Gangtok, Darjeeling and Kolkata

Our College, like every year, had organized a tour for its students, this year to Sikkim & Kolkata. The Tour began on the early morning of 31st Oct, when all students boarded the train to Mumbai from Margao Railway Station. Travelling through the green valleys and dark tunnels of the Western Ghats, we reached Lokmanya Tilak Terminus by evening. Since we had plenty of time at our hands, we took turns to sit guarding the luggage in waiting room and wander around searching for dinner.

If you ever happen to visit the station, do wait to appreciate the beautiful piece of artistic installation at its entrance. A replica of the works at Ajantha caves, its massiveness takes your breath away.

Later, we boarded the Shalimar Express for Kolkata that night.

The day of 1st November was spent wholly in train journey, playing UNO, eating regional foods, and chit-chatting. At night, we were really excited to hear about a station named ‘Champa’ that was rumored to be haunted but turned out to be completely fine when we got there, even at late night. It induced many people to become horror-story-tellers for the whole evening though, even the teachers!

We reached Kolkata on 2nd November, in the afternoon. Now Kolkata is a city where Flipkart delivery boys carry their huge bags around the city on cycles. At least for us Goans, that is a thing astonishing enough about a city. We went to our hotel, freshened up and visited some of the local tourist attractions. Science city had too many scientific things to be seen for us commerce students. But at the time of sunset we were on the ropeway there – the whole city around us, painted in shades of orange. The view was unbeatable! Unfortunately, the Victoria Memorial was closed, being Monday. So we had to click photos with it from outside of the gate. We also did a short metro train ride and walked around the streets in our huge group of 93.

We departed from Kolkata early next morning. From Sealdah we took a train to New Jalpaiguri, reaching there at late night due to delayed train. Sumo cars took us to Hotel Keepsa in Gangtok, in groups of 8 and 9. At Keepsa, sleepy and shivering, we had our dinner and went to bed.

On 4th November, we visited Tshangu Lake – one of the main attractions in the tour. With the background of ice-topped, rocky mountains surrounding the massive lake, we clicked lots of pictures with each other; sitting on yaks and wearing traditional dresses of Sikkim. All our excitement kept us from the cold. The evening was kept free to take rest in the hotel.

On the next day, we visited spots in and around Gangtok. Bhakthang waterfall is a great place to click pictures with the crashing water. Gunjung monastery stands on the edge of the mountain, giving you a panoramic view of Gangtok Valleys. Curtains of thick fog keep falling on and away from the monastery. Tashi view point is another point to store the valleys of Gangtok in one’s eyes. Ganeshtok offers not only a good view and blessings of Lord Ganesh but also a mini market to buy indigenous gift items. Tibetology museum (Namgyal Institute of Tibetology) stores ancient scriptures and sculptures depicting history of Sikkim and Tibetan Buddhism. After visiting all these places in the morning we left from Gangtok in the evening for Darjeeling, arriving there late in the evening.

May it be Manali, may it be Leh, or may it be Sikkim, driving through the tall peaks dressed with coniferous trees, crossing the bridges over wildly running rivers is always a treat. You have to only experience it once to understand why bikers go to Leh paying thousands but visiting no tourist spots.

On 6th of November we got up very early, at 3.30 am to be precise, to visit the Tiger Hill. The temperature was freezing, and we kept ourselves warm with cups of hot coffee after our winter-wear failed. It took time, but we stood in patience as a phenomenal sunrise unfolded before our eyes: first bordering a cloud with a thin golden strip and then illuminating the peaks of Kanchenjunga behind us. As sky shone bright, selfie sticks rose from the crowd one by one.

On the way back after sunrise, we visited Yiga Choeling Monastery – popularly known as Ghum Monatery. After breakfast back at the hotel, we visited the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park. In the premises of the same lie the remains of Tenzing Norgay – one of the first two individuals to conquer Everest – and Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. The Institute houses a museum of many important Everest Missions. Clothing and equipment used for legendary Everest missions, fatal accidents on the peak, and superhuman efforts undertaken by the mountaineers ring a chill up your spine. Later in the day, we visited tea garden of Darjeeling and roamed the markets for shopping.

On 7th morning, we departed for New Jalpaiguri and en route crossed the Indo-Nepalese border over to visit Pashupatinath Market in Illam, Nepal. Afternoon was marked by visit to Mirik Lake and horse riding and boating activities. We reached Jalpaiguri by late evening.

Next day we took a train to Kolkata, reaching there at night. I can’t resist mentioning this guy we saw in the train. There were many who sang songs and played dholaks, but this young guy had a portable mic system instead. He talked like a professional RJ, and took us by surprise with his voice. He played karaoke on his mic system and sang old tunes to it, including Kishore and Muhammad Rafi. I can’t say when he will appear on a reality show, but he sure earns lots with his current business.

On 9th November we visited the home of Mother Teresa which is now the headquarter of the Missionaries of Charity. We also visited the famous Belur Math and Kalighat Temple of Kolkata. In the evening, students were free to do shopping in the markets of Kolkata that were still bustling after celebrations of Durga Pujo a few days ago. Everyone finally boarded the train back home, late that night.

After journey on 10th November, we reached Margao at 2 pm on 11th November and said goodbyes before parting ways.

The tour was surely a great one. Everyone enjoyed their days, although there were some petty issues which I’m sure always arise when it comes to tours. I’m sure we will all cherish memories of this tour for years to come!