Situated in the nature’s lap, Kalimpong is a beautiful hill station located in North Bengal. It is a teeming town full of hills, Tibetan architecture, richly crafted and positioned on the slopy valleys. The majestic district accommodates amiable locals who are ready to help you out with an everpresent smile on their facades! And I am fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to visit this place, of late. Yes! I made it to Kalimpong recently, only after being done with my academic commitments.
My visit and stay at the ‘gifted’ place, was a brief one but that did not let its essence to fade away. My family made sure that the tour itinerary was prepared in such a way that we come across most of the attractions. Despite this fact, the journey centered around offbeat locations. This made us to discover places that don’t find their mention on top tourism sites, but are equally beautiful and worth visiting!
The trip commenced with a road journey to our destination, Kalimpong. Journey by our car meant we could stuff in all sorts of miscellaneous items, ranging from umbrellas to woolens. Although the time of our visit i.e. mid-March indicated that only summer clothing would suffice akin to elsewhere, the certitude that the destination was a hill station made us to carry woolen clothes as well. Later during our stay, we got to know through the locals that fans and any sort of ventilators weren’t required the whole year round as the weather remained pleasant throughout!
As we reached our ‘port of call’, we hurried to get to our pre-booked guesthouse. One can always find cozy homestays and splendid resorts coming to the fore in Kalimpong. Tired of the two-and-a-half-hour-long journey from Siliguri, on the winding road, we concluded the day by heading to a restaurant. The eating joint wasn’t exclusively made for people to just dine in; it was accompanied by live-karaoke concerts by local artists, akin to other restaurants in the small but liberal hill station. The décor and the tastefully ornated walls left an awe-inspiring imprint on us. Even the Bhutanese cuisine we ordered for, tasted sumptuous, adding to its esteem.
The next day was chalked out for cruising to some off-centered places, located nearby Kalimpong. The first of these locations were Rishyap, around 27 kms away, included primarily for observing the lofty snow-capped mountain tops and trekking in the densely covered woods. The panoramic view the venue offered was bewitching as one could see Kangchendzonga, Mt. Kharg, Kokthang, Rathung and many more, including some of the great mountain passes. A little later, we took a mini trek of around 2 kms to the view point of Tiffindara, which was so steep that the co-trekkers, who almost started at our time, managed to span only half the route when we were descending back! Since we are accustomed to such routes, we did not fret much.
The ascent to the top was worthwhile as the view seemed even clearer and the vicinity, accompanied with colorful Tibetan flags made an ideal location for a remarkably good photography. The way back was also marked by pines, birches, firs, orchids and rhododendrons, clothed in concentration.
As we raced back to our car, we headed straight away to the town of Lava, which is around 35 kms from Kalimpong. It is rapidly becoming popular among tourists as the town offers serene landscapes and makes you feel closer to nature. It also features a local market, which relates with any other northeastern locality you might have visited before! We stopped by at a small café, only to fill our bellies with some hot dimsums, which could not have tasted more authentic elsewhere! As we came across some locals, we got to know that we missed Lava’s snowfall by some days! Yes! It snows annually around January here and the snow remains well until March.
The next spot was Loleygaon and reaching it made us to suffer from backpain as the road was relatively a muddy one, with no signs of concrete. The pucca road was going to come up in near future as the work was still in progress. As we reached Loleygaon, we led ourselves to the Canopy Walk, which is located around a kilometre from the deserted bus stand and finds itself in the midst of a forest full of fir, oak, birch and cypress. With a total length of 180 meters, the hanging bridge aids the visitors to view the mystic beauty of the forest from a height, with an awe! The bridge keeps on swinging continuously and can make anyone feel scared of having a fall. In our case, we had been mis-briefed that the bridge had been broken from an end and was advisable not to venture but we tried to go on and on to find the broken spot. And having been told, we took utmost precaution, weighing the pros and cons of walking on the rustic swing. Luckily, we along with some adventurous youtubers, made it to the other end and figured it out that the bridge being broken was just a rumour! It was fun indeed, walking on the shaky swing all by ourselves, without any harness!
Heading back to Kalimpong, we did not directly go to our lodge. We led ourselves to the local market, which is situated in the 10th mile. There were a number of bakeries, general stores, antique shops and other local utility stores but the one we actually got into was a shop that sold items like Tibetan flags, buddha statues, fridge magnets and similar souvenirs so that we could keep them as sources to take into account the prized moments spent.
The following day dawned with our revered visit to Zang Dhok Palri Monastery, located close to our place of accommodation. Popularly, it is referred to as Durpin Monastery as it is located atop Durpin Dara Hill. It is built in a typical Buddhist architectural style and has perfectly finished walls, pillars adorned with ancient paintings. Besides, this ‘gompa’ houses a main prayer hall with a large number of paintings and religious texts. It has a three dimensional appearance inside. Being fortunate enough, our time of visit coincided with the buddhist monks, who were attired in maroon and partially orange attire and recited their daily players in an inspiring sing-song manner.
Perched at an elevation of around 1372 m, the monastery also offers breath-taking views of the snow-capped Kanchenjunga and the pristine Teesta River gushing below. We captured all those views with our camera and unblinking eyes!
Post visiting the monastery and paying our obeisance, we straightaway took to the Pine View Nursery or the Cactus Nursery, which housed cactus of literally all the sorts that I could think of! From cacti having flowers blooming on the top to the ones having height double than that of average humans, we observed a great variety of thorny plants. Now that we had covered almost all the attractions we had planned to, we were supposed to get to our last destination of the tour, Deolo Hill. It is the highest point of Kalimpong and one can find professionals undertaking paragliding activities for tourists. So, my family decided to get some time in the air! We were initially given a few instructions to abide by during flight and landing and assured that there wasn’t any risk involved as a pilot would be accompanying us throughout and practically operating the para glider. It was indeed worthwhile as the whole town was visible and it felt as if I were a bird! Next to that, we went to the park, which housed a variety of flowers and offered viewpoints to capture ‘memories’.
And thus, the 3-day sojourn came to an end with some acquired knowledge of the place, thrilling experiences and unforgettable sweet memories amassed!