Falling in Love with Zuluk, Thanks to My Ford EcoSport

By Abhijit Sinha Roy

Traveling is a perfect way to unwind and someone who loves to drive knows no other way to travel than road trips. My work keeps me on the road quite often and I am quite happy that it does.

But experiences get better when you share them with others, and through this platform, that’s exactly what I want to do. Today, I will share my experience of traveling to the magical snow-capped mountains of Zuluk in Sikkim, in my trusted Ford EcoSport. Read on to know what this beautiful destination holds for you and how can you plan to get there.

The Planning

The story dates back to last April, when I was aching to see snow, but didn’t want to drive a long distance. Being based out of Kolkata, the nearest spots I could travel to do this were Zuluk and parts of North Sikkim. All this planning was going on while I was on a work trip to Muzaffarpur and Darbhanga, which are just 300-odd KM to Siliguri, the gateway to some of the finest hill destinations in the North East. The East-West corridor, NH 27, connects the two cities and has some of the finest roads in the country.

I was traveling for work with my brother, Debjit and this was an impromptu trip so we couldn’t take any one else from the family with us. Thankfully we had our trusted Ford EcoSport , which is not only our companion during work but for all our fun-filled road trips too.

Our journey from Darbhanga started at 2.30 PM after finishing work in the city. We drove at a leisurely pace to reach Siliguri by 9.30 PM, with just a coffee break in between. We called it a night at Siliguri.

Day 1: New Jalpaiguri  to Zuluk

This was the day that took us to our destination, Zuluk. We woke up excited, ahead of our planned schedule as our target was to drive to Zuluk non-stop. Our journey of about 130-KM via Kalimpong, Algarah, Reshi, Rongli was largely smooth, except a few bad stretches in between Pedong and Reshi.

Those rough patches were nothing for our Ford EcoSport to take on. I have driven my EcoSport on worse roads and this was a relatively easy stretch for my reliable car. The high ground clearance is of great help on uneven surfaces, especially on hilly-terrain.

You require an inland permit to visit Zuluk, which can be obtained from Rongli. If you are planning to drive down make sure you have the following documents handy:

  • Passport Size Photograph
  • Filled and duly signed form that you get from the counter in Rongli
  • Voter ID Card as a proof of identity. They don’t accept the Adhaar Card
  • Car Papers
  • If the car is in someone else’s name, need a permission letter from the owner to drive the vehicle.

A Good Samaritan from Kolkata helped us contact the right people at Rongli to expedite the permit process, which took 40 minutes. After all the formalities and cherishing the beautiful drive, we reached Zuluk at 4 PM. We halted at a cozy home stay here, which was clean, safe and economical with great food on offer. The home stay was in the upper Zuluk area, close to the Military enclosure.

Zuluk is a small hamlet, located at an altitude of 10,000-feet above sea level. With just about 1,000 permanent residents, it is a critical transit point for the Indian Army. The town has a history that dates back to several centuries as it was on an important trade route between India and Tibet, lying right on the Silk route. The crisscross road, piercing through the majestic mountains, is one of the most remarkable man-made marvels you can witness. You can catch clear views of towering Mount Kanchenjunga from Thambi viewpoint.

Day 2: Silk Route Drive

It was the end of April, so we were expecting to spot last bits of snow in the valley as well as by the roadside. To our surprise, we were delighted to spot abundant snow all through, on the peaks far-off and while driving to several scenic spot. Our first stop was Thambi Viewpoint from where you can get pristine clear views of Mount Kanchenjunga. The perspective from the zig-zag hill road was stunning. Thambi is located at an altitude of 11,200 feet and because there’s next to no vegetation, a clear view of snow clad peaks and valleys greets you.

Our EcoSport kept us perfect company on the twisty roads. It gave us the confidence of driving with complete assurance as it stayed completely grounded and balanced. The car corners very well and taking those sharp turns doesn’t scare you.

I first visited Zuluk in 2016 but missed the spectacular views as heavy snowing had blocked road leading to Gnathang Valley, a viewpoint at a daunting 12,700 feet above mean sea level and home to several Tibetian monasteries.

At Gnathang, a temple has been built to honour Harbhajan Singh, a soldier of the Indian Army, who was martyred protecting Indian territory from infiltrators. The temple is maintained by the Indian Army.

From Gnathang, we kept climbing up in our EcoSport to reach Kupup, located at an altitude of 13,900 feet. This high a place can be challenging for other cars as lack of oxygen can lead to loss of power. But this wasn’t a challenge for our EcoSport, which moved as if it was traversing well-laid, straight highways.

We couldn’t go all the way to Nathula as the road was closed. But we made most of our journey enroute to Tsongmo to catch a glimpse of the pristine Tsongmo lake.

Given that we were pressed for time, we decided against going to Gangtok and moved straight to Siliguri to rest for the night, before commencing our journey back to Kolkata. In the hindsight, both of us realized that spending an extra night in Gangtok would have been worth our time.

Day 3: Siliguri to Kolkata

This is the most difficult part of the drive, the journey back home. After an amazing, unplanned and truly memorable trip to catch the snow, we headed back to Kolkata from Siliguri. But the return was nothing short of an adventure either. We were forced to move to narrow, village roads as a section of the main highway was blocked following closure of highway due to an accident.

The drive, that took us through pothole riddled state highways and village roads could have been tiring in any other car, especially after it went to such arduous peaks, but not for EcoSport. The drive remained absolutely smooth and it’s a great testament to my EcoSport’s wonderful capabilities. We didn’t feel much of a difference.

I can say this beyond doubt that the Ford EcoSport is a perfect companion for any road trip, no matter where you would want to take it. The vehicle demonstrates superb qualities especially when driving uphill. And I can attest to the fact that we could make this trip in a mere two days, driving through some of the most difficult conditions, only because of the superbly built EcoSport. The vehicle is designed to not cause any fatigue to the driver and passengers while moderating response as appropriate based on the terrain.

I tip my hat to this amazing vehicle and would thank the team at Ford for building it with such passion.

Now I am yearning to take my family to Zuluk once again, in my Ford EcoSport of course. Stay tuned!

Abhijit Sinha Roy is an avid traveler and loves road trips, in his trusted Ford EcoSport.
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