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Visit to the quiet hills of Gangtok

  • Submitted by: Roo Jana, India
  • Submission Date: 16th Jun 2008

A tryst with nature

I woke up to the sound of the rattling of coaches. I suddenly realized where I was and a smile broke out. We (my parents, aunt and I)were on our way to Gangtok, Sikkim. I had just finished my last exam for class X. I was free and we were going to the heavenly destination that frequently haunted my dreams. I had wanted to explore the hills, ever since I had heard about it. With a song in my heart and a jingle playing in my mind I prepared to disembark from the train. It was 4 '0 clock in the morning and our train was just about to reach Siligiri.

As we landed in Siliguri I could feel the nip in the air. It had been raining and a certain chill had descended. We waited in the semi – darkness for transportation to reach our destination – Gangtok. Finally, a jeep turned up and shivering, I huddled in with my family. As we were traveling through the winding roads of the hills, dawn was slowly breaking. It was one of the most beautiful sights that I had seen. The Tista river flowed like a iron belt amidst lush greenery. As we were passing, we would catch glimpses of small cottages.

Finally we arrived at our hotel --”the Oasis” on old school road. We checked in and after a hurried breakfast set off to explore the hills of Gangtok. A rented car took us to the local monastery and some tourist points. Wherever we went, I was spellbound by the unspoilt natural beauty of the hills all round.

The following morning I was feverish, but determined not to waste even a moment of this dream holiday, I insisted on going out. Again we set off for the local attractions of this bustling capital of Sikkim. One of the fascinating features that intrigued me were the houses. The terrace was at street level! To reach the entrance you had to go down a flight of steep stairs.

We visited the famous Rumtek monastery. The sight of young and old monks, dressed in similar gold and maroon garb was interesting. Small boys of 4 and 5 were reading from scrolls of ancient manuscripts. Their dedication was really touching. One of the memorable things that I remember doing is to roll the ancient drums. It is believed that while rolling these drum like things, full of illegible (at least to me!) inscriptions, if you wish something then that comes true. I thought really?! And decided to give it a try. I wished for my results to be good!

The next morning I was running a temperature of 1050C. Our overnight program to visit the picturesque villages of Pelling and Yuksom were spoiled. For two days I tossed in bed, restless to explore the various attractions of Sikkim. Finally on the third day I was well enough to take the much anticipated trip to Cchangu Lake and Nathula Pass.

While traveling I felt the cold mountain air whispering many a secret to me. There was an underlying anticipation that gripped me, as I traveled towards our destination. We rented some clothes, big rubber boots and thick coats. Thus harnessed to battle the chilly winds, we walked to Cchangu Lake. Once there, I was awe struck. The lake (which was a sheet of gleaming ice), reflected the image of a snow capped mountain peak. As I stood gazing at this beautiful sight, my attention was drawn to a pair of odd looking animals. They looked to me, to be a cross between a cow and a bull with lots of hair. I later came to know that these were known as “Chomori guys”.

We set off for Nathula Pass from there. Our camera was seized as photography was not allowed. Army officials told us the rules and one even accompanied us. I was captivated by the glorious whiteness of snow. The sight would be embedded in my memory, forever. The climb up, is both thrilling and exciting. But we were halted half way up, for the thin air made breathing difficult. So with a feeling of disappointment we came down.

My disappointment soon evaporated as we dug into delicious piping hot momos (local delicacy) and gulped down the steaming bowls of soup. A sip of warm water, with a hint of brandy soon cleared the numbness. In the gathering dusk, we set off for our journey back to the hotel.

Next day was occupied with shopping for souvenirs and gifts to take back home. Umbrellas, coats and traditional costumes of hill women were among the various things that we got.

Early in the morning, after a quick breakfast I bid goodbye to the pristine hills of Gangtok. Our car raced down the winding hill path towards Siliguri. Once aboard the train, I couldn't help feeling a sense of sadness. Is this the last? Will I ever visit again? Were the questions bothering me. The signal went off and soon the train eased out of the station. As I made my way back to Kolkata, I vowed to return to the hills once again. Even before we landed I could feel an almost magnetic pull towards the quiet hills of Gangtok.