This post is in continuation with a previous one and a part of my Sikkim travelogue. We reached New Jalpaiguri from Delhi by train and then Ravangla by road. On the third day, we traveled from Ravangla to Borong by shared cab, details of which are mentioned in this article. To read the previous part of the travelogue, please click on the link below.
Journey so Far: Day 1 & 2 – Delhi to Jalpaiguri to Ravangla
One of the most cherished memories that I have about Ravangla is the beautiful sunrise I had witnessed during my first trip. It was a chilly December dawn, and nature was in a mood to paint. It used the sun as its painting brush to create a masterpiece on the white canvas of the snowy mountains. Due to valid reasons, I had the same expectations this time too.
Day 3: Ravangla to Borong
I woke up while the day started to break. I and tried to find a suitable place on the balcony to get a good view. However, as I previously mentioned, the hotel opposite to ours interfered and didn’t allow even a close-to-decent view.
Eager to find a good spot, I decided to venture out and walk. Many tourists, mostly Bengali, were awake and secured various ‘view points’ for themselves to witness the sunrise. After walking for a few minutes, I came across a building under construction, which looked like an upcoming hotel.
Fortunately, they had completed constructing the stairs, and without any inhibitions, I went straight up to the terrace. The terrace offered one of the best views one could get from Ravangla, and I got, what is prospectively an upcoming expensive view-facing room, absolutely for free.
Sunrise in Ravangla
Nature though, was in an ‘abstract art’ mood this time, and hang a curtain of haze in front of the snow peaks. The sunrise didn’t match the degree of my anticipation, although the peaks were visible.
I could have spent some more time, but there was a political debate going on between two gentlemen on the balcony of the adjacent hotel. This, compounded with a high-pitched scream of a lady, who was busy calling her husband to watch the view, didn’t allow my serenity-seeking soul to hang out there any longer.
I sneaked into a small tea shop and had probably the most spiritual experience of my trip. The owner of the shop, an ever-smiling Buddhist, had turned on a Tibetian prayer chant on his music system.
The shop was small, but very tidy and had a small window which gave a great view of the peaks. It was an out-of-the-world experience to watch Mt. Narsingh and Pandim towering over the green Ravangla valley while listening to that soul-touching chant.
The tune and gravity of the chant were delightful, and although I didn’t understand the words, it was such a pleasure to listen to.
Ravangla to Borong Shared Taxi
The fact that we had to depend on a shared vehicle to Borong was at the back of my mind and I ventured up to the taxi stand to inquire about the timings. The guy at the counter informed me that the Borong bound jeep leaves Ravangla roughly at 11.30 a.m and charged Rs 50 per head. I happily grabbed two front-seat tickets and returned back to the hotel.
All my journeys to mountains have historically been associated with a stark change in my appetite, to the higher side of course. While in Delhi, I can easily skip breakfast and have a late lunch without being much hungry.
It’s a different story in the mountains though. The magic seems not only to touch my soul, but also my stomach. After a wonderful breakfast of luchi-alurdum (or puri-sabzi ) and a poached egg we still had some time in enjoying our laziness.
I talked to the hotel staff (all of whom were Bengali) regarding the effect of the earthquake. Ravangla didn’t seem to be affected, although the tremor was well felt and many local people sort shelters in the hotels.
It was 11 a.m and time to bid adieu to Ravangla. We had arranged for a taxi to carry us and our luggage to the shared taxi stand, and it cost us 70 bucks. Having reached the stand in 5 minutes, and disappointed to find out that the jeep was not half-full yet, we took another stroll and sneaked into various shops.
The Fashionable Locals
If clothes, style, and appearance define how affluent an individual is, then it’s tough to figure out a single poor person in Sikkim. Everyone here is impeccably dressed. Most spend a fortune behind hairstyles and wear stylish clothes. I even had a thought of having a screw cut from a local salon but backed out.
We saw quite a few outlets in Ravangla, selling branded sports apparel and shoes, even jerseys of popular EPL and NBA teams. This rule of being stylish doesn’t hold true only for Ravangla. It’s evident even in the remote villages and corners of Sikkim.
I just wondered of the day, when I’ll traveling in a local train from say Sealdah and while passing by a paddy field in some remote Nadia village, come across a peasant busy working on the paddy field, wearing a Man U jersey and Nike sports shoes. These highly well thought and philosophical ramblings helped us kill a lot of time. We finally started for Borong at 12.15 pm.
Rock Garden & Ralong monastery
The driver of the car was a personal friend of Dhananjay, the caretaker come manager of the Wildflower retreat in Borong. On hearing that we were bound for WFR, he called Dhananjay and made him have a word with us.
I asked him to keep a scrumptious lunch ready, as the Himalayan magic seemed to do a Houdini act on our gut. In my previous experience with Dhananjay, the person was nice. As a cook, he was absolutely terrific. Hence my lateral hypothalamic receptors (the center of the brain concerned with hunger) were busy exchanging stimuli with guns blazing.
We crossed the upcoming rock garden with a huge statue of Lord Buddha under construction. The road started assuming an ugly shape beyond this point and gradually turned into a 17 k.m long dilapidated pothole that led to Borong. The entire road was broken and not a trace of metal was to be seen.
After crossing the new and old Ralong monastery, we were finally relieved to reach Borong at 1.30 p.m. As none of the cottages were booked on that day, we had the flexibility to choose any of the 5 cottages the resort had. We went with the one with the best view – ‘Oak’.
The first view of Borong was pleasing and this being my second trip, I could compare. The Wildflower resort seemed to live up to its name and had innumerable wildflowers all around. I am not a botanist, and could not identify most of the flowers.
Hence, I decided to spend my time just looking at them and admiring their cuteness, while enjoying my ignorant bliss. It was time to check into the cottage and get a little shock. It was not the same as it used to be. In my opinion, it had deteriorated to an extent in terms of cleanliness.
My last trip was with a group of friends 5 years ago, and we were just happy to find such a place perched amidst dense woods. The quality of rooms or bed sheet stains didn’t matter to us then. Time has changed, priorities have altered, and I have grown 5 years older.
With due appreciation for the possible role played by my tweaked mentality in jumping into the assessment of cleanliness, I would still stick to my stand. Wildflower Resort is not as well managed as it used to be 5 years ago.
My wife, who is a puritan when it comes to tidiness, was visibly disappointed with the quality of the room. I looked at the situation from a financial point of view and didn’t find it to be cost-effective.
I was charged 1500 INR for the cottage exclusive of food. The condition of the cottage was not worth such a high charge. The bathroom was an entomologist’s delight with insects ranging from spiders to bees making good use of the wall and floor. Snails and caterpillars were present as well.
The Leech Episode
We were tired and more importantly, hungry. Only a scrumptious lunch could abate the disappointment and Dhananjay seemed to know the word of our heart. The food was out of the world, and we stuffed ourselves up to our skulls. As we took a post-lunch stroll around the cottages, disaster struck!!
I guess destiny had her plans to make my wife’s memory of Borong a negative one. While we roamed, a leech feasted on her and she didn’t seem to take notice. On feeling the discomfort on her toes, and on discovering the blood-sucking worm, she let out a scream stronger than the scream of those Dracula victims.
Not a good start to the Borong trip by any means. Unwilling to retire to the cottage so early, and not being too comfortable to be punctured by another leech we decided to spend the time in front of the dining cottage. It was clean and overlooked the vast valley in front.
The mountains far off played hide and seek with the sun, often covering themselves in a blanket of clouds. After my wife’s trauma subsided a bit (she HATES leeches), I decided to absorb the buzz of the insects (mostly honeybees) and enjoy the plethora of colorful flowers.
The Magic of Borong
Scores of flowers of various colors and look, bearing different patterns on them adorned the WFR complex. The surrounding dense woods added to the charm and rendered a wonderful ambiance to the place. The cottages lay scattered on the complex, with the flowering plants latched on their torso, and a thick canopy forming the backdrop.
A surreal experience, a feeling that we have traveled back in time and reached somewhere in the pre-historic times. The best part of Borong is definitely its silence, continually interrupted by the buzzing of honeybees. Every clatter of leaves was audible. Every vibration of the bee wings seemed distinct.
The magic of Borong, after the initial disappointments, was starting to build up; at least to me. My wife was yet to forget her leech experience. As all good things bring along a change in mood, the bliss of nature seemed to change the cost-effectiveness equation abruptly.
I guess, had I tried to listen to the sound of friction caused by the rubbing of the flower petals, I’d be able to listen to that. Soaking ourselves in the purest pool of nature we decided to retire to our cottage as it started to get gloomy. The magic had started to work, although late, on my wife too.
All the cottages have an attached balcony to them, and we decided to enjoy the evening sitting there. It was an unusually blue evening. The last rays of the sun bid farewell to the green hills, and the shadows rendered a mystic charm to the place.
It seemed to be a place straight out of the fairy tale books and innumerable fairies were busy painting the entire place into different shades of blue and grey. Rainclouds started appearing in the sky and we retired into our room.
The Music of the Rain
The bone-crushing road had made us tired and the lunch was a tad too heavy. The only thing that ties these two things in one single thread, is a nap. It didn’t take us long to fall asleep. I wanted to wake up to the sound of the sweetest music on this planet – the raindrops on the tin rooftop.
It seemed that God had planted an antenna in my mind and held the receptor personally at the other end. A sound that was tickling my semi-conscious mind didn’t let me sleep for long. I woke up to what I felt then was a scream of a demon, turning out to be thunder later.
The rain had started and the drops hit the tin roof in a sharp pitch. What an amazing feeling that was. No musician in this world can copy the fifth symphony nature played that evening. Copious insects buzzed and screamed outside. Billions of wet leaves rub against each other and countless raindrops struck the tin roof.
I don’t have, and should not search for adjectives to describe the sound. I just closed my eyes and absorbed every bit of it. My love for Borong seemed to get renewed.
It continued to rain and alternated between a light drizzle and heavy spells. To make things better, there was a powercut. The ghostly darkness and non-stop rain were charming, to say the least.
Below are a few pictures from our trip.
We ordered our dinner and asked it to be served in our room. It was contrary to the rule of the resort that the dinner needed to be taken in the dining hall.
The powercut continued and our dinner was served amidst severe rain. Courtesy of the insects inside the room, what could have been a romantic candlelight dinner, turned into cautious eating making sure that we didn’t munch the insects along with the food.
The rains subsided gradually and power was restored, and we spent some time on the balcony inhaling the wet breeze. Little drops of water sparkled and dripped from the plants and the flowers and the entire place was soaking wet. The insects didn’t like us disturbing them, nor did we like the idea of them wanting to find a way inside our ears and noses.
- Journey Ahead: Borong to Uttarey – Welcome to the Fairytale Land
So, it was a good night for the day, and I re-activated my wish antenna to send a message of desire to see something I had missed during my previous visit – a glorious sunrise. As it turned out to be, the receptor worked great this time too. Please click on the link above to continue reading the next part of the travelogue.
Ravangla to Borong – Conclusion
I hope the travelogue, pictures, and information above on traveling from Ravangla to Borong by shared cab were of help. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below or at our Community Forum, and I will be happy to answer.