Darjeeling is one of the most absurdly beautiful yet boring place I had been to. Oops! Don’t get me wrong, I can spend months there thinking only a week has passed, the place is too beautiful but there’s nothing much to do there (apart from riding toy train and singing like Dev Anand).
This specially in contrast with Gangtok where you can visit the local sites and day trips are available on tap 24×7. So, I decided to break one of my own rule, I decided to venture out to the zoo. Why don’t I like to go to a zoo? Well, consider this, zoo is a prison for animals. They have their own lives, which they are meant to live out in their habitat, in the wild. These animals are not meant for entertainment – Kids take note.
I feel like such a hypocrite right now…
Anyway, I decided to go for one and only one bloody reason: I had to see the red panda, having had a taste of it in Bhutan (guess what? I didn’t eat it of-course). I fired up Google map and got the walking directions, the zoo was some 2 kms from my hotel. Since I was feeling too tired to walk, I decided to take a cab. I was pointed to a general direction where I could get an e-rickshaw. And when I finally reached the central square, people said, there ain’t any rickshaw here.
So, I walked on. I didn’t have any problems with walking a short distance, it was just that the zoo would close by four. On the way I had some delicious momo at a roadside eatery. I like fried ones, steamed momos are just plain boring.
I reached the zoo just in time, the entrance fee was whooping(!) 30 INR and there was an unbelievably high camera fee too, 10 bucks! I checked the map painted on the wall just after the entrance. For the red panda I had to take the right turn.
And just there, a few steps ahead, there he was, the creature himself, Mr. Red Panda, caged inside a small artificial jungle.
To describe the animal in three words: Gorgeous! Hyperactive! and …
I never saw it at one place, it just kept on walking and walking – something a hamster would do. Did it have a heavy lunch and now was taking an afternoon walk? Was it trying to burn some fat? It proved very difficult to take picture of this little devil.
I spent good 20 minutes waiting for it to calm down, but in vain, I was beginning to loose my patience, and in the end I moved on. When I came back after some time I saw it had finally decided to call off the walking, apparently it his was supper time. The creature was chomping on his favorite dish… the bamboo shoots.
I skipped rest of the animals and headed straight to the famed mountaineering institute. It indeed proved out to be very interesting one. The highlight was the section dedicated to Everest expedition: there right in front of me were the artifacts that the legendary mountaineer Norgay used in the 1959 expedition.
The whole thing, my goal of scaling Mt Everest flashed in front of my eyes. But of course first I had to get in shape. I cursed myself for being so lethargic, and decided then and there to dedicate time to fitness. To start immediately on the correct path, I’d stop taking rickshaws.
I came out of the zoo around the closing time, I took the hill Carter road, with a walk to happy valley tea estate in mind. It was getting dark and to my disappointment the happy valley tea estate was already closed, but the little tea shop just near the factory was still open. It sold the same brew, but at cheaper prices. Tea Tasting Time!
With a fresh brew in my hand and a view of the cascading tea garden descending into clouds I felt a strange wave of relaxation surge through my body.
Who was I? I thought, there was no answer. I was stuck in Bangalore, trapped in my own made up concrete jungle. I saw a child running through the lush green meadows, and I saw rainbow, and I saw an apple tree laden with fruits, and I saw a spring meandering through at a lazy pace, and I saw my reflection in the water.. Was is it me? Perhaps in some other life.
The second day in Darjeeling was largely spent walking around. I was supposed to get up early (like really early; very, very early; like 3 A.M. early) to catch the Sunrise over Kanchenjunga. The alarm went off, I opened my eyes, cursed the phone, switched the alarm off and I was back in the dreamland in no time.
A few hours later when I finally got up, I cursed myself for not getting up and missing the whole legendary Kanchenjunga Sunrise.
I walked to Ghoom (a nearby town), took some pictures and then walked back. While going I took the Tenzing Norgay road but while coming back I took the back road which passed through the Cantt area. A little detour through the woods got me to Peace Pagoda, one of the twenty Japanese temple scattered all over the world. I didn’t know at that time, about a year later I’d be standing in another Peace Pagoda, this time in Sri Lanka.
The day ended with a plate full of cheese Momos (damn!) at the popular Joing Kunga restaurant. Those Momos proved really difficult to finish off. Damn, they were heavy, and at the same time I couldn’t leave them, they were so yum!
I slept early, in anticipation of the big day. I was going for the much awaited, magical sunrise of Kangchenjunga, after all. But will I get up my ass up in time or will it be the same push-the-alrm-off-and-throw-the-cellphone show all over again… ?
Why you must visit Darjeeling? Consider these things to do in Darjeeling:
- Darjeeling Tea Gardens
- Authentic Darjeeling Tea
- Red Panda, the cutie
- The joy ride in Darjeeling Toy Train
- The Glimpse of the first rays of the day on the majestic Kunchenjunga
- Lots of beautiful, relaxing walks in the nature.