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Baby Ishaan's Winter Drive to Frozen Sikkim in an XUV500 W10 AWD 2020-01-14 10:49:15

People say that travelling with babies can be so daunting. We as the former wanderlust couple fully agree to this. The former hippies inside us have now been replaced by protective parenting emotions where the primary focus is solely the baby’s comfort and safety.

But then who can kill the travel bug within us? Thanks to our genes, our 1.4-year toddler loves cars and road trips. Then also, as responsible parents, we had to be extra mindful while deciding upon the travel destination to ensure that the little one also enjoys as much as we do.

Ishaan had been to Bhutan when he was 3 months old, to Tinchulay when he was 9 months old and to Mandarmani when he was 1.1 year old. You can say, he is little bit seasoned when it comes to road trips and hence, we decided to experiment slightly this time.

We were somewhat sure that he would like snow, so we decided on re-exploring North Sikkim where there would be enough amenities to support Ishaan.

I will first discuss the basic things, which we should keep in mind when planning such road trips where temperatures fall below sub-zero and the air is thin.

Altitude Mountain Sickness can happen to anyone travelling to high altitudes. Initially we had the notion that AMS generally hits adults and children above 3 years old as lungs of babies have better capacity in handling low oxygen, but that is a myth. If your baby has ever gone through breathing issues, please do not think to explore high altitude places without doctor consultation.

We forbade the idea of covering long distances at one go as this might be tiring as well as boring for little Ishaan. We had to give him the due comfort. We aimed at travelling the maximum distance while he is asleep only. Thus, my first day plan was set.

Kolkata to Siliguri, a distance of 560 kms to be covered in the night. Second day we would take complete rest in Siliguri. The third day we would cover Siliguri to Mangan, where we will collect our permits for North Sikkim.

Forth day we would drive to Lachung and if possible have a short drive to Katao. Fifth day Lachung to Zero Point and Sixth day, we drive from Lachung to Lachen. Seventh day onwards we drive downhill up to Temi Tea Garden and then on Eight day up to Malda and on Ninth we are back home by evening.

Having the itinerary set now the second stage was to fix the dates. Dates were decided and the following schedule was finalised.

24th Dec, 2019 Tuesday Kolkata to Siliguri 560 kms. Departure time set 9:00 pm.
25th Dec, 2019 Wednesday we reach Siliguri in the morning and take rest
26th Dec, 2019 Thursday: Siliguri to Mangan 137 kms
27th Dec, 2019 Friday: Mangan to Lachung and a short drive to Katao 51+ kms
28th Dec, 2019 Saturday: Lachung to Zero Point and back to Lachung 52+ kms
29th Dec, 2019 Sunday: Lachung to Lachen and drive some kilometres towards Gurudongmar 47+ kms
30th Dec, 2019 Monday: Lachen to Temi Tea Garden 129 kms
31st Dec, 2019 Tuesday Temi to Malda 335 kms
1st Jan, 2020 Wednesday Malda to Kolkata 341 kms

Now, many will ask a question why keep Lachen in the itinerary when we are skipping Gurudongmar.

To be honest, I have never been to Gurudongmar, so a latent interest is always there to drive to that spot but considering the baby, I had to exclude it from our itinerary. I am aware that most adults and children travelling to that lake are hit by AMS. Therefore, driving at least to Lachen was somewhat comforting the explorer in me.

Third stage of our planning was the most important, precautions and safety measures.

Here is the list of Medicines that we took for the baby.

1. Neopeptine for digestion

2. Rantac syrup for acidity

3. Calpol drops for fever and body/headache

4. Maxtra for cough

5. Coriminic for runny and stuffy nose

6. Enterogermina for indigestion/stomach upset

7. Domstal for vomiting

8. Oximeter for monitoring the oxygen levels.

9. Oxygen cylinders of 100 litres along with mask for adults and kids.

Also, please carry heavy baby creams/ointments as the extreme chill can lead to severe chapped skin. Please do carry baby sunscreens (you can get it online from brands like Chicco, Mamaearth) also carry enough warm clothes.

It is very important to feed your baby water to tackle AMS and it goes same for adults. The more water you drink the less gets the chance of being hit by AMS. Our baby somehow was not drinking water during the trip so we kept on feeding the baby with formula milk instead. It helped him a lot. You might take ORS formulated for babies, which they might like, as it is a change of taste for regular water.

As per the new rule in Sikkim, carrying plastic mineral water bottles and plastic bags are banned. So, it is advised to carry paper bags and pet bottles.

We carried car fridge (to keep drinking water warm), portable butane stove, few cooking utensils and packets of soups and Maggi to tackle emergencies.

Another important thing, which I would like to advise all parents, is never travel without proper baby car seat. Reasons being safety and comfort of the baby.

We decided to travel in our XUV 500 AWD considering the space, comfort and added advantage of 4-wheel drive.

Talking of luggage space in XUV it reminded me of one more thing. We carried our baby's Feeding high chair for ease of feeding him.

All was set but the dense fog, which we were to get along SH7, and NH34 was giving me nightmares. Came to know from our different travel WA groups that Souradeep Choudhury (tbhp handle: SouraC), Prasenjit Nath(tbhp handle: uprasenjit), Kamalesh Roy Choudhury and Subhayan Sett (tbhp handle: highway_nation) were planning to drive on the same day.

Discussed with them and we decided on Souradeep da and Prasenjit would be driving before us. They would leave from Kolkata at 3 pm while Kamalesh da, Subhayan and I would tag along by starting at 9 pm.

Meeting points were set and alas came the NRC and CAA chaos; Roads were blocked, buses were burnt, trains were in flames and we were just 12 days from the D day.

In anticipation that situation would calm down within this span I modified the LED bar in my XUV to tackle extreme fog situation. Dismantled the LED bar, cleaned the front glass thoroughly and applied yellow film.

LED Bar light without yellow film LED Bar dismantled LED Bar with yellow film The light after fitting yellow film

Initially Subhayan's plan was to drive to the mountains without any set destination but after he heard my itinerary, he planned to tag along with me to North Sikkim. He along with his fiancé Slivina planned to drive along in their Volkswagen Ameo.

Hotel bookings were done in advance to avoid last minute rush. Two days to go before the trip situation in Bengal started to calm down. Thoroughly checked few vital things in my car like Engine Oil level, Battery status, brake pads, wheel nuts, alignment, windshield washer tank top up, all bulbs etc. XUV was all set for the drive.

XUV taking shower before the trip All Set

Souradeep da was to travel directly until Dzongu while Prasenjit was travelling to Pheuntsholing on Day 1. Therefore, as planned they left at 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm respectively.

Kamalesh da along with his family was to drive up to Siliguri. Therefore, three cars grouped together to leave at 9:00 pm. Kamalesh da in his Swift dzire, Subhayan in Ameo and myself in XUV.