R.O.A.D - East India's largest convoy - 40 car, 2 bikes and 90 people

We had a massive gathering during our last Team-bhp Monsson meet (Kolkata Monsoon Meet - 24th July, 2016). It was the largest Team-bhp meet East India or for the matter of fact any part of India has every seen. Last winter few bhpians have arranged for a overnight meet at Gadiara (New Year Winter Meet, Kolkata (January 2016)) which turned out to be a successful overnight road trip. But the count was less than the day meets we have. Well why am I talking so much about head counts ? Because it is not easy to manage 40 cars and 90 people in a convoy and have a wonderful weekend trip. We did it.

Henry Island - A weekend with a 100cc motor cycle

 Before 2010 I was mostly a biker. Many people from Eastern region still knows me as a biker. I have started learning to ride when I was 14 in my father's Hero Honda CD100SS and after that I have owned numerous bikes from TVS Apache RTR to KTM Duke 200. I have done few road trips with our beloved group RoadRollers in the past. We used to do weekend trips frequently. Those were the days when my motto was - "Whatever it is, its better in the wind".

I never thought things would change and I would be driving instead of riding. And now when I don't ride at all and I have sold all of my bikes I cant call myself a biker anymore.

It was only yesterday when I was browsing my old pictures and found an album from 2009. After going through all the pictures from the album an urge to write a travelogue came up. Fortunately I haven't forgotten every thing from that trip and can write few words. Out of many road trips on bike this one is very close to heart because this road trip was done on my father's Honda CD100SS, which was at that time almost 12 years old. I have written this travelogue in other forums (xBHP.com) back in 2009 but now I feel to write it once again in Team Bhp.

Ramdhura, Bidyang, Kalimpong, Darjeeling, Ghoom and more..

The closest friends I have are from college. We know each other for almost 10 years now yet we didnt go out much on road trips or any kind of trips. Our last weekend holiday to Henry island which is 150kms from Kolkata was in november. We had a lot of fun there and like any other groups we started planning for our next trip.

Lake District - Too much excitement

I am not a good story teller but I will try to write whatever has happened with as much detail as possible. This is not going to be a photo-log, so please expect lesser images than my other posts.

Thursday Night - I didn't want to go to Lake district. I didn't want to do any more road trips this month. You know there is always a constraint- money. I have already spent more than what I should in Scotland. But then when it comes to road trips my brain doesn't work, suddenly my heart takes all the command. Despite the constraints and other things I rarely say no to any road trips. So on a fine evening sitting at 9 Mandeville Saptarshi da convinced us (me and Anindya da) to go with them. We were on drinks so the convincing part was easy I guess. Only within half an hour after that all the rooms were booked, 14-15 people were interested and have said yes to the trip. Everyone was so fucking excited that we couldn't say no any more. 3 drivers were required to hire 3 cars for 14 people. It was Thursday. I was given the responsibility to book the cars next day.

Friday Morning- I usually wake up early. I catch the 8:30 bus everyday for office. Friday wasn't any different. But I had to book the cars. I opened the Avis portal and booked 3 five seaters. I received the confirmation email in my mailbox instantly. I got ready and then headed towards office. While I was in the bus I got several calls from an unknown number. I didn't hear the phone ringing. I got a text message saying that Avis do not have 3 cars and they can only rent out 1. Usually whenever I rent a car I book it at least a week back. Fridays and Saturdays are the busiest at any car rental company. So when Avis told me that they don't have 3 cars I was thinking that we might need to cancel the trip, because if Avis cant provide cars how can others because Avis has quite large fleet of cars. Luckily I am an avid customer of Enterprise (another car rental company). I called them and they did manage 2 cars for us. I didn't waste any more time and booked them over phone. Pick up time was 4 pm friday. So we decided that Abhijit da would pick up the car from Avis, while me and Anindya da would go to Enterprise.

Friday Afternoon- I asked my onshore boss to let me leave early i.e. 4pm. After reaching Enterprise I saw Anindya da and Mrinal was waiting for me. Rest of the process was simply, they took our papers, did some background check and gave us 2 cars.One was Kia Creed and the other one Vaushall Asta. Both the cars were in very good shape.They were ready for us to pick them. But, none of the cars had GPS navigation. We dont know any streets, we dont know any route, even we cant read the signs properly while driving. So in short without GPS navigation we cant even drive home, let alone Lake district. The Location manager of Enterprise couldn't provide any external navigation system as all of them were rented out already. Its bloody Friday and how can we expect a navigation system, right ? That was the expression we were given. Nonetheless my phone has Here maps installed with all offline maps. That saved me for the day and took us to Mandeville. I drove while looking at my phone and Anindya da followed me.

Friday Evening- Any roadtrip requires a lot foods to be taken, so that you dont have to stop everywhere for food. Usually cakes, biscuits, chips and cold drinks. So we went to Asda to collect some food and wine.

Saturday Morning- Everyone was ready by 6 am. Everyone was  super excited. All the foods were distributed in 3 cars. We took a lot of water from home. It was going to be a great trip, with so many amazing guys. Anindya da's car didnt have much fuel, so the first thing to do was to refuel our cars. Abhijit da started and informed us he will be waiting at some place en route. We picked up Prashant from Cardiff station and went to the nearest refuelling station. I stood behind while Anindya da while other people got down from the car to refuel.

Incident 1- We looked at the manual but couldn't find anything regarding the fuel type of the car. My car was diesel and that I knew for sure. Anindya da said he heard the customer representative from Enterprise mentioning Diesel. So we didn't know what fuel would the car take. Asta 1.6 had both diesel and petrol engine, so with everyone's consent I started filling diesel. The nozzle somehow was not going in the car properly, Prashant came down and confirmed its a diesel car. As the nozzle was not going in properly we had to hold it for the diesel to go in. We thought may be its a different kind of fuel station. The country always brings something knew, the other day I saw a touch and pay debit card, where you dont have to swipe and put pin, you just have to touch the debit card on the machine and that's it. We are not aware of all such things. I took the fuel pump to be same as those, its same when you try to put a micro sim card in a nano sim slot. We took around 20 litres diesel. I didnt refuel the Kia. And the journey started. I was using my phone as gps. Prashant brought a gps and installed it in Anindya da's car. Around after 5 minutes and 2 miles away from the fuel station the Asta 1.6 broke down. Anindya da stopped at a signal and the car refused to start after that. There was white smoke coming from the exhaust pipe and the engine was knocking to death. Bang. We did put the wrong fuel. I called the roadside assistance and confirmed its a petrol car. Never in my life and all these years of driving I have ever imagined to experience this. It was like "What the fuck, how could we do this. We did something terrible and we didn't know if that can be fixed or not ?". We called the roadside assistance for help. Suddenly all the excitement and enthusiasm was lost and we were afraid that the trip might not happen. The AA guys told they can tow the car now, but cant come to repair before 12. Another hour to repair it. Some of us went to nearby stores to ask for help, but being a Saturday early morning every car workshop was closed. So many thoughts was going through our minds, what if they ask us to pay for the entire card, what if the car had major problems in the sensor due to diesel etc etc. While we were looking for help the AA guy came with a truck to tow the car. The driver told it was very common (common ? :O ) and he knew a place where it can be fixed, he said the Enterprise would charge us more, also it wouldn't take much time in the garage. Well people are usually good in this country, so we took his advise. He towed the car to Star garage. The technician after checking up the car gave an estimation of 150 pounds and 2 hours job. 10 pounds each is quite good than cancelling the entire trip. So the process of emptying the fuel tank started and we started praying. At that time we came to know that the nozzle for petrol is smaller than diesel, hence the nozzle was not going in. Late realization....sigh !!!!

Car being towed
Mrinal asking the technician if he can rush, our car in the background, bonnet opened.

A good news came at around 10:30 that the car is now fine, and with 2 gallons of petrol in it the car has started and the engine is running fine. 4 hours wasted is nothing compared to the joy we had that time when we knew the car is fine and we can still make this trip. The third car in the mean time had almost crossed Birmingham.

Saturday Afternoon- Winderemere was the first location we were to visit in Lake District. Abhijit da reached there first. Anindya da and me were trying to reach Lake district as soon as possible. We both had different gps, mine was here maps and his was binatone. They showed different routes, and after entering Lake district Anindya da lost my trail. Lake district is a national park so post codes doesnt work properly there, sometime post code can take you to barren places. When you have spent almost the entire day driving and sitting and you have not visited a single attractions you can get mad at any time. After a series of phone calls and missing proper turns and wrong routes we 3 car met at Lakeside in the afternoon. Everyone was so happy to see each other. We had lots of plan for the day, all got cancelled due to the incident. But we cannot let the day go wasted so we decided to take the boat ride. Its an hour ride on the Winderemere lake, not much exciting but there was nothing else to do. Even the weather played a spoil sport here and we couldn't stand on the deck for long.

List of places we planned to visit

Saturday Evening - You cant call it an evening actually, the sun doesn't sets before 8:30. After the boat ride we headed towards hotel, which was an hour drive. Everyone wanted to be at the hotel, no more drives and fun. The hotel we booked was in a town called Barrow-in-furness. Irish sea was on the right of the town. While entering the town the weather became so clear that we could the sun coming down. We also saw hundreds of wind mills. Its like "Wow..we have something to see now, we can watch a brilliant sunset, lets go there, lets make the end a beautiful one". The beach was full of pebbles or had sand. And we could see those wind mills far away in the sea. The sun looked brilliant. It felt like at least we could see something, the entire day didn't go wasted. The other 2 cars followed us and enjoyed the same view. We did spent some time there until it was dark.

Saturday Night - Food is very important to me. And after such a hectic day I always need good food, which means rice. I know I might sound like one who cannot stay away from rice and dal, but no I am not like that. But at that moment I wished to have rice. Barrow is a small town hence all the restaurants were closed by that time. The next Indian restaurant was 8 miles away :) Yes, I did drive to that restaurant with 2 others and brought food for all of us. Single malt, pilau rice and chicken made the day complete.

Sunday Morning to Evening- We were so happy to see such a beautiful morning. We completely forgot yesterday's disaster after seeing the sky and the weather. We started as early as possible and headed towards Derwentwater. Derwentwater was another lake, equally beautiful and large. 

After spending some time over there we headed towards Keswick for lunch. Keswick is again a small town with a small city center. This time I did have a proper British meal - 

Next we went to Buttermere and Honister pass. We even did a small trek on the honister mines. The day was being spent really well. Good weather all the time and the drive was beautiful too. What more can we ask for after a exhaustive saturday. And then it was time to return home. At 6 we gathered together after honister pass. Our plan was to start at 6 so that we can be in Cardiff at 11pm.

Incident 2- When we thought everything was over and its time to return home and we did spend a nice time in Lake district there was a thud sound from one of our cars. Abhijit da stopped in the middle of the road. Other vehicles stopped too. We got down from the car to check what happened and found both the tyres on the left side were punctured. There was a bus coming from the opposite end, and to give that bus space Abhijit da moved too right and his tyres hit few stones. A first we were not at all worried, its mere puncture and I have fixed so many punctures before in my life. Then we realized the gravity, 2 tyres were punctured, a car doesnt have two spares.  It was 6 pm in the clock. The incident happened 10 miles before Keswick and just after Honister pass. I later googled and found the place was called Seatoller. At first we placed the spare on the front wheel. The spare wheel has a limited speed, 50 mph, so we decided we will need to go to any service on the M6 and then fix the tyres, because you cant drive to Cardiff on the spares. But, where do we find another spare ? The other cars Asta and Creed had different size. Later we realized we were struck there. The problem worsened when we discover that no one had network in their mobile phones. So we were struck somewhere in the middle of a national park with no network coverage, there were families and a kid and no localities around.

"We need to talk to the roadside assistance" - that was our first requirement. 4 of us including Abhjijit drove to the next town Keswick to get some help. Others decided that they would park the car somewhere safe and wait for us. 10 miles takes 20 mins in those areas. We tried everything in Keswick, no local helps, all the stores were closed, the roadside assistance told they can provide help only on Monday. The country literally dies on Sunday. After few escalations the roadside agreed to send a pickup truck and drop few of us to Cardiff. That was a big reflief at that point of time. All this took more than an hour. We decided to bring rest of the team to Keswick, so I drove to them. Then I made a mistake, it was 8:30 pm and dark outside, I forgot to ask the place where they have parked the car and where they  were waiting. I drove straight to that place, however not able to identify anything in the dark. I stopped at 2 villages, went to restaurants and asked people if they have seen a group of Indians or a broken Ford focus. This was the time I felt that I might have to go back to Keswick, ask them the name of the place or hotel and then come back, which would take another 1 hour. The mobile phone doesnt work here, so I cant call anyone. Now I was stuck in the dark.

Probability- A man helped me to find a telephone booth. I had a pound in my pocket. The people whose telephone number I have were in Seatoller with no network (remember I didn't know the name of the place that time) and I didnt have any phone number of the guys at Keswick. A phone call from a booth will cost you 60 pence, so literally I can only make 1 call. I browsed through my incoming call history to find a number. I remembered Abhijit da had called me on Friday morning to discuss something. I found a number from the incoming calls and thought may be that was his. Inserted 1 pound in the telephone and dialled that number with lots of hope. If that didnt work I have to drive back 10 miles. Someone picked up and he did sound like Abhijit da. Well I guess I was not out of luck that day and. Glaramara was the name of the hotel where the other guys were resting. 

Sunday night- We all met at Keswick. 4 people would stay back and wait for the pick up truck and rest of us will go to Cardiff in other 2 cars - this is what we decided. We had pizza because that was the only thing available in Keswick that time. We prayed for no more excitement that night and so that everyone is home safely.

I stopped twice for coffee on the highway and finally reached Mandeville 6 am in the morning. The guys waiting for truck reached around 9.

There are things to learn in every moment, we also learned some things there. We were on a road trip for fun, but one must not go one a road trip without proper arrangements. It was our fault that we mistakenly pour diesel in petrol car, but when the puncture happened we worked together and made it to Cardiff safely. So when in trouble you must stay together is what we learned.

Scotland - Driving thorough the mountains, lakes and sea

Working in IT has its own advantages and disadvantages. Disadvantages are you dont have any personal life on the weekdays and even on some weekends. You work so hard that if you were to tell anybody they wont believe. And then if you love to travel there are always some bosses who doesnt approve your leaves and you plans gets cancelled multiple time. The advantages is you get to travel, not only within the country but even to dream places outside the country. Some of the bhpians call this "Paid vacation". I even had an argument for using this term, but then if you think wisely you might agree with it. So my job has let me travelled few places in the UK, Scotland being one of them.

Roadtrip from Kolkata to Uttarakhand Kumaon Region

Warning - Long Post

I have never driven more than 600km in a day before. So any trip to the northern India was challenging for me. But then there were not so many places left to visit (ofcourse where my car can go) in West Bengal/Sikkim. The closest mountains was in Uttarakhand Kumaon region, which was roughly 1600 km away.

Weekend Drive to Ayodhya Hills

Month ends had always made me happy and you know why. Friday was one of those days when my bank balance was balanced again. So we left office early, went to Spencer to get some food and wine.

There was a weekend plan going in background by Sumitro (Team Bhp member BlackPearl) and Rajsri for Ayodhya hills. We knew about that but ignored as I was suppose to visit my home town. At around 8pm suddenly me and Rianka started discussing if it was a good idea to go for a weekend drive, rather sitting at home. We can always sit at home and enjoy our weekends, but it wont be very frequent where you can go for a weekend drive with friends. Ayodhya was a dicey destination for me, I have been to Garpanchkot few months back and thought of Ayodhya to be same. So with a confused state of mind at 8:30 pm we decided to go for the weekend drive. Contacted everyone through our whatsapp group.

We reached home, packed very light and waited for 1am. The plan was to drive the entire night and reach Ayodhya early morning. Ajodhya Hills is located in the Purulia district of the state West Bengal, India. It is a part of the Dalma Hills and extended part of Eastern Ghats range. Highest peak of Ajodhya Hills is Gorgaburu. The nearby populated town area is Bagmundi. There is a myth which is related to Ramayana, but that is not the reason why its name is Ayodhya. According to Hindu mythology, Rama and Sita had come to Ayodhya Hills and stayed during their exile. Sita was thirsty and Ram pierced an arrow through the Earth's soil crust and through that water gushed out. Sita quenched her thirst. The place is known as Sita-kunda. During the full moon day in Baisakh (Baisakh is a bengali month, which starts from mid April) every year tribal of nearby areas come and join in the game of hunting wild animals. However we didn't find any wild animals other than few foxes.

Ayodhya is around 350 kms from Kolkata, so ideally it would take around 7-8 hours, including breaks. We started around 2am and the first stop was Saktigarh for some tea at 4am. 4am is bit colder than the rest of the day due to winter. Saktigarh is famous for its Langcha (a kind of sweet in Bengal, check this) and other sweets. We had tea and took some sweets for our journey.

One can go to Ayodhya using different routes, the one we took was from Asansol, where we had to take a left turn and bypas the main city. This route took us to Raghunathpur and then to Purulia town. Few shots from early morning.

Drive to East Sikkim - Zuluk, Nathang Valley and Kuppup

Prologue - Elessaar is the name of the car I own now, i.e. Ford Ecosport. I bought it 2 months back. Odo was around 3200km + before the trip. I bought the EcoSport with the sole purpose of touring. The first destination which we planned to do in our new car was Zuluk. I called up a fellow Team-bhp member Sumitro, who was also interested in this long weekend drive. There was a holiday on 2nd October, which was a friday. Using this holiday we planned a 4 day road trip. The place and other plans was Sumitro's idea. Sumitro had a friend, Norden Bhutia who lived at a place near Padamchen. We planned to do camping on a hilltop which Norden and his family owned for 2 days. They also has their own house before hill top, and in case anyone of us isn't interested for camping he/she could stay at their place.

The last drive - Garpanchkot

This was my last road trip in my Beat, hence such title. I don't write well, so pardon me for any grammatical and silly mistakes.

I have always loved driving in the monsoon. We have planned for Garpanchkot way back in July, but due to unavailability of rooms we had to shift our plan to August, which also happened to be the wedding anniversary of the friend who was going with me on this road trip, seemed like a perfect weekend to spend a rainy holiday. I booked the rooms from Saltlake, Kolkata. There is only 1 staying place in Garpanchkot, maintained by West Bengal Forest Dept.

Our plan was to start from Kolkata on Saturday and come back the very next day. Due to rain entire Kolkata was waterlogged, weather forecast was worst for the next 2 days. Not only Kolkata entire south Bengal was flooding. My parents started worrying about my road trip in this situation. But the route we were supposed to take was not affected by the rains, so we didn't cancel our plan.

Day 1 - Kolkata > Dankuni > Bardhaman > Panagarh > Durgapur > Asansol > Gobag > Garpanchkot

We started at 5:45 am from my flat at Rajarhat. The first stop was at Panagarh at 9am. Total distance was 158 km.

The stretch at Panagarh has worst roads and is already famous for that. Not only the condition of the road but also huge traffic almost made us stand still. It took 20 minutes to cross that 3-4 km stretch.

After having breakfast at Panagarh we started at around 9:30 am. After that we only took a small break at Asansol to buy an anniversary cake. We reached near Garpanchkot at around 12:45 pm. Nokia navigation was working properly till here, but couldn't show the exact location of the hotel.

The first sight of Garpanchkot Hill

Yes we were lost, the "nokia here" navigation was not working and the locals were not able to tell us the exact location and direction to govt. cottages. So we wandered around, asking almost every human being we encountered. It was all raining but the roads were quite nice. Finally I called up the hotel manager and he directed us properly. Few more pics-

Because of monsoon the entire region was green, the roads from Gobag to Garpanchkot was narrow and beautiful.

Finally we reached our cottage at 1:30 pm. Total distance covered including the round trips on the same road was 290 km. We had booked a 4 bed room. The cottage was beneath the hill and covered in green. The rooms were clean and big. We were charged 4000 per night for a 4 bedded room, which is pretty costly, but the surrounding view was worth the money. The food was good too, like home-made Bengali food.

Had our lunch and went to see the "Garh". It is a ruin of a temple, because it was raining heavily I didn't get chance to get proper picture of it.

Came back hotel in the evening and spent a wonderful time with friends and family.

Day 2 - Garpanchkot > Panchet Dam > Maithon Dam > Asansol > Durgapur > Gurap > Mogra > Tribeni > Kalyani > Barackpore > Birati > Rajarhat

We didnt start early, had our breakfast at 10am, started from Hotel at 11:30am. Our plan was to visit Maithon Dam. We had to go till Gobag and then there was a left turn after 5-6 km which was supposed to take us to Maithon Dam. But the road was closed due to water logging. We took u turn and a new route to Maithon, we came to know this new route would take us via Panchet dam, which was not in our list. Some info on Panchet Dam

View of Panchet Hill from Panchet Dam

The other side of the Dam

After visiting Panchet dam we headed toward Maithon. It took around 20 mins to reach there. Photography and parking on Maithon dam was not allowed. Due to monsoon and flood like situation in Bengal DVC was releasing more water than usual.

Rain didnt let us spend much time there. Took few photographs before knowing that it was photography prohibited area, then a police came and stopped me and asked me to leave. We headed for Asansol/Durgapur to have our lunch. Time was already 4 pm and total distance covered was 373 km. After having lunch in "Theque" before Durgapur we headed towards home. I had to drop my friend at his native place in Tribeni, so took a left turn from Gurap NH2. Till this time rain has stopped in Kolkata. Reached Tribeni at 8pm and reached Kolkata at 10pm. Nothing more to write about our return journey. Total distance covered was 620 km.

Garpanchkot is very beautiful, specially in the monsoon. But the rain stopped us to do a small trek to the top of the hill. I might be planning to visit this place again in winter.