Hello All!! Back again with another trip which is very special to me. A very short trip bagged with lifetime memories. Let's start then!!
Planning and Booking:
A break was much needed and I started planning for a small trip nearby my home town as I was approaching Dussehra vacation. After one week of tight search I listed down few places which were fulfilling my criteria. Darjeeling was one of them. Without delaying much I started my booking. As I was a bit late to book my tickets so couldn't get bookings in train but as a traveler any thing and everything is fine for me. I booked bus tickets from kolkata to Siliguri and vise versa.The bus fare is approx 1400 for one way. The bus starts from Esplanade bus terminus (Kolkata) and last stop is Tenzing Norgey Bus terminus (Siliguri). Off course it takes more time than train but I had no option left.
Once the transport is done I started searching about hotels and while searching though of exploring something new and found a hostel named - 'Hideout Bagpackers Hostel'. Believe me I made the best decision by booking this hostel. A truly and ideal hostel for bag packers. You can easily book this hostel from Booking.com, Tripadvisor and other booking websites. I chose a dormitory and per day it was only 600 INR which is very economical.
My love and passion for travel always leads me with great hope and positivity. That gives me courage and motivation to complete my trip. Being independent in travel not only help you to achieve a complete trip but also increase your self confidence and adaptation capability in all situations.
The overnight journey was a bit tiring and due to heavy rain the bus got stuck and took a different route. I reached to Siliguri around 7 A.M in the morning (5.40 A.M was the right time) and it was raining heavily. I had to look for the ATM as I was not carrying enough cash with me. With the help of locals I found an ATM and then thought of warming my self up with a cup of tea and some breakfast. I went to a roadside tea stall. They were so humble and helped me out with my bag pack, umbrella and everything. I always prefer interacting with locals rather than googling. I was trying to find out the share taxis and the fares then they introduced me with a person who runs many local taxis there. I felt so happy and he charged 200 INR from Siliguri to Darjeeling. It was a Tata sumo where 10 people can easily adjust.
On the way to Darjeeling
The road towards Darjeeling was mesmerizing. The weather was cloudy, foggy, moistened and gloomy. These all made the surrounding more mystical and ethereal.
It takes almost 4 hours from Siliguri to Darjeeling including few halts for refreshments. I reached Darjeeling around 12.15 P.M and as it was a sharing taxi so the driver dropped me by the nearest landmark. I set my GPS and started walking. The road was very stiff and it took almost 30 minutes by walk as I lost my GPS track in between. Finally I reached to the hostel around 1 P.M. The hotel is in hideout truly. One can barely notice it . I got my room and as it was a dormitory They showed my bed and table. I liked the room a lot. The arrangements were quite comfortable.
View of hostel room @Hideout bagpackers
I got ready quickly and as I was starving I decided to treat myself with some pure English cuisine in Keventers which is almost 150 years old and they still maintain the British dining manners. So I ordered some meatloaf sandwich, Omelette and coffee. While enjoying the delicious food my mind was wandering that would I be able to see the the mighty peak of Kanchenjunga for which I traveled from far!!
View@ Keventers, Darjeeling
Surprisingly the weather started getting better and the mercury level of my expectation was rising up for one glance of Kanchenjunga. I was gazing outside and still there was no sign of it. I started consoling myself saying that I have more three days so wait and have patience! But it says when you want something with all your heart the universe works toward it. I saw the tiny white peak over the cloud and couldn't believe my eyes that I am witnessing the 3rd highest Peak in the world. My heart was pounding and slowly the gorgeous milk white snow capped mountain ranges started showing up themselves over the clouds. My heart filled with joy and I witnessed the excitement among other tourists as well. The view quenched my thirst more than the delicious coffee. I remember I was gazing at it without blinking and thanking to god for my life as a human who can realize and admire the grand beauty of his creation. It was like a grand show for 15- 20 minutes where the cloud curtains unveiled the view and covered up again.
I had a great welcome in Darjeeling.
I planned to explore the local markets as it was late for that day to plan any other visit. The Darjeeling mall road is very famous for its shopping zone. There are multiple shops of handcrafts, antiques, folks, garments etc. I visited the Oxford book store which is 200 years old and totally well resourced and equipped. I loved the shop and interacted with the owner. The lady was very humble and kind. She gave me permission to click pictures of her store as it was restricted officially. I was founding myself very lucky and looking forward for the great next.
View@ Oxford book shop
This is very important to remember that most of the restaurants in Darjeeling get close by 7- 7.30 P.M. So after exploring the mall road I went to Glenary's Cafe for dinner and completely fell in love with Darjeeling.
The hostel gate closes at 10 P.M but as I was dead tired I went back by 8.30 and started making my sleeping arrangements. The comfy bed and blanket gave me a very good sleep.
The second day was quite exciting for me. I got up around 5 A.M early in the morning by on of my roommates call. I opened the door and couldn't believe my eyes ....I could see the huge ranges of green and blue mountains in a bright sunlight. There was no sign of rain and clouds. What a beautiful day!! yes, again I could see the Kanchenjunga peak along with other Himalayan ranges. I was spellbound with the view and a great positivity took over my mind which was more than enough to look forward. I went out for a morning walk and had a cup of tea in mall road area. There were hardly tourists but I could notice the locals jogging and walking.
View from my room@Hideout bagpackers hostel
I had several plans lined up for the day. I booked a joy ride in toy train which was most exciting for me. This joy ride takes two hours with two halts. It goes up to Ghum Junction, recognized as the highest heritage railway station in the world. The tickets can be done through IRCTC and it has multiple fares starting from 1000 - 1500 INR. While enjoying my tea the shop keeper told me to walk little further to experience the best morning view . I walked straight crossing over the mall road and found the picturesque beauty of the valley.
View from Mall road@Darjeeling
This dazzling beauty of the valley froze me and I thanked God again for giving me eyesight to capture this beauty. The calm and silent morning with this gorgeous beauty filled my heart with excitement. Holding that excitement tight I came back to the room and ordered some breakfast. I enjoyed Darjeeling tea and instant noodles with my friends over there. They all were making their schedules as most of them were from abroad and came down to India for Trekking and mountaineering. Their amazing experiences were worth listening.
Joy Ride in Toy train:
There are two types of trains like one is the heritage one with steam engine and the other one is with diesel engine. There are only two compartments in each train and it travels in between the town so you can see the local life while riding the toy train. My train was at 9.45 A.M in the morning from Darjeeling railway station (DHR). Again I set my GPS and it showed 15 minutes walk from my hostel. I walked happily and reached there on before time. I got my ticket checked with the station master and he told me to wait in platform no 1. The railway station is very well maintained and this place is under UNESCO world heritage area since 1881.
Darjeeling railway station
The train started little late. I was more like a spectator watching a film. The train took several turns in between the town and finally reached to the Batasia loop. This place offers breathtaking view of the town. It stops 10 minutes there and also you can see the War memorial which was built in the honor of Gorkha regiment who sacrificed lives. There are few stalls of woolen garments are there. you can take picture in the Batasia loop garden which is very well maintained.
Batasia loop garden@Darjeeling
War memorial@Batasia loop, Darjeeling
The next destination was Ghoom Junction, the highest heritage railway station in the world (7407ft). I felt contented seeing all these and was waiting to arrive Ghum. It took 30 minutes to reach there and believe me the place has something different which takes you to the British Colonial era. Here the train stops for 30 minutes to visit the Darjeeling Himalayan railway museum. The museum is in the station premises so easy to locate. The display of the ancient railway engineering tools, route maps, instruments, letters, compass, photographs are perfectly showcased. The highlight here is the first toy train engine- The baby Sivok. The museum is small and well maintained. The artistic manner of displaying pieces are much appreciated.
Inside view of museum@Ghum Junction, Darjeeling
After Ghum the train too the same way back but didn't give any halt in Batasia loop. I reached at station around 12.15 P.M and was very hungry so straight went back to the hostel and ordered some lunch.
I was thinking what is next and then heard the others in the hostel are planning to visit Dali Monastery to attend the prayer. I joined them gladly and the prayer time was 4.30-5.30 P.M in the evening. The prayer hall opens only two times, once in the morning from 6.30-7.30 and in the evening. It was my long term wish to attend the Buddhist prayer and felt cheerful thinking of another tick mark in my list.
It took 45 minutes by walk to reach the monastery and the weather started getting bad. The fog started taking over the view and so soon it became dark. Through the GPS we located the load and reached to the monastery by 4 P.M. It was a huge monastery and very well decorated and clean. The view of the town from monastery compound looks truly beautiful. Around 4.20 they opened the prayer hall and invited us in. There were few other people as well.
The grandeur of the hall is worth noticing. The incarnations of Buddha are presented in sculptural forms. The walls and the ceiling are well painted and shows different mandalas, Buddhist leaders (Drama gurus) and inscriptions about Buddhism. Photography is not allowed inside so couldn't take any pictures. The prayer started with chanting mantras and there were 40 Lamas involved in the prayer from different age groups. They were playing different musical instruments in the prayer. The loud meditating sound, dim light and the echoing chant froze me in the moment. The whole ambiance was so influencing and captivating that you can't think about moving yourself. It is amazing to see their discipline, dedication and coordination in the prayer. They offered us tea and biscuits which was the part of ritual.
I was spellbound and numbed, completely shaken up. I realized that there are so many small things around us which can be experienced so easily and promised myself that I will never stop exploring.
We came back to the mall road and had dinner. Day 2 ended well.
With a great expectation I woke up around 5.30 in the morning to capture the view from my balcony. I opened the door and guess what did I see!!
There was no sign of light. The weather was dull and due to heavy fog the sight was completely gone. Soon it started raining and I was disappointed. I canceled the 'Tiger hill' visit plan which is very famous for Sunrise. There was no sign of sun rays so started thinking what to do ? I didn't want to waste my time and wanted to make something productive. I went up to the cafeteria around 7.30 A.M and ordered tea and noodles.
While seeing the cafeteria closely I got an idea to paint something on the wall. I asked the hosteler for permission and they encouraged me so much to do so. I asked them if they have any paints. They showed me some and I asked them where to get paints so that I could buy some. They told me not to worry and bought a new set of poster paint set for my painting. I was so excited and soon started my painting on the wall. I wanted to give something to the hostel as a token of appreciation. Something permanent that they will remember always.
Painting on the hostel wall@hideout bagpackers, Darjeeling
Painting on the hostel wall@hideout bagpackers, Darjeeling
It took almost two hours to finish the painting. While finishing the painting I noticed the changing weather from fogy to sunny. I started planning again and thought of visiting my favourite and most wanted place - world famous mountaineering institute''Himalayan Mountaineering Institute''.
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI):
I set my GPS and it showed 40 minutes walk from my hostel. I started around 2 P.M and the road was mostly descending so it was not tough at all and I reached to my destination within 25 minutes. The road leads to HMI is beautiful. one small narrow road with tall green pine trees on both sides was like a never ending path. I can walk on such road throughout the day. While walking I was reflecting upon my journey. I was thinking how slowly I became independent in doing everything. It was satisfying me thinking that I could do things by my own.
It was my long term wish to pursue mountaineering training from HMI but due to the heavy demand and unavailable slots I had to enroll in a different institute. I was so excited to see the HMI campus as it leads the glory and history of Sherpa Tenzing Norgey. He was the first man to step on the mount Everest with Mr. Edmund Hillary. Sherpa Tenzing was from Darjeeling and later he got actively associated in HMI and served various roles.
This institute was established by none other than Pandit Jwaharlal Neheru and current principle is GP CAP JAI KISAN (air force officer). This institute is one of the premier institute for mountaineering in the world.
I could not believe my eyes that finally I am standing in HMI campus. The above picture is the entrance and office area. Beyond that the entry is prohibited as there are hostels and training fields. I insisted few admin staff present over there to give me a chance to see a glance of the campus. I remember I was literally begging and they took my phone and said you can see the campus up to a certain point and gave me 10 minutes. I happily handed over my bag and phone and entered into the campus. I was overwhelmed and my heart filled with curiosity and excitement. I saw the hostels and how well maintained they are. There are different buildings named by different leaders. Those 10 minutes are my life time memory.
Me in HMI campus, Darjeeling
Museum at HMI:
This is the best part in HMI, the museum. Along with Himalayan species they have a mountaineering section and in that one special hall named as Everest. I ran into that hall first. I remember I spent 40 minutes in that small room seeing each and every thing minutely. The display shows the gears, training routine, instruments, prestigious badges and off course the honor wall of the leaders from past to present has completed the summit. There were two sections separately dedicated to Tenzing Norgey and Enmund Hillary. It shows all their original gears they have used for Everest expedition. I was amazed to see those.
There was a bonus again waiting for me. I saw there is a poster of adventure film screening. I rushed to the ticket counter and bought ticket by 30 INR. The documentary name was 'The Fall' and it showed the real expedition about two alumni from HMI and they were the first to climb the frozen water falls in Spiti and Ladakh region, India. I learnt so much from their experiences and also one thing which moved me the most is their minimal approach towards life. They always maintain a very low profile which makes them noble and humble. I must say that I had my best time in HMI throughout the trip.
Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park:
I was so excited to talk about HMI and I forgot to mention that HMI is situated in the campus of this Zoological park. This Zoological park is something different and it is quite different than the traditional zoo. I liked the concept of meadows and highlands where the animals are nested. Their locations look quite natural and the animals are not directly exposed to the viewers. Though I do not like the concept of zoo because I feel that animals are not meant of entertaining us. In comparison to the other zoological parks This one is much better as they are kept into a bigger campus with a minimal fencing.
Animals in Zoological park, Darjeeling
The day was quite well spent and I returned hostel back around 6 P.M. The sadness was slowly taking over my mind as the next day was my departure to Kolkata. I had to pack my things and was still thinking where to visit next morning as I will have 4 hours before leaving. I believe that you should travel in way that it satisfy your mind and soul. If you are making so much of effort to visit a place then you should left no stones upturned. I had my dinner and planned to visit Andrews Church, Observatory Hill and Lloyd Botanical Park next morning.
Woke up around 5 A.M and got ready for morning walk. I had tea in the mall area and the weather was not that good as I expected. It was not raining but cloudy. I set my GPS and saw the Observatory hill and Andrews church are nearby and the botanical garden is a bit far. The observatory hill is situated in a temple call 'Mahakal' which is very unique in terms of it's worshiping practices. Here Hinduism and Buddhism two religions practices take place. You can notice the Hindu priest along with a Buddhist lama praying for god. The Hindu idols are placed next to Buddha Avalokiteshvara . I liked it very much and there were no priest insisting you to pay money and worship. You can see the view of the town from here quite nicely but due to the fog it was not clear.
I wanted to see the peaks again for the last time as it was my last day there. The weather was not supportive but I was hoping to get it better. I walked up to a point where some sitting arrangements are placed and the panoramic view of the town looks brilliant. I sat down there and gazed to the sky to get it better. I noticed few more groups gathered there in the hope of Kanchenjunga. I decided to wait for some more time as I had some time left in my hand before visiting Church and Botanical Garden.
There was no improvement in the weather and I bought another cup of tea to engage myself. I was calculating time that how much more I should spend here as I am not done with my packing. 15 minutes passed away and I saw some heavenly rays are appearing tearing the thick clouds. Within 5 minutes the whole sky got cleared and no one could believe that it was completely murky sometimes before. I stood up and rushed to the end of the point to occupy the best place to notice my beloved Kanchenjunga. After few minutes I could see two small tiny white dots appearing over the clouds and my heart filled with joy. I waited for more to appear. Slowly the show stopper started appearing by splitting the clouds apart and I saw the shiny, gorgeous milky white mountain ranges. My pounding heart impacted my mind strongly. My eyes filled with tears and I wiped my eyes and thanked god for fulfilling my wish.
With a heart full of satisfaction I left the place and set my GPS to reach the Andrews church and Botanical Garden. I saw that the church will come on my way to Botanical garden. I reached the church around 9 A.M though it was closed because it opens around 10.30 A.M. It's a small church which was built in the year 1843. I liked the architecture and they have maintained it nicely.
St. Andews Church, Darjeeling
Now it was time to head towards Lloyd botanical garden. It took 20 minutes walk and completely descending order. The entry ticket is 30 INR and I loved the place as it was a complete forest and in between there are few glasshouses where the species are kept. The whole garden is very well maintained and well labeled for individual species. I could notice hardly 4 to 5 visitors along with me and the whole ambiance was very peaceful. One can hardly imagine that a place like this is hiding very close to a busy town.
Orchid from Llyod botanical garden, Darjeeling
I loved the whole surrounding, so peaceful and calm. The nature is the best therapy for everything. I spent almost an hour over there and realized that I should go back to hostel now as I should leave by 1.P.M. I reached and meet all my roommates over there and spent some good time with them. I had some noodles and tea and went back to my room for packing.
I was a bit sad and dull thinking so many things. I couldn't even realize that these three days went so fast and finally the home time came. I had to catch my bus from Siliguri in the evening. I got a share taxi around 1.40 P.M from Darjeeling and reached to Siliguri around 5 P.M as it took halt due to heavy rain. I contacted the bus supervisor and confirmed my ticket. I was all set to come back to kolkata but I realized that I left a part of self somewhere there in a mountain.
This trip was even more successful than Hampi and I found myself more confident and focused about my traveling. The sweet pain you get when you leave a place makes you more passionate about the next travel. The same thing happened with me and now I am planning my next trip.
Bye Guys!!!Stay tuned .......