Traversing the North Eastern route: Honda Drive To Discover 12

Kenneth John Updated: January 02, 2024, 01:44 PM IST

The North East of India is quite a fascinating or rather enchanting part of the country due to its landscape, culture and moreover, its attractions. Well, at least that's what I've always come to think of it. It's not like I haven't been to that corner of the country, but the last time I visited North East India, I was quite young. So experiencing that thrill from behind the wheel wasn't an option. This time around though when Honda Cars India asked us to be part of the 12th Edition of Drive To Discover through some of the very desired parts of the North Eastern route, I realized I'm of a legal age to drive. So packed my bags did I and set off on what I expected to be an adventure to remember.

Siliguri to Gangtok

After landing in Bagdogra on a bright morning, I was escorted to a hotel where the cars awaited the beginning of our journey. I was handed the keys to the only manual Honda Amaze on this 14-car convoy and not going to lie, I was a bit shaky, but nevertheless, I was up to the task and didn't back down. I was looking forward to the beautiful scenery through the windshield of the car and didn't overthink the additional pedal. Consider a daily routine from the busy streets of Mumbai to the tranquil landscapes of Sikkim: it is a blend of different cultures, mesmerizing landscapes, and amazing experiences.

Yes, there were quite a few challenges faced on this 100km journey to Gangtok but none of them felt nervous. The Amaze was quite the companion on this trip and not once did the ground clearance fall short of the mark (which was one of my worries before setting out). The road leading to Gangtok offers stunning views of the Teesta River, winding through valleys but the catch here was that I had to witness this while being stuck in the middle of traffic due to most of the road being under construction. As the altitude increases, the air becomes crisper, the landscape more majestic and the congestion a bit more lighter.

We stopped for tea at what felt like midnight only for my watch to remind me that it was only 7pm. We were only 25km or so away from our hotel but we needed a break to stretch and swap seats. A fellow journalist who was my partner for this journey took over for the rest of the journey as I decided to enjoy the experience from the passenger's point of view in the Honda Amaze.

Gangtok to Nathu La pass

Embarking on a journey from Gangtok to Nathu La Pass promises an exhilarating adventure through the majestic terrains of the Eastern Himalayas. What was even more exciting was that I would finally be getting to drive the Honda Elevate. I presume it had rained the previous night which caused me to step foot in a cold puddle on my way to hop into the Elevate. Luckily, it didn't rain anymore that day so I wasn't too upset.

Starting from Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim, the drive commenced with the Honda Elevate gracefully manoeuvring through the bustling streets. I say bustling because it was almost 10am and the whole city was up and about with their day and the roads aren't too wide either, so we did find ourselves in a few jams along the way. The city's vibrant atmosphere slowly faded away as we made our way towards the winding roads that lead to higher altitudes.

The view radically changes as we ascend. We were surrounded by lush flora, with mist-kissed mountains creating an eerie background. We passed through charming communities tucked away among the foothills along the way. With their vibrant homes, prayer flags billowing in the breeze, and amiable inhabitants adding to the journey's coziness, these hamlets provide a window into the way of life of the people living there. An adventure in and of itself is the road to Nathu La Pass. Steep inclines, hairpin turns, and abrupt curves require a vehicle that can manage these kinds of situations in addition to skilled driving.

With its strong performance and dependable handling, the Honda Elevate easily navigated the difficult terrain, providing an exciting and pleasant ride.

Reaching Nathu La Pass is akin to reaching the highest point of the journey. At an elevation of more than 14,000 feet, the pass provides amazing views and a feeling of achievement. Discovering the boundary between China and India at Nathu La and taking in the breathtaking views of Tsomgo Lake had me lost in the tranquillity of the high-altitude environment. We weren't allowed to capture any moments from the pass due to security reasons but maybe that's the best part of it.

Gangtok to Pelling

We finally left Gangtok on the 3rd day with no plans of returning as we were setting up camp at Pelling for the night. I was finally handed over the keys to the Honda City e:HEV and I just knew things were about to get slightly tricky. The roads weren't the finest and neither was the City's ground clearance the best.

We navigated our way through this nearly 130km route with hopes of catching the iconic Kangchenjunga before it got dark. We set out and immediately realised that it wasn't as difficult as I would've assumed. The City e:HEV through the North Eastern ghats of India is a sight to behold. Its hybrid technology provides for quiet driving and seamless acceleration uphill by fusing an economical engine with a snappy electric motor. Yes, we did have massive potholes along the way which made do for a few sweaty arms but we laid the sedan slowly through them and the City didn't seem to hesitate while doing so. It was a fun experience, to say the least.

As you approach Pelling, the majestic sight of the Kanchenjunga Range emerges, captivating your senses. The Honda City hybrid smoothly navigated the final stretch of the journey, reaching Pelling by early evening. We tried our best but most of the darkness had already settled in and the Kangchenjunga tip seemed to have already been tucked away.

Pelling to Darjeeling to Kalimpong

Day 4 sprung a lot of excitement as I was once again in the mood for the Elevate manual and thank my lucky stars, it was already my assigned ride for the day before I had to go beg someone to swap. We stuffed the large boot of the new SUV and moved along. We were headed to Ging Tea Estate in Darjeeling and only after that were we running to Kalimpong.

After running in circles with the help of Google Maps we somehow managed to make our way to the tea estate where as far as your vision permitted, all you could see was tea plantations in galore.

We had to leave quite instantly as we were informed that the traffic getting out of Darjeeling was not something we would appreciate. But I guess we were a bit late to take that advice and there we were, sitting in peak Darjeeling traffic where not only were the roads narrow for traffic to come and go but there also happened to be the toy train running through the marketplace as well. Although the traffic was terrible, passing by the quaint villages, I couldn't help but marvel at the vibrant local life which didn't seem bothered by the commotion that was occurring in the main street.

The roads were finally starting to get empty as we made our way out of the city and found ourselves on pitch-dark roads with barely a soul or vehicle in sight. This is where the Honda Sensing headlights took my breath away. Not only did the SUV turn its lights on automatically, but it also switched off the high beam on its one whenever it sensed another vehicle coming from the opposite direction. I found it quite an 'Elevating' piece of tech to have onboard from where I was sitting. Apologies for the hideous pun.

The journey from Darjeeling to Kalimpong in the Honda Elevate was nothing short of a mesmerizing of sights, sounds, and sensations - a testament to the beauty of the region and the reliability of a remarkable vehicle.

Kalimpong to Siliguri (Back Home)

The final leg of the 12th Edition of Honda Cars India Drive To Discover dawned and we all had a sense of urgency. We were all on different flights back to our respective base camps and mine was in the afternoon and I had no plans of missing it (not making that mistake again).

It was merely a 2 and half hour's journey to Siliguri and finally, I decided to try my hands on the Elevate CVT. The automatic transmission did feel more comfortable for my left foot but the need to constantly rev the engine out while going uphill was the only pitfall I could note.

As I bid adieu to this enchanting corner of India, I carry with me not just memories, but a newfound appreciation for the unexplored, the unknown, and the beauty that lies beyond the conventional. The Northeast isn't just a place on the map; it's a treasure trove waiting to be discovered, one that leaves an indelible mark on every traveller fortunate enough to tread its diverse and captivating terrain.

Also Read:

2023 Honda Elevate review - stitch in time?

Price (Ex-Delhi)
Starts Rs 6.32 Lakhs
Max Power(ps)
Max Torque(Nm)
21 Kmpl
Price (Ex-Delhi)
Starts Rs 10.9 Lakhs
Max Power(ps)
Max Torque(Nm)
17.8 Kmpl