We planned to reach Siliguri by evening and halt there for the night and continue our journey next morning. Therefore we started at 3:30AM in the morning from our home in Garia, Kolkata. The early morning drive out of Kolkata was a breeze and in no time we crossed the now dreaded Santragachi Flyover which was under repair. We have often faced huge snarls at the flyover but luckily this time we found it empty. It is often said the journey from Kolkata to Siliguri is always a gamble and even after hearing the dreaded road condition of NH34 we were expecting a driving time of around 14 hours. But there is a common say, “Man proposes and God disposes”. You will later find out what lay as a surprise.
We stopped for breakfast at Rampurhat at 10:00AM. We did not find any decent dhaba, the only savior to our hunger pangs was a hotel which served only bread and omelet as breakfast. We started from Rampurhat at 10:30AM. We took a left onto NH-34 after Morgram. The road is a mixed bag with some stretches with 4 lanes and excellent surface.
It was around 4.7 km from the Farakka Barrage near Kashinagar that we first dealt with the true reality of NH34.We were stuck behind a few kilometers long snarl all lined up with trucks. The saddest part being that they were all stagnant and none of them moved. The opposite lane was also stagnant and one could not overtake either way.Our’s was the only passenger vehicle in the middle of trucks. We could bypass spurts of the jam by driving on the wrong side but it seemed that the line of trucks never ended. The road was so narrow that sometimes going on the wrong side could stop the oncoming traffic thus creating a deadlock. Our main concern on the trip was our much beloved Fluidic Verna which has a very low ground clearance and the clearance was further reduced by the weight of the luggage. Driver of pickup vans who frequented the sector said the jam could last till late at night!!!!!We were shocked. Verna has a relatively small fuel tank and we were running out of fuel by idling with the ac on. We were lucky to stop a few activities on the Farakka Bridge as we were stuck over it for around 40 mins. Firstly, we saw several trains pass by and a barrage gate being opened. Right after Farraka we took left for barrage colony detour which landed us on a bridge. The detour was not of much use as we were stuck on top of bridge with miles of truck behind and ahead while the opposite lane few feet below was empty. The jam continued till Kaliachak and costed us precious time as we were setback by 6 hours. We reached Golden Park Hotel, Malda for a late lunch at 5 pm. I must say that the hotel houses a multi cuisine restaurant which serves a great variety of food.
Then after Malda towards Dalkhola was again a mix of single and dual carriageways. By that time God had realized that these poor petrol head has already suffered a lot so luckily Dalkhola was open. We halted at a dhaba just before Kishanganj for a late evening tea and much needed stretch. We reached Siliguri around 11pm and checked into our room at Summit Milestone Siliguri at 11:30pm.So our exciting journey came to an end after 20 hours .Even after such an exhausting journey everybody was filled with great enthusiasm and zeal thinking about our first road trip to the Hills in our Fluidic. One thing that cannot be ignored is the politeness and courtesy of the truckers. Whenever they saw a private vehicle coming on the opposite direction they gave way and whenever we tried to enter their lane by overtaking several of them, they obliged.
Hotel Review:-Summit Milestone is a wonderful property and even late at night around 12 am they served us tasty butter naan and chicken rezala. The breakfast spread was huge. At Rs 2000 per day I would say it to be a very good deal.
Toll Paid:- Vidyasagar Setu Toll Plaza-Rs10
Dankuni Toll Plaza-Rs 60
Palsit Toll Plaza-Rs 65
Ajoy Bridge,at Illambazar-Rs20
Chandermore Toll Plaza-Rs 40
Surjapur Toll Plaza-Rs65
Paschim Madati Toll Plaza-Rs45
Total Distance travelled from Home to Summit Milestone Hotel,Siliguri-669km
Route Details:-Siliguri to Darjeeling via Rohini Road and Kurseong.
Road Condition:-There are various roads to reach Darjeeling. We chose the Rohini Road because of its impeccable condition. The road is very smooth and well laid. It is steeper than the Hill Cart Road but the road condition is much better than the latter’s.
Stops and eating joints:-.There are several eating joints on Rohini Road serving tea, coffee and mouth-watering Maggi Noodles. I don’t know why but the taste of the maggi in the hills is so different and enjoyable.
Time taken:-2 hrs.
Toll Paid:-Rs 30 Rohini Toll Plaza
Total Distance traveled from Summit Milestone Hotel, Siliguri to Sinclair’s Darjeeling-71kms
The car was in a horrendous shape filled with bug marks and dust .Thus we took her for a much needed spa at H20 moto spa in the parking lot of Orbit Mall, Siliguri. The shop is a regular detailing shop like 3M car care and charged us Rs500 for Car wash .Even though the charge was on the higher side but owing to the shortage of water in Siliguri we agreed. But boy! they did an awesome job. In no time the car came out sparkling and we were ready to set out on our maiden journey to the Hills.
We took the Rohini Road owing to its freshly laid tarmac. One pointer is that there are several ways to reach Darjeeling, the most common being the Hill Cart and the Rohini Road. The latter one is steeper and a toll road. It merges with the Hill Cart Road at Kurseong. We took around 2.5 hours to reach Darjeeling with one small tea break and numerous other photo breaks. The Verna performed superiorly and never did we feel that it was out of power. It climbed the steep gradients of Rohini with ease in the first gear. At some patches we found dense fog .
Few insights on driving in the Hills for newbies compiled from several other travelogues:-
• Most Important : Use the same gear downslope as you'd use on the same gradient uphill
• riding the clutch is that much more dangerous
• The uphill traffic has right of way - especially on narrow roads - anticipate single-lane stretches and stop for them. While climbing we did not face any problem as all of downhill traffic obediently stood at broad spaces and allowed cars coming uphill to pass smoothly. But the judgement comes into effect while going downslope. We had to analyze the width of the road ahead and stop accordingly if we saw any uphill traffic.
• NEVER EVER COME DOWNHILL IN NEUTRAL OR ENGINE SHUT-OFF.
• Use lower gears and brake judiciously. Use engine braking.
• Lights on are a good idea anyhow - more so if you keep darting in and out between sun-facing and dark hillsides
• Use the horn when in doubt, and then around hairpins, blind curves
• Slot into the required gear before you approach a hair pin bend. Don’t change your gear in the middle of the slope.
• cool weather may cause lowered liquid intake, remember to drink water
• Stop where vehicles from both directions can see you well in advance
• Stop for photo breaks as when required.. Journey is not about reaching the destination faster than what my friend did in the last trip but enjoying the whole experience.
We were put up in Hotel Sinclair’s Darjeeling which turned out to be an excellent property. The view of the mighty Kanchenjunga from the rooms and the open restaurant during breakfast was breathtaking. The buffet breakfast really had a wide spread. The hotel housed a multi cuisine restaurant and a garden café. It is one of the finest properties in Darjeeling portraying one of the best views of Kanchenjunga all at Rs3000. I must say a deal well sealed. The only downside is the lack of parking space in front of the hotel. The manger pleaded several times to remove the car but we were helpless as we were unable to find a parking space in Darjeeling. The big bazar did not allow outside vehicles and Gymkhana had stopped parking for non-member’s vehicles. On the 3rd day of our stay in Darjeeling we found out parking in the church located bang opposite to Gymkhana. Though we did not park but enquired about the charges which amounted to Rs400 per day. The name of the gatekeeper of the church is Kamal. Contact no.:-09800715541. I would suggest to anyone travelling to Darjeeling by his own car to stay at Tourist Lodge as it has adequate parking space. We made frequent visits to the Mall located at walkable distance of 8min from our property. The Mall houses a CCD(Café Coffee Day) and a giant screen projecting cricket matches live.
No trip to Darjeeling is complete without a visit to Glenary, Keventer and Kunga.Glenary was most frequented by us. Darjeeling also has KFC and Pizza Hut outlet
Having earlier been to Darjeeling we skipped all the places of sightseeing which local cabbies call ‘points’.
We had been on the joyride to Ghum via Batasia Loop on the Darjeeling Toy Train.
Our plan was to reach Kurseong and halt for one night. We stayed at the Tourist Lodge .It was also a wonderful property serving wonderful momos.
We returned through the same route.But the time taken was 14 hrs. We encountered long queues of trucks on Panagarh Moregram State Highway near Suri, which were bypassed by overtaking from the opposite lane.