On the last week of one November, I landed in Kathmandu after a six-month stay in the United States of America. The very next day, I took a flight to Bhadrapur, from where I drove down to Kakarvita on the Indo-Nepal border, and then to Siliguri on the other side. I was impatient to reach Darjeeling. A niece was getting married the week after, and this gave me a good excuse to go visiting. In fact, it was an added incentive since I had a deep hankering to go there, having grown up in this town once known as the ‘Queen of Hill Stations.’ It had been a pretty long time, decades in fact, since I had visited the town. But, on reaching there, I had to admit that it is no more the Darjeeling of my childhood days.
However, meeting long lost relatives and acquaintances was a pleasure, and I stayed in Darjeeling for almost a month, after which, I journeyed back to Siliguri, where I stayed with a friend for a couple of weeks. Siliguri is a large city full of hustle and bustle, and the heat is quite suffocating. Nevertheless, it does have its charms too, not the least being that it serves as a hub for people travelling all over India, and more to my interest, lovely places like Kalimpong, Mirik, and Gangtok are but a few hours’ drive away. A week here, and I am again yearning for the cool climes of the hills. So, I decide to ride a bus for the two-and-a-half hour drive to Kalimpong, just 70 km away.
The bus makes its way through the dark forest of the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary, then along the Teesta River. There are troops of small moneys all along the roadsides, sunning themselves in the early morning sun. We reach Teesta bazaar, a relatively quiet place, before crossing a pretty big bridge. From then onwards, the bus climbs steadily up to Kalimpong 16 km away. Kalimpong, famous for its orchids and schools, has a curious system of distance marking. Teesta bazaar is ‘Zero Mile’ as a distance marker for the town; the road, as it winds up, marks the 1st Mile, then the 2nd Mile, and so on, relative to the town, with the town center being the 10th Mile. However, all this becomes secondary as the magic of the surroundings begin to make itself felt right from the 1st Mile itself. Small-sized, colorful wooden cottages are nestled on hillocks and hills adjoining the road, surrounded by lush foliage and tall trees. Near the 8th Mile, some of the world famous nurseries Kalimpong is renowned for come into view.
The small town has quite a number of nurseries and their produce is much in demand the world over. Kalimpong is to flowers what Kathmandu is to temples, and the major reason for it being so is the excellent weather all year round, because of which the town is ensconced within verdant green mountains and lush forests, come rain or shine. In addition, the region as a whole is blessed with lots and lots of pretty flowers. At the risk of sounding extravagant, let me say that you are treated to a riot of colors everywhere you look. And then, there are the colorful orchids that are the treasures of Kalimpong.
My bus stops at the stop on 10th Mile, the town center, a veritable beehive of activity. Around it are shops, restaurants, parking lots, and the haat (local market). There is, of course, much hustle and bustle, but at the same time, one cannot fail to notice that most folks are of a friendly nature and bright faced. I notice a preponderance of youth; this apparently due to the many well-known schools in the town—Dr. Graham’s Homes, Scottish University Missionaries’ Institution (SUMI), St. Joseph’s Convent, and St. Augustine being some among many others. I come to know that education is the number one economy of Kalimpong.
The town center is not really so big, and a short distance ahead, I am pleasantly surprised to find myself on a road that is easy to walk on in relative seclusion. The change in setting is dramatic, and this why I say that Kalimpong is a heaven for those fond of walking in an unpolluted environment. My destination is the 12th Mile. My steps become sprightlier now, traffic is light. I stride forward and don’t come across many people on the road, but I do notice that there is a continuous line of houses and small shops alongside. The landscape is great, rolling green hills and sprawling tea gardens, in addition to colorful houses scattered around the hills. The weather is mild, the air refreshing, perfect for taking long walks. A thought comes to mind, “one can walk here in solitary splendor without feeling secluded.” I cross the sentry-guarded Bhutan House and stop at a bend near to which is a tea shop.
Sitting down on a moss-covered embankment, I drink cardamom-scented tea; small birds twitter away among the bamboo grove; I am in no hurry to reach anywhere. I want to imbibe the feeling of being one with nature. Eventually, I start walking again and soon enough reach 12th Mile where there’s a beautiful place called the Orchid Retreat, which is a leading orchid grower as well as a resort. Lovely little cottages are situated among the profusion of foliage and flowers. I’ll be spending a week in one of those. How lucky can you get?
Now, before concluding, let me state some smart facts: Kalimpong is located at an altitude of 1250 m and cradled between Deolo Hill (1704 m) and Durpin Dara Hill (1402 m). From Durpin Dara (‘binocular ridge’), you can get a panoramic view of Sikkim’s Chola Range including the Jelep La (pass), the Kanchenjunga range, and Tiger Hill. Similarly, Deolo Hill also offers a spectacular a view, aside from which, it boasts of a lovely park as well as a science center. Dr. Graham’s Homes, a school founded by Scots missionaries in 1900, and sprawling over 500 acres of wooded land, is situated at the base of Deolo Hill. Scottish style cottages house boarders. The school has many highlights, not least being its beautiful chapel, an architectural wonder.
-Amar B Shrestha
Tours |May 10, 2023
First you fly to Paro, a small and charming town that’s pretty spic and span anyway you look at it. The flight itself is an experience by itself, flying as will with the magnificent Himalayan peaks in your sight most of the time.
Trekking |Jun 16, 2023
“Kangchenjunga embodies much of the unknown history of Himalayan climbing: the undeclared, but clearly politically motivated race between the British and the Germans to become the first nation to conquer an 8,000 m peak.
Trekking |Jul 12, 2022
Everest Base Camp trek is one of the most popular treks in Nepal and perhaps in the world. It is a dream for many around the world to view Everest, the highest peak in the world with their own eyes.
Nepal |Jun 28, 2023
Undho Undho jaada hun’, said the young shepherd who was in his early 20’s, after he shared his Pilot cigarette and had a few chat with us. We didn’t ask his name, but did ask how many sheep he had. He said that those weren’t his sheep and that he doesn’t plan to stay in Mugu for long.
Nepal |Dec 17, 2012
Kathmandu Durbar Square, also known as Hanuman Dhoka, is where the palaces of the Malla and Shah Kings are located. Besides a number of palaces and historical courtyards, the site also has many significant temples including Taleju, Maru Ganesh, Shiva Parvati Temple, Bhagwati Temple, Saraswoti Temple and Krishna Temple.
Others |Apr 2, 2015
My flight from Helsinki to Kathmandu was very relaxing. One and half hours delay at Istanbul Airport for my onward flight was no surprise. Turkish Airlines has a lot of delays towards Kathmandu, I was previously warned for that. 🙂
Nepal |Jun 26, 2023
When on your Nepal tour, you’ll probably be going on a long trek or two into the mountains. However, it would also be a good idea to do a short day tour or two around the Kathmandu valley as well.
Culture & Festivals |Jun 20, 2023
As your excitement at the eminent arrival in Paro Airport rises, you are scanning through the window looking for some distinguishing landmarks that tell you that you are in a different country.
Wildlife |Apr 6, 2019
Do you know what makes Nepal one of the most biodiverse countries in the world? Hint: it has something to do with a giant called the Himalayas.
Nepal |Aug 3, 2020
Today ( 03 August 2020 ) we are enjoying “ kwati” at our house, with our family. “Kwati” is one of the traditional Newari soups which is prepared by indigenous Newari people living in the valley on the occasion of Guni Punhi festival.
Tibet |Apr 15, 2014
Your travel to Tibet is not complete without a visit to the vast region known as Kham, home to the legendary Khampa warriors of yore.