the night, 12 hours journey, as Ranaghat railway overbridge is now completed followed by smooth Berhampore bypass, also the construction work of the second bridge over river Ganga in Farakka has started in full fledge. Only found the Raiganj bypass is still pending due to uncompleted railway bridge within that 4-lane bypass expressway. Reached home in the night, next day got my vehicle throughly cleaned in my favourite car wash center in Jalpaiguri town. Spent another day resting and arranging for dry fruits, protein bars etc after visiting nearby reliance store and scouring for winter clothes from the shelve.

Participants:
1. Adhiraj Singh (white Pajero) along with Gonu & Suvendu, 2. Sumit Periwal (Red old version Thar) and his brother Sameer Jhawar, 3. Vivek Bansal and his son Shivraya Bansal + their driver Kamat (Red soft-top Petrol automatic Thar), 4. Harsh Agarwal + his driver Manoj( mystic copper color soft-top petrol automatic thar) & 5. myself Tapas aka topse (aquamarine color hardtop diesel automatic thar).

Total five vehicles & eleven participants.

10th April’24 (Day 1):
Sumit & Sameer started from Kolkata and reached Bagdogra the previous night but they had to face much ordeal at Plassey due to crowd gathering in a cow fair and road blockade because of that. Adhiraj along with Gonu & Suvendu started off from Liluah, Howrah in his Pajero ( but they were able to avoid Plassey ordeal by crossing Hoogly river on boat) and reached Bagdogra. Manoj was bringing Harsh’s thar and Kamat was bringing Vivek’s thar and they came along with Adhiraj da as a convoy. Vivek, Sivaraya and Harsh took a flight to reach Bagdogra from Kolkata.

I started off from Jalpaiguri at 8:00 in the morning and joined Adhiraj da and others at Glenary’s next to Marina’s hotel at around 9am. Adhiraj da briefed us about our next route and itinerary at the coffee table and we formally started our Sandakphu expedition from there. Sumit and Sameer joined remaining of us at Dudhia Gaon. As I was driving alone Gonu gave me company from Dudhia, Adhiraj da provided us walkie-talkies for each of the five cars. As the convoy gathered at Dudhia we stopped for few clicks with our machines which are going to be our vahaan for our this Himalayan adventure.

We reached Pashupati Phatak at 13:10, Adhiraj da’s friend Pemba Sherpa was there. We vehicle owners had to show our vehicle RC, DL & Aadhar card both to the SSB (India side) and APF (Nepal side) counters. After document verification we were given permit to enter Nepal upon payment of a nominal fee. After getting the formal welcome by our guide friend Pemba we resumed our journey from there.

We reached Naya Bazar situated in Mechi village at 16:20. We were late to had our lunch, so it was our first Pahari lunch which was very tasty. We had our lunch with hot rice, beans, daal, aloo fry and chicken curry.

We resumed our journey at 17:00 only to find the road blockade due to a massive landslide in-front of us. We waited 15mins till one JCB cleared out the road.

It was getting dusky, we were traversing though unpaved jungle road, it was a continuous driving till a view point at Mechi, the place was windy and chilled, and the sky was glowing with the setting sun. We took few group photos and started off. It was a hour long mostly bumpy ride due to unpaved boulder filled rocky road surface.

We reached our first destination Tumling at 19:00. It was too chilly and windy outside. Took our bags out and checked into the homestay. Till the time we settled in, the feat for reaching our first destination for the day has just started. We sat together at the dinner table and sang together and enjoyed with all those 70s songs till our dinner was served at around 21:30. Food was rice, chicken curry, home grown pahari sabji and salad. The dinner tasted awesome. Entered our room, there was very high wind outside and the cyclone like noise made us feel a bit uncanny, somehow able to closed the windows. Jumped into the warmth of our bed and called it a day.

The Day-1 in Film:




Photo Memories From Day-1

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Dawa Homestay, Tumling, Nepal

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Naya Bazar, Mechi, Nepal

Last edited by topse : 24th June 2024 at 00:32. Reason: typo
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Old 24th June 2024, 00:53   #2
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An Offroad Trip to Sandakphu with Thars and Pajero

11th Apr'24 (Day 2):
Gonu woke up first early in the morning and went outside for a sunrise view. I followed next, the atmosphere was very pleasant and tranquil. The red rhododendron flowers were in full blossom, which made the nearby terrains like it was wearing a reddish spotted blanket.

We had our breakfast with handmade roti and egg fry and a cup of coffee. We packed our belongings and started our journey off towards Kalipokhri which we will reach crossing through Dhap Pokhari Ilam, but the ordeal was the whole distance was non-tarmac road made with eaither boulders or were totally unpaved.

We didnít take the usual road from Tumling to Kalapokhri. The regular road was going through West Bengal - Nepal border throughout but we took the western side of that regular road and was travelling through inside of Nepal, we reached Kalapokhri via Dhap Pokhari Ilam which was rather a mostly difficult offroad terrain than the regular route.

This was going to be our first most difficult terrain for us on this journey not because it was mostly offroad but due to the fact that we will have to drive the whole day throughout this road. We took many breaks enroute as this being the longest drive of our journey till our destination Pandim lodge, Kalapokhari which falls enroute Sandakphu. The road we were travelling through was mostly deserted and forested although we observed few small villages after few kms. At 19:17, we reached Kalapokhri. Checked in at Pandim Lodge, it was very cold at 4 degrees outside. We gathered at their attached restaurant cum bar. It was kind of a celebration night for us after the completion of our first proper day long Himalayan Offroad journey.

The Day-2 in Film


Photo Memories from Day-2

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Tongba, a traditional Nepalese Drink

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Old 24th June 2024, 01:27   #3
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An Offroad Trip to Sandakphu with Thars and Pajero

12th Apr' 24(Day 3):
We woke up 5:00 in the morning to start in the wee hours in the hope of reaching Sandakphu (6.2 km via Bikeway Byanjan) early morning to observe the beautiful view of snow covered Kanchenjungha peak.

We took the regular route now which was getting steeper. During that upclimb we found a broken-down land rover which halted our progress through that route further. Therefore, all the vehicles in the convoy had to reverse the downhill. However, here our guide Pema joined our convoy with his own bolero 4x4, so we were now in a convoy of six vehicles. During this time Pajero’s right rear tyre got a side wall cut, Adhiraj da and Pema stopped and they signalled remaining of us to move forward as we almost reached the Sandakphu peak. We reached Sandakphu at 9:00, re-energised ourselves up with bowl of hot maggi/ oat milk and coffee. We waited till remaining of us joined in.

After all of us completed our breakfast we started moving towards Phalut peak. But after driving a few miles we understood it will be very difficult for us to reach Phalut and return the same day with this kind of extreme offroad terrain where we were hardly able to drive our vehicles at more than 10-20kmph. We reached Thokum valley at around 12:30 and played football with the local boys and donated jersey and footballs to the boys.

In Thokum valley, there was a Yak festival next day, so local people were building bamboo structure for shops. We spent an hour there talking with the locals. We couldn’t spent much time since we will have to again return to Tumling for our stay that night and return journey. We returned to Sandakphu via the same route and had our lunch there. I took Thukpa. We returned back to Kalapokhri (16:30) and Tumling (18:25) via the regular route.

The night we spent in Tumling was one of the most memorable night of the journey. The owners of Dawa Homestay arranged a bonfire for us, we sat together encircling it under the open cloudless sky and made a last night celebration of the feat.

The Day-3 in Film


Photo Memories from Day-2

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Last edited by topse : 24th June 2024 at 01:32. Reason: missed text
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Old 24th June 2024, 01:52   #4
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An Offroad Trip to Sandakphu with Thars and Pajero

13th Apr, 24 (Day 4):
Next day we took our own time to wake up as we were packing up leisurely to get back to the plains. We returned to Siliguri via India side road through Meghma-Lamey Dhura-Chitrey-Mane Bhyanjan-Mirik(keeping Pashupati Phatak beside on the way) and reached Siliguri. From there we bid adeiu to each other and dispersed from the convoy for our own route. I retuned back to Jalpaiguri and one day later drove back to Kolkata alone. Adhiraj da with his Pajero returned to Kolkata on the same day by road, Sumit with his red old Thar was off to Kurseong, Vivek and Harsh returned to Kolkata by flight while handing over their vehicles to their companions.


The Days and Routes:
Day 1: Dudhia(11:00)-Mirik-Pashupati Phatak(13:10)-Mechi, Naya Bazar(16:20)(this is Nepal side road)-Tumling(21:00)
**another route is via Indian side keeping Pashupati Nagar Phatak to the left towards Mane Bhanjan-Chitrey-Lamey Dhura-Meghma-Tumling
Day2: Tumling (Dawa Homestay)-Dhap Pokhari Ilam- (Pandim Lodge) Kalipokhri Nepal
Day3: Kalipokhri-Bikhay Bhyanjan-Sandakphu (3630mtr) -Thokum valley(3596 mtr, on the way to Phalut)-back to Sandakphu-Kalipokhri-Tumling night stay
Day 4: Climbing down from Tumling to Mirik (through India side via Meghma-Lamey Dhura-Chitrey-Mane Bhyanjan)-Siliguri

The Day-1 in Film:



Photo Memories From Day-4

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Old 25th June 2024, 10:42   #5
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Re: An Offroad Trip to Sandakphu with Thars and Pajero

Excellent writeup.
I have a specific question for the Thar owners :- Did you use 4H on the cobblestone tracks or manage with 2H?
Thanks!
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Old 25th June 2024, 14:14   #6
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Re: An Offroad Trip to Sandakphu with Thars and Pajero

Quote:
Originally Posted by sridhar-v View Post
Excellent writeup.
I have a specific question for the Thar owners :- Did you use 4H on the cobblestone tracks or manage with 2H?
Thanks!
Adding to the above question, alot of youtube videos say you need 4L at some places, but the Thar has a centre transfer case and not diff, if you used 4H/L, how did you navigate the turns ?
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Old 25th June 2024, 16:13   #7
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Re: An Offroad Trip to Sandakphu with Thars and Pajero

Excellent, glad to see Adhi bhaiya and Suvi. Love for KO.

Last edited by BlackPearl : 25th June 2024 at 16:32. Reason: Minor typo, thanks.
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Old 25th June 2024, 17:48   #8
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Re: An Offroad Trip to Sandakphu with Thars and Pajero

Thanks for sharing this awesome experience. It seemed that the visibility due to fog was quite a challenge. Thar seems to be at home in such terrains.
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Old 25th June 2024, 19:36   #9
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Re: An Offroad Trip to Sandakphu with Thars and Pajero

Thanks for sharing. I was there in last week of Feb but trekked from Sepi. It is an amazing peak and awesome people!
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Old 28th June 2024, 23:39   #10
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Re: An Offroad Trip to Sandakphu with Thars and Pajero

Quote:
Originally Posted by sridhar-v View Post
Excellent writeup.
I have a specific question for the Thar owners :- Did you use 4H on the cobblestone tracks or manage with 2H?
Thanks!
No! We never had to use 4x4 except while crossing that 100mtr landslide part just after Nayabazar, Mechi on the first day and had to engage it again couple of times starting from 2km before Sandakphu while climbing it up on the third day. However, on those many cobblestone stretches which we encountered throughout during those four days of our journey we were on 2H and managed to remain in 2H even during climbing up those many 180 deg hairpin bends we came across.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Turbolove View Post
Adding to the above question, alot of Youtube videos say you need 4L at some places, but the Thar has a centre transfer case and not diff, if you used 4H/L, how did you navigate the turns ?
We used 2H most of the time but over few stretches while climbing up the Sandakphu mountain top we had to engage 4x4. And navigating turns were not damaging to the diff and transfer case because those cobblestones had become slippery due to sporadic rain and cloudy atmosphere. But frequently we had to put our vehicles in 4x2 whenever we were driving over any hard concrete/tarmac portion of the climb.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GoodMorning View Post
Excellent, glad to see Adhi bhaiya and Suvi. Love for KO.
Yes, only because of Adhi da, his guidance and good experience we were perfectly balanced, disciplined and we got the confidence to follow a rather unusual terrain throughout where roads are mostly non-existent specially on the Nepal side. Adhi da provided walkie-talkie to each of the five vehicle of the convoy which helped us remain co-ordinated and in synch with each other. Suvi and Gonu paa ji were always there as our good support and provided immediate help whenever needed. It was a great team alltogether.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OpenRoads View Post
Thanks for sharing this awesome experience. It seemed that the visibility due to fog was quite a challenge. Thar seems to be at home in such terrains.
Yes, we faced a bit visibility issue during our night driving till Tumling on the first day due to heavy fog and during day time we faced fog and lots of moving clouds near Kalapokhri and Sandakphu peak till Thokum valley mostly.

Regarding our Thar's performance: I dont want to exaggerate but I am extremely happy with the performance of this mHawk during our this Sandakphu expedition. It handled all those extreme terrains and steep slopes in such a flawless manner and without minimum effort that I would like to get another one if fund permits.

Quote:
Originally Posted by knp View Post
Thanks for sharing. I was there in last week of Feb but trekked from Sepi. It is an amazing peak and awesome people!
Yes, the people, the climate, those beautiful terrains, the peak, the blossomed red rhododendron trees and foods are amazing there. Would love to visit again and again. In-fact, I proposed to make a plan to the team to know if anyone was interested to trek and climb the peak next. Glad that you trekked it, would love to hear your trekking experience some day. Cheers!
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Old 1st July 2024, 13:25   #11
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Re: An Offroad Trip to Sandakphu with Thars and Pajero

A wonderful travelogue with nice photos. Good to see THAR on the terrain it is supposed to be. Thank you for sharing. Keep on munching miles.
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