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Sponsored feature: The call of the mountains

29th Jun 2015 4:59 pm

Sponsored feature: For their sixth ride, the Wanderers head to the foothills of the majestic Himalayas.

About the contest: Hero Karizma ZMR Wanderers is an ongoing monthly online contest hosted on Autocar India’s Facebook page. All participants are asked to answer some very simple questions and at the end of every month, three winners are chosen. These lucky bike enthusiasts win an all-expenses-paid 2N/3D ride on three Hero Karizma ZMRs. Rides are planned well in advance and cover several beautiful locations across the country. Those interested in participating can enter the contest on Autocar India’s Facebook page. The contest and rides are organised and conducted by Autocar India.

The rains seem to follow the Wanderers wherever they may go. For their sixth ride, they’d decided to head in to West Bengal. Up in the tea estates, they rode through low-flying clouds. The clouds suddenly turned into heavy rain and our three winners, Kaushik, Kanwar and Dipak along with Autocar’s Vir Nakai were on the side of the road, scurrying to get their rain gear on.

After picking up the Hero Karizma ZMRs from Siliguri, the Wanderers headed towards Darjeeling. Thanks to well-marked roads and people who are happy to give directions, getting out of Siliguri on to the road that leads to Darjeeling was fast and easy. What you notice when you leave the city is that you’re riding through tea estates almost the entire way to Darjeeling. Now there are two roads that lead to the Queen of the Hills from Siliguri, one is straight and boring, the other is narrow, winds up the mountain and is obviously more scenic. No prizes for guessing which route the Wanderers took. It turned out to be a good choice as the road was in pretty good shape. It cuts through thick, lush green forests and tea gardens all the way to a little hilly locality in the Darjeeling Himalayan hill region of West Bengal called Ghum. There’s not much traffic, except for local taxis or buses with people stuffed inside them that tend to come around corners flat out. The biggest problem the Wanderers faced though, was that it was extremely difficult to not stop at every corner and stare at the brilliant view. From Ghum, they were more or less riding through the outskirts of several towns and here they encountered a lot of traffic and tourists. There’s also a toy train track that runs from Ghum to Siliguri. They had to keep an eye out for its tracks as they cut across the road, are quite slippery and the perfect recipe for trouble.

The Mall is at the epicentre of all activity in Darjeeling. So they made like locals and hung around, enjoying the cool weather and hoping the clouds would clear to give them a glimpse of the mighty Kanchenjunga. Sadly, that didn’t happen.

After a lavish breakfast the next morning, they made their way back down to Ghum to find a route that would take them to Kalimpong. Darjeeling is a maze of one-ways, but the police seemed more than competent at directing the traffic and keep it from backing up. Incredible, when they realised that this was mostly because of the mad throngs of tourists that had run to the hills to escape the heat on the plains. They were directed into a detour that ran higher than the main road that they had followed into the city a day earlier. But being higher, meant a better view of the city and the valley and was totally worth it.

From Ghum, the normal route turns right and goes down the mountain and across a bridge over the mighty river Teesta. Post that, there is a 16km climb to Kalimpong. This sounded too simple for the Wanderers and they asked around for alternate routes the day before setting out. They got lucky with some local bikers at a cafe who mentioned an interesting route. The next morning they set out to look for it as per the detailed instructions received from the local riders. The road cut through a thick forest, was laid with fresh tarmac and was engulfed in clouds.  The ride down was surreal and the entire experience felt like a dream.

After crossing the river, the road to Kalimpong was fast and entirely uphill. As soon as they made it to the hotel, parked the bikes and checked-in, it started  raining heavily and didn’t let up until evening. They didn’t even get the opportunity to explore Kalimpong. But nobody complained as the weather was absolutely fantastic, as was the spot where they were staying.

They started early the next morning as there were flights to catch. They made short work of the 70-odd kilometres to Darjeeling, helped by the great roads. They ran into a fellow Karizma rider and swapped riding stories over a chai. After returning the bikes at Darjeeling Hero dealership, their ride was over. This one may not have been very long, but every kilometre was absolutely fantastic.

The ride was awesome. It was such great fun. Riding with Vir was a lot of fun. He’d planned everything in such detail. It was a short ride but we got to know the bikes properly. The routes that we took weren’t those normally used and thanks to that, we really got to experience the beauty of the places we were riding through. Accommodation was also really nice. The bike was surprisingly good. I thought it wouldn’t have enough power but it handled everything easily. The seat comfort and ride quality was really nice. Most impressive was the fuel consumption. This was a totally different experience. Thanks. - Kanwar Bhanu Pratap Singh


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