I open my eyes only to see a dream; I did not know if I was sleeping or awake. As the sun gradually spread its rays around, unfolding the endless beauty, as the mysterious clouds descend, as the unfamiliar chirping of birds caress my eardrum… I continue to live my dream.
I did not travel much in my childhood; mountains were only a rare imagination for me. Until one day when my brother in law Saikat da planned a vacation for us. Saikat da had spent his growing years in the beautiful hill station of Kurseong in North Bengal. He had an eye for hill stations. Our train was from Howrah station, Ma, Didi (Rimi), Saikat da, my niece Tiyash, Saikat da’s parents and me set out for a vacation in the not so popular hill stations of North Bengal. These beautiful creations of God are well known to the people of West Bengal, but they are not much known to the rest of India.
Train took around 10 hours to reach New Jalpaiguri station; it was early in the morning when we set out for our first destination “LAVA”. We had hired a car for our exotic travel; it’s readily available from the station. As the car drove past the moderately crowed city of Siliguri, I kept wondering what was in store for me. The weather at that point of time was comfortably warm. But to my utter surprise, as soon as we started going up the winding roads on the steep mountains, the October sun lost its warmth. We all had to struggle pulling out jackets from our bags. We drove past an army camp; we were going up and up. My sister suddenly started feeling nauseatic and we decided to halt. Little did I notice before stepping out of the car, how beautiful the place was! The mountain range had just begun to show its scenic excellence. Lush green vegetation and the fragrance of wild flowers filled the place, I soon realised that we were on a bridge. I could hear the water gushing and almost felt the chill. After having a cup of Darjeeling tea, we again set forth for our journey. As we moved up and up, with the picturesque valley on one side and mountains on the other, nature kept exhibiting its excellence continuously. We had started our climb with TistaRiver as our companion. But as we moved up, the lively river and its ripples was not seen too long. Slowly what we saw was dense clouds; the weather was turning from cold to chilling. What we saw was beyond description, there was mist all around and astonishingly the chilled air was enjoyable. There were mountains all round me, lined by fir trees. The wind had started its fiendish dance. We could hear the monastery bells ringing at a distance. It was around 4.00 in the afternoon when we reached Lava; the sun had lost its strength by then. The mysterious clouds had grown dense. Saikat da had booked West Bengal tourism cottages. They were cute and comfortable wooden cottages apt for the ambience. We decided to go inside as it was too cold. After having an early dinner we were done for the day.
Morning was full of pleasant surprises, the view from the cottage garden was exotic, and the rising sun was spreading its colour riot on the majestic Kanchenjunga range. The snow-capped mountains turned from red to yellowish. What a view!!!! Lava was God’s magnum opus, crafted to perfection, even the fir trees were lined in such orderly manner. The hill stations of West Bengal have a flavour of its own, the population is majorly Nepali hence you can eat a lot of momos. These places are not too commercialised except Darjeeling which is a popular holiday destination for many. Hence the places have retained their natural charm. Most of the mountains are accompanied by dense forests. That morning we also saw one monastery and checked out the local market. We collected few souvenirs too. There was a famous water fall near Lava, but the road leading to it was risky. So we could not get there.
As the sun began to set and Lava embraced its dusk attire, we sat in the garden enjoying the magical colors. At a distance a group of Nepali guys were seated around a bonfire and singing songs. The atmosphere was intoxicating, the chill in the air, tea cups in hands and accompanying music. It was one of the most memorable evenings of my life.
The hill stations of North Bengal are worth exploring. The raw untouched greenery, the uneven stony roads, the misty atmosphere and the majestic Kanchenjunga can create enough memories to be cherished later. Besides Lava, hill stations like Lolegaon, Rishop, Ravangla, Kalimpong, Kurseong and many more are worth visiting. Private hotels and West Bengal tourism cottages are available in most of these places. However booking should be done 3-4 months prior to the planned visit. Communication is possible both by Air and Trains. And as Gurudev say “Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky”-you can actually feel his words as you set foot on the small hamlet.
A special thank you to MA(Mrs Aloka Chakrabarty), Chordi (Mrs Rimi Mukherjee), Mesho(Mr Chandrashekhar Mukherjee), Mashi( Mrs Sandhya Mukherjee), Saikat da (Mr Saikat Mukherjee) and my niece Tiyash Mukherjee who made my trip what it was.
Thanks to Avishek Sengupta (my husband), who does screening of all my blogs.
Aritra Chakrabarty Sengupta