Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A failed Trip to Darjeeling - Boulevard of Broken Dreams

A failed Trip to Darjeeling - Boulevard of Broken Dreams
This is the concluding post on our failed trip to Darjeeling. We shifted to the Circuit House just after our morning breakfast. Circuit House is nearer to the center of Darjeeling. The room we were allotted was spacious in true sense, but unlike the forest department rest-house, it lacked a "feel at home" ambiance and the cozy hospitality. There was a fire-place but ‘just for show’ and staffs were cold towards our necessities. This deterred us from asking for anything even if we felt its need. The extra-large windowpanes at one end of our room gave magnificent view of mountain peaks but we really missed the homely food of the former stay. Oh leave these trivial sour spots man, we had to hurry for our forthcoming toy-train journey in about an hour! The Darjeeling station looked busy and totally different from what it appeared at night. There were a couple of steam engines huffing & puffing under the loco-shed garaged on the opposite side of the road. Two diesel hauled toy-trains were waiting in the platform. I was fully supporting UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee’s decision of recognizing Darjeeling Himalayan Railway ‘World Heritage Site’ status on 5thDecember, 1999.
A failed Trip to Darjeeling - Boulevard of Broken Dreams
I went to the ticket-counter to check our train status. "All passenger trains are canceled” was all I could hear and it was enough for me to feel extremely cheated by the Goddess of fortune! Why it has to be me who’ll be compelled to miss innocent toy-train rides every time despite having valid tickets? The bitter memories of 2007 slapped on my cheeks real hard when the railway authority clearly informed that they can’t even provide us with tickets of the brief Joy-ride. “Ok then can you give us tickets for the next day… or the next…?” I was that desperate. But, all of their Joy-ride tickets had already been booked (for another ten days). I regretted for reserving the passenger toy-train tickets instead of the Joy-ride but how could I apprehend that I'd have to revisit the same boulevard of broken dreams? In a Joy-ride ticket one can travel from Darjeeling to Ghoom and return back. I wanted to travel up to Kurseong and that was the sole reason of my felony. When no officer in the railway station could oblige me with a ray of hope, I understood riding DHR was destined to be in my distant travel wishlist. Fortunately others were not so emotionally touched by the incident and they decided to enjoy walking in the mall area. I wanted something more strenuous to kill the newborn sympathetic overflow inside my blood vessels.
A failed Trip to Darjeeling - Boulevard of Broken Dreams
I took the narrow C R Das Road, originating from Chowrasta and kept walking downhill aimlessly, perhaps in search of serenity to throw off the frustration I had accumulated in the morning. The road was narrow, steep downhill and with occasional motorbikes. I saw Desbandhu Museum (for those of you who are not acquainted with this name, you must know Desbandhu Chitraranjan Das was one of the most prominent figures in Indian National Freedom Movement) on my left side and a board that read “Here on the 16th June 1925 passed away Desbandhu Chittaranjan Das” but its gate was locked. On left, another board read “Bhutia Busty Monastery Ahead”… So, I was not aimless anymore, kept strolling down cautiously. Walking downhill is said to be effortless but when the descent is steep you put a lot of stress on your muscles while trying to keep your body in equilibrium and controlling your pace! It was after fifteen minutes of downhill hike I could leave the typically congested Darjeeling smell at my back and feel more close to nature. There were prayer flags on the side of the road and I could see the monastery hidden in vast greenery and Lebong Race Course farther down the monastery. Besides its downhill slope, the road exhibited its serpentine nature after that point and it took another fifteen minutes at least to reach the gate of the monastery.
A failed Trip to Darjeeling - Boulevard of Broken Dreams
1.5 kilometers downhill from Chowrasta took half an hour… still would you argue that uphill walk is the only pain? The monastery derived its name from its location in Bhutia Colony and perhaps the oldest monastery in Darjeeling, built in traditional Tibetan style. Inside the prayer hall there are large wall murals, made with different colored stone powders, illustrating the life of Buddha. The Bhutia Monastery in its perfectly tranquil natural settings provided by diverse wildflowers, plants and its swaying colorful prayer flags is sure to wash out your tiredness of mind or body. I avoided an over-talkative Korean traveler and came out from the monastery. A local man suggested me to take the road down to the Lebong Race Course (may be another 20 minutes walk) from where one can get shared taxis for Chowrasta. But I wanted to take the pain of uphill walk taking the same road. After every 100 meters I had to stop to catch up with my breath but it was fun… at least it kept me away from the wicked thoughts of my toy-train-tragedy. After crossing midway I bought two chocolate bars to add glucose to my weeping muscles. But they actually aggravated my hunger! On reaching Mall road I saw a crowded South-Indian eatery where I ordered a masala-dosa for my late-afternoon lunch.
A failed Trip to Darjeeling - Boulevard of Broken Dreams
I remembered of buying Darjeeling tea as souvenirs for my near ones at home. I chose to shop from Nathmulls (they have another branch on Chowrasta as well) opposite to the Darjeeling Municipality Office building (this is the building that houses the clock tower which you saw in the movie ‘Barfi’). Their polished professional behavior showed how much they are accustomed to deal with tourists. I thought to give a peep to the Bengal Natural History Museum. On reaching there, the guard told that it was closed for the day. I had heard from someone that a Nepali cultural dance program is organized in Shrubbery Nightingale Park after sunset. So I locked my next target ignoring my nagging legs. Actually I was adamant that I won’t get into taxis. A fifteen minutes walk from Chowrasta under the dimming sky took me to the Nightingale Park, behind the Raj Bhawan. The man in the ticket counter informed that there’ll be no cultural program that day, so I refrained from exploring the park and returned back. On my way back I met a huge group of Tibetan refugees walking with candles in the memory of their dead countrymen who had become the victim of Chinese brutality. Being touched by the historical tragedy on Tibet I joined the procession and chanted "Om Mani Padme Hum" with the mass till they concluded the demonstration in the middle of Chowrasta.
A failed Trip to Darjeeling - Boulevard of Broken Dreams
While walking down the Nehru road, seeing Glenary’s, I remembered that my dinner was due and my clock suggested to finish up the pending task. Glenary’s is another classic restaurant serving Darjeeling since British-rule days. In the ground floor you’ll you’ll find a well stocked confectionery/bakery cum cafĂ© and in its upper floor you’ll find the dining room. There’s a bar as well which I didn’t feel like venturing. You may order Indian, continental or Chinese cuisines to the waiter who’ll approach your table. The empty coat hanger by the side of the entrance matches with its history but certainly fails to blend with the hospitality the restaurant provides these days. Obviously there are several chicken dishes you can choose from but pork items are something you can go for as you won’t get them in many quality food places in most other parts of India. Food in Glenary’s was okay if not exceptional and the service was fairly good. I left the change and came down to the road. It was 8:30 PM and, our last night in Darjeeling. Next morning we had reserved a car for Kalimpong, of course to try our luck after a failed trip to Darjeeling. I had walked enough and really needed a good night sleep to boost up my physiological battery level.
A failed Trip to Darjeeling - Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Next morning, the condensed water droplets veiling our windowpane added an element of mystery to the morning view of mountains. I lazed on the sofa and patiently watched it sliding down drop by drop, as if clearing the mountain-view for this curious traveler. Breakfast arrived and we got ready. I called the taxi driver I had talked to but he informed me of his car problem, assuring me at the same time to send us another reliable option. We left Darjeeling Circuit House, one hour later than our plan. It was Maha-ashtami (2 days before Dussehra). The celebration on the streets was on, causing our 50 kilometers journey to Kalimpong halt here and there on every turn. The customs of Darjeeling is varied due to the coexistence of diverse ethnic groups. They were celebrating by making processions on the streets with new clothes, trumpets/drums and decorations. I wish I could remember the local name for the same. All I could get through my car window was hundred happy faces and Nepali folklores. I wondered whether those relatively simpler festivals on hills are much more enjoyable than the Durga Puja we celebrate on plains, spending at least half a crore rupees on each gorgeous setup...!
A failed Trip to Darjeeling - Boulevard of Broken Dreams
There were plenty orange trees on our way, mostly invisible to our inexperienced eyes due to absence of orange colored fruits hanging from their branches. After crossing Teesta market we got stuck with a full one hour jam over the Teesta Bridge. It would have been a fairly enjoyable time-pass to watch the green-wild Teesta River if the overhead sun didn’t show his brutality, and of course if the wind over the bridge was gentler. By one O’clock we reached Kalimpong, the fascinating hill station at an altitude of about 1,250 meters, located in the foothills of the Mahabharat Range above the scenic Teesta Valley. We had booking in the Kalimpong Guest House which is in the outskirt of the town, in the close proximity to the Indian Army’s 27 Mountain Division area. Initially I was unhappy to find the accommodation far away from the center of Kalimpong but as our cab climbed the pristine Durpin Hill road to reach the Circuit House crossing the picturesque Army Golf Course at our left I knew it was the best place we could get for our relaxing Dussehra trip. Don't worry, I won't bore you with the tale of our tranquil Kalimpong stay. If you missed any of the previous parts of this travel blog series I am gladly providing all links below:

* A failed Trip to Darjeeling - the temptation of Toy Train
* A failed Trip to Darjeeling - viewing Sunrise from the Tiger Hill
* A failed Trip to Darjeeling - brief visit to Ghoom
* A failed Trip to Darjeeling - leisurely walk inside the Himalayan Zoological Park
* A failed Trip to Darjeeling - in pursuit of Darjeeling Tea
* A failed Trip to Darjeeling - little bit of Local Sightseeing