Saptorshi Gupta
by on October 15, 2017
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As the train sets on its journey to Kolkata, my eyes morosely glanced across the sky taking me back to a similar day - the day our rejuvenating 3 days tour had started. The much awaited trip ended creating such exhilarating emotions that I found it barely possible to get over the bucketful of memories I had gathered over the past few days. Experiences of the trip started lingering in my mind as the train now sped across the suburbs of North Bengal, cool breeze kissed my cheeks and a little smile escaped my lips - the days became visible before my eyes and it seemed as if I was experiencing the trip yet again.
It was 6th of October, 2017, an unusually hot and humid day in downtown Kolkata at this time of the year. But somewhere amidst the sweaty, unpleasant atmosphere there was an ecstasy of joy amongst our family members as we headed towards the Sealdah Station to board Kanchanjungha Express. Time passed swiftly in excitement as finally the moment we long waited for, approached, the train signal lights turned green sharp at 6:30 am and voila - we bade goodbye to Kolkata. To add to our fortune, no sooner had the train crossed Bolpur, tears from heaven dripped against the window pane, the temperature dropped drastically and it turned out a dream train journey for us.
The rain splashed meadows as were visible from the train.
A lucky take just in time!!
As we inched nearer to our destination, I could barely resist the temptation of visiting a new land full of surprises - coming across a bunch of new people, getting amazed by their culture, taking interest in their lifestyle and finally making myself a part of them. The clock ticked 7:25 pm, the train creaked, and the station announcements were clear and that was it. We had thus reached Jalpaiguri Road Station.
Thereafter followed a road journey across the hilly roads of Domohani, Lataguri and Meteli. A car was booked beforehand for our journey to Suntalekhola. It is always advisable to do so, as on-spot booking of car for ‘drop’ or ‘pickup’ may seem to be difficult or may cost hugely because the drivers are always ready to befool you!! However, to our utter surprise, our driver of the Bolero who stayed with us for the next few days of our tour, turned out to be a pleasant, ever-smiling, ever-helping young person who introduced himself as Biswes. Helping him with our large cache of luggage was chirpy, effervescent, eleven-year-old, Tika, who eventually became quite close to our family member.
The scenic beauty of the places, we travelled through, could hardly be deciphered due to the dawn of darkness all over. However we could sense the dense jungle that seemed to engulf the road and I could not help myself from thinking of the wild animals that were said to haunt the place. Making situations worse, the driver seemed to be playing on our nerves - narrating stories which perhaps were logically outrageous, but wait - the ambiance itself seemed to haunt on us. Nevertheless, it was an exciting road trip and the day ended on a positive note as we reached Kushal Home Stay in Suntalekhola within 2 hours. Well, this was just the beginning of a great holiday to be spent, lots of adventures being in store.
The next day I found myself waking up in a room standing erect among lush greenery and uncountable wonders of dame nature. As I peeped out of the window, I could find myself surrounded by tall mighty hillocks - peaks of which were cloud covered. Snowy, fleecy clouds swept across the gorgeous blue sky and wow, just wow - the place was a paradise on earth. My sight was again attracted to vegetable plantations and terrace farming in and around the Suntalekhola village making it hard to convince myself that the place we checked in at night turned out to be such an absolute stunner.
Rejuvenating view from the Kushal Homestay balcony
We decided to take a walk down to the pebble studded Suntalekhola stream bed. The narrow village path infested with cattle herds, chickens, young enthusiastic village children and eager, helpful villagers led us to our destination. A quick advice for those who are lazy and never walked over rocky terrain before - please stay out of it. It is quite a sort of a trek through dense evergreen forest, rich flora and fauna of the Himalayan foothills in the last stretch. Guys those who are sporty and adventurous - it’s your day! Finally what we came across was the mesmerizing view of the mountain stream, ‘Suntalekhola’, the soothing cool breeze, golden crispy morning sun, and the sunbathed sprinkling water, sweet chirp of the lovely birds and not to miss out - the awestruck look of all the visitors!
Mesmerising Suntalekhola……..ferns, orchids....in abundance!!
In all its morning glory!
Returning to the homestay at 9 o’clock, we prepared ourselves for the day’s tour. After a mouth-watering lunch of hot rice, dal, fried potato chips, vegetable curry, and lip-smacking chicken curry, we hopped into a car and set forth on our journey. We set out to visit the famous Jaldhaka River at Jhalong and Bindu. Things were quite pleasant except of the bumpy roads which did give us quite a bit of trouble, making the car swing right and left, up and down, all through our journey. Finally after travelling through the mountainous roads of Dumani, Naksa, speeding through the rubber plantations of the Garibas Division, we reached Jhalong from which the gorgeous Jaldhaka River could be seen establishing itself, over a 1000 feet down the hill. The sound of the huge river smashing against boulders, creating a mist, was deafening.
Only if I could add the sounds of the place!!
Further we proceeded to Bindu with invigorating Jaldhaka keeping us company all along. Bindu turned out to be an experience of the lifetime. The cloudy atmosphere, the gushing river water of the Jaldhaka River, the dense tree cover on both side and finally the demarcated boundary of the two countries - India and Bhutan left us awestruck. Though it is expected to be high profile security zone in such a place, the ambiance over there was quite the opposite. Peace and calmness prevailed as tourists as well as locals were seen admiring the beauty of nature. The sight of the clean water washing through the varied pebbles was simply eye catching.
Finally a picture of myself in this maiden travelogue!
Well it would be a sin on my part if I make the readers content just with this image of the place. So moving on to another picture portraying a fantabulous scene.
Hard to guess that the barrage separates two countries: the mountains north of it belong to Bhutan whereas gushing out of the barrage are Indian waters
Having travelled about 33 kilometres (distance of Bindu from Suntalekhola), we decided to move back. But my stomach was groaning with hunger pangs and we decided to feast over some local food before we started our journey back to the homestay. And nothing could have been better than sumptuous chicken momos (no offence with the vegetarians out there. You guys can order vegetable momos) and tea.
Now that is what makes a perfect super-delicious!!
Having finished gorging on those delicacies, we started moving back to our homestay at Suntalekhola. On our way we decided to visit the Rocky Islands.
ROCKY Island really ROCKS!!
It took hardly another hour and a half to reach the rocky islands via the Jhalong-Bindu road. I was witnessing the sunset on my way when dark clouds began to accumulate and it started to drizzle. Nevertheless by the time we reached the Rocky Islands the rain had stopped. Just as the other places, the Rocky Islands was no exception. Yes it was beautiful with huge boulders giving it a mirage of rock islands formed in a hilly stream and people staring awestruck in admiration.
ROCKY ISLANDS ...... with an overhead bridge to Suntalekhola.
After few minutes of water splashing, it began to get dark and was time to get back to Suntalekhola. The back-breaking day ended within next twenty minutes of journey, a cup of tea again with hot snacks at the homestay and finally a relishing dinner.
It was 8th, the day scheduled for returning to Siliguri. The first part of our journey through the lush green tea estates was quite enjoyable. The place presented some ideal spots for taking pictures with family members.
The next phase of the journey consisted of travelling through the roads of Meteli, Chalsa, Neora, Malbazar, Sevoke, finally leading to Siliguri.
The Shatabdi express was scheduled to depart New Jalpaiguri station on the 9th, at 5:30 in the morning. Thus 8th ended on a non-adventurous note - visiting houses of relatives, returning to hotel and going early to bed.
The return journey to Kolkata was quite a relaxing one. Relaxing in the air conditioned compartment, we were served thrice, morning tea, breakfast and lunch. The train was just about half an hour late and we reached Howrah station by 2 pm.
So guys out there, wanting to enjoy a vacation on the weekends? Get your bags packed, tie your shoe laces tight, and set forth on your journey. The place during the year end is quite comfortable, yet becomes a little chill at night - so don’t forget to take your jacket. Doesn’t matter whether you visit this place with friends, family, or just alone you are going to enjoy time upto the brim. All the best and cheers to our travel life!!