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To the Queen of the Hills – Darjeeling

Friends are people with whom you cherish memories, and are always eager to make new ones with. If the serene beauty of a hill station is put into this mix, things just seem to leave one spellbound. It was one hell of an experience for me to be a part of the Educational Batch Trip, organized by ILEAD for BMS and BBA batches of 2015-18 to the queen of the hills, Darjeeling in the month of April.

IMG_20170420_140345_986Ready with all the prerequisites, and with utmost frolic & frenzy, we all assembled at the Howrah Railway Junction on 20th of April, only to find the train to be late for about 2 hours. Nevertheless, the journey commenced 4:30pm, and a loud roar from all of us greeted the beginning of the quest. The train ride was full of merriment and craziness. We sang, played games, and even went to form our own fictitious political party called the 'hashtag party'. Tired and slumbersome, we reached our stop one, Siliguri, at about 3:00am and lodged into the available rooms at Tirupati Lodge Pvt. Ltd.

IMG_20170422_101235Void of rest but full of fervor of the expedition, we set on the road journey to the hills post breakfast, and there started the feel of being en route the hills. Grouping ourselves with our friends, we sat in our respective cars and the journey began. On our journey, we visited two tea-production units, one of them being owned by Godricke, and observed the entire process from the sorting of tea-leaves upto the packaging of the final product. We also had a glimpse of the famous Teesta River. Lunch was served to us on route. Though there was some minor fear while getting up such narrow roads and moving along deadly turnings, the feel of ascending towards the hills was one which filled us entirely with serenity and vehemence.

IMG-20170425-WA0082When we reached our destination, the dropping temperature and the scenic beauty of the place took over us. As soon as we got into our rooms at Hotel Fairmont, we unpacked the essentials, freshned up and left the hotel to roam about the streets of Darjeeling and savour on the delicious delicacies. Keventers and Glenarys were amongst the favourite spots for having food. The shopping arenas like the Mall Road Market and Chowk Bazaar Market attracted those of us more who wished to take back gifts for their close ones. Dinner was served at night in the hotel on buffet.

The next morning, we set out to visit the famous tourist spots of the hills, The Rock Gardens and Ganga Maya Park. With soft music playing in the cars, the journey towards the destination filled us with tranquility. We thoroughly enjoyed the visit to the artificial rock gardens cum waterfalls. Back in the hotel, lunch awaited us, after which we all left to visit the iconic St. Paul's School, where films like Main Hoon Na had been shot. The artistry with which the entire campus had been created left us all spellbound. It appeared to us, as if we had landed at a Hollywood Film Studio. Upon the conclusion of this visit, we were set free for the evening for shopping around and spending quality time with friends.

IMG-20170425-WA0006We were all instructed to sleep early, as we were to leave around 3:30am for the Tiger Hills, but most of us opted to spend the time playing games and chatting with friends. It was really a tough job to get everyone ready on time for departing, but it was really a new experience to get into the car around 4am in the morning and set on a journey. The temperature was slumping down as we moved up, making us feel frozen to the bone. The drivers asked us to get down at a point, from where we had to walk up all the way to reach the peak. It is a general statement that one needs to be insurmountably lucky, to be able to see the sunrise over Kanchenjunga Peak from Tiger Hills. The weather surely didn't allow us to be the lucky ones. The rain took over the sky, and all of us felt as if we were in the Arctic Zone. We were driven back to the hotels, where we rested for a while, unless we were called back for Breakfast.

IMG_20170422_145206_771The morning expedition had left quite a few people feeling sick, but this feeling was devastated by the utmostly splendid destinations that we visited next. Firstly, we went to Ghoom Monastery which houses the main statue of the Maitreya Buddha. After we had offered our prayers, we visited what was perhaps the most loved spot of our entire trip - The Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, which specializes in breeding animals adapted to alpine conditions. From the Red Panda to the Asiatic Black Bear; from Bisons to Long tailed monkeys; From the Royal Bengal Tiger to the Leopard and also the Bengal Natural History Museum, each sight was something to behold and preserve in the memory forever. Upon exit from the zoo, we all stopped to have some quick snacks at a nearby stall, which was followed by our visit to Happy Valley Tea Estates. Upon reaching, the hotel, everyone just left to grab whatever he or she wanted to get from the Darjeeling Markets, as it was our last night in the hills.

IMG-20170425-WA0128Next morning, we left for Kalimpong, where we visited the famous Deolo Hills, which was yet another marvel of beauty. We even had our lunch there, after which we left for the Durbin Monastery and Pine View Nurseries, where we witnessed various types of the cactus plant. After this tiring day, we headed back to the same hotel at Siliguri, where we quickly had our dinner and rushed to the NJP station to catch our train, which was there before time.

We found ourselves at the Kolkata Station at around 10am on the 25th of April. As the memories of the five-day trip flashed through over eyes, we bid each other goodbyes, only to behold the memories of the entire trip in our hearts, forever.

-- Article written by Mehul Agarwal, an iLEADER

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