The long way back to Siliguri: #28States28Plates Day 15 Blog
After a relaxing couple of days in Gangtok, we were looking forward to getting back on the road with our Renault Kigers, especially because our plan for the day was simple — a four drive to Siliguri after which we were to meet the folks at the Bohania Renault dealership. Things didn’t really turn out as planned, though. There was a landslide on the usual route from Gangtok to Siliguri, which meant that we had to take a much longer route through Tukdah Forest, winding up just a stone’s throw from Darjeeling at one point.
While the route was alright past the check post at Rangpo, we’d got news from Army personnel in the area about a landslide up ahead near the Coronation bridge. Thankfully, way before all of this, we filled our bellies with some delicious chicken momos from the Oasis Cafe and sure enough, up ahead near the Teesta Bazaar, we were re-routed toward NH110. The road is narrow, and very steep almost all the way through. But the views are incredible, I’m not going to lie. The Kiger, with its 1-litre turbo-petrol, had no issues getting up the inclines and handled the sharp turns really well, helped by the CEAT SecuraDrive tyres that come fitted to it from the factory. By the time we reached Sonada, we had climbed to a height of 2100m, a good 500m higher than Gangtok and we were (quite literally) in the clouds. Visibility dropped to almost nil and that meant progress was slow. That didn’t affect us too much though, because there was a lot to see around. The Darjeeling Express runs along this route — the train tracks are pretty much adjacent to the road — and we suspect, to satisfy the passengers on board, all of the towns it crosses through are deliberately well kept. The houses are painted in bright colours, there are flowers everywhere and a general cleanliness in the area. So, while this road takes almost twice the time of the regular Gangtok-Siliguri route, if you’re not in a hurry, we wholeheartedly recommend taking it.
After having been climbing sharply for an hour or so, we started descending after the town of Rohini and with the fog only getting thicker, our progress was slow. However, we still managed to reach Siliguri before sundown, which happens relatively early in this part of the country (by 6:30pm). Once in Siliguri, we stopped by at the Bohania Renault dealership who gave us a warm welcome into the city with a taste of the local cuisine and a quick recharge with some refreshments before we headed toward our night halt. Tomorrow could turn out to be one of the most challenging drives of the entire #28States28Plates drive — Siliguri to Kolkata.