Mumbai to North Sikkim by Car

spandit

Avid traveler, loves road trips
Dear Friends, in December 2016 I undertook a 20 day road trip from Mumbai to North Sikkim and back via Nepal. I am writing this blog to share my experiences on this memorable trip.
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spandit

Avid traveler, loves road trips
Friends this is the itinerary I had planned - although i took detours depending on road conditions and timing. except for booking hotels in Gangtok, i kept my schedule quite flexible. I would plan to reach a city/town by 9 PM everyday and find a local hotel. I am grateful to agoda.com and booking.com for helping me find the right hotels in the most convenient way and of course to Google Maps for superb navigation support throughout my journey.
 

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spandit

Avid traveler, loves road trips
And this is my favorite car - Renault Duster in which I have completed 3 roadtrips from Mumbai to the Himalayas. I would say that for the Indian road conditions, there is no better SUV than the Duster because of its awesome suspensions.
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spandit

Avid traveler, loves road trips
Day 1: Mumbai to Indore

Started from my home in Mumbai early morning 6.30 AM for the long but exciting journey - just me and my wife. Took National Highway 3. Road condition is fantastic right until Indore throughout the 597 Kms journey ..... reached Indore by 6 PM with multiple stops in between for Lunch and snacks. about 1 hour before reaching Indore, I opened my Agoda app and booked hotel Fortune Landmark. its a fantastic property recently renovated and very near to Rajwada. The hotel has a very nice rooftop restaurant. After freshening up I called an Uber to go to Rajwada and old town. My wife did some great shopping of sarees and other stuff from the old town and later we had some of the best chat items - the famous food street of Indore. Here are some pics from the day:
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spandit

Avid traveler, loves road trips
Day 2: Indore to Kanpur 824 Kms

Left from Hotel at 9.40 AM after a good night's rest and awesome breakfast. The route I took was Indore - Dewas - Sanchi - Vidisha - Bina - Jhansi - Kanpur.

Took NH 52 from Indore and the Highway numbers changed as I proceeded on the route - NH 46, NH 42-A, NH 44, and then onto NH 27. The road from Indore to Dewas is 4 lane road - very good condition, and then onto Sanchi till Jhansi is mostly single lane each side - traffic was slightly moderate so I did not face any difficulty in driving until after Jhansi. Traffic after Jhansi becomes very heavy due to massive number of trucks on the road. NH 27 is one of the busiest highways in India. During the trip I stopped briefly at Sanchi to look at the historical monuments there - i must say it was fantastic!. here are some pics.... this was a long drive from Indore to Kanpur. There was a massive traffic jam on the Yamuna River bridge - I got stuck there for almost 2 hours! my wife was getting restless and it was already about 11 in the night. Anyways the traffic cops had to take a massive effort to clear the traffic which was mostly big trucks. Kanpur was still about 100 Kms away so I took the time to look for hotels on Agoda and found a good deal with Hotel Best Western Bliss on GT Road, Kanpur. Reached the hotel by around 12.30 in the night. Hotel room was very good so after a long tiring journey
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immediately went to sleep.

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spandit

Avid traveler, loves road trips
Day 3: Kanpur - Lucknow

My Plan for Day 3 was to reach Gorakhpur by about 7 PM. Left the hotel at 11 AM after a good breakfast. Today was another day of tiring driving - the traffic from Kanpur to Lucknow is like Mumbai traffic! one of the busiest highways with so many trucks. Crossed Lucknow by about 3 PM. After crossing the Ahmadpur toll plaza, at about 4.30 PM I suddenly noticed the red warning flash blinking on the dashboard and stopped the car near a petrol station. The car had been running quite smoothly so I could not understand what the problem was... here is the pic of the dashboard:
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spandit

Avid traveler, loves road trips
Day 3 continued - so friends I could not understand what was happening with my car and why the dashboard showed warning signs. I decided not to take any risks and called the Renault customer service number and explained the problem to the agent. They suggested not to take a risk and advised I take the car to the nearest Renault service center in Lucknow - which was about 80 Kms behind on NH 27. They asked my location and arranged for a tow vehicle. I waited at the petrol station for about an hour and half. Finally the tow truck arrived and it was already about 7 PM. We got the duster on to the truck and myself and my wife sat in the truck - it was first every experience in sitting in a truck cabin! finally we reached the Renault service center at about 8.30 Pm and unfortunately the centre was closed. The security guard advised us to leave the vehicle at the Centre and come back next day morning. I searched on Agoda and found that the nearest hotel was about 10 Kms away and there were no cabs available in that area. Luckily a guy in Innova was going from the service centre towards the City and he agreed to drop us in the city - we unloaded all of our luggage from the car and got into the Innova - he dropped us on the main road and then I ordered an Uber to take us to the Hotel. The car arrived after 30 minutes of waiting on the road and finally I reached the hotel Zarng Inn (opposite Essar Ptrol Pump on Deva Road, near NH 27). The hotel itself was in poor condition (2 star at best) but I had no other choice. we ordered some food and went to sleep. here are some pics of the hotel:
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spandit

Avid traveler, loves road trips
Day 4: Lucknow to Gorakhpur

After somehow managing the night at Zarang Inn, we left the hotel at about 9 AM - i called an Uber to drop me to the Renault Service Center. Reached the Service Centre by 9.40 AM - fortunately it was open and the staff there immediately attended to my car - they spent about an hour to check what happened but could not find anything amiss. They suggested a more thorough checkup of the car and asked me to wait for a few hours. The staff there was very courteous and helpful. I had no choice but to wait in the waiting room. After few hours the mechanic informed me that one of the 4 valves in the engine had failed and that was the reason for the warning on dashboard. He said the valve has to be replaced and fortunately they had a spare with them readily available and even better was my car was still under warranty. I was told that the replacement would be done after getting the confirmation from Renault Mumbai and they will complete the paperwork asap. It was already around 1 PM by then. They advised I go and have some lunch and they will try to keep the car ready asap. I told them about my journey plans and asked them to make sure the car was in perfect condition. Finally I got my car back at 3.30 PM and the mechanic confirmed it will give no further trouble. he said i did the right thing by getting the car to the service station because if I had continued my journey, the entire engine would have failed. Thank God! Anyways I finally resumed my Journey and reached Gorakhpur and reached Hotel Clarks Grand (Park Road, Civil Lines, Gorakhpur) by about 7.30 PM. It was a nice hotel (3 star I would say but apparently the best in Gorakhpur). Here are some pics from the day:
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spandit

Avid traveler, loves road trips
Day 5: Gorakhpur to Gangtok:

Today was the day I was going to finally enter Sikkim!! This was going to be a 747 Kms drive from Gorakhpur to Gangtok on NH 27 and my plan was to reach Gangtok by 7 or 8 PM latest. So I got up early, had good breakfast and left the hotel at sharp 8.18 AM. A stretch of NH 27 is under construction for about 40 Kms from Gorakhpur and the drive is painful through this stretch. After that it was just a breeze and I passed through some beautiful landscape of Bihar. NH 27 quality of the road was fantastic! I crossed Siliguri around 7 PM and then the climb started!! wow it was amazing. i could hear the sounds of the rushing river Teesta as I climbed the hills. Traffic was almost zero and the climb became steeper and steeper with every turn. There was so many hairpin bends along the way but the Duster was simply fantastic and climbed the hills so easily. Finally I reached my hotel Yangthang Heritage (kazi road, Gangtok) at 11.17 PM in the night. Here are some pics from the day:
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spandit

Avid traveler, loves road trips
Day 6: In Gangtok

Got up early about 7 AM and here was the majestic sight of the Himalayas - finally finally. we spent the day relaxing - went to MG Road and just walked around the Gangtok city. the weather was slightly cold but very pleasant and we had a good time. I had to plan for my next phase of the trip from Gangtok to Lachung and Lachen and this required prior permits to be taken from the local authorities. Friends you would have read several blogs around the permits policy in Sikkim and the difficulty in getting these permits. I went through the same pain - going from one office to the other and everyone giving the same answer - not possible for private cars to get the permit, and one has to use only the local taxis to drive beyond Gangtok. I did not give up and finally went to the local permits department and requested the officer there. He initially declined but I kept persuading. Finally he relented and gave me the permit - the process itself is crazy with lot of paperwork involved. anyways i was happy i got the permits and could finally drive up north!. here are some pics from the day:
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