Darjeeling has always been the destination for Christmas, for most of the Indians, including me. The hill station harbors a pack of tourists from every nook and corner of the world. And being the British summer capital alongside Shimla, the place is a heritage. But visiting Darjeeling every single Christmas is too mainstream. So I decided to visit Darjeeling but not the same old and new hill station.
No words can explain the beauty of Dawaipani. Yes, this is the place I visited this Christmas along with Samir Saha, Atanu Chakravarty, Abhik Ray, Subhash Saha and Joydeep Das. Situated in the opposite mountain of Darjeeling, that is the famous Tiger Hill, the place is deprived of sunlight for most of the day. Rangaroon tea estate, which is situated at the foot of Tiger Hill, gets its first sunrays of the day at early afternoon. So you can pretty much imagine how hard the life is in the cold winter when the mercury hits subzero level.
Dawaipani or as it translates, Medicated water, is the nature’s own hospital for curing emotional and physical stress. After visiting the place I thought where is this medicated water? I wanted to see from where it gets its name. I asked a locale. He said to me that the name is derived from khola or a river that passes the village and is located a bit below. Riang provided the villagers who went downhill to fetch valuable forest things like wood, medicines and food, with sweet water to quench their thirst. It can even heal wounds. Sounded a little fictitious but who am I to judge. The road to the river is pretty hard and I didn’t dare to take the road down. One day I will.
Dawaipani offers you a spectacular view of the “Sleeping Buddha” or you might know it as Kanchendzonga. I previously mentioned that the exoticness of the place is indescribable in words. But I will try my best to convey the beauty in words. A mahoosive task! [The Featured Image]
From the “tin mile” or the 3rd mile more we took the right road that goes straight down, very steeply winding and binding its way through the dense pine forest. In the cold winters and even in the warm days, sunlight barely reaches the ground. And within that black dense darkness inhabits one of my favorite birds, The Blackbird. But this time I couldn’t find one. We crossed the Leopard breeding centre and stepped in the small version of Sikkim silk route, but with a steepness of a slide. But our experienced driver managed to land us safely. And we were welcomed by the massive and immense white of Kanchendzonga.
I have been to the north Bengal section of Himalayas since I can remember. I have seen the blood red and the molten gold phases of the snowy peaks, the crown of North Bengal. But every time, every single time, Buddha doesn’t disappoint. This time I have seen it or her or him like never before.
And our cottage was located at such a point from where I can sit in the bed, have the tea and enjoy the sunrise and the sunset without leaving the warmth of the quilt. But the cold was bitter. Even with four layers of cloth on me, the chilly winds were piercing hard, fingers were going numb and the only redemption was either the liquid blanket or a dive in lava; second one being impossible. 😛
We took a day to get accustomed. Our main concern of this trip was birding. Himalayan birds have always eluded me, so I can never spend enough to get a glimpse of those bright colors and their puffiness.
But the trip didn’t dishearten me from the food side also. Pork and chicken and hand made flat breads with fresh vegetables were delicious after the long walks. Bhabiji (Sashikala Rai) is an excellent cook that’s for sure. I have again no words to mention the food. They provided us with everything we asked for. From hot rice and chicken, the local ones to delicious Aloo Paratha. We even arranged a little bonfire. And tried our hands in roasting chickens. But the samples turned out bad. So we asked kabiraj ji to cook them. 3kilograms of white meat devoured by 6 giants. What an evening! 😀
For Birding we trekked like 12kms and more maybe but due to dampness and severe chill in the air bird density was very low, they might have migrated to the hills getting proper sunlight, their only source of warmth. But whatever we found were lifers, starting from Bar Throated Siva to Himalayan Vultures.
The real challenge was facing the chilly nights and shooting milky way arms and the brightly lit Darjeeling hills.
Enjoy the photographs now.
Nearest Railway Station: New Jalpaiguri Railway Station.
Nearest Airport: Bagdogra Airport
Route: From NJP station you can take a car and ask them to take you to Dawaipani. But be positive that the driver is an experienced one. You can contact Zero Point, who conducted my trip, to plan yours too.
Zero Point number: +919903228000(for domestic use)
2. 00919903228000 (for international use)
The homestay is maintained by Kabiraj Rai and his wife Sashikala Rai and their two sons. Don’t expect grand fiesta, but you will be amazed by the hospitality they serve.
Few Tips: Take warm clothing any time of the year. It last snowed in 2007. But the water can collapse you even in warm months. And more over, be sure and be careful.
More Pictures are coming soon… Stay tuned