GHiRT stands for Grand Himalayan Road Tour and GHiRT-1 is the first segment of that Tour! In this tour we went driving in a SUV, the Himalayan roads of Sikkim, Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh

Highlights from this GHiRT-1 tour: 

Sunrise on NH6 .. as we head East from Mumbai to Gangtok

Coronation Bridge over Teesta in North Bengal

Tsomgo Lake near Nathu-La ... in East Sikkim

Khecheolpalri Lake, W Sikkim 

The Pemayangtse Monastry  ... in West Sikkim

 

Entering Bhutan at Phuntsoling

 

Clocktower Sqaure in Thimpu

Trashichhoe Dzong - Thimpu

Monks at Simtokha Dzong ....  near outskirt of  Thimpu

The ruins of the historic Drukyel Dzong ... beyond Paro, Bhutan


Smiling girl ready for School at Lango, Paro

Looking North from the trekking trail beyond Drukyel

Punakha Dzong - Punakha

A beautiful covered bridge crosses the river to enter the Dzong

Looking north towards the clouded Himalayas ... over clusters of Chorten at Dochu-La (10,500ft)

Pele-La (11070ft-3375M) Chorten

River Lodge at Jakar, Bumthang - the best hotel we stayed in Bhutan

Bhutan Exit .. at Sondrup Jhonkar

The rough dirt track short-cut road from Itanagar to Ziro, is in clouds!

The road passes along misty rivers near Alang in Arunachal

Arunachal is full of green forest, flowing rivers and misty clouds

Typical tribal abodes thatch & bamboo huts on stilts at Alang

Main Sqr at Pasighat, Arunachal

HVKumar's Scorpio boards the ferry to cross Brahmaputra for the final leg of run to Kibuthu

Looking back at the bridge over Lohit river and the Parshuram Kund

 

Srinath & Hariharan - two 13-year, 9th graders, with us on this tour!  

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Google Image of the North East regions of Himalayas

Blue Flags are our GPS Waypoints of GHiRT portion of route - click on picture above to see larger image.

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References:

I have read Lonely Planet's  India and Bhutan Guide books and also Koko Singh's "Driving Holidays in the Himalayas - Bhutan" book, while on this tour.

Both these are excellent guide books and cover Bhutan in great detail. Unfortunately, I did not find any good book or maps for Arunachal Pradesh. 

Some details in this blog could be from any of these guides-books.



Summary Details of this Tour:

Our Scorpio crossing the Rangit river suspension bridge, in West Sikkim

The GHiRT dream:

Ever since I did the GIRT  (Grand India Road Tour) in Dec-2007, with my college friend, Tapan Ghosh, I have been dreaming of doing a similar road tour ... but this time in the Himalayas! i.e. starting from Srinagar in J&K, thru Ladakh, thru Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and ending in the Easternmost parts of the Himalaya in Arunachal Pradesh! The name GHiRT was (sort of)  jointly coined, by one 'Sadanand Kamath' and a 'Dilliwala',  two veteran posters on IndiaMike the India Travel site. IndiaMike discussions on GHiRT can be seen in this Thread.

By March-2009, a year has passed in dreaming and debating what sort of vehicle or SUV is required to do such a journey, in rough terrain and bad roads of Himalayas? The final choice of the SUV is narrowed down to M&M Bolero or Scorpio. While doing research on the vehicles & routes, in Team-BHP site, I came across a veteran roadie, one HV Kumar (HVK), who has  logged thousanads of KMs in his Scorpio. HVK has gone everywhere in India, by road! Later, I was surprised to find HVK lives just 2 blocks away from my home in Thane! So, I met him a couple of times to discuss the vehicle, routes & seasons for doing GHiRT. In fact, a "season-fitted" slow-paced, plan for doing GHiRT (in one stretch)  looks like this:

15-30 Aug  - J&K -->> from Srinagar to Manali via Kargil, Leh

01-30 Sep  - HP, UA -->> Manali, Kaza, Shimla, West to East Uttaranchal 

01-30 Oct  - Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan -->> entirely West to East 

01-30 Nov - Arunachal, Assam, NEast -->> moving West to East

However, most people have advised that I break it up into 2-3 segments, rather than in one long stretch.  


 Jhomolhari range (behind the clouds) .... from Drukyel Dzong

GHiRT-1: 

While I was  thinking about how to break it up into segments and when to  actually do it, HVK announced his plan to do a road tour to the North-East covering Sikkim, Bhutan and Arunachal in April-2009; and offered to take me with him as a passenger. Though his pace of the tour was too fast for my liking, still it was an opportunity for me to learn from a veteran Roadie and gain some first-hand experience of Himalayan drives and also see the more difficult Eastern segment of my GHiRT dream. So I quickly said yes, to HVK's K2K2 plan.


Punthang Dechen Phodrang .... or simply Punakha Dzong

HVK's "K2K2" Plan: 

It starts from Vasant-Vihar, Thane . . . and ends Vasant Vihar, Thane. So for me it is a door-door-service!  The Final Route-Kms was:

 
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Day    Start-End Towns                         Date       Day        Kms
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
0     Thane-Sambalpur                           9-Apr    Thu           ---
1     ----- >>  Sambalpur (contd)      10-Apr    Fri         1448
2     Sambalpur-Malda                         11-Apr     Sat             ---
3     Malda-Gangtok                              12-Apr     Sun       1453
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -  
4    Gangtok                                             13-Apr     Mon           28
5     Gangtok-Phuntsoling                  14-Apr    Tue         474
6     Phuntsoling-Thimphu                15-Apr     Wed        190
7     Thimphu                                           16-Apr     Thu           97
8     Thimphu-Paro-Thimpu             17-Apr      Fri          158
9     Thimphu-Jakar                              18-Apr      Sat         316
10   Jakar-Trashigang                         19-Apr      Sun        315
11   Trashigang-Guwahati                 20-Apr      Mon       318
12    Guwahati-Itanagar                     21-Apr      Tue         427
13    Itanagar-Daparijo                       22-Apr     Wed         291
14    Daparijo-Shilapathar                 23-Apr     Thu         398
15    Shilapathar-Hayuliang              24-Apr     Fri           346
16    H'liang- Kibithu-Dibrugarh     25-Apr     Sat           556
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -  
17    Dibrugarh-Guwahati (cont)     26-Apr     Sun         460
18    ----- >> Kanpur                             27-Apr     Mon      1616
19    Kanpur-Palanpur                         28-Apr     Tue       1093
20    Palanpur-Koteshwar-A'bad    29-Apr     Wed      1125
21    Ahemdabad-Bombay                 30-Apr     Thu        538
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
                                               Total KMs          . . . . . . .        11647
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

HVK's plan has three parts:

1st part: A wild drive across India from Thane-Mumbai to Kolkata and then to Gangtok in 3 days, Day-1 to Day-3!  

2nd part: A slower sight-seeing drive thro Sikkim-Bhutan-Arunachal  (i.e. my GHiRT-1, if you like) from Day-4 to Day-16. 

3rd part: The K2K2 part - a wild fast-paced drive across India,  from Kibithu (in Arunachal) to Koteshwar (in Kutch) (from East to West)   

Have'nt heard of Kibithu or Koteshwar? Well Kibthu is the Easternmost motorable border-point in India [at 28°16.874' N 97°1.085′ E] and Koteshwar [at 23°41.352' N 68°31.561' E] is the Westernmost motorable, temple town of India! So you might now understand, why a "veteran-roadie" (like HVK) will want to do that! 
 
BTW: "K2K" is Kashmir to Kanyakumari. "K2K2" is Kibithu to Koteswar! That seems to be the terminology amoung Roadies. Later, HVK changed K2K2 to S2S - meaning Sunrise to Sunset! 
 

Young Monks at the Wangdi Chong Palace, Jakar, Bumthang, Bhutan

Morning Mists at Daparijo, Arunachal Pradesh

HVK (R), KS (L) & Scorpio at Kibuthu Helipad at 7:50am 25th-Apr-09   This Pic taken by an Army Jawan posted at Kibuthu - just 10Kms from the Tibet-China border, at this Eastermost road point in India.

 

Post Trip Summary: 

The trip happened more or less as per HVK's plan; we reached Gangtok in 3 days and did Local Sights and Tsomgo Lake that had plenty of snow.  Nathu-La was not possible due to snow and so permits not being issued. We also saw main parts of South and West Sikkim visiting Tashigang, Yuksom, Pelling, Pemayangtse and Kechopalri Lake. 

Bhutan was amazing and we did the entire route from Paro in West to Trakshigang in East Bhutan, over 6 days. Not possible to summarise all of Bhutan's positives in a few words here. So, see details in subseqent pages.

Finally, we did Arunachal - Itanagar, Ziro, Daporijo, Alang and Pasighat. Since river crossing at Pasighat to go to Tezu was not possible (due to bridge being inoperative) we had go back to Shilapathar in Assam, to cross the Brahmaputra on a Ferry to Dibrugarh and drive back to East Aruanchal via Tinsukia, Doom-Dooma on the southern bank of Brahmaputra river to reach Parsuram-Kund and then go on to Kibuthu. Kibuthu is an amazing, scenic place, mostly an Indian Army Camp on China border. Arunachal on the whole was great; with misty low clouds, blue braided rivers and lush green forests everywhere.

On the way back, I decided to drop off at Guwahati and fly back. But HVK  carried on solo, to complete his K2K2 goal in 4 days! When he reached Koteswar, he sent me an SMS from there that read: Apr-25 9 am Kibuthu-AR eastmost and Apr-29 11-15 am Koteswar-GJ westmost; a total = 4130kms! 

Later, we accounted that HVK had driven his Scorpio a total of 11,700 Kms in this entire NE trip. For me, Mumbai to Siliguri of 27oo Kms  and then the GHiRT portion from Siliguri through Sikkim, Bhutan & Arunachal, upto Kibuthu was another 4000 Kms, approx. For a detailed account of the GHiRT-1 story, please see the continuation pages in the links below.  

HVK had brought a Garmin GPS that he was using to record Waypoints at important places. The GPS WayPoints for the entire trip is available to you in this GPS-File; by clicking on this link and opening the file, you can see our entire route on Google Earth (if installed in your computer). 

GPS Waypoints of entire route ... click on picture for a larger image

In the detailed stories and pictures, I have indicated the WayPoint number (as WPnnn) from this file. So if you have Google Earth open, while reading the subsequent pages you can 'zoom-in' to the waypoint number and get an amazing aerial view of the place! I got a whole new perspective of the hilly terrain that we covered, by seeing the places and route on Google Earth!   

 

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