Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Darjeeling, Sept 2009

So, the not so tiring Kolkata trip had ended kind of abruptly one day in advance! We had overplanned the city trip. So, in house consultant Tonmoy Saha, alias Tony gave us the idea to go to Darjeeling :)
This was the new adventure/trip we had embarked on the midway. Darjeeling was one of the favourite hillstation getaways during the Britishers stay in pre-Independent India when Calcutta was the capital of East India Company. Railways and some such infrastucture has been developed by the East India company and can be seen easily.
Fortunately, we had booked a train back from Kolkata to Chennai before booking a bus to Bangalore. The Chennai bound train was starting from New Jalpoygudi and we just had to get a return ticket from Jalpoygudi to Kolkata and we were all good
Since we had our return train back from New Jalpoygudi and this town is on the foothills of Darjeeling, we were in good stead.
The only problem was ticket wasn't booked from Kolkata to New Jalpoygudi and that too in the peak Durga Pooja time!!
We tried to book a bus but it was too late. So, we went to the Kolkata railway station only to see that the general ticket queue had atleast 200 people ahead of us in the queue.
In some places of the queue, people had just reserved their place in the queue by keeping their luggage bag since they couldn't stand for that long in the queue.

The STRUGGLE of train travel:
We got the ticket 20-30 mins before the train departure. We were aware that the seat would be very difficult to get. We had a chance of not getting a seat as well. With some smart movement, all 4 of us got seat in same coach of the train. Generally in a side row, the number of people who can sit comfortably was 3 in the lower row and 2 in the upper row. And what we had to endure was 5 a row on both lower and upper and we had  a  560km distance to be travelled, a gruesome12 hour train journey to endure that too overnight.
We had a looong day in Kolkata and naturally we were all tired. And as soon as the train journey started, we were feeling sleepy and considering that the train was jam packed, sleep was a increasingly difficult proposition for us. I properly remember one of us went below the seat too in getting a good night`s sleep. That's when I thought one should be properly planned for a journey if not we have to face this kind of unpleasant experience.
Somehow we endured that journey assisted by the constant chatting by co-passengers, the cold night weather and probably cause we were young too.

Jalpaiguri and travel to Darjeeling:
We reached in the afternoon to Jalpaiguri. The end of October is supposedly pretty hot in West Bengal. But I had never ever seen heat and humid weather at the same time till then. It was difficult for us to endure it. We need a few hours to freshen up and have lunch. We then took a cab to Darjeeling. The road to Darjeeling is narrow where two cars going side by side can easily cover the entire road. So, cabs and small vehicles were the way to go to Darjeeling. The feeling of scorching heat came to rest once we were on our way to the top of Darjeeling from Siliguri. The cool air helped us forget the grueling and seething hot weather in the trip upto that moment. As soon as we landed in Darjeeling in the evening, me and Chopusey went for a walk. We ended up in a not so hip restaurant sipping lime tea. That's when I was introduced to the Darjeeling variety of black tea, the taste of which I may never forget.
Then we got a room in the nearby lodge, very much opposite to the restaurant where we had lemon tea. After getting ready, we took rest for a while in the room. Me went out in the evening, which was a nice stroll all along the radius of the darjeeling. Great experience indeed to see the sun-set alone. Roamed and finally had a fine dinner almost at 9 pm. We were the last ones to enter the restaurant. Then we realised that there s absolutely no night life in Darjeeling. Even the police are vigilant there and fortunately for us, tourists are given some leeway.
Then we enquired a few cab drivers on our way to the room when they told vehicles ll be moving towards the top of the mountain called Tiger hills to a spot to view the sunrise and a chance to see Mt. Kanchenjunga. And, so somehow we woke up at 4:30, took a shared cab to the viewpoint. We thought we would have been one the top of Tiger hills, but we were wrong. There were close to 200 people already there. Sunrise was as early as 5AM. The slightly pinkish colour glooming over the Himalyan landscape were not be forgotten. The scape`s pinkish to golden transition and then the actual sunrise was the best part of the experience. We were elated to see Mt Kanchenjunga during sunrise but when we also realized that we could also see the tip of Mt. Everest, we were absolutely thrilled. We visited few monasteries that afternoon and also got a taste of culture of Darjeeling at a park that evening. We enjoyed that evening`s cultural event.
We had heard of the legendary toy train while we were on our way to Kolkata. So, the next day we took the train in the morning. The track goes from Darjeeling to Ghoom railway station and back. That same evening we left for New Jalpoigudi. From there, we had to take a train to Chennai.

Personally, I  had never seen the Himalayas till then and having seen sunrise so beautiful near Mt Kanchenjunga , the tip of Mt EVEREST was a memorable experience. Getting to know a little bit about the lives of people in Darjeeling, their culture, their people s achievements in military and war, the land`s aspiration to be a separate state was also interesting. East India, whatever little we saw of till then is truly unique and definitely worthy of another visit with bigger plans and more places to see. Hopefully I get a chance to visit this place again.

Things to do while at Darjeeling:
  • Savour the famoussssss darjeeling black tea(Please try to have it with less sugar if possible and no milk) and local eats from North east India and around the town
  • Toy Train ride, few monasteries in the town
  • Must visit Tiger hills for sunrise(Sunrise point)

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