Recollecting my father’s gallantry stories of eloping to Darjeeling to her aunt after failing in his exam, it occurred to me that I, too, should set my heart on visiting the “Queen of Hills”, simply, to revive my father’s long-forgotten escapade. But then, my escape had to be executed in a unique fashion by visiting the unconventional spots in and around the town. A special place because of a serendipitous meeting of location and history at the foothills of the Himalaya, Darjeeling resides over by the mighty massif Kanchenjunga.
Reaching Darjeeling from the foothills, by the toy train that runs on narrow gauge, is a journey by itself; mountain views, forests, waterfalls, little cottages by the wayside and tea gardens dot the Hill Cart Road. Sometimes, the toy train and the motorable road run side by side, which reminded me of scenes from the movies Aradhana, Parineeta and Barfi. Mountains hiding behind the mist, grey sky, invisible valleys, relentless rain, and worn out road... was the reality during my visit as I drove on an uneven road with lots of water streaming down. After an overnight train journey from Kolkata to New Jalpaiguri followed by an uphill drive of around 2134 metres, I was in this quaint mountain town amidst verdant everywhere, mountains with cloud hats, tea gardens carpeting the rolling hills, waterfalls as adornments, cool breeze and an unparalleled panorama, stretched as far as my eyes could gaze. With no WiFi or phone network and no choice but to enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer, I found myself surrounded by the gardens that produce the Darjeeling tea, the ‘champagne of teas'. Nestled amidst the eponymous town with a mix of colonial legacy and modern times, the tea estates in Darjeeling amplify the charm of this place.
Well, there is no hotel in Darjeeling that are dedicated or just meant for backpackers only. But over the years there are some that have became quite popular with the backpackers who come here from all over the world. The prime reason for that is the low price, clean rooms combined with good friendly service. Located near the Broadway Annex, I booked a space at the Tenzing Norgay Youth Hostel. Reputed, mainly, amongst the backpackers, the Youth Hostel is actually open to all including families. Providing with the basic amenities, geared towards basic stay; there is no food or room service. However, it has a large kitchen space (just the space!) at your service. The hostel has dormitories with 44 beds, couple of double rooms and one four bedded room. The I booked for a double room at the rate of Rs. 500 offering excellent basic accommodation.