D4 – The Gloom in Ghum

It looked promising that morning and I hoped it would remain a bright clear day. Going by the luck we had during our monsoon visit – seeing Kanchenjunga in all her glory – I was pretty sure I would have similar luck this time. Batasia had been visited umpteen times by now and today it had to be different – I just had to see that marvelous train set against the backdrop of the Himalayas. So on a hunch I rode the ‘joy train’ to Ghum that morning and was informed by yet another inebriated member of the railway staff that we would have a ten minute stoppage at Batasia. Great! I thought – this would be that elusive dramatic opening shot I was looking for. But my luck had begun to run out by then..

All I got was a half hearted silhouette of the hill formation across from Batasia! I could use some photoshop magic and create the illusion for you but I haven’t the energy to do so and would rather you make a visit there and see it for yourself – maybe you’ll be luckier than I was. Till then I shall wait for that day..

The weather conditions in the hills are known to change dramatically through the course of a day. More so in the monsoons when the cloud formations are plentiful and low. In the winter however the visitor is likely to be compensated for freezing temperatures by some unhindered views of the most grand mountain range in the world. Apparently those clear days seemed to have vanished completely on my arrival in the hills! On our return from Gayabari later that day, we were hit by very heavy fog en route necessitating a complete stop on one occasion. Scary! The fog seemed to lift after we passed Kurseong but the views remained, at best, cloudy! Meanwhile the sun seemed to have deserted us completely and what remained was a uncomfortably cold passage back to Darjeeling. A few kms away from our destination and it shone for a very brief spell in fading evening light and cast a golden hue on the town of Darjeeling.

A warm welcome indeed!

A little later I was finally in the heated confines of the Windermere Hotel – another must visit / must stay location in Darj. Easily one of the most beautifully restored heritage properties in the country. I’ll leave those rantings for a separate blog though! I was there to interview the same Bengali gent who I had met at the Planter’s Club the previous day and this time not only did I get ‘high tea’ for free but also a peak inside the DHR Club (Darjeeling Himalayan Railway) in the hotel.

The tea was good (without milk of course!), the biscuits were reminiscent of Shrewsbury’s and did I mention, I had my first ever experience of a working fireplace..

The good life, I tell you 😉

Quick stop at ‘Dekewas’ for piping hot Momos, soup and some Tibetan Herbal Tea and for a moment I thought I was a foreigner in Darjeeling. There were 13 of us packed into that tiny eatery (add it to your list!) and I was the only ‘Desi’ there!!

The mall (a different meaning in hill stations as against what you city spoilt brats are used to) was quite dead by then and the only thing of interest at that unearthly hour (again by hill station standards) was 3 of the 33 rickshaws that took part in the Rickshaw run from Cochin to Darj.

That was my last day in Darjeeling. Tomorrow I make my long journey back to reality..

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