The scenes changed from beautiful to picturesque, as we moved higher, our lungs full of mountainous fresh air,our expectations also soaring with the rising altitudes of the Himalayas all around. The final destination is ‘This Far and no Further’ which is the English translation of Runglee Rungliot- two words uttered by a legendary Buddhist monk who in his search for the best aromatic tea found it in this place giving rise to a tea brand and a garden.
From Kalimpong we set off after breakfast for the two nights stay at the tea estate-a first time experience for us. Travelling distance was about 40kms.We came downwards to Teesta and then travelled along the scenic Peshok road. A short stopover at Lovers Meet View Point to see the meeting of the Teesta river with the river Rangeet from the top and snack on the “changla” chaat -basically boiled Bengal grams flavored with masalas being sold there. Then the ascent continued. Through a newly laid concrete road providing a smooth drive we crossed tea gardens of Peshok and Lopchu.The drive itself is a treat to the eyes. The Kalimpong mountains are visible on the opposite side. We turn left on reaching a place called 6th mile. From here the roads are not as good. The more we proceed towards Takdah, the roads get worse so the drive slows down. Can spot the bungalow where we are to stay from afar and the green tea leaves of the second flush soothes ones eyes all the way. Next moment the narrow road is all covered in mist and visibility is reduced to almost zero for few minutes. No wonder this place is called Takdah which in the local language means mist or snow.In the month of April a cool misty sleepy town awaited us.
Takdah located at about 5000 feet high is lower than and 28kms away from Darjeeling,and can be reached by road from New Jalpaiguri or Siliguri from where you can hire a car for this 3 hours drive. Buses are available from Darjeeling. The market has a functional ATM and some convenience shops which try to stock as much variety as they can. Don’t expect any edibles other than momos here. Being a former British cantonment town Takdah has some century old colonial bunglows still existing. Some are in disrepair and a few have been restored and are being used by the locals and as tourist attractions or schools. They provide great opportunities for home stay and also to experience the British bungalow architecture.
Some 4 kms before we reach Tinchuley where we crossed the Gurung Guest house. Many people stay here as it is one of the most well known accommodations. Tinchuley is famous for its natural beauty and you can have a brief stopover here to try and see the Kanchenjunga range. Our destination, Runglee Rungliot eluded us. Green and oh so much green was the valley all around us. Slope after slope of tea gardens with tall pine trees bordering them. An occasional group of tea plucker ladies return back from their daily work. They start early and pack up early too.
Finally we reached the wood and glass structure situated on the main road but hidden behind tall trees. Located at a vantage point at the edge of a hill, overlooking numerous slopes of tea gardens all around it, small hamlets spotted from the sun shining on their tin roofs, I realized how different life close to nature can be. Built in the most elegant style, this spacious bungalow provided us with not only a very comfortable stay but also a chance to walk around the two leaves and bud plantations anytime we wanted to. While sipping first flush sitting in the glass outhouse which overlooked the mountains all around us and hearing the chants from some nearby monastery as the birthdate of Lord Buddha was on the following day, its really the nearest thing to heaven one can experience. The sun shone bright at times casting shadows of the hills whose tops are permanently covered with white clouds which at times came down and reduced vision to a kilometer far only. This amazing play of the sun and clouds over steaming momos and English style cutlets over pots of first flush aromatic tea is enough to justify ones effort to reach this place.The monk who had named the place Runglee Rungliot- meaning ‘this far and no further’ – is vindicated even to this day.
Once you come here and walk around the lazy paths you need not go anywhere else. But the tireless wanderer that we are, the next day we went around to the nearby Takdah orchid farm which doesn’t offer much variety throughout the year, being more seasonal, we had to be happy with some usual varieties of orchid but the view from the small Takdah monastery is wonderful if the weather is clear. We further ventured to the hamlets named Chota and Bara Mangwa, about 12 kms away and to the tall pine tree park of Lamahatta. You can even trek at Lamahatta. A great photo op awaits you here. The tall pine trees are amazing. On the way back we make a brief stopover at Saino’s Guest house- again a British bungalow superbly located and now being run by Mr. Moktan and his family. Located at an easily negotiable height, this is the best accommodation in Takdah for visitors. Their extremely friendly dog Simba will welcome you and see you off too. But Runglee waits for us. The evening sun bathing the undulating slopes as far as the eyes can see, an occasional sound of a passing vehicle or the buzz of a bumblebee, you are allowed to be immersed in your own solitary thoughts.
Dawn breaks early in the hills and after watching the sun come up from atop the mountains we take another long walk through the tea plantations. This time we walked downhill and the early morning chirping of unknown birds was the only sound apart from your own footfall. We just sat at the edge of a bend and looked at the pristine nature around us. A visit to the Duncan’s tea processing unit located within walking distance from the bungalow and being witness to some of the finest tea in the world being sorted and packed to find its way to some tea lovers’ morning cuppa. Life here has its own pace to go ahead.
Its difficult to come away from such an enchanting place. Eyes turn back to capture one long last look of the Himalayas, the mighty frontiers of our country. The hills stand the same way, only the eyes admiring them and the feet trodding on them keep changing with every visitor.