Honda Drive To Discover 12: Exploring The Wonderful Views Of Sikkim

Modified On Dec 26, 2023 12:13 AM By Sonny for Honda Elevate

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While the 14-car convoy included every model in the Honda India lineup, the recently launched Elevate SUV was the star of the event

Honda Drive To Discover 12

It’s that time of the year again when we drive with a convoy of Hondas to explore a scenic part of India. ‘Drive To Discover’, for its 12th iteration, saw us take a ‘Journey To The East’ through parts of West Bengal and Sikkim. I’d heard good things from my colleagues who had attended previous iterations of the annual Honda event and I was excited to experience it for myself.

A lot of driving and a fleet of Hondas were on the agenda for the next couple of days. My partner in crime was fellow ZigWheels colleague and CarDekho host Ujjawall, who’d agreed to play rock-paper-scissors to call dibs on driving first for the day. In hindsight, not a good idea. 

Day 1 - Siliguri to Gangtok

Honda drive to discover flag off

Our adventure started in Siliguri, West Bengal. Luckily for us, our ride for the first leg of the journey was the manual variant of the Honda Elevate

I feel it worth pointing out that the Honda SUV’s massive boot was easily able to accommodate our luggage of 1 mid-size suitcase and 1 full-size one, plus a couple of backpacks. It was a stint of just 100 km which included a mix of tarmac and broken roads. The SUV was able to handle both with ease and apart from some enthusiastic driving over some bumps, the ride was quite refined.

Honda drive to discover 12, crossing Melli

We encountered an especially long traffic jam while crossing the town of Melli, where parts of the road had been washed away during the rains and were occasionally wide enough for just one vehicle at a time. It took us over an hour to clear those few kilometres but it was done so in comfort thanks to the Elevate’s rich interior experience. 

The roads got twistier once we entered Sikkim and the Elevate handled itself surprisingly well, staying relatively stable around the sharp bends for an SUV. That 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated motor offered decent torque even at lower RPMs to easily climb some of the steeper inclines as well. 

 Honda convoy arrives in Gangtok

We arrived at our first stop of Drive To Discover 12 - the state capital of Gangtok - at around 8 PM.

Day 2 - Gangtok to Nathula Pass

It was an early start the following morning as we headed further North to Nathula Pass, taking us right next to the India-China border. 

Our ride for Day 2 was a automatic variant of the Elevate. We were warned beforehand about the low temperatures near 0-degrees Celsius and this was about to be the coldest part of the journey.

Departing for Nathula Pass from Gangtok

It was a scenic drive and thanks to the BRO (Border Road Operations), most of the route was well-surfaced for a fun ride. In the automatic guise, the naturally-aspirated motor was not as eager to rev high, but by slotting the drive-selector into 'S' and using the paddle shifters to hold a lower gear), you can easily take it past 5000rpm. It came in handy when we needed to get some more thrust up the steep inclines. This was also the kind of drive where the sunroof is a welcome feature, making the cabin feel roomier, and letting in the fresh mountain air. Thanks to the bright sunshine, we could keep the sunroof open even as ambient temperatures dropped to 3-degrees Celsius. 

Honda elevate driving

On the way up, we also got to see a few lakes, the largest one being Lake Tsongmo. Our convoy of Honda cars was not permitted for the final few kilometres up to Nathula pass, so we parked up near a military helipad and were ferried up. We were close enough to Chinese territory to see their outposts with their national flags. 

Honda Elevate Tsongmo lake
Nathula pass

Even with the bright sunlight, it was cold enough that the snow from the night before was still present along the roadside and at the military-managed structure. Thanks to that, this became the first-ever Honda Drive To Discover to take part in the snow.

Honda Elevate side

Going back down was a lot more fun and I even got to test out the handling a bit more through some flat stretches of well-surfaced tarmac. As we entered the city, we encountered a fair bit of traffic which does get tiring with a 3-pedal setup, but the comfy ergonomics kept me from feeling too tired. Overall, we covered around 140 kms of hilly roads that day.

As we wound down for the night, we were treated to some talented local musicians and fun stories of previous iterations of the Drive To Discover.

Day 3 - Gangtok To Pelling

Honda drive to discover Pelling

After the extended celebrations of the night before, we had a relaxed start the following day with the GPS set to Pelling. This time we were assigned the manual variant of the Honda Amaze, also in its top variant. Despite the smaller boot, we were able to store our suitcases pretty easily, but kept our backpacks in the rear seat.

The direct route was a distance of 100 km, but we had some small detours along the way due to certain stretches being closed off. It took us down towards the Sikkim-West Bengal border before turning back up towards Pelling. Partly due to the roads being more broken than the ones from Gangtok to Nathula pass, and partly due to us being used to the comfortable ride of the Honda Elevate, our journey in the Honda Amaze was not as smooth. 

Honda Amaze in Sikkim

Don't get us wrong: the Amaze is quite a comfortable sedan on its own, but we were clearly missing the larger, plusher Elevate now. We also yearned for a sunroof to soak in a little more of the natural beauty along the drive.

It had been a relatively slow drive and we still had a lot of ground to cover before nightfall, which happened around 5 PM in that part of the country during this season. So, during the flat parts of the journey, I pushed the little sub-4m sedan to see what it could do and it left me rather surprised.

Honda Amaze driving

This engine also was happy to rev past 4000 RPM and the 5-speed manual was playful. It was fun to dart up the hills once you got familiar with the steering. Following that spirited bit of driving, I switched to a more relaxed pace for the remainder of the leg. Just before entering the steep roads on the approach towards Pelling, my colleague moved to the back seat. I therefore tried to adjust my driving to increase rear passenger comfort and found that the Amaze was able to handle the bends and the inclines quite smoothly, if not as effortlessly as the Elevate.

Our convoy finally reached the resort late in the afternoon and we had to cancel our plans to go further up to Yuksom. This gave us time to unwind with a bonfire to keep us warm as both journalists and Honda representatives enjoyed a relaxed Sunday night.

Day 4 - Pelling To Darjeeling And Then To Kalimpong

The view from our hotel in Pelling

Eager to make sure we completed the itinerary from the day before, I awoke early to make sure we got to see the Pelling Skywalk, just a few kilometres away from our hotel. The early start also treated me to a brilliant view of the Kanchenjunga mountain range from just outside my room.

The Pelling Skywalk is said to be India’s first glass bridge elevated walkway, but as we pulled up to the venue in an Elevate, we were treated to an even more impressive sight - a 42 metre tall statue of the Buddhist religious figure called Chenrezig. The glass bridge itself sits at nearly 2,200 metres above sea level, and that’s before the tall flight of stairs up to the Chenrezig statue. Given that one had to traverse the skywalk barefoot, I passed on the chance to tiptoe on the frozen and damp glass, instead enjoying the view from the top of the stairs.

Honda at Pelling Skywalk

Paying respects to the temple and completing a round of the prayer wheels, we headed off to our next stop of the day - Darjeeling. We made our way back into West Bengal, but the route shown to us by Google Maps was the most tiring one so far. Faced with long stretches of tight ascents, broken roads and narrow town lanes, the Honda Elevate overcame it all. Following the minor navigation issues, we made our way to the lunch spot in Darjeeling called the Ging Tea Estate. 

Honda convoy in Darjeeling

We made our way to Kalimpong in the evening, and even managed to spot the iconic Toy Train in action on our way out of Darjeeling. The steep descent down from the hills meant the Elevate got to show off it’s dynamic capabilities. We were fairly impressed at how the car was able to stay settled while maintaining a decent pace along the twisties. We pulled into our final hotel at Kalimpong just in time for dinner. 

Day 5 - Kalimpong To Siliguri, Flying Back Home

It was the final leg of Honda Drive To Discover 12 with flights back to Pune in the evening, from the same Bagdogra airport that we had arrived at five days ago. The drive from Kalimpong to Siliguri was a relatively short one, just 65 km.

 Honda City convoy

Our final ride for this journey was the Honda City Hybrid, a sedan I had already driven at a prior event. While the most expensive of the lineup, it also had the smallest boot, compromised by the electrified powertrain components in the back. Given the nature of the sedan, I decided to experience the back seat on the drive down to Siliguri and it was as comfortable as expected. 

The drive was mostly uneventful, especially in comparison to the stunning views we had enjoyed in the previous four days. We reached Siliguri with plenty of time to spare before the long flight back to Pune and decided to explore some of the local markets in search of Darjeeling tea and local handicrafts.

Final Thoughts

Good memories with the Honda Elevate 

My first time being part of Honda Drive To Discover had proven to be a memorable experience. It was a wholesome adventure overall with the variety of Honda cars as our trusty companions through it all. But beyond just the cars, it was the journey to discover more of India’s iconic landscapes, and more about oneself along the way. 

What about the rock-paper-scissors, you ask? Well, I lost every single one. 

Read More on : Honda Elevate on road price

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