It was the month of March 2012 when me and my husband planned to make a tour to North Bengal(Darjeeling-Kalimpong-Lava) in summer. We planned everything well in advance, from train tickets to hotels. After a long wait of about 3months we finally set off for our favourite destination on 1st of June 2012.
The Darjeeling Mail which leaves Sealdah Station at 10.05pm reached us New Jalpaiguri Station(NJP) the next morning. I was quite pleased to see the easy availability of cab at the station. After a quick bite we took a cab and set off for Darjeeling. Narrow meandering roads reached us Darjeeling at noon that day. We just could not take our eyes off the picturesque view through the window panes of our hotel room. We could not wait to visit the famous Mall at Darjeeling.
We had a pre-concieved notion(from people around us) that The Mall is a very congested, dirty and such other things. But it was a delight for us to see that not even a piece of paper is allowed to be dropped at the Mall. Moreover no vehicles are allowed in the Mall. Yes, its true that it is quite crowded, but then isn’t it obvious?
It seemed we were transferred to a heavenly place. Suddenly something caught my eye! A Cafe Coffee Day in the Mall! Could anything have been better than this? At least I do not know. Taking a sip in our favourite CCD Cappuchino just made our first day in the hills complete.
We started the next morning with a piping cup of Makaibari Tea that our hotel served and left for sight-seeing around the town. Our cab driver Mr.Lama was too kind to explain each and every place and give us enough time to look around every site. He took us to a Natural science museum, a Japanese Peace Pagoda, a zoo, a tea garden and finally to Batasia Loop. The Peace Pagoda truely justifies its name. Rarely do we get to see such a quiet and peaceful place.
But the last one got us awestruck. The Batasia Loop is a war memorial situated at Ghoom, the highest point of Darjeeling. Although we missed the view of Kanchenjungha from there because of prevalence of clouds, but did not leave us aggrieved. One could spend hours sitting on the benches there and watch the slow drifting of the clouds and if luck favours, like ours, can also feel them brushing over the body.
But we had to return to our hotel and finish the day off with with cheese pie and more at Glenary’s, the most famous heritage bakery of the town. We skipped our next day’s plan of visiting the Tiger Hill from where sunrise can be seen, because of the clouds.
The beauty of Darjeeling town even compelled us to give a miss to Mirik, a nearby lake surrounded by the mountains, where you can even do a boating. We decided to get the most out of Darjeeling itself on our final day there. We headed for Kaventers, a restaurant famous for its English style breakfast. We were lucky enough to get a table in the open roof-top area of the restaurant which gives a panoramic view of the magnificient Kanchenjunga. What caught our awe was the really wide variety of menu available there. We knew we had hit the right place to satisfy our gastronomic desires.
We digged into friend sausage and eggs there. Although the sun was annoying us, but the food made us forget all. On our way back to hotel we did some shopping at the Mall. The road from Chowrasta to Mall down is lined with small and big shops as well as hawkers selling everything from hairpins to jackets.
In the evening we headed for Nathmulls, the famous tea cafe and purchased some good quality Darjeeling Tea from there. As per our schedule, we bid Darjeeling goodbye the next day and set off for Kalimpong. To add zing to our tour we decided to do white water river rafting on Teesta river on our way to Kalimpong. We were given life jackets to wear for the rafting session. As I dipped my feet in the cold water of Teesta I felt a shiver inside me.
The journey started quite smooth with the mountains standing high on both sides of the river and the bright blue sky above us. We kept rowing the raft enjoying the breeze and the serenity of the ambiance. A few metres down a turbulance caught our eye. They were the rapids, the actual adventure we were waiting for. Even though we were scared we were ready to take it over. The guides showed their skills. The rapid got us fully drenched and wanting for more.
We crossed 7 such rapids on our way to the end of the rafting session. It was a thing to remember. The sense of the adrenaline rush through our body can never be forgotten. Done with rafting we were greeted with a smoking hot place of food at a roadside stall.
It was at this moment we experienced how a very basic quality food can lift your satiety level to a much higher degree than food served at those dimly lit restaurants with soft music playing in our cities. Such a pleasure can never be put to words. Filled with energy we finally took the road to Kalimpong. All the way we were greeted by beautiful yet anonymous flowers, whose colours, i wonder where came from? Little did we know that these were just a trailer to the movie.
When we reached our hotel we were dumbfounded. A mammoth structure was awaiting us. Morgan House, our hotel is an erstwhile bungalow built in the British period, now turned into a tourist lodge by the Government Department. The western architectural style dominates the building. The building is surrounded by lush green lawn lined with flowers. Adding to all these was
the thin veil of cloud that made the building a marvel.
We were served coffee at the lawn. As the coffee warmed us up, we sat there all evening and could do nothing but contemplate the many treasures which we find so near to our own place and yet we travel so far in search of beauty.
It started drizzling and we entered the hotel room climbing up the British style wooden staircase. The only thing we were repenting about was that we had planned only a night’s stay at Morgan House. On the next day we woke up at the early bird’s call and set off for a morning walk. A little down the hotel was a military golf course. As expected it was one of the most beautiful and clean golf courses i have seen till date. Visitors are permitted till a certain area inside it.
We walked inside and sat on one of th benches placed there. But again the sun was bothering us. We moved ahead through a road squeaky clean and bejeweled with tall trees. It took us to the military training area of Kalimpong. We started walking uphill. After a few kilometers walk we knew that it was a real task to reach the top.
We reached a view point called Durpin Dara from where you can see the Kanchenjangha surrounding you from all sides. Climbing down was quite easy. After breakfast we started off for Deolo, the highest point of Kalimpong. And oh, what serene beauty it presented to us. The entire place is lined with beautiful flowers which a real treat to one’s eye.
Next we just could not wait to reach Lava. As we approached lava suddenly we found our surroundings change gradually. It was no more the colourful flowers; it was lush green forest welcoming us to a whole new world. The temperature started dropping sharply. We couldn’t hold back ourselves from getting out of the car and taking photographs of the sky-high pine trees creating an aura.
By the time we reached lava, it was raining. We found our cottage to be in the midst of the forest of Lava. As the night approached, it got scary and thrilling at the same time. There is a striking difference between day and night in forests. Early morning we started trekking our way to Rishop. Our guide took us through deep forests.
We were amazed by the poignant beauty of these forests. Unfortunately the last night’s rain made the way difficult to walk after some distance. We decided not to go any further. On our way back we also walked down to Lava Monastery. The Monastery was a place out of this world. Done with bright colors, it seemed to be something precisely describing the word ‘Peace’.
It seemed to take away all the materialistic feelings from life. The afternoon was spent taking a stroll in the Lava market. The rain brought with it a whole lot of leaches. So we had to drop our plan to visit Lolegaon next morning as the place is filled with that insect. Instead we set off for Changey falls. We took a jeep and set off for the falls. The road to Changey falls is through Neora Valley Forest.
The road i must mention was terrible. Actually it isn’t a proper road at all. But what compensated the bad road was the scenery around us. Oh what dense forest it was and what amazing wild trees bearing wild flowers and fruits.
Our travel guide kept explaining to us on the way the medicinal properties of the plants and even fed us raspberries directly from the tree. Perhaps nothing makes you realize your own existence than nature. As we entered deep into the forest it seemed that Mother Nature has been bountiful in pouring her treasures in this place.
We couldn’t afford to miss an inch of such beauty and drank it in as much as we could. The Changey falls was quite impressive. We walked downhill to the falls through forests(although here it is a properly paved path) to the falls. All was well before we had to climb the same distance uphill as much we had gone down. We had to take rest for more than 5 times on the way up and when we reached the top we were puffing and panting.
The return to hotel ended our tour of Lava and in whole our entire North Bengal trip. Even the next morning when we were about to take a car to NJP station, it seemed that we could not get enough of that place.