Hi people! Festive season has almost started, and you must have already started planning for holidays. Scanning down the calendar, checking up on colleagues’ leave plan, looking down your travel bucket list and what not! I know for one the excitement that builds up in office and at home when this time of the year arrives. 🤩
One of the best places to travel at this time is the mountains. With the monsoons at the verge of bidding goodbye, and a mild chill setting in, you could very well plan a vacay to the Queen of Hills aka Darjeeling. I had visited it earlier this year, and shared a few snippets on my Instagram too. Thought why not to share in some details on the blog, if you’re planning a trip there, and may find the details helpful too.☺️ I will be doing a series of 2-3 posts, briefing out the highlights and experience of my trip. The very first halt was at Kalimpong.
Day 1 : Kalimpong-Rishyap-Lava-Lolegaon-Kalimpong
We had reached Kalimpong from NJP on the previous evening, and it had rained. For accommodation, we had chosen a BnB, or a homestay, whichever you prefer to call. I wanted a place away from the generic hustle-bustle, and Jacaranda House was a perfect pick. Nestled in the Delo Hills, this BnB was run by a lady, her son and nephews. More on this later on in the post.
Coming to the itinerary, we decided to pick on Rishyap, and if possible, to Lava and Lolegaon, as all these three places had closer proximity to Kalimpong than to Darjeeling. We had to start early in the morning. Needless to say, the hosts did help us a lot in arranging the transport, and guide us with the places to travel.
First stop – Rishyap.
Day 1 started as early as 8:15am, and destination was Rishyap. It is a quaint little hamlet in the Neora Valley. Rishyap or Rishop has only recently developed as a major tourist destination, and has rich opulent forests all along the way. I must tell you, as you drive up, the forests get denser and closer, while the pines and birches get taller and fiercer. If you want to know what is dangerously beautiful, you’ve got to see the Himalayan forests. Coming from a metropolitan city, the forests were scary to me at first, but on a closer look, the lush greenery and smell of foliage were breathtaking, almost hypnotic.😌
If you love trekking, Rishop gives you the chance to trek up 4kms. We traveled the entire distance by car, albeit stopping at a few places just to feel the scintillating nature on my skin. It was the time of 1st week of June, and it would rain on and off, so the weather was comfortable. Not biting or chilly, nor too humid.
Thanks to the sudden burst of rains, Rishyap couldn’t offer us its mind-blowing views of the snow capped mountains, including that of the Kanchenjunga. Rishyap stands for “mountain views and forests“. So other than the view, there is nothing much to do there. I’d suggest you book your stay for at least a night in Rishyap, you can better relish the Kanchenjunga view from your window or balcony. It just keeps coming and going.
Next stop – Lava.
Known mainly for its grand monastery atop a hill, it took us around an hour to reach Lava from Rishyap. The weather had cleared up by the time we reached Lava. I must say the monastery up there was so peaceful, and had a majestic view overlooking the valley. Lava itself is a beautiful small town, located around 7160 metres above the sea level.
Next stop – Lolegaon.
Now I have major warnings to give you regarding this place. PLEASE DO NOT PLAN RISHYAP, LAVA & LOLEGAON AT ONE GO!! If you are, then please skip Lolegaon. Along with that, I have a major appeal to make to the West Bengal Tourism Department, regarding the conditions of the road that leads to Lolegaon. I wish to ask the forest department authorities, if they have crossed the roads that take one from Lava to Lolegaon? With the start of the monsoons, and drizzles that this path saw, it was horrifically downtrodden. We realized it was a very bad idea to plan all the three places in a day. The hosts back at Jacaranda House too, had warned us of the same, although we didn’t realize the road conditions were this bad!😥
Those one and half hours we travelled by the SUV were the most miserable minutes in the entire tour. I would have rather taken to walking than travelling by car. But since the entire road winds through forests, walking on your own was strictly prohibited. There were risks of bears turning up, and it was better to keep sheltered within the car.
Although I did walk at times, and I must say the experience was exhilarating for those moments. It was refreshing and so much more enjoyable than the ordeal we were subjected to inside the car. The jerks were abominable, our bodies hurt like crazy, the bones felt crushed with the constant clashing, and muscles were sore. Since we had to stop ourselves from stumbling down the car seats with the entire support of our legs and waists. And trust me when I say, Lolegaon was not worth the pain.🙁 It is definitely not for the faint-hearted. Kindly avoid if you are traveling with small kids or senior citizens. There are huge tendencies of throwing up for those not used to such arduouos journeys.
It had again started raining by the time we reached Lolegaon, and we had to wait for the only sight-seeing location there : the Canopy Walk. And it didn’t blow my mind away. Maybe because I was tired and hurt, hungry and full of anguish. Or maybe because the Living Roots Bridge back at Meghalaya experience was far more enjoyable to me. The Canopy Walk offers a walk over a wooden hanging bridge, to give an ample view of the surrounding woods, which of course were awe-inspiring. But the bridge would allow only limited number of people at a time, and alas! Indian travelers are seldom known to follow discipline and rules. I was more concerned with keeping my balance over the bridge, than gasp at the view around.
Please beware of the LEECHES!! I had 4 of those wretched blood suckling creatures on my feet and trousers by the time I reached my car. Lolegaon is infamous for those, and rains had done enough to encourage their activities at the time we visited. For those who don’t have experience of leeches feeding on them, let me warn you, keep a sharp lookout because they are tiny and come unalarmed. It’s only when they swell up from sucking blood, that you notice them on your skin. Yikes!😖 They just pierce halfway in the skin and you won’t even know!☹️
Back to Jacaranda House, Kalimpong.
Thankfully the road from Lolegaon to Kalimpong was fine enough. We were exhausted, and needed a good sleep overnight. The Day 2 was planned for local sightseeing, and travelling to the next destination Darjeeling.
Jacaranda House, Kalimpong :
This was our shelter for two nights in Kalimpong. Located atop Delo Hills, this quaint little cottage away from the main city bustle, provides a spectacular view of the valley and mountains. Wooden floored and three-storeyed, it has an attic room as well. I opted for the attic, and it was so cozy and comfy. The third storey with two rooms is also for guests, while the first two storeys are occupied by the family of the host.
The guest area has a warm and cozy lounge to have your coffee, and also a balcony. This entire house stands against the wall of a hill, so one has forests right next to the window! It also has provision of hot water, but like most hill stations, be careful to not waste any water. Crisp and clean, Jacaranda House made for a perfect place to rest amidst Mother nature, after a hectic day of touring. It made us feel at home, and I was so comfortable there that I almost felt like one of them! One unique aspect that I noticed here was that the rooms were named after elements of forests : the biggest room was called J-Trunk, the attic was called J-Blossom. Jacaranda itself is the name of a wildflower. How thoughtful and creative!
I had always wanted to stay at offbeat locations, and live with the locals. To feel like them, to observe their ways of life, to be a part of them. After all, what’s travel without a taste of culture of that place? 🙂 Jacaranda House fulfilled all of those wishes and fancies, and more…
Coming to the food, we had our breakfast and dinner at the homestay. The hosts themselves cooked the meals, and they’d attend to you like their very own guests. Extremely hospitable and helpful, they made my first BnB experience extremely memorable! The food too was delicious and homely, simple yet fulfilling. The room tariff is around 2000 INR, and in case you wish to stay there, you can get your bookings from goibibo or MakeMyTrip.
Few Tips to keep in Mind regarding Clothing :
Try to keep clothes as comfortable as possible. While I’m definitely not asking you to tour in your PJs, extremely skinny fit denims may turn out to be uncomfortable for long hours. Try to opt for warm cotton trousers, and jeggings, preferably with elasticated waistbands, and always keep a scarf handy. However if you’re visiting in the last quarter of the year, you’ve got to carry your fair share of warm clothes. Try carrying a foldable and compact hair dryer as well. Keeps extra socks or stockings, and opt for shoes that cover your entire feet. The footwear having a non-skidding, anti-slip sole is an additional benefit. Steer clear of any form of heels. They are a strict no-no up on the hills.
A tip for the pretty ladies reading this : if you want your pictures to come out bright, always opt for bright outfits and lip colors. Mountains have a chilly weather, so anything bright just looks and feels vivid and cheerful.
Menfolk, I won’t preach your dressing, you must be utterly comfortable in tees and jeans. However, semi-formals could also prove comfy. So choose wisely.
I kept my OOTD bright and comfortable for both days 1 & 2. For Day 1 MOTD, I wore a long-wearing, medium coverage foundation (customized my coverage with CoverFX Custom Cover Drops), a gel eyeliner (Bobbi Brown in shade Denim Ink), a bright lipper –Estee Lauder Pure Color Lipstick in shade Hot Streak, and a long wearing mascara from MAC.
For Day 2,the base was similar, and so was the emphasis on minimal and quick makeup. The lipstick I opted for was Bobbi Brown Lip Color in shade GUAVA, topped with TBS Matte Lip Liquid in shade Paris Peony), and a good mascara.
Day 2 : Kalimpong Local Sightseeing – leaving for Darjeeling
Day 2 at Kalimpong was entirely dedicated to local sight seeing. The places we covered under this included
- Mangal Dham Temple – pious and so serene, this temple dedicated to Lord Krishna, had an ashram too. It had a history in the past, and the legacy is borne till date.
- Dr. Graham’s Home – a boarding school of sorts, this school is around a century old! The school had ongoing vacations at the time we visited, and left a lasting impression on me. Imagine studying amidst nature away from home?! Felt absolutely enthralling to me.
- Thongsha Gumpha – another religious site, a monastery. I wonder at how calm and peaceful the mind feels every time we enter a religious place.
- Pine View Nursery – this was a cactus haven! Tall, short, big, small, any size or dimension – you name it and this nursery has it. To be honest I was a little intimidated by a few of the giant species, I mean I had never seen anything alike before!
- Hanuman Temple – Situated atop a hill, the huge statue of Lord Hanuman is visible right from the road below.
- Delo View Point – this was an unforgettable experience. Every hill station has viewpoints, to facilitate viewing of high altitude mountains from a faraway distance, at certain convenient angles. Given our unsuccessful attempts at catching a glimpse of snow-capped Himalayas in Rishyap from Day 1, I must say we were generously rewarded at this place. Although we had faced rains and drizzles now and then, by the time (it was afternoon) we reached Delo View Point, the sun was smiling high up in the sky. The impact of the view we were blessed with there, left a lasting impact on me. I was mesmerized at the magnificent and clear views of the distant white mountains, and for a moment I was hypnotized. Thank goodness for selfies, my family brought me back to real to pose and say cheese! 😀 I was super glad to end the Kalimpong tour on a wonderful, memorable note.
The very same day we drove off for Darjeeling. I felt sort of connected with Kalimpong, its exuberance and beauty was heart-warming. As much as my heart felt heavy to leave behind Kalimpong, I was super thrilled for the next leg of the trip, i.e., in Darjeeling. My birthday too, was due two days, and to my utter happiness, Mother Nature blessed me abundantly on that day. Gifted me with something so ethereal, that would defy the test of time, and all material gifts. Stay tuned for my tell-a-tale for Days 3 & 4 in the lap of the Queen of Hills!
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