This post is my entry for #TheBlindList – A Blind date with the world. Click HERE for details…
Elaborate travel planning for a trip to a place long in your Bucket List is a joy, at least to me. But sometime unplanned diversions are necessary as they may show you the real charm of nature.
The Indian state of West Bengal (or simply Bengal to its Bengalis) is the only state to have its borders marked by Bay of Bengal in South and mighty Himalayas in North. Having being raised amid such vast geographical diversity, Bengalis are historically very culturally oriented and fond of traveling. On any long weekend, tourist spots in and around the state like the hill station of Darjeeling, sea beach of Digha or Puri (in neighbouring state), Gurudev’s own town Shantiniketan, historical Bishnupur or Malda and forests of Sundarban or Buxa will be flooded with Bengali merry makers. Being a Bong myself and fond of travelling, over the last two decades of being in senses I have explored most of the southern part of Bengal. My travel inspiration is largely driven by the desire of exploring the world I live in and the region I belong to. The cooler northern parts of the state and the mighty Himalayas had long allured me and were in my bucket list.
North Bengal and South Bengal is very different, both geographically, culturally and ethnically different
So, after my marriage, when I made my own travel plan for the first time, I made an elaborate trip plan spanning 15 days and covering most of North Bengal. To us Bongs the word ‘mountain’ is synonymous with Darjeeling, Tiger Hill and Kanchenjunga! I also could not resist the desire to visit these places. My North Bengal travel itinerary finally comprised of Darjeeling, Mirik, Kalimpong and off-beat destination of Lava. At the time of this trip, in 2012, I was not used to reading travel blogs. I zeroed on the places by referring to Travel Magazines mainly. Being from the plains, the wish to witness snow was irresistible. Since Lava is one of the few places in Bengal which has history of snow fall in winter, me and my wife boarded Uttarbanga Express from Kolkata one cold December day and headed towards Lava first. Along we carried heart full of expectation, and bag full of woollens!
New Jalpaiguri Jn. near Siliguri is the entry point to North Bengal. Lava is 99 kms from there, via Kalimpong and 115kms via Gorubathan. We chose the Kalimpong route and occupied the entire front seat of a shared car. Almost the entire distance of 70 kms from Siliguri to Kalimpong, we were accompanied by the beautiful Teesta River cutting through the hills. From Kalimpong we changed car and reached Lava around noon. Here for the first time I realised in the mountains even a sunny afternoon can be chilly! First unforeseen beauty of the trip.
Lava is a small hamlet, on the edges of Neora Valley National Park and surrounded by typical alpine vegetation. The distant mountain passes of Sikkim are visible, but snow-capped mountains are mostly missing. On asking the Lepcha caretaker, he advised we visit Rishop. He said it is a nearby village we can trek to in the morning, and come back by noon. So we decided to do the trek the next morning. That evening we wandered in the woods for some time, then visited the Kagyu Thekchen Ling Monastery and retired for the day dreaming of snow covered Kanchenjunga as seen on the internet..
Kagyu Thekchen Ling Monastery in Lava dates back to 1990 and was established by Third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche (Buddhist leader).
Next day, as advised by the caretaker, we started the trek around 5 am. Rishop is an even smaller settlement 12kms from Lava by motor able road, but only 4km by foot! The trek is not a long one, but the main issue is the altitude. The first 1 km is extremely steep and we almost gave up at one point. Locals shuttle between the villages even for most basic needs like groceries. One such local couple heading towards Rishop encouraged us and we followed them. By the time we reached Rishop, we were totally exhausted and way behind the locals. Cursing the caretaker we pulled ourselves to the top most point of Rishop. There the mystery unfolded, why we were in Rishop!
Standing in front of us right across the ridge on a clear sunny morning was, the majestic Kanchenjunga. There was nothing to obstruct the view, nothing to dampen the spirit. The peak and the icy clouds on the top were clearly visible. A view which can never become old. That was my first view of a mountain.
At that point of time nothing else mattered. Nothing was more important. We both were too overwhelmed to speak anything for few moments. Over the next 2 weeks I had seen the same peak from various places and loved it each single time. But THAT particular view was UNIQUE! It was unexpected beauty, bang on the face. Very few human can deny the out-of-world beauty of a snow covered mountain peak. After few moments I felt like a child ready to clap and jump in joy, standing on grasses covered with frozen dew and looking at the lovely, snow covered Kanchenjunga. It was a dream-come-true moment for us. That is when and where I realized, no matter how much you plan no one knows what nature has in her laps. You may not see what you wanted to, but may end up visualizing something different which may change your life. You don’t know what you will experience, but trust me you will love the experience. Trying to explore nature is like going on a blind date with the world!
That is why i love this world! It’s full of surprises, if you have an eye for.
The remaining trip was great and turned out to be one of our best trip till date. But what remained most memorable in the trip is not the planned stop overs, but an unplanned self-exploration trek to Rishop where I first saw the unforgettable grandeur of Mount Kanchenjuga from the most magnificent surrounding. The unplanned trek was truly my Blind Date with the world where I not only met my long allured sweetheart (Mount Kanchenjuga, my spouse was already with me!) for the first time but it also opened up my mind to take unexpected turns for exploring the world, to say yes to the world.
Its a small life. Explore, take unexpected turns, go blind and love what you find. Mother nature never dissapoints anyone. Whenever in a new place avoid cabs, rather walk around. Take public transport, eat local food, shop as the locals do, interact with locals. Don’t waste time in the comfort of AC. Be a Traveller , not just a Tourist. Cheers to this contest, i got to pen down my feelings towards my-type-of-travelling!
The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.
Gilbert K. Chesterton
Please watch this 1 minute video on Why People Love This World? You will love it…