Synonymous with the town of Darjeeling is tea, and its many eminent schools that were established in the 19th century when India was still an English colony. However, equally unique to the ‘Queen of Hills’ are Series I and Series II Land Rovers that still ply the roads, and most of which date their ancestry to the 1950’s. This was where I first saw one of these old ladies and might I say, it was at love at first sight, both with its design, and its capabilities.
The ‘1 in 4’ gradient
On a trek to a remote village called Sundakphu, close to the Indo-Nepal border, I was amazed to find that Land Rovers were the only form of motorised transport. This was not on account of the roads that were bascially cobbled, but because the gradients were extremely steep with the latter being referred to as ‘1 in 4,’ – meaning for every four feet of forward travel, one foot in elevation was gained. Land Rovers were the only vehicles that were capable of meeting these extreme conditions. While I have not yet had the good fortune of driving a Series I, opportunity to drive a Land Rover came in the form of a diesel Discovery in Bhutan.
A not so prudent decision
Fast forward to January 2008; I landed in Canada and from the very outset, a Defender was on the wishlist. However, to my slight disappointment, Defenders were difficult to come by in Canada, and thus commanded hefty premiums. Therefore, I narrowed down my sights to a ’98 Discovery that was within reach and was in reasonable condition. Purchased for $2,300, it was luxuriously appointed and all the electricals worked, save for the cruise control.
The vehicle had about 198,000 kms on the clock, and it seemed like it still had lots of life left in it. Naive as I was then, the thought never struck me that while buying a used one was easy, maintaining a Land Rover with a fair bit of age, is not for one with shallow pockets. The first three months were smooth; it ran beautifully and it was my pride and joy. I earnestly looked for a trail where I could put its low range gears to use, and pursued any opportunity to drive it off tarmac.
The troubles begin
The first hint of trouble struck when one day abruptly, the battery light came on and the sound from the engine compartment was unusually low. I was able to drive it home and upon looking under the hood, I realised the water pump had failed, and the serpentine belt had come loose as a result. Just as the water pump was replaced, I was only able to drive it for two more days before the alternator gave way. Again, it was back into the workshop to have the alternator and battery replaced. No sooner was this resolved than the ignition coils began to warrant attention.
The little money I had was all devoted to the Discovery’s upkeep, and come January 2009, I was faced with either allocating my monetary resources to college or keeping the Discovery alive. It was a no brainer, and the Discovery was let go off.
The overlanding ambitions are approaching fruition
However, having said that, and beyond ordinary reason, I envision myself purchasing a Land Rover as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Call it an inexplicable syndrome but the more attention an entity demands, greater seems to be a subconscious attachment to it. I attribute the mechanical problems to its being an ill cared for unit in the past, and when my overlanding ambitions approach fruition, a Land Rover will be my first consideration.