Journey to one of the Best Hill stations (Darjeeling)

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First Sun-rays on Mt. Kungchenjunga

Photo of Journey to one of the Best Hill stations (Darjeeling) by Darshan H. Ranpara

It was the first ever journey of me and my father without my mom exploring the North-East India. Journey began with our flight from Ahmedabad to Bagdogra (100 km from Darjeeling) via Kolkata. Our flight was at 08:30 and it took off on exact time. Two of my friends came to drop me at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International airport and then it was flying time for me after long period of more than 10 years. It was a different experience for me as no food was included in services. For water too, we need to ask them to provide us. However, the timing of takeoff and landing were very accurate. The views from flight were amazing as usual. We were heading with speed of approx 950 km/hr at 41,000 ft high. We reached at Bagdogra at 12:25 and took a taxi towards Siliguri where we had decided to have a night stay so that we could go in world famous Toy Train of Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (DHR). But we were informed by the taxi driver that due to land sliding, the Toy Train was now starting from a town named Kurseong 40 kms from Siliguri. We went to Kurseong in a shared taxi. The view in drive to Kurseong was amazingly pleasant to watch as Kurseong is on a hilly area at half distance from Darjeeling. Full path consisted of Tea gardens everywhere in all directions which was amazing to watch.

Next day morning @ 06:00, we went for our tickets of 7 am Toy Train to Darjeeling. The experience of Toy Train was totally unique as the path of train was along the streets of all the towns that came in between. The highway road and railway track was common and people were standing in their shops and homes watching the train passing very near from them. It took 4-5 hrs to reach Darjeeling at a speed of 30 kmph. A station named Ghum came before Darjeeling. We came to know that majority part of shooting of the movie "Barfi" was done here. After reaching Darjeeling, we stayed in a hotel opposite to railway station. The rent of normal room was Rs.660 as it was off-season. We inquired about the seasonal rates and the guy informed that it ranges from Rs.1500 to 2000.

Next morning @ 03:45, the taxi driver was waiting for us in a Wagon R to start our tour. Our first destination was Tiger Hill which is a famous sunrise point from where one can see Mt. Kanchenjunga. We started our 10 km tour towards Tiger Hill. The path after 6 kms was totally hilly and with very scenic Pine trees all around but it was not visible due to dark atmosphere. There was lot of traffic in the way as it is a must visit destination. The driver was very young (16 years old), but his driving was good and was informative which was best for us. Then came the Tiger Hill ticket counter and after visiting Tiger Hill, we realized that buying the costly tickets of Rs.40 was useless. The ticket was of a building from where one can view sunrise from height but when we reached there, we saw that there was no room even for having a look. We instead went to the railing which was outside the ground floor of building. That was the best place to enjoy the sunrise. After eagerly waiting for a long time, suddenly the crowd made noise related to the view of first sun rays on the Mt. Kanchenjunga. It was the most pleasant view and we felt like the view of heaven from earth. After 10 mins, at 05:25, the people again made noise and looked in other direction. It was first view of the rising Sun. The atmosphere was too chilly, so we had some hot tea. Finally, we returned to Hotel for our breakfast time covering 2 points namely Batasia Loop and Buddhist Monastery of Ghum. There was a War memorial at Batasia Loop of Gorkha soldier who lost their lives during Independence in 1947 and there is a beautiful garden. The Toy train passes from this place. Next place was Buddhist Monastery of Ghum. There was nice silence in the monastery and a sacred bell before entering the inner portion of the Monastery. Inside, there was a huge 15 feet Buddha statue in a silent environment. While returning to Hotel, driver showed us the residence of Actor Govinda. He also shown us the Nepali Ten Rupees note which was nice.

After breakfast, we went to next destination, The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) which was inside the premises of Zoological Park. Entering the zoo, we saw different species of attractive flowers. Then different Himalayan animals like Sheep, Deer, etc. in which we were not so interested. On a long walk after crossing the zoo, we reached HMI and saw a nice statue of Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, who was first person to climb Mt. Everest on 29 th May, 1953. Sir Edmund Hillary was his companion. Then we entered a very brilliantly managed historical Museum of the teams who visited Mt. Everest and other lower peaks along with all the utensils and instruments used by them. There was a model showing entire Himalayan Range which was very nice to watch and understand. We then saw the St. Joseph's school which is maintained under the British Government situated at heavenly location. But entering inside the school premises was prohibited.

The next place was Happy Valley Tea estate, 2 nd best place of the local tour after Tiger Hill. In the way, there was the residence of Sister Nivedita. We waited there to have a click for our memory and then headed towards Happy Valley. Reaching there, it was a very enchanting experience of the tea estate and surrounding scenic environment. We spend 30 mins sitting there and listening to our favorite songs while watching the widely spread tea plantations. We enjoyed a cup of Darjeeling in the nearby shops after returning from Valley to Parking place. We had an informative talk with a shop keeper regarding the making and drying process of tea leaves and also regarding their local routine.

It was time to go to the next place which was Tenzing rock climbing. I had a rock climbing experience first time just for Rs.50. It was very easy while climbing, but was tough while returning. A person was selling dried Litchis near the Tenzing rock. He informed us that dried Litchis are very good for Blood Pressure and Diabetic patients. So we bought it for my mom.

Finally, in the next morning we returned to our hotel after dinner and went for our next tour further towards Meghalaya, the details of which are in my next blog.

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