After the busy winter, monsoon held us long in labs except a day’s outing at Tajpur. Lest our Puja vacation gets hampered, we kept ourselves buried in work (still no progress was accounted by my supervisor; as there was really none to note) when the post-monsoon days glided by, too. But in early September, the climate changed all-of-a-sudden: the clouds got replaced; the rain stopped and the working-class people were spotted in Hatibagan in weekday evenings for buying new dresses. On such a day over breakfast, we planned for a trip before winter hits as my fellow-travellers had determined their destination already: “Mountain is what we demand” Nilay called. With a sad gasp, Subhayan added: “I have seen ice only in fridge”! Inspired by their demands and compelled by their budget, I suggested for a trip to Lava, Lolegaon, Rishyap and Gorumara and the idea was greeted by everyone.
Then came October with a Puja trip in pages of History. After returning from home after the Puja vacation, we sat once again to finalize stuff: we got a team of 12 and the 3-day trip was scheduled in November of 2018. Accordingly, we booked the train tickets, hotels (Kaafal Guest House, Contact: 9832094597 at Lolegaon and Tibet Homestay, Contact: 8967236925 at Rishyap) and cabs (Ramen, Contact: 9679868649).
After finishing the day’s work, we gathered at our hostel and started by 6.30 pm to board Karmabhoomi express from KGP. We reached the station just in time but had time for posing for a few photos.
Playing cards for 2-3 hours, finally we had our dinner and settled in our allotted berths. But couldn’t sleep early.
Unline the popular trains like Darjeeling mail, Padatik express or Uttarbanga express, Karmabhoomi express reaches NJP late. So, we got enough time to attend rounds of teas and brisk breakfasts before finally getting down by 11.15 am.
We came outside, called Ramen and met Anupam (Contact: 9932321998; Car: WB73C1907) and Bijay (Contact: 9800864773; Car: WB67A 6407), the two drivers Ramen sent with his 2 Boleros. As we were already late, made no more delay and started for Gajoldoba.
We planned to have a quick lunch near Gajoldoba Tista barrage but watching Tista so near, we couldn’t resist ourselves.
We went to the river …
… hoping for a boat-ride, which
we bargained and managed to get within Rs. 400 for 2 of them. Being scared of water, I refused for a ride but to shoot photos from the bank.
Boating wasn’t easy on mighty Tista. It gave a tremendous challenge for the old boatman when my friends asked him to move in front of the gate, which was slightly open.
After the boat-ride for 20 minutes, we hurried to the restaurant for lunch. We had a delicious fish meal for Rs. 110 and started for Lolegaon.
Cutting across the tea-gardens, we moved on to Oodlabari …
… where astonishingly, our driver took right (left is for Sevoke and right is for Gorubathan). They seemed to reach Lolegaon, via Gorubathan and Lava, but I asked them to follow the left one. Finally, Bijay suggested for a shortcut from Bagrakote. Although I wasn’t sure, I agreed to his terms.
But that was a huge mistake as the route was neither a short-cut nor it was in good shape. Moreover, the drivers didn’t know the route properly and made us late. Being diverted from the conventional route via Kalimpong, we missed all the spots we thought we would visit. Finally, by 4 pm, we reached Charkhole.
From Charkhole, asking paths from locals we started again. But soon near Samther Khasmahal, we got lost. The local drivers seemed helpless and asking us repeatedly for routes from Google maps.
After trying all possible route combinations, we came back to Charkhole by sunset once again. One local man, then, came forward and took us to the path we missed. He showed the path, which went pass Jhandi Dhara viewpoint to Lolegaon to us and left. We then started for Lolegaon again and finally reached Lolegaon by 8 pm.
Due to over-smartness of the drivers, we missed all the spots yet, got tired. Not reliving the mistakes afresh, I decided to have some snacks before settling at the hotel. As we reached late, we had no other way than being content with egg-meals at dinner. After getting freshened up a bit, we took our dinner and got lost into the coziness of the beds.
When the alarm rang, we found it too hard to leave the quilts to snooze it. But at the same time, after missing the spots the other day, we were eager for some glimpses of Kanchenjunga. One-by-one we woke up, got ready for the chilled vibe and came outside. But, there was no sign of Sun, darkness still prevailed all around except the silvery full moon.
While waiting for the sunrise, we surveyed the whole park in search of the best spot to view the sunrise. Finally, the sun rose amid layers of mountains and pine forests.
At Lolegaon, the sunrise viewpoint was located opposite to the Kangchenjunga viewpoint, having the park in between. So ogling the red star, we rushed to the reverse only after ordering coffees.
Kanchenjunga was discernible at the distance, which Sayantan was found estimating with great attention.
Everyone was reluctant about leaving the sight of the sleeping Buddha; so I ordered a few plates of momo. In the meantime, I tried to contact the drivers, but none picked up the calls. Shooting faunas and playfulness of others, we …
… walked to the Buddhist temple.
After ordering breakfast, finally, we came back to hotel, took bathe and checked out.
After finishing breakfast, we started for the Canopy Walk. Driving for 15 minutes, we reached there and booked entry tickets for Rs. 15 per head. Inside the heritage forest of Lolegaon, resides a long wooden bridge bound with various trees and posts by rusty wires of iron.
Although only 5 persons are allowed to walk through the bridge at once, it might be dangerous due to low maintenance.
Yet, the bridge proved its robustness withstanding the defiant hops of Amlan when I was at the middle of the bridge.
We were about to start for Ramdhura then, but Anupam refused for the trip. Instead of repeated requests from Ramen when Anupam didn’t agree, Ramen asked us to get dropped at Rishyap. For the trouble, he offered us a huge rebate and believing him, we agreed. Losing the spots on the first day and then repeating the same on the second day, my friends were getting irritated; moreover, I found a pattern in these drivers: they always follow a jungle trail although roads, in better condition, are available.
On way to Rishyap, they took the trail inside Lava forest. To have lunch, they suggested that we must reach Lava first. On our way to Lava, we visited Ugen Mindrol Samten Ling Monastery.
Being located in a vast plain and offering a milieu of mountains, the monastery was a spectacle we cherished for long.
Ramdhura being deleted from the menu, we had no hurry in reaching Rishyap. So, we avidly treasured what we got.
Afterwards, we reached Lava to have lunch. After lunch, we opted to visit the nearby Lava monastery.
Lava monastery, officially named as Kagyu Thekchen Ling Monastery, comprised of a monastery along with retreat centre and institutions for studies, is placed in a huge premise.
Some of my friends got busy in marketing souvenirs at the monastery shops. Later, we started for Rishyap.
By the nice pine forest, we took a break …
… but, soon reached our hotel at Rishyap. According to Ramen, we asked our drivers to leave after the payment Ramen asked us to pay. Without wasting time thereupon, we opted for the vista offered at a nearby view-point.
While others stayed at the view-point, I came with Nilay to arrange campfire and cabs for the following day. The drivers, still present in a morose mood, complained about how Ramen cheated them and asked us for booking them for the next day’s trip for an amount of Rs. 5500. Dealing that would again chop Changey waterfalls from the plan, but might help us from the effort of searching a new cab. Considering it for a while, we again agreed to that and started preparing for the campfire.
After futile attempt of killing the cold in front of the fire for hours, we had our dinner and went for a sound sleep.
I dozed off the alarm and was sleeping comfortably when Arindam knocked at the door asking for the camera. I had no intention to view the sunrise leaving the blanket that soon, but there was no point of getting in bed after getting out once, I thought. So in spite of giving him the camera, I came out with it.
We walked the uphill to the view-point to get the glimpse of Kanchenjunga.
We tried to capture some panoramas and …
the changes with light.
Finally, we came to our hotel to take a bath and have breakfast. We checked out from the hotel and started for Gorubathan viewpoint by 9 am. But before leaving Rishyap, we bid good-bye to the K for the final time.
Following the switchback roads, we gradually came down to the plain.
By 11.30 am, we reached Gorubathan viewpoint where Bijay got a tyre punctured. They arranged another cab from Lataguri and after its arrival, we started again for the forest.
We reached the Gorumara national park booking counter and booked tickets for all of us. Followed by that, we had our lunch at a way-side hotel. When we were about to start our jeep-safari, Anupam called me. He asked for the whole amount in spite of the fact: they didn’t show us all the spots. Irritated by their behaviour already, some of my friends got furious. But being a local boy, Anupam already had a backup of his local car syndicate and friends, who eventually forced us to pay the full-money or else they threatened to made us miss our train. I didn’t get a chance for a logical discussion on this. Moreover, amidst continuous abuses from Anupam’s friends, I feared that sudden altercations may take the form of unwanted skirmish. Calling Ramen, we understood that he was playing this game right from the beginning (not showing the spots saving fuels and staging his friends for the final count-down). Anupam tactfully posed his game and with no more time in hand, we had no other means to agree with his terms once again. We went for the Safari in a gloomy mood; and returned so. Gorumara offered us sights of peacocks, gaurs and herons.
Coming back from the safari, we paid the amount and some other syndicate drivers took us to New Mal junction (NMZ).
Having tea and samosas, we boarded the train. We enjoyed the trip to the fullest but got harassed to the extreme at the same time. Not digging up the mishap over-and-over, we opted for playing cards until it was dinner time. Relinquishing our missed spots for a next trip, we chose to rest.
The train was on time all night. We woke up to have some teas before we had to bid bye to each other.
I boarded off at DAKE where others moved for SDAH.
Overall, it was a nice trip, which could be way better if not conducted with people like Ramen, Anupam or Bijay.
If such things happen to a group of bachelors, I doubt how they will treat families. Such aggravated behaviour from Ramen and his gang-members will certainly diminish our love for Dooars a bit.
At the same time, I keep their details here, so that others can avoid them; so, a bad experience.
[In left: Bijay; In right: Anupam]