Crusade to the east
Hyd- Plane to Kolkata- Late night Train to NJP- Local to Jalpaiguri- Stay at Sujoya’s place- then Sikkim- Laachung and Yumthaang- momos-Nathula Pass- more momos- 'go softly on my curves'- Darjeeling- Kolkata- the metro- Eden gardens-bone in the kebab @ Millennium Park- dinner- Masala Coke- defrosting- fever- Hyd.
Friday a holiday for Pooja saw us setting an OofO reply and we unplugged ourselves from Cyberspace. We had a Spiced jet to take us to Calcutta, and then with heavy bag and all, we kinda spend time at the Victoria Memorial… I tried establishing contact with Baachu (aka Anirban Mitra), but couldn't met up with him due to some well really unfortunate turn of events...So after resting for a while at Victoria Memorial we took a cab an went to the Sealdha Station... here with some 'eye candy' sponsored by some SIT students we managed to pull through the long 3 hrs for our train...Boarded the late night train to NJP… and then to Jalpaiguri.
Just when the trip was turning out to be a lil boring for all reasons ranging from Lambhu/Mottu Ash Network issues, my superbly aching shoulders thanks to the Mega-tonne space pack, the definite absence of Pathla Ash but then we met Sujoya (Well it was a first meet for me, Lambhu/mottu Ash and Raghu were like best buds of Sujoya). Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Sujoya Bhoumik, our tour manager, coordinator/choreographer, our single source of food and lodging at Jalpaiguri. Sujoya was there to escort us back to her place at the station. Well I could go and write a whole bible about this character from the 3 days that I know her, limiting myself to a few lines... Sujoya is a very bubbly character... a very friendly person, has a great sense of humor, is an amazing host, plans out stuff meticulously and another thing is that... this Bubbli is pretty crazy about is the real Bunty… The stay at Sujoya's place was the best, we were treated like kings. Amazing food... fish... a superb stay... as promised Sujoya did move on to the sofa and sacrificed her bedroom for us. Her parents were like the most coolest people I’ve ever met, made us feel at home all the while, superb hosts (That tells us a lot from where Sujoya gets best traits from). Both her appa and amma are BSNL employees very friendly folks, very happy to have Sujoya friends at their place; Sujoya has brother, married and now in US. Well more on Sujoya in a blog or something, now that I have crossed my quota of few lines on Sujoya... so back to the trip.
We roamed around in Jalpaiguri, there is an awesome view of the Teesta River near her place, we took a boat ride in the semi dried up river, and we got down right in one of those river beds in the middle of the river. Then we had food, food fit for kings and in quantity to feed the whole of Jalpaiguri or one pathla Aswin. Had a full stomach lunch, rested a while talked about office and stuff, the again in the evening set out to see the nearby temples, pandaals in the neighboring places. Its durga pooja in the whole of the country and celebrated much like onam in the south. We have pookalams to greet Mahabali to Kerala, these guys have huge ... humongous pandaalas to greet Durga for her 4 days of stay away from her in-laws. After dinner we set out to see all the pandaals in and around Jalpaiguri, in a cab specially booked for us, amazing efforts and talent were put into these pandaals, designs in various shapes and sizes, variety in materials used. Had some great fun going to these places, we ended up pretty tired and went to bed.
We could not visit that temple with the pond beside it, thanks to every lazy bone in Ashwin’s, Raghu’s and Sujoya’s body. After a full stomach breakfast of luchi and sabzee we said bye to Sujoya's place. Next stop Gangtok, a 4 hr drive in a SUMO. We snaked our way through the hills with the river Teesta flowing against us, that drive gave us such great sceneries of the valleys and the river. The ride had its share of finger cross-ed roads, with half of the road been eaten up by a landslide. The 4 hr drive took us to Hotel Nagebeli in Gangtok. It was raining in Gangtok; we went in search of some food and called it a night. It's going to be two really long days ahead of us. A beautiful valley, a green stream that flows through the valley, snow covered mountains which surround this feast for eyes, you want to give this feast for the eye a name- Sikkim taught us to call it 'Yumthang'. Totally a 'Lord of the rings' locale is what i can say about this place. If you take a drive from Yumthang to where the road ends at a place called 'Zero Point' for reasons unknown, a few mountains from there is the Republic of China. Zero point, a place similar to Yumthang, but what was more catchy was the long winding roads and the on-road scenery to this remoteness. More snow clad mountains, a more feeble stream which flows through the valley. A beautiful sight, a sweet memory a place to be. This is one of those places which make you feel that you should have worn that thigh hugging jeans rather than those baggy khakis
Two days to get us to Yumthang, zero point and back. We spent the rest of the day, what was left of it, shopping souvenirs. Next day we took the high route to 14,420 ft to Nathula Pass. We took a SUMO again this time as we made our way through the Indian military camps, firing ranges, all the way to Nathula the Indo-Sino border part of the old 'Silk Route'. Now this place is freezing, with temperatures sinking to the minuses. But a hot cup of tomato soup at cafe 14k brings back a warm feeling to the place; we claimed a certificate for Scaling 14k and making it to the border. We took some pictures at the boarder. I sneaked a part of my self a full feet across the border, i have digital evidence to prove this espionage activity.
After Nathula we spent our last night in Sikkim cos next day we leave for Darjeeling, The trip to Darjeeling was really cool, beautiful sceneries as you make your way own the down the hills from Gangtok and up the tea plantation hills. Once in Darjeeling it took us a while some amount of 'Amazing racing' to find our hotel, well it would have been a bit more easy if they have the yellow flag like the Amazing race. After brunch we arranged for tomorrow's ride to Tiger hill and arranged for a cab of our won to visit a few more places in Darjeeling within our target time of 2 O’clock in the afternoon. We shopped for Darjeeling tea, bought a few for the guys at hid. Next day we woke up by 4 and boy 4 in the morning has never felt this cold for me in this like, maybe it's all because I’ve never seen a 4 O'clock morning in my lifetime, but a real cold experience, it's not worth a repeat.
Now a bunch of people, well bunch is an understatement, we are talking people from all corners of India; they are here to get a glimpse of a rising sun. People who find this a bit odd, welcome to my side of the world. The crowd went, crazy as the sun peaked out from the horizon. It’s just like how you pictured it in Lion King and all (this is for the un-fortunate ones like me who never make it early enough to see the sun rise.). It's a sight worth spending an early freezing morning. But there was another thing which made the entire ordeal worthwhile, the view of the Kanchenjunga, after the sun rises, the side of the Kanchenjunga will be as if covered in gold or as i would to say covered in very light caramel. Now after tiger hill, we had breakfast and went back to our hotel and checked out, we boarded our Cab and raced against time to cover the rest of Darjeeling. Places that we did cover in that time were, the Japanese Peace Pagoda, The Everest Museum, The Zoo, few other temples, and Batista Loop, with that we bid farewell to Darjeeling and entered the final lap in this Grand prix to the east, bye bye Darjeeling thanks for all the memories, my Indiana Jones hat, now it's back to Howrah. We reached NJP in like 5 hrs, caught our train to Howrah, we reached Howrah a few hours late which cost us a visit to a very important temple. We freshened up at of course our Sujoya's place and went on a sponsored trip to a few temples, a very memorable boat ride then a full stomach lunch at her place again. We then set out to see Kolkata under lights, we took the metro and it was really superb, superbest if you ask me. I loved the Delhi metro and now this metro is the bestest.
We wanted to take a ride on the tram too but we couldn't we (Read as Sujoya-this 'near to five foot of woman' was built with all the right ingredients pick a fight with taxi guys and taxi meters) fought our way in a cab to Millennium Park or let us call this Kissing zone in the whole of Kolkata. We did find it real odd to be the 'haddi in the kebab' in the whole place. We managed to find a place and make it the most unromantic spot in the whole park; we talked about Appraisals, marriages, women, TDH etc. When we decided to break for dinner, we moved from all this romance to City center mall. We had dinner we rounded the night we a shot of 'Masala Coke'-that’s coke in an earthen pot and with hajmola candy powder. We bought sweets from a shop near Sujoya's place and retired to our hotel. The next day's train ticket will take us back home and well it did, here's me keying in memories of yet another crusade. Now for the key takeaways of this years crusade a superb trip to remember all my life, a new friend in Sujoya, to have gone on-site without a visa, to have touched snow and to have seen snow
I'll let you guys in another secret I heard the next crusade is going international... so till the next crusade... it's me signing off... need any help in planning out a trip to the east... you know how to get in touch :-)