Thursday, November 17, 2016

A failed Trip to Darjeeling - the temptation of Toy Train

A failed Trip to Darjeeling - the temptation of Toy Train
“The craving for a delicate fruit is pleasanter than the fruit itself”, was the only consolation I could pour on me… but the sense of emptiness consistently mocked on my misfortune, scratching my fresh wound with hundred septic blades and projecting the flashback of December 2007! So many times I’ve been stopped out of several large railway stations whether it’s Kolkata or Delhi by people asking me if I need a confirmed Rajdhani Express ticket and I always hated those offers, and for the first time in my life I really prayed for such angelic pimp but nothing divine happened to this cursed fate. I’ve great faith on the fast recovery of human mind but also have the knowledge how much we badly adore to suffer from despair, so shifted my attention from the about to leave carriage to the puffing steam engine inside the loco shed and switched on my camera. Later on, fiddling with the golf stick, walking miles after miles up and down the hill in search of monasteries, taking macro shots of wild flowers, watching Bollywood movie in a hall packed with army guys etc were sure quality wines to my hopeless soul, but, after all alcoholic charm doesn’t last long making you vulnerable to your pain once again! Anyway, it is better I skip radiating my negativity for the moment and start narrating from where it had all started.
A failed Trip to Darjeeling - the temptation of Toy Train
Spending Durgapuja days out of Bardhaman had been planned more than a month back. Being a family trip I had kept the venue simple and itinerary as relaxing as possible. The ‘Summer retreat for the Governor General of Bengal’ (during British Raj off course!) Darjeeling and one of its beautiful subdivisions Kalimpong was no virgin to us but no other place could adjust itself better in our less than a week time slot. So, in search of Himalayan air, Kanchenjunga’s lure, flavor of some world class tea, Tibetan touch and Darjeeling Himalayan rail fantasy we boarded Darjeeling Mail from Bardhaman on 17th Oct (2012) night. Night journey in Indian Railways is usually uneventful unless when you’re traveling alone (in that case you tend to remain more cautious of your belongings lying down the berth). But it was a family trip, so the night was well utilized on cozy sleeping only to board down the Darjeeling Mail in New Jalpaiguri Junction (NJP) at around fifteen to nine in the morning of 18th. The station seemed not too congested with fleeting soles but as we ventured outside the ambiance changed drastically owing to the presence of thousands of taxis and their drivers who’ll pull you or lure you with various offers/bargains. It’s not that bad as well as you’ll be the one at the end to negotiate and agree on a justified deal depending on the season and the vehicle you want to hire. You can also avail shared jeeps and that is really advantageous for solo guys.
A failed Trip to Darjeeling - the temptation of Toy Train
We agreed for a clean looking Sumo Spacio Gold and the journey was really smoother than we had anticipated. At this point you may wonder why didn't I book my ticket in toy-train... well, I better not bring this topic right now. Taking the Hill Cart road from Siliguri we drove through Tindharia and Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary, from where the climb got steeper and the vehicle kept ascending parallel to the currently non-functioning narrow gauge line (it is only functioning from Kurseong to Darjeeling presently) of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), popularly known as Toy train. We stopped for a tummy-worshiping break at Kurseong and tasted some Momo with coffee. Actually, owing to my ‘too many years in Nepal’ status I don’t have slightest craze for Momo but I didn’t want to deprive my loved ones from its pleasure. Soon we crossed Ghoom and reached Darjeeling town to find our pre-booked Kakjhora Forest Rest House is in the outer edge of the town. From Ghoom itself we kept pacing towards our destination almost side by side to a moving toy-train packed with tourists. The loud noise made by the tiny diesel locomotive pulling a three compartment carriage and filling the whole market, sometimes brushing the goods of the adjacent footpath stalls is the real picture-perfect frame for any traveler/photo-enthusiast. Unfortunately I couldn’t manage a fitting shot from my moving taxi.
A failed Trip to Darjeeling - the temptation of Toy Train
The fine interior of the rest house and the homely lunch prepared for us by caretaker’s mother made us forget the woe of staying away from the center of the town. Added to that the pleasant sight of passing by toy-train at regular interval of time by the road down our room clearly visible from giant windowpanes gave me enough solace to opt for a post-lunch nap. There was no hurry to awake us before dusk and then we strolled towards mall road. It was quite an exhaustive uphill walk and I could very clearly feel the extra effort my limb muscles were putting in. I decided to seal the next day’s itinerary, so booked an I10 at Upper Club-side Vehicle Owner’s association for local sightseeing plus sunrise viewing from Tiger Hill. Then, with our remaining vigor and clock time (in Darjeeling they close the market pretty fast!) we didn’t really have much options. A shopping hour seemed more appropriate that loitering around the mall, so hunt for winter-wear/woolens followed. I suffered the same fate like shopping in Nepal… I couldn’t manage a likable hoodie of my size, although that didn’t hamper others’ purchases (yea, poor me!).
A failed Trip to Darjeeling - the temptation of Toy Train
Oh it was time to return as the caretaker had requested us to do so before nine. There was no time to take my dinner outside (reason being, I was the only fool among us not to order food in the guest house itself)… I packed a Pizza from Boney’s snacks bar. In the middle of the way we passed by the sleeping toy-train station whose presence was being trumpeted by a couple of barking dogs and standstill puffing steam engines veiled by foggy air and dark shadows. After returning back when rest of us enjoyed the steaming fresh food I realized the futility of settling with an Italian item (Hey don’t presume that my pizza was bland). Next day our taxi was supposed to pick us up by three in the morning, so, switching off the TV with an early goodnight was the sensible decision. Do not forget to be back in your leisure to read my next blog post on mesmerizing Sunrise over the Tiger Hill

3 comments:

  1. Temptation of toy train....interesting read.

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