Snow, selfies and savouries. With long drives through mountains, along valleys, rolling in snow and all-night fun, this is by far the most exotic getaway I had in my life.
We were six guys, working in the same company, three each from Bengaluru and Thiruvananthapuram. While Syam, Naveen and Achu are residents of Thiruvananthapuram, Arun aka GS, Rahul and yours truly were in Bengaluru. All but Rahul share the same grad school.
Back in February, employing WhatsApp for cross city communication, we shortlisted places among Tawang, Gangtok, Darjeeling to visit around Guwahati, where there was a wedding occasion on May 2nd. We had a week in hand and the week from April 25th to May 3rd looked comfortable as it came with a long weekend, May 1st being a holiday. With constraints on various modes of transport, we had 5 days to visit the places we could. We stuck down to Darjeeling and Sikkim after long discussions considering feasibility. Both the places were accessible from Siliguri in West Bengal, thus we booked train tickets to there from Guwahati, where to we booked air tickets from Bengaluru.
Saturday, April 25th, 2015
Bengaluru, 9 AM: Residents of Thiruvananthapuram reach Bengaluru by bus and all of us camp at GS’ house. We got news of Nepal earthquakes that afternoon which could hit our trip as the quake had hit Darjeeling too. We kept positive and roamed around city and later watched Avengers: The Age of Ultron in IMAX 3D. Our flight was for early next day.
Sunday, April 26th, 2015
Guwahati, 12 PM: We reached Guwahati around 10:40 AM after the flight from Bengaluru at 7:40 AM. We rather had nothing to do all day but wait for the train to Siliguri at 4:45 PM. We went to Guwahati railway station and roamed around Paltan Bazar and had lunch there. We reached Siliguri (New Jalpaiguri railway station) at 1:15 AM the next day. We met a tour agent who made us an itinerary for Gangtok and then Lachung, Yumthang valley, etc for 3 days and then to Darjeeling for 2 days.
Monday, April 27th, 2015
Gangtok, 7 AM: We checked-in at a hotel in Gangtok, where we were dropped by the agency, after 5 hours’ drive. We gave the itinerary to the hotel who composed the follow-up plan to Lachung. The day was spent visiting tourist attractions in Gangtok including Ganeshtok. We also visited a flower show. I was smitten with the cleanliness and the way whole city is organized.
The later day we went snacking, shopping, had dinner at a fabulous restaurant and roamed around Mahatma Gandhi Marg. While busy snacking, we missed an aftershock of the Nepal earthquakes that occurred there. Here we met a bunch of guys who were on a getaway like us. Later, we went back to our hotel and retired.
Tuesday, April 28th, 2015
Lachung, 6 PM: We started our journey to North Sikkim District at 10 AM from Gangtok. Hands down, this was one hell of a journey. Landslides and rainfall all along, the roads doomed to reminiscent of a horse ride, our driver, who was also our guide, shaving other vehicles on the road, just missing the fall into deep valleys, all while him talking on the phone and employing his elbow to control the steering! Numerous waterfalls on the way, we stopped occasionally for food and snacks and finally reached Lachung where we would retire for the day.
The more I contemplate Lachung, the less it is. The people, the peace, the picturesque, that’s just the beginning. I was amused of the harmony of the people there. Everyday most of them unite, have drinks, dance, sing, be it in a 3 by 3 room out there. They sit by a bonfire, relive out their day and just live.
The temperature was sub-zero when we reached there. To feel the cold, we went out after dinner and stood by what felt in that dark, a river. We talked out our stress in life, wanting to have a fresh start ahead. Midnight, when it was the coldest, -3°C, we walked back to our room.
Wednesday, April 29th, 2015
Yumthang, 9 AM: We drove into Yumthang Valley where we had to rent extra wears. Not sure why it was required anyway, we rented a jacket, a pair of gloves and a pair of boots each as suggested by the driver. The drive to Zero Point from here was about an hour long. This drive, I should say, was an orgasmic drive. We put out our heads to see that bright white thing on the roads and elsewhere, that gradually kept increasing along with height and distance, more of it falling from the sky — snow. For the first time in my life and all others with me, we saw actual snowfall. Yes, there.
Zero Point, 10 AM: The drive ended in dense snow and we were on foot for the remainder. The scenic beauty just kept us captivated. I dived into a pool of snow and just lied there. We then frolicked, made snowballs and threw at each other, took photographs, repeat. We made a snowman which became an attraction for other tourists. “Nature, I love you”, I quoted.
Despite not wanting to, we came down to Yumthang Valley, had snacks from a small shop and rushed to the river in the valley. The valley felt like a freezer to us as we shivered in cold. We set to return to our room and went by Daban, an army area.
We were to leave Lachung to Gangtok the same day as per permissions obtained by the driver, but we got this idea of extending our stay in Lachung by another night. We just loved this place, you know. We went to that small shop again, danced, sung and ate. We savoured local noodles thupka and local drink tumpa there.
Meanwhile we contacted one of the guy, who was from Darjeeling, whom we met in Gangtok. Him, being a driver by profession, promised to pick us from Gangtok, take us to Darjeeling and drop us at Siliguri, where the trip would partly end. Sigh.
Thursday, April 30th, 2015
Darjeeling, 7 PM: We started from Lachung at around 8 AM and given the conditions of the road we reached Gangtok at 2 PM where the new driver was already waiting for us. We bid goodbye to the old driver and continued our drive to Darjeeling. Lovely the drive was, between pine valleys and narrow roads, sun almost getting set and the tea gardens that took our breath away. We checked in to a hotel and later roamed around town in Chowrastha and did shop loads of tea leaves. We had dinner and walked by Darjeeling toy train station and later returned to hotel.
Friday, May 1st, 2015
Tiger Hills, 5 AM: The early morning ride to see Kanchenjunga and Everest mountain belt reflect sunlight during sunrise, the biggest tourist attraction in Darjeeling, broke us as the sky was clouded and misty. So misty that the visibility was limited to hardly a hundred meters. Detested, we went to see Ghoom Monastery and Batasia Loop, two of the tourist attractions.
We returned to our room and checked out of the hotel. We were to more sightseeing and then return to Siliguri directly.
We visited places such as Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoo, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and tea gardens. We also did a small rock climbing somewhere there. Passenger rope-way was closed owing to then recent Nepal earthquakes. We also visited a Japanese temple, Peace Pagoda, on the way back.
Siliguri, 5 PM: Accomplished, we started our drive to Siliguri. En route, I am sure everyone with me will agree, we relived every moment we spent at the fantastic places. We reached Siliguri earlier than expected and rather had time for a lengthy lunch and shopping. We shopped for sweets and set towards New Jalpaiguri railway station for the train at 9:45 PM.
Saturday, May 2nd, 2015
Guwahati, 6 AM: We reached Guwahati for the second time during the trip and set towards the friend’s house where was the wedding occasion. Our trip was by far ended as we dropped the plan to visit Kaziranga National Park due to lack of time. We rested there, had breakfast and lunch and while time set to airport where we had flight to Bengaluru at 4:35 PM. We bought more sweets from here.
Bengaluru, 8 PM: The flight to Bengaluru was hit by bad weather and thus heavy turbulence occurred during most of the flight. Nevertheless, we relived every moment of the trip and took home a lot of memories and souvenirs. Six of us took two cabs as Thiruvananthapuram guys directly went to take their bus to their home. We split at the airport making sure we meet again for the next trips.
While in cab, I relived that 8 days of awesomeness I had with my friends. The night at Mahatma Gandhi Marg in Gangtok, the late night fun in Lachung, the snow roll in Zero Point, the food, selfies, drives, valleys. The life remains to travel.