Darjeeling: 2 days,
Gangtok-Nathula: 3 days.
Best time to visit : April – June ; Sept – Nov
Darjeeling is queen of hills. One could enjoy a week in Darjeeling or spend 2-3 days as a quick preview into near-by places in Darjeeling and then proceed to Gangtok.
It’s my Seventh visit to queen of hills and I’m ever excited as before to see two prominent things. One, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and another Mt.Kanchedzonga from Tiger Hills. The breathtaking view is quite amazing and one must not miss it and fortunately, have been lucky to see the sun breaking from the darkness. Here is one of the photo of that.
Towards evening, we had a nice ride with Darjeeling toy train. One could book the train ticket in advance and enjoy the ride upto Kurseong.
While in the train, you enjoy Batasia Loop which loops itself into numeral 8. It is a spiral railway created to lower the gradient of ascent of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in Darjeeling. At this point, the track spirals around over itself through a tunnel and over a hilltop thus showing splendid Kanchendzonga while you have tea/coffee. It was commissioned in 1919. From here, the train reaches Ghum (Ghoom) station and stops for 1/2 hour time. You can enjoy to see Railway museum or wile away time in the Old English style railway station and also Ghum Monastery.
Next day early in the morning, visited Peace Pagoda (Japanese Monastery). This is designed to provide a focus for people of all races and creeds to help unite them in their search for world peace and the specialty is that once you enter this monastery, you would be given an instrument to play like drums. If you wish not to beat the drum, then you can listen but It is a thrilling experience for sure.
We then proceeded to rock garden and enjoyed every bit of rock garden. Plenty of waterfalls and terraced garden. You could spend easily couple of hours before going to Tea Garden.
Had a nice Darjeeling tea and proceeded to Gomphu rock and Tenzing rock. One could pay around Rs.50 to climb up the Tenzing rock. It would again be a amazing experience.
Later in the day, visited HMI and Padmaja Nehru Zoological garden where we spent good amount of time and finally with ropeway.
Next day was exciting. We started our journey to Gangtok. The weather being awesome, crossed the Coronation Bridge. Coronation Bridge takes you to Bhutan and that details would be in my next blog.
You would enter NH-31 and welcomed by Tista River which flows throughout the stretch until Melli and the road is maintained by BRO (Border Road Organization) and they put nice slogans en-route. One could have a fantastic experience seeing the river flowing next to the road while we reach Rangpo. From here, West Bengal ends and Sikkim starts. Danny Denzonpa has started a brewery at Melli and is available all over Sikkim. You could also see Sikkim Manipal University while going to Gangtok and provides a spectacular view of stream on one side and college campus on other.
We reached Gangtok and next day we started towards sight seeing in Gangtok. We covered Rumtek Monastery, Hanuman Tok, Ganesh Tok, Tashi View Point, Enchy Monastery, Tashiding Monastery and Orchid Garden.It was indeed a fascinating experience.
Next day, we started to Nathula Pass, the last frontier of India towards east which connects to China. The roads are bumpy and 57 kms would take around 4 hours to reach at neck and back breaking action. Just imagine the fate of our soldiers who have to reach those places during war. The Government has now taken action of repairing the roads, but due to terrain, it always goes out of shape.
Then we proceeded to Baba Harbajan Singh Temple. There is a small history to it. According to legend, Major Harbhajan Singh drowned in a glacier following the 1962 Sino-Indian War in 1968 while escorting a column of mules to a remote outpost. He was the first casualty of the 23rd Punjab Regiment, and a manhunt was launched to find him. He was found after three days and cremated with full military honors. According to legend, it was Major Harbhajan Singh who led the search party to his body, and later, through a dream, instructed one of his colleagues to build and maintain a shrine after him.
Legend also has it that in the event of a war between India and China, Baba would warn the Indian soldiers three days in advance. During the flag meetings between the two nations at Nathula, the Chinese set a chair aside for the saint. Every year on September 14, a jeep departs with his personal belongings to the nearest railway station, New Jalpaiguri, where it is then sent by train to the village of Kuka, in Kapurthala district in Punjab. As per train rule the train reserved seat never left blank, but for Baba reservation is done to travel him at his home town every year with soldiers to drop Baba at his home town. A small sum is also sent to his mother each month. Isn’t it chilling !!
Then we proceeded towards highest Golf field and Elephant Lake. It is quite an experience to see a Golf course at such an altitude. No wonder that Guinness Book of World records have recognized that.and visitors are not allowed to take pictures of Elephant Lake since Army camp is nearby with Chinese troops very near to Indian Border. On the way back, we stopped at Tsogmo Lake which is also called as Changu Lake. By the time we reached, it was misty and had a fun ride of Yak.
How far is Lhasa, Tibet from here?
While returning, we saw Chinese vehicles coming to Indian side of Nathula to do the selling. From the year 2006, both Government have agreed to open the border to trade. Nice thing indeed.
In the evening, landed at the hotel and was time to hit the bed after a tiring yet enjoyable day.
Next day, we started back to Bagdogra from Gangtok and in time for flight back home.
Catch you with next blog on other Himalayan tours. Until then, goodbye.