Worth watching out for.
 — John Cleare

Himalaya by Bike

Himalaya by Bike

Excerpt:
Sample route guide - Siliguri to Mirik


Contents | Introduction | Route options | When to go | Costs and Money | Sample route guide - Siliguri to Mirik


Day 1 Siliguri (104m) to Mirik (1601m) 47km

Siliguri-Sukna 9.2km
Sukna-Dudia 13.8km
Dudia-Mirik 24km

Today is short but all the more brutal for it with gradients of up to 16%. The riding starts pleasantly but beyond Dudia the road climbs quickly into the hills; cyclists unused to heat and humidity will find this ascent tough.

The route mostly runs through tea estates with occasional villages selling chai (tea) and biscuits.

Carry plenty of water and some energy snacks: with a heavy bike in hot temperatures you will need to drink up to 10 litres to stay hydrated and it will be a marathon effort.

Siliguri (104m) 0/190km
Follow Hill Cart Rd towards the hills, past the tracks of the Toy Train to Darjeeling. Once beyond the highway the road narrows immediately and the traffic vanishes.

Tea estates appear to the left just before the road enters a forest of sal and teak (both hardwoods).

Sukna (170m) 9/181km
Turn left just after this village (there's a chai shop at the junction, which is signed ‘Mirik 44km') and continue west through the army camp with its monkey troupes and ‘Live and let live the wildlife’ signs.

Rejoin the main road at the end of the army camp and head north past a small village.

Gariduhria (223m)
There's a one-way system in operation just after Gariduhria; turn left for Mirik.

Dudia (256m) 23/167km
Here the road points directly into the hills and the gradual tilt of the main street hints at the gradients ahead. The climb proper starts once you've crossed the bridge by the army firing range.

Beyond Dudia the road switchbacks up into the tea estates where brightly dressed women beat the tops of the tea bushes with branches.

Every now and then small villages pepper the brilliant green backdrop and after a short while Siliguri and the Mahananda River appear far below on the plains. As the road climbs the temperature falls and Mirik is often shrouded in mist.

Just before the town a bypass road turns left – ignore it.

Mirik (1601m) 47/143km
This small town is famous locally for its artificial lake, whose serenity is somewhat spoilt by the taxi rank on its shore.

Mirik's cool climate and pine-clad hillsides feel a world away from Siliguri, and the surrounding orange groves and cardamom plantations make for fragrant strolls.

Away from the taxi stand the only noises are the twittering of woodland creatures, the drums and cymbals of the Buddhist Bokar gompa on its hill and, by night, a cacophony from the town's stray dogs.

The road enters Mirik in an area called Krishnanagar where the homely Ratnagiri on the left has a range of rooms to suit most budgets; the en-suite double with hot shower, reading lights and TV is good value at Rs300. It also has internet access (Rs45/hr).

The Ratnagiri's bamboo-clad restaurant is pleasant as is the garden, but the food is better at the Hotel Jagdeet a few doors down, which also has a State Bank of India ATM.

The friendly Lodge Ashirvad, opposite the post office, is cheaper at Rs150/250 (att); its rooms are spotless but a little musty. Bars selling cheap tongba (a local millet-based spirit) can be found in Mirik proper at the other end of the lake; there's a shortcut over the rocks by the lakeshore.

Himalaya by Bike

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