As we whisked past the crowd in Sealdah Station, Kolkata, towards the platform, our heads were abuzz with the excitement of the upcoming road trip. We were making an overnight train journey to New Jalpaiguri that night. It was the last week of December. When we reached the destination station the next morning, our faces were flushed with both fatigue and exhilaration. Having bought some snacks for the journey from the station shops, we booked a Travera on share with a group of college friends. Finally, my family (including my parents, elder sister and her 2-year old toddler) and I, along with the other group, set off for Darjeeling.
At the onset of the journey, the car moved through the urban town of New Jalpaiguri. We had been told that the total distance was approximately around 70 Km. It had taken us close to 4 hours to reach our destination. We headed west, towards the Tinbatti More, keeping onto the Burdwan Road. After a while, as we watched through the window, the roadside houses and shops quickly transitioned into a lush, dense greenery and green-grey hills in the distance. Soon, we all were gazing at the dark green trees and shrubs on both sides of the winding road we travelled along. It was not chilly, but there was a nip in the air. It was an amazing feeling when the breeze gently brushed against my face as I looked out of the window.
Not before long, the car was moving amidst something that looked like a forest. The road was not too wide in that part. While we munched on the biscuits and chips we had bought from the station, the driver told us that it was the ‘Shukna’ forest. The trees loomed over the moving car, tall with thick leaves. Absorbed in small talk, we did not pay heed to how long it was before the forest had passed.
The next notable place, I recollect, was Pankhabari. The road at this juncture was extremely narrow, steep and meandering. Some of us were uncomfortable because of the hairpin curves and sharp bends in the road. I must mention that we all were in awe of the expertise and ease with which the driver propelled the car through the critical twists and turns. The ethereal scenic beauty of the place, on the other hand, was captivating. This road overlooked the famous ‘Makaibari tea estate’. Some dwelling places could be seen at a distance, which we assumed to be the Pankhabari village. As the car moved ahead, we felt as though the clouds were floating beneath us.
A mellow music played on and we were enchanted by the sheer beauty of nature. We had stopped at a small roadside shop here to have lunch and buy drinks. Next noteworthy place on the way was Kurseong, a more residential town than the places we had left behind. Though the weather was very pleasant, we began to feel a bit cold. Kurseong evidently looked like a major tourist attraction, as many plush-looking hotels came into view for the first time along the journey. We also caught a glimpse of the toy-train-track at this place. Some of the streets here were a little populated and seemed to have multipurpose shops. From here, it is mainly the Hill Cart Road (also known as the Tenzing Norway Road or the NH-55), which goes all the way up to Darjeeling.
Further in the journey, the fascinating mountains and valleys, wrapped in smokes of cloud, kept us enchanted and spellbound. I felt as though there existed only the road that we were traversing, in the midst of a huge void. Finally, I remember the driver mentioning the Ghoom area, the highest point on our route. There was a thick mantle of fog and cloud surrounding us and the scenery did not change much from here onwards. The final stretch between Ghoom and Darjeeling was around 8 Km. The driver told us that there were different roads leading to Kalimpong, Gangtok and the picturesque Mirik, diverging out from Ghoom. At last, we began our descent towards the town of Darjeeling and it took us about half an hour from Ghoom to enter our final destination. On a liitle extra payment, the Travera had dropped us near our hotel at the Mall Road, thereby putting an end to our delightful road trip.
Darjeeling conjures visions of snow peaks, serenity of vibrant green hills steeped in splendour, a land of breathtaking beauty. Been to Darjeeling? Share your trip experience by creating your travel blog.