The Road Journey to Gangtok

Siliguri to Gangtok

Aerial view of the Siliguri-Gangtok highway at Melli. The bridge over River Tista leads to South Sikkim

 The Siliguri Gangtok highway passes through a village.

The Siliguri Gangtok highway passes through a village.

Coronation Bridge on the Siliguri Gangtok road

The Coronation Bridge at the foothills

The 4 hour  road journey of about 120kms   from Bagodgra(Airport) or New Jalpaiguri (Railway Station) of Siliguri to Gangtok is an experience in itself. It offers beautiful vistas of green tropical forests, rivers, stream  and  blue mountains. It also passes through landslide scarred hillsides.  The first fifteen kilometres are through congestion  and cacophony of Siliguri. The assemblage of buildings slowly clears up  after the Military cantonment locality of Salugara. Now the drive is through the thickly forested Mahananda Forest Sanctuary on a flat straight road. It is not uncommon for wild elephants to cross the road temporarily bringing the traffic to a standstill. Ten kilometres through the Sanctuary and you are at Sevoke from there the hills start. On the right you can get a glimpse of the mightly River Tista meandering as it enters the plains. A few kilometres uphill and you  reach the Coronation Bridge that leads to the Dooars and Bhutan. An architectural marvel the Coronation Bridge is also known as the Bagh(Tiger) Pul  because of  statues of  two tigers on its flanks. The bridge spans the Tista river and has its foundation on the hill sides as construction of a pier on the river bed was not technically feasible. The foundation stone of the bridge was laid by John Andersen, the Governor of Bengal in 1937 to coincide with the coronation of King George the VI. The bridge was completed in 1941. You bypass the bridge. The Tista accompanies you on the right side. You cross a few Hydel projects on the way. The extensive damming of the Tista river at various stages has resulted in its being transformed into a sort of a canal with the water flowing placidly in sharp contrast to the old days when it used to flow fast and furious. At Tista which is a namesake of the river you cross over on the other side. A few kilometres ahead and you are at Melli which is a gateway to South Sikkim and Pelling. You continue straight without crossing the bridge. Soon you are at  Rangpo.

Sikkim highway

Ghai Dhara: A perennial spring on the highway. Drivers stop here to wash their vehicles

Rangpo straddles the border between Sikkim and West Bengal. You cross the bridge and are in the Sikkim side of Rangpo. The transformation when you enter the Sikkim side is drastic. Although a minute away from each other, the two Rangpos are poles apart. The Sikkim side is affluent, well manicred with a well appointed Tourist Lodge, fast food joints, and an impeccable Police station whereas the West Bengal side has shanty shabby shops and houses. The thirty Kilometer drive from Rangpo to Ranipul  is past factories, mostly pharmaceutical who have established themselves here to avail of the tax benefits.  At Singtam you bid farewell to Tista and follow its tributary Rorochu, Between Siliguri and Ranipul the road has remained within  700 ft and 2700 ft altitude above sea level.  From Ranipul a steep climb of 10 kilometres reaches you to Gangtok at 5500ft.