"TRIP TO “THE QUEEN OF HILLS"
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
I remember the date clearly. It was 22nd March, 2011, day of the final ICSE examination. On returning home after writing for 2 hours and then enjoying with friends for some minutes or so, my parents disclosed the secret that they had been hiding since the start of the examinations. A trip to Darjeeling!!! A distant uncle of mine had invited us to stay at his place and my parents accepted it provided that I was unaware of it otherwise my examinations would have taken a stroll.
We reached New Jalpaiguri via Howrah Jn. and from there boarded a train straight to Darjeeling. I fell in love with the town the minute I got off the train. The magnificent view of the hills, the clouds and the sun playing hide and seek with the clouds appalled me and I thought, maybe this trip will be an enlightening one in the lap of nature. For a time, I was feeling like Wordsworth and realized that it was the right destination for me to drink in the scenery and be as close to nature as I could (side effects of English Literature). Though I didn’t compose a poem then!! Contrary to the beliefs that Darjeeling has nothing to offer other than hills and waterfalls to see, the city offers one so much to view and take in.
Sunrise as viewed from my room View from Tiger Hill :-
Saint Augustine famously said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” My trip to this city started with a breathtaking view when I woke up at 4.30 am the next morning. I parted the curtains of my room and there it stood! The mighty Kanchenjunga! Snowcapped and dazzling in the sun. Looking at the extensive tea gardens from outside the window, I recollected a famous line of Tagore, “Let your life dance on the edges of Time like dew on the tip of a leaf.” After having breakfast, my parents, uncle and I set out for Tiger Hill. We reached there at 5.20 am to view the sunrise as the place had earned international fame for the best sunrise view. Located at an altitude of 2590 meters, Tiger Hill offered the best place to view the Kanchenjunga and as lucky as it gets, I caught a glimpse of Mount Everest as well. It wasn’t a cloudy day then, and lo and behold, the highest mountain peak proudly stood there facing the sun. After Tiger Hill, I found myself near Senchal Lake, the source of drinking water to the town and a beautiful picnic spot.
We visited the magnificent Ghum monastery- its architecture was awe inspiring. Set at an altitude of 8000 feet, the monastery had a rich history of its existence. Then there was a massive tea garden whose owner was a dear friend of my uncle. He offered us tea and its aroma and taste was simply awesome. The feeling of having a hot cup of tea in the midst of the garden and surrounded by the Observatory Hills and the striking white snow far away- these were the moments that took away my senses. The next spot on the list was Batasia Loop. Located at about 5 km from the city, this gigantic loop is where the toy train runs and takes a full circular turn. While travelling on the toy train one gets a breathtaking view of Darjeeling’s scenic beauty. Running at a speed of 15 to 20 kilometers an hour, the toy train ride would forever be etched in my memory as the slowest yet memorable train journey. Completed in the late 1800s, these Lilliputian locomotives haul themselves through perhaps the most romantic railroad in the world.
Ghum Monastery Toy Train Ride :-
The next day we visited the Peace Pagoda which was situated on the slopes of Jalapahar Hill. Being the highest free structure in the city, the place was a hybrid of divinity and beauty. The Pagoda showcases the four avatars of Lord Buddha. The place was cold and peaceful as monasteries usually are. I could feel the power of God there and so I sat there for almost an hour and it rejuvenated me like nothing else has. From there we straightaway headed on to Rock Garden, situated at about 10 kilometers away from the city. My uncle told me that this place was the most liked picnic spot away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The natural waterfalls were a sight to watch. Ah! The beauty of the place. It was just mesmerizing. Just imagine the town at your feet and the mountains above shrouded in clouds!
The next day we visited the all famous Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park which is known for the rare wildlife found only in that region. The Siberian tigers, red pandas and Tibetan wolves were a few of them. The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute located above the zoo was worth a visit. The Rangeet Valley passenger cable car, India’s oldest ropeway was our next stoppage, “the north point”. I was awestruck at the sight that my eyes confronted then- the lush green tea gardens, dense forests and waterfalls beneath and snow capped mountains in the background. Yes, the entire scenic beauty in one place! It was an enriching experience. We visited one of the tea gardens and shopped some tea leaves as Darjeeling tea had earned an international name for its tea.
Tea plantation :-
On our way back to Jalpaiguri, I thanked my uncle for inviting us to this wonderful place. Despite all the adjectives that an Oxford Dictionary offered me, I had absolutely no words to describe the rich and memorable experience that I had gained. I looked at the mountains one last time before leaving; it seemed to be waving at me and saying “Welcome” in response to all the “Thank You” that I said by then, on behalf of the town.
credits- vivek banerjee.