Thursday, February 26, 2015

Travel and Living-Chapter 2-Darjeeling

My passion for travel was not an overnight transition especially when it wasn't a genetic disposition in my case. My parents weren't very enthusiastic travelers. For me travelling in my growing up days was travelling to my ancestral places for the vacations carefully divided between halves between the maternal and the paternal sides. One off vacations would be ones which weren't traveled to the seemingly familiar places. One such place I remember from my school days was our travel to Darjeeling. Adventure travelling had always intrigued me. Especially the ones in the hills. The deep valleys plunging down the hills, the view of the mighty Kanchenjunga, the view of the sunrise from Tiger Hill, Darjeeling is a place with which you call fall in love with almost instantly. It was a town of British colonialism with extensive tea plantations. The love for the black tea that can be dated back to the colonial rule and which is still prevalent not only in Great Britain, but also in this small town. Black tea with renewed fermentation techniques gives way to the the famous 'Darjeeling Tea'.

I remember for our journey to Darjeeling we had taken a overnight bus journey to Siliguri from Durgapur. I wouldn't say it was the most comfortable bus journeys I ever had, in fact not even close, given the state of the roads. However, I did not mind it much because it was a journey that I was making to unfamiliar surroundings and also because it was to a place which I found the most fascinating, a hill station. I still remember the hair pin turns from Siliguri to Darjeeling which made me puke several times during the journey. Yet I was enjoying the journey. The endless tea estates, the mountains, the small streams here and there, the sound of laughter from the back of the car. It was a journey of a lifetime for me. An entirely different experience.

Spread in ribbons of the Mahabharat Range or the lesser Himalayas, surrounded by stretches of emerald green tea-estates with a white jaded Kanchenjunga in the backdrop, there is more to Darjeeling than only the tea. It still has a train service which runs on steam. The remnants of the once popular mode of transport is not only enchanting but also very exciting, especially because it runs through the most picturesque landscape of the state. The famous Batasia Loop can be done on this Toy train. Posing infront of one of this famous 'Engine' was like witnessing history. Exploring the Buddhist Monastries, or sipping 'black tea' from the tea stalls when your energy starts to flag, Darjeeling is a traveler's paradise. And it certainly was no less for me too.