Just few years back in December 2012 we made a short trip to north Bengal.I would like to share my experiences during my trip to kalimpong, lava, Rishyap and Hollong.
Day 1 : Njp to Kalimpong
We reached NJP by padatik express from sealdah at around 9.30 am. From NJP station it is very difficult to find a shared cab to kalimpong. We waited in vain for about 15-20 min, the cab drivers are willing to take exclusively for a hefty price. With no other option we took an auto to Panitanki. Panitanki is the place from where shared jeeps goes to kalimpong. Panitanki is about 15 min by auto from NJP station. We purchased three front row seats (though we are two of us but they said three persons seats beside driver in the front row !!) . The road condition is ok, but in few areas the road is being repaired and so we were stuck in 1-2 places. We got down at kalimpong main cab stand. Our hotel was booked at Deolo Tourist lodge which is 20 min more from kalimpong. We had to take another cab which took us to Deolo. The whole journey from njp to deolo was little more than 3hrs and cost us Rs 580 for two. Deolo is a superb place, it is the highest point in Kalimpong. Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council maintains Deolo Tourist Lodge which is on a hill top (the hill name is Deolo) in a huge compound with lots of tall trees and beautiful gardens around, its lush green everywhere. Booking : Deolo: Rs. 2000 per night, booking done from DGHC office Kolkata. Undoubtedly this is the best spot in Kalimpong. The tourist lodge has rooms in ground floor as well as top floor. Every rooms are wooden inside and have a nice balcony. Room heater were provided at extra cost. We stayed at a top floor room and the room was big, very spacious and cosy. One disadvantage we found was that the canteen foods are just ok. You may not get the food of your choice and food is costly. You have no other choice as there are no restaurants outside (though we had seen some food joints outside but they closes in the evening), as because Deolo is in a lonely place far from the hustle bustle of the kalimpong city. We took lunch of fish, rice and mixed veg and then decided to take a walk in the garden outside. It was very cold outside accompanied by chilly breeze (Deolo is a hill top that might be the reason of more cold than kalimpong town). After a brief walk we went back to our rooms. One more thing, you have to go to the canteen and say what you want for dinner or lunch, I went there in the evening and asked for tea and snacks and ordered the dinner too. Dinner was provided in our room at night.
Day 2 : Kalimpong (Deolo)
We woke up early at 5.45 am to catch a glimpse of Mt. Kanchenjunga. From the garden area you can sit and enjoy the sun rise. As the sun rises Mt. K slowly starts getting visible with orange hue on it. It is really beautiful and in our case the sky was clear so we got a clear view of Mt. K and other peaks. The good thing is that we did not have to travel to other places for seeing this, we saw this right from our place, sitting in the garden amidst trees and flowers and enjoying the sun rise. There was no crowd and it was complete silence. After seeing Mt K with all our heart we decided to have breakfast in the food joints available outside. You can have momo, maggi etc. After breakfast we strolled the entire compound, it was indeed a good walk among beautiful flowers and lush green field and Mt. K always by our side. The whole area, the garden is very well maintained. You can also take a horse ride in the compound. Tourist starts coming to visit deolo generally from 10am as because this is also a sightseeing point. We went for sightseeing, the exclusive cab was arranged by the caretaker of Deolo, Sightseeing points include cactus nursery, Dr. Graham school, Golf course, few monastery, etc (cost : Rs 1100).. we had our lunch in kalimpong town in a Bengali restaurant , it was not good, and did some marketing (as there is no shop in deolo). We returned around evening and after another stroll in the garden at night went to sleep.
Today we will visit Lava which is 1 hr and 30 min from kalimpong. We again got up early to visit Mt. K and then finished breakfast and our cab was ready to take us to Lava. The cab was exclusive as no sharing is possible here, the cab charged us Rs. 1300. As we were approaching Lava the weather was changed totally from sunny kalimpong to foggy lava. The road condition is ok. We had our booking in WBFDC cottage (Lepcha 1). WBFDC maintains few cottages amidst the huge tall pine trees of the forest. Lava : WBFDC cottage, Rs. 1500 per night for lepcha cottage. Booking done from their Kolkata office. Lava was colder than kalimpong, there was no sun around and only dense fog. There was an eerie feeling and I bet horror films can be shot here. The place is so thrilling and adventurous that I loved it. But one downside, the cottages were not at all maintained. The rooms are small (though wooden floors and walls,geysers are present in the bathroom, room heater is also available ) and dimly lit and no TV. Just outside the WBFDC forest area there is a small market that has a number of hotels and restaurants. After keeping our luggage in our rooms we went for the lunch in the market (WBFDC have a canteen but food was not available that time as you have to tell them much early). We strolled around the market and enquired in few other hotels and found out that other hotels do not give room heaters, we came to the conclusion that in lava the forest is the major attraction and staying in the forest will be a big adventure. After lunch in a nearby restaurant “orchid” with rice, dal, sabji and chicken curry we came back to our forest room. All along fog has engulfed the entire area and sometime you cannot even see anyone 10 feet away. It was cold and we came back to our rooms quickly, the forest at night is really beautiful, its dark, but you can notice the fog all around you. In the evening all of a sudden there was a power cut, imagine a power cut in midst of the forest, i immediately called the caretaker on his mobile, he told that generator will be on soon, and to our relief the generator was on within minutes. The canteen guys will bring your dinner in your room or you can have it in their canteen few steps away. The food quality was good.
Day 4 : Lava>Rishyap
we woke up to find the fog is gone, its sunny in lava and looking bright. Today after morning tea we decided to have our breakfast at orchid again and took a cab for changey falls. Jeeps can be booked from the booking counter at market place, You can have shared Jeeps for this, but we opted for an exclusive one (Rs. 1200). The road condition from lava to changey falls is very bad, basically there is no road, only stone chips. The actual journey had the road been good would be 30-40 min, but it took close to 1 hr 15 min to reach the place. En route we visited lava monastery and had a brief stop at kolakham. Kolakham is place which is about 40min from lava, and you can get a good view of Mt. Kanchenjunga from here, there are only a few hotels in this place and is very remote, and as i have described the road condition reaching this place is not good. The water falls is worth seeing and you have to walk both uphill and downhill a good 15-20 min to reach the waterfall. After spending an hour there we reached back to lava at noon. I must really mention a point here, that for 1 sightseeing point we spent Rs.1200 and the road condition was pathetic, though we liked the place but still cost matters. We checked out from WBFDC and had our lunch again at orchid and booked a cab for Rishyap. When we planned the trip earlier we decided to trek to Rishyap, but we changed the plan as because visiting changey falls did drained all our energy, and we decided to take a cab for that. We did not see any shared cab for this and had to manage the same cab that took us to changey falls to take us to Rishayap at some discounted price (Rs. 500). We started for Rishyap little after 3pm. By this time the fog has again started surrounding lava, the sun is gone now. The morning warmth is replaced by cold winds and dense fog. One suggestion, if you plan anything in lava do that in the morning, because by 3 pm the weather gets different. Lava to Rishyap is only 30min, again the road condition is very bad, rather walk than go by cab. The weather in rishyap is good and not like lava. We had booked Lovely Resort, room rent, Rs. 800 per night. it’s a good hotel and they provide room heater too. One thing, in Rishyap you will not find any geyser in bathroom. The hotel guys will provide you hot water when you need. We were very tired and retired to our room quickly.
We woke up very early at around 4.45am, as because we will trek to Tiffindara. Tiffindara is a spot from where you can see sunrise and very good view of Mt. K. Last night we had asked for a guide to take us there (Rs. 300). It was pitch dark outside and with the help of the torch light we started our trek. We had to climp uphill among dark dense forest and short trekking route and sometime there was no road at all, you just had to make your own road and climb, though the climb was not that steep but every 10 min we had to take few moment rests before starting again, really adventurous!! After about 50 min we reached a table top mountain like structure which is called tiffin dara, the sunrise was spectacular and so is the Mt .K and other peaks, the sky was clear enough and we could see a panaromic view of the whole mountain ranges.Its almost 360 degree view of the ranges. With the help of the gudie we could spot many known and unknown peaks. After spending about 1 hr we started our trek downhill. The return journey was 30min and the guide took us through a short cut! The short cut proved to be too much for us as it was through more dense jungle. So you people can avoid short cut. We came back to hotel, had a nice breakfast and then spent the rest of the day in leisure enjoying the serene mountain village. This small village is located at the lap of the Mt. kanchenjunga and is a very beautiful and quiet, far from the madding crowd. In the evening a nice camp fire was made and we enjoyed thoroughly in the lovely atmosphere.
Day 6 : Rishyap > Hollong
Today we woke up early. We had to go to Hollong (Jaldapara wildlife sanctuary). From Rishyap no shared cab is available to Hollong, you have to book an exclusive one, and it takes approx. Rs 3300. What we did we had prior arrangement with the cab that brought us from lava to rishyap, the driver would wait for us at 9th mile. 9th mile is the junction where road from rishyap meets lava. We started our trek down to 9th mile from our hotel at about 7.30 am, it was a 45min walk downhill and walking on the road is much better than take a cab because the road condition is not good, a porter carried all our luggage (Rs 300) down. The trek was complete safe and road is quite big (though bad) amidst forest all around. When we reached 9th mile, the cab was ready for us, we had our breakfast at lava, and then the cab took us to Hollong in plains. The charge was Rs. 3000. The journey was approx. 4 hrs with 2 stops in between. Hollong is in Jaldapara wildlife sanctuary and West Bengal Tourism maintains a lodge called Hollong Tourist Lodge. Room rent is Rs. 2500, and booking done from WBTDC website. The lodge is located inside the jaldapara forest and in the core area, surrounded by forest on all side and a small stream separating the forest from the lodge on one side. The rooms are good and the food quality is also very good. After lunch and having rest we came down, there is a place just beside the stream from where you can sit and enjoy the wild animals live. Live in the sense there is a salt pit deliberately kept on an open area just on the opposite side of where you sit to lure wild animals who come to the open space. Also in the evening they use searchlight to show you different animals. We spotted a number of Bisons, Deers, Rhinos. In the evening there are arrangements for tea and snacks, and in the night dinner is sharp at 9pm, during evening and also during night animal spotting always takes place with the help of search light. Mr. Ranjit Sarkar is the forest officer posted that time and he shared his own experience of the jungle life with us. Fantastic experience! The night animal spotting can be done from a 1st floor sitting room or you can come down beside the stream to spot animals. Every 30 min the lodge guys would come with a huge search light and everybody would follow him in great excitement hoping that we will see something now !, on reaching the place beside the stream he puts on the light and we could clearly spot a rhino or a deer or sometime may be nothing !. Moreover, late in the night if you want to spot animals or if the animals do come there, you can request the security posted there to call you from your room to show you some animals. We had heard stories from Mr. Sarkar that sometimes animals do cross the stream and come at the ground floor of the lodge.
Day 7 : Hollong
Today we woke up early because at 6am the first elephant ride takes place. Due to fog, the ride was delayed but when it did happen we were very excited. During 1 hr elephant ride, the elephant took us deep into the dense forest, we spotted Deer, a number of Rhinos and also Bisons and a number of birds. It was an exciting journey deep into the forests. This was probably the best part in the whole tour. There were total four elephant and one baby elephant. The baby elephant was very naughty ! he always preferred a route where no other elephant was going, and everytime he virtually forced every other to follow his route, this led to change of route everytime, as if he was playing a game. The mahut was using some funny language to speak with the elephants. After completion we had our breakfast and took a long walk among the surrounding areas. Though you will not be allowed to roam freely since this is the core area. One thing to mention in the costing, Safari cost is Rs 500 per head, Rs. 330 per head for tea, dinner and breakfast all combine, lunch is Rs 150 per head. car entry is Rs 200 and park entry fee is Rs 40 per head. From hollong to madarihat station during return a cab was arranged by the lodge people and it took Rs.700. We took our journey back to Kolkata from Madarihat station by Kanchankanya express.