Winters have always been my favourite season to travel to the mountains. Although the temperature drops abruptly in the months of December and January, nonetheless it is a wonderful experience to snuggle up, kindling a fire by the side while sipping on a hot cup of tea.
Last Christmas we boarded a flight to Bagdogra airport; on our arrival a car came to receive us. This time our destination was none other than the beautiful town of Rabongla. This place is a small settlement nestled on the lofty mountains of Sikkim.
On reaching Rabongla I learnt that the resort is a few kilometres ahead of the main town, on top of a hill. The wind was already chilling us to the bones and the idea of driving even higher made me feel a little jittery. But on reaching, I was completely taken aback by the splendour and beauty, the elevation of the place is near to 8000 ft above the sea level. As I drew the curtain of my room, I was gifted with a splendid view of the towering mountain ranges right from my bed. The experience was mind-blowing and I couldn’t help but stare out of the window until someone knocked on the door to inform that the lunch had been laid on.
Later in the evening, while sitting around the fireplace we conversed with the other travellers; the staff and the owner also joined in. After sundown the area is totally engulfed by darkness and the place transforms into a star gazers’ paradise. Far away I could see the lambent statue of Lord Buddha and the glimmering town of Rabongla. That night the temperature hovered around 1 degree centigrade. We securely fastened the doors and the windows sensing some wild animals might barge in; the adventure had just begun and I was craving for more.
The next day dawned with even better surprises; as the elysian rays of the sun fell on the peaks, they turned golden; the feeling was surreal. A sumptuous breakfast followed by a quick round of clicking photos made a perfect start to the day. But I wanted to explore more; putting on my hiking shoes, I went out of the resort, meandering through the undulating roads flanked by tall Himalayan trees on both sides. Sometimes I paused to breathe in the fresh air but ended up gaping at the entrancing scenery around me. The fulgent rays of the sun shone in my eyes making it difficult to climb down the hill. Finally, we scrambled down and landed on the pitch road.
The main town was some six kilometres away from where we had put up. Instead of flagging down a taxi I decided to cover the distance on foot; though it was a daunting feat I was more than excited to accomplish it.
After walking down the sinuous road we walked past many quaint country cottages built in the midst of pure verdure. The woolly goats ruminating nonchalantly by the huts and the children running about here and there was a wonderful sight to behold. After crossing over many ridges and gorges I was completely done up; the water I was carrying also ran out but the town seemed still quite far away. Luckily a taxi was speeding past, we hopped in it. The driver was happy to drop us in the town, informed that he had been travelling all the way from Siliguri without a passenger.
Unlike our resort and its surroundings, the town is very touristy. Numerous hotels and shops line up on both sides of the road. After buying water and some dry snacks we had a short walk around the place. Time was running out, so after hiring yet another cab we came back to our resort just to find that a scrumptious lunch was awaiting us. That night the mercury slid down quite a few notches; a bonfire was lit up again to keep the biting cold at bay. We had a nice time singing, sharing anecdotes and reminiscing under the star lit sky.
The following morning, on the way to the famous Buddha Park I almost bumped into a barking deer. There are many other species of wildlife such as the black bear, the endangered red panda, the snow leopard to name a few, but they are very elusive.
At the park several pictures of the magnificent Buddha statue were taken. His Holiness Dalai Lama came to consecrate the place in the year 2013; since then it has become one of the most important circuits of Buddhism.
Our next destination was the Ralong monastery. The car drove through a narrow road shaded by a canopy of trees, we were delighted to catch a sight of the blooming rhododendrons and other wild flowers bursting into a riot of colours; the brilliant Buddhist flags fluttering in the air added to its beauty. The peace and serenity felt at the Ralong monastery was contagious. We also covered the much talked about Temi tea garden; it is the only tea garden in Sikkim and is considered one of the best in India.
Then we visited Borong Polok, this place is an offbeat destination in South Sikkim. Sometimes the roads were bumpy but it was worthwhile; the beauty of nature was overpowering. Borong is a bird watchers’ paradise, one must stay there for a night or two to truly know the place. Still we had a good time roaming about. This place is also famous for producing handmade papers, we visited one such factory. A lady had escorted us and gave us a lot of information about paper making. We thanked her, bought some stuffs and returned back to the car. Next we visited the Titanic view point to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the valley covering the south, east and west part of Sikkim, the experience was fantastic.
On our way back visited the Samdruptse hill in Namchi to get a glimpse of the Guru Padmasambhava statue. The statue was scaffolded for repair work which was a turn off and on top of that photography was prohibited there. Nonetheless we had a good time sitting in a shack, perched on a hilltop, gorging on mouth-watering momos and thukpas.
The next day was chillier; we decided to stay put and enjoy the simple home cooked food served at the resort. The following morning it was time to check out. Our next destination was Darjeeling. It was heart breaking to leave the abode of peace and return back to ‘civilisation’. The experiences that I have had in Rabongla will remain vividly etched in my memory forever.