Hundred in Gangtok – Part 2

You read about the planning of trip and train journey in first post of the series. We sat in our buses at New Jalpaiguri railway station to move to Gangtok. New Jalpaiguri is the major railway station of Siliguri city in West Bengal state, and it is famous with the name of NJP. There are other stations as well in Siliguri namely Siliguri Town and Siliguri Junction but NJP is the one which has train connections with with all major cities of India. NJP is also famous for the originating station of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway  narrow gauge train. One thing to note here is that NJP falls in Jalpaiguri district not in Siliguri although its part of Siliguri Municipal Corporation. Siliguri falls in Darjeeling district. New Jalpaiguri to Gangtok distance is 124 km and we have to cross Siliguri city to reach there. Siliguri is the major city in West Bengal and entire North-East region. It is the second largest city in West Bengal after Kolkata.  It is the transit point for air, road and rail traffic to the neighbouring countries of Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, and also to the North East region of India. National Highway 31A connects Gangtok to Siliguri and it runs along the beautiful Teesta river, the lifeline of Sikkim.

We started our bus journey around 1:30 pm. Our bus has started first, followed by two other buses and one Tata Sumo. We were about to exit Siliguri city but suddenly our bus driver informed that there was some issue in the bus and one part need to be repaired. He confirmed us that it should not take more than 15-20 minutes. First we thought to wait inside the bus but it was very hot. Fortunately there was a small shopping mall in front of the repair shop on the other side of road. Most of our ladies department went there with kids to avoid the heat and enjoy the air-conditioner. But as usual there were shopping items in each hands when they return. Repairing of bus took almost an hour and we again started our journey around 2:30. We have lost valuable one hour due to this.

Siliguri Gangtok Road

As soon as we left Siliguri behind it was green everywhere on both side of roads as the road pass through Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary. Few minutes later we could see the glimpse of hills for first time, but the hills seems to be very far. Gradually we were moving towards the hills and it started raining. Very soon we hit the Sevoke town and surroundings changed dramatically. For first time we saw mighty Teesta river as it was flowing on right side of the road. On left side of the road were hills. The view was very beautiful and everybody in the bus was astonished. It was hard to believe the change of surroundings so sudden. The road is not much wide at Sevoke but our driver was going very fast. At the time of overtaking we had a feeling for a moment that tyres were just on the verge of road. It was a mixed felling of pleasure and a mild fear somewhere inside our bodies. Now we were on hill road and Teesta was flowing deep in the valley. This was the time when people in the bus specially kids and women start feeling  motion sickness. My wife was on window seat on the side of river. I warned her that she might also feel motion sickness as she did not have much experience of hill roads. But the scenery was so fantastic that she refused to change her seat and keep looking Teesta down in the valley. Within next 5 minutes she complained about the nausea and very soon she was almost unconscious for few seconds. By the time she become normal, we passed through the famous Coronation Bridge also called as Sevoke Bridge or Baghpool (Tiger Bridge) by locals . We did not cross the bridge as that road leads to Bhutan and Guwahati. Coronation Bridge is an arch shaped bridge. As I read on the web it was not possible to obtain support from the Teesta river bed due to the depth and current of water, so it was built as arch shape in 1941. It has been repainted recently in pink and yellow color and watching this beautiful bridge is a treat to eyes. We were already late so could not stop the bus to spent some time there, although we were wishing so.

Beautiful Scenery

Coronation Bridge

Teesta River

As the bus was moving towards Gangtok on scenic NH 31A, we were enjoying the green hills, Teesta river running side by side and also the beautiful rainy weather. In between whenever we cross any village we could see people enjoying with firecrackers to celebrate victory of Mamata Banarjee. After sometime we take right turn to cross the river and now the river was on our left side all along the way. The road which we left straight goes to Darjeeling. I am not sure but I think there is a separate road to Darjeeling from Siliguri which is the preferred way. Very soon we saw a sign board indicating Kalimpong on right at a distance of around 10-15 km, I am not remembering the exact distance. Kalimpong is also a beautiful hill station. After that we cross the Melli town which must be the last town of West Bengal on the road. We were all waiting for the Rangpo, the first town of Sikkim, which was already scheduled for the midway halt. We hit Rangpo around 4:45 pm, two other buses were already there. Rangpo is at a distance of 91 km from NJP. There are a lot of roadside restaurants in Rangpo where we eat some snacks. We also had small photo session around the area. As we were many people it took us around one hour at Rangpo.

 

State Bank of India – Rangpo branch

My two sweethearts at Rangpo

We started again around 6:00 pm and we have to cross almost 30-35 km to reach Gangtok. Daylight was decreasing gradually and it was complete dark by the time we hit Singtam. At Singtam we took a right turn towards Gangtok and say bye-bye to Teesta. Again some small river, may be tributary of Teesta, was flowing in the deep valley on right which continued in major part of distance covered. It was dark all around and we could see few tiny lights coming from the small houses built on the hills along the way. After some time we got the first glimpse of Gangtok as it was evident from lot of bright lights on the hills although it was not very close. Soon we entered in a city, which we first mistaken for Gangtok while it was Ranipool as we read on the signboards. In fact, as it was raining heavily at that time, I read Ranipool as Rainpool :). Gangtok was still 12 km from Ranipool. After waiting for few more minutes we finally reached Gangtok around 7:30 pm.

National Highway 31A

River Rafting in Teesta. Are the boats visible?

 

We did not know that one final hurdle was waiting for us before we reach in our hotel. As Gangtok is a hilly town buses can’t go on every road. Unfortunately our hotel was also on one of these kind of roads with steep ascent. So it was planned that buses will go only till bus stand and thereafter we will go in taxis. But there are two bus stands in Gangtok – first is Sikkim Nationalized Transport (SNT) for all government buses and other is private bus stand near Deorali just off the NH 31A. Due to some miscommunication our driver had taken us to Deorali stand while the taxis were waiting at SNT stand. The other two buses reach at the SNT stand and passengers in those were being transported first as I got the information on phone. Here the situation turned from bad to worse. We already had a room arrangement plan shared with the tour manager and also with our room arrangement team. As we were large party it was not possible to stay in one single hotel so the main hotel had outsourced some rooms to two other adjacent hotels for accommodating us. But somehow the main hotel manager had screwed up the whole room arrangement plan. One team member of room arrangement team was in one of other two buses and he had tried to control the situation. But I along with the head of room arrangement team were in the bus which was on wrong bus stand. We were awaiting helplessly for the taxis to arrive but to no avail. I was constantly talking on mobile with our room arrangement team at hotel and with our tour manager alternatively. But the situation was very bad at the hotel. We had made the room arrangement plan by keeping lot of factors in consideration but the hotel manager had changed it according to his comfort.

On the other side our bus driver was not willing to take the bus further as he was not aware of the way towards the hotel. We were standing there for almost 30-45 minutes. I managed to find a person at the bus stand who was aware of the way. He initially refused to come along with the bus as he was drunk according to him. I still remember his words and expressions – mera ye(food) bhi ho gaya aur wo(drink) bhi ho gaya, ab main kahin nahin jaaonga. But as our kids were feeling uncomfortable in the bus and the situation at hotel was not good, we somehow managed him to come along with us. The road was really having steep ascents on the way and was very narrow. But our driver was expert and in next 15-20 minutes we were at hotel around 9.00 pm. Although the situation there was looking in control by then, but some persons were not satisfied with their room arrangements. I just dropped my wife and son in our alloted room and in no time came back to handle the situation. We talked with hotel manager and our tour manager to match their room arrangement with ours. We had to shift few persons from this room to that room, from this hotel to that hotel. Finally with all things settled down, I came back to my room but not before spending around one hour on this. Then we take buffet dinner arranged in the hotel and went to sleep after end of a day which had both pleasure and anxiety.

 

18 Comments

  • Surinder Sharma says:

    Dear Deependra,

    Very good descriptions nice photos .
    Thanks and regards,

  • Dear Deependra

    Sometimes it happens when one thing goes wrong then there are series of problems which come back to back. That time patience is required to handle rather than getting frustrated, as rightly shown by you.
    Pictures were nice specially of boats on Teesta river.
    Waiting eagerly for next.

  • Mukesh Bhalse says:

    Deependra,
    quite interesting narration with beautiful pictures. Specially the pictures of Teesta River were so nice. I had been listening the name of Teesta river since childhood but for the first time saw its photo through your post, so thanks for this.

    I recollect a beautiful non filmi song, sung by Yesudas and Hemlata aired on Doordarshan long ago ”
    ?????? ??? ?? ?? ?????.
    ??? ?? ??? ???? ?? ?????.

    So……….Once again many thanks for this touching post. Eagerly waiting for next part.

    • I was not aware of the lines written by you about Teesta, just listened this beautiful song on YouTube. You still remember this old song, great!

      Its my pleasure to know that you saw Teesta through my post. Thanks.

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Dear Deependra,

    Sorry for posting out of turn. I made a major error while composing my post and inadvertently hit the wrong button. The result was that your post, which should have been right at the top till the next scheduled post, was unfairly displaced by mine. I sincerely apologise for this mistake.

    Coming to your post, it is impressive how you have handled the goof-ups. Losing temper only aggravates the situation and does not help in finding a solution. However, you should have been firmer with your driver. He might be an expert but he has no right to jeopardise the lives of the passengers by rash driving, especially on ghat roads.

    Your narration was very detailed from the moment you landed at the NJP station till you finally went to bed after a very busy day. Especially loved the vividly penned description oft the Teesta river and the Coronation bridge.

    Eagerly waiting for the next instalment.

    • No worries DL. We all are part of a family and you being my senior deserves to be on top :). Please don’t take it so serious.

      Your comments always prove that how seriously you read each and every post. We were not very used to go on hill roads, so may be we thought that all drivers drive on hills like that only.

      Thanks for showing your love to my post in such a nice words.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    I appreciate and respect your commitment Mr. Solanky, in your own words ‘Ek baar commit kar diya….’. He He.

    I think NJP was also famous because probably it was one of the few places where one could find all three gauges of IR (Broad, Meter and Narrow). Roopesh, Neeraj or some other IRFCA champ can better comment on it.

    I have been on this road but after reading this log, it feels that as if I missed most of it during my drive. :-). That coronation bridge is enchanting, even last time when I looked it, I had a strong desire to just take that exit. You know, one of those high-ocatane impulses or rush you feel sometime.

    Great job towards accomo. management. Look fwd to next part.

    • I knew that you have changed my post time to 6 in the evening, which gave me some relief but I continued to work on the post. This helps when you again reverted it to 4 am. I must thank you to have trust in authors like me.

      I think Siliguri Junction has all three gauges instead of NJP.

      Coronation bridge is indeed have a inviting factor attached to it. I am also waiting to cross it sometime, may be a visit to Bhutan sometime in future. Mahesh Natarajan has crossed this bridge during his visit to Bhutan (http://www.ghumakkar.com/2011/10/14/land-of-the-thunder-drangon-bhutan-day-5-and-6/). But he has written about two separate bridges Coronation Bridge and Tiger Bridge while both are same to the best of my knowledge. I have asked this question to him in comments but may be he is not active now a days on Ghumakkar.

  • SilentSoul says:

    Great job Deependra Solanky ! it is great to know a lesser known place. Coronation bridge is beautiful… but what impressed me the most is the greenery which is quite rare in hill stations nearer to Delhi.

    Thanks for sharing..waiting next post

  • Sanjay Kaushik says:

    ???? ????? ???????,

    ???? ?? ????? ?????. ???? ????? ???? ???? ???? ???? ?? ?? ??? ?? ?????? ??? ? ??. ???? ???? ????? ?? retired ???. ?? ??? ???? ???????? ??????? ?????? ??? ??????? ???? ??? ?? ??, ???? ???? ?? ??? ?? ???? ?????? ??? ?? ??? ?? ?????? ???? ??. ??????? ?? ????? ?? ???? ?? ?? ??? ???? ??? ????? ?? ?????? ???? ??. ?????? ?????? dittoo. ??? ??….. ….

    ???? ?? ????? ?????, ?????? ?? ??? ?? ????? ????…

  • Archana says:

    Dear Deependra,

    The post is very well written. I liked the pictures too.. It reminded me of my trip to Sikkim and Kolkata.. The picture of your “Sweethearts” @ Rangpo shows Shree Shyam veg restaurant – we had stopped here too for a cup of coffee and some biscuits :)
    I must say, the feeling of driving through the stretch along Teesta is a marvelous experience.. I would look for the river to give us company and when it would disappear for a moment, I would feel so bad!

    I remember , I was in my Engineering college when I had traveled to Gangtok.. I had loads of anecdotes to share with my friends soon after this trip!

    Thanks for the nostalgia :)

    Keep writing more :)

    • We also had our Dosa, Idlies and Tea at Shree Shyam restaurant, as me and my family are fully vegetarian.

      Thanks for your praise for the post. I am glad to know that it revives your past beautiful moments. Its not easy for anyone to forget Teesta. I was feeling right there, when I was writing this post.

  • Ritesh says:

    Hello Depnedra Solanki ji…..
    Once time I have been Gangtok. That time we have not excursion Gangtok area due to Taxi Strike.
    We went Gangtok by taxi from Darjiling. Darjiling to Gangtok road is very naturist and beautiful.
    Thanks for refreshing my memories.
    Gangtok is very beautiful place of Sikkim state. Your post is very excellent writing and full of beautiful pictures.
    Thanks.
    Ritesh… :)

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