To the Queen of Hills

#1 Jan 19th, 2015, 16:54
Join Date:
Jan 2015
  • Subham_1001 is offline
"Next time when we come we will drive the whole way", we were on our way back from Darjeeling last year and me and my friend uttered the words above in unison. Two of us were huddled along with the luggage in the back seats of a Bolero that was taking us back to NJP from Darjeeling on a beautiful Sunday Morning in February 2014. The 3 day trip was a grand success with the sleeping Buddha unfolded for 3 consecutive days, not so crowded streets and an accommodation right on the Mall. Last night we made a pact that we will be back every year and now in the morning the journey back home was not helping the resolution. The Bolero was screeching and rumbling its way towards Kurseong when a XUV zoomed past us towards Darjeeling. Through the scuffed up window in the back we saw it vanishing in the twist and turns of Hill Cart Road. And then the statement came to our minds at the same instance.

Towards the end of 2014 we were again planning for Darjeeling with 10 people. By then I had bought my XUV and my friend had his Swift. The group however got extended and finally when we all gathered near Rajarhat Eco Park at 5:20 PM on 31st December we were 11 adults and 2 children with and additional brand new Grand i10. While taking the customer group photo with the Cars, I finally believed that we are doing it. When you have friends we will encourage your whims and desires this is exactly what happens. We left Kolkata at around 6:00 in the evening with a plan to stop near Moregram to rest in the night. The amount of discussion we had prior to the trip regarding the route and the options all went for a toss as we were simply trudging along the NH34 in the midst of all that you can imagine from heavy trucks to tuktuks. The progress was slow and by the time we stopped for dinner in a Dhaba in the outskirts of Krishnanagar it was almost 9:30 PM in the night. We were making 30KM per hour which was a lot less than 50 kmph that we were hoping for. We knew that the road condition from Krishnanagar till the start of Moregram-Farakka highway was pathetic and a few of us were already very tired. Most of them had worked very hard throughout the week to manage their leaves and the journey till then was not helping. But the collective enthusiasm prevailed and we started to brave the worst road conditions. The 3 hour drive felt like riding the waves of Bay of Bengal. My XUV helped me immensely with its higher ground clearance and in many cases I could take the car for granted. It was even more difficult for my friends with their Swift and i10. Ultimately we made it to the 1st toll of Moregram to Farakka highway and it was nearly midnight. The New Year was celebrated at the service road beside the highway and the drivers decided that we will drive all the way without stopping. We were sure that the break in the journey will do more bad than good as the impending fog and possible traffic jams in Kaliachowk and Dalkhola will be bigger problems for us in the morning rather than in the night. We were simply hoping that the truckers would have called it a day and we will get a smooth passage till we touch NH31 near Dalkhola. Till Farakka we simply glided through and then came the surprise. The highway from Farakka to Gazol was in terrible condition and a very bad traffic jam held us back and it was only 4.30 AM in the morning we stopped at Gazol for Morning Tea. We made great time till Farakka but the 60 KM stretch from Farakka to Gazol took us more than 3 hours.

We were truly tired and felt the eye-lids becoming extremely heavy. But a glass full of hot tea and excitement of driving through bends of Rohini gave us the adrenaline push we needed and we zoomed through to Matigara (225 KM) in 4 hours flat. We took the Dalkhola route and fortunately there was no traffic jam in the dreaded rail gate. This was the first time ever I saw a sun rise while driving and I must admit all the tiredness was taken away by the morning rays. We stopped for a while to enjoy the sunrise and the soothing light and cool breeze that rejuvenated the whole group. The road condition was much better. Especially from Dalkhola to Matigara NH31 took real good care of us. Zooming through the tea gardens with an imposing view of the mountain before us made this part of the journey most enjoyable. After a quick breakfast at Matigara we were on our way through Sukna to take Rohini route to Darjeeling.
One interesting thing about the car happened during the early part of the accent. Somehow the car was not responding as smoothly as it normally does in general conditions. The 2200 CC engine felt like 800 CC. I seemed like the car was gasping for air. I sensed my shoulders becoming tensed and I started revving the engine a lot more with half clutch. Slowly in another 1-2 KM the problem was solved and I could take the turns much more comfortably and in many cases I even drove in 3rd gear. 10 minutes back it felt like suicidal idea to go above 2nd. I am not sure what happened and if revving the engine actually solved the problem. The gradient of Rohini route is higher and it increases as you go up. So it was not the case of the road easing up. After Kurseong the car felt like it belonged there and I was definitely more confident than ever. I do not think I had to let anyone pass me because they were faster than me in that stretch of Kurseong to Darjeeling. In the stretch prior to Kurseong in many cases I felt I was holding up traffic and had to let the regulars pass. The sleeping Buddha smiled at us near Batasia Loop and the whole group just jumped out of the cars and started screaming in pure bliss. Without any more hiccups we reached Darjeeling at about 11 AM.
Not many people would agree if I say that even though we had bad roads, traffic jams, tired bodies to contain with; the drive simply was amazing. The adversities actually made the drive more exciting and thrilling. The journey taught us a few more things but I believe by the time we parked our cars in Darjeeling Gymkhana we were better drivers.
A few things to note;
One must avoid NH34 as much as possible. The route through Panagarh-Moregram highway is much better option
It is not possible to average more than 40 KMPH so plan your stops accordingly
Always have a co-driver if you are planning to drive all the way
Carry enough water and fast food to minimize stoppages

For the journey back I will create another thread. Wait for more

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