The plan to revisit Sikkim was on since the time I returned from there, 5 years ago. The plan of a Delhi to Sikkim road trip, however, missed seeing the light of the day owing to a host of different reasons. In between my intermittent visits to other places (which by default means the Himalayas), I had always let my mind travel to the beautiful state.
There was no second option this time around though. Sikkim was my top and only priority, and maybe due to the restless yearn, I had started planning much before in advance, to keep the ‘feel-good’ hormone release sustained and steady for a long time.
To me, like many others, planning has always been an integral and a very interesting part of my trips. Planning a trip to Sikkim, that too after such a long hibernation, was indeed very special.
Trip to Sikkim from Delhi
The team was nuclear –me and my wife. We initially were set to travel to North Sikkim and Dzongu, two of the most scenic areas of Sikkim. Destiny seemed to have other plans though. Barely a month before our scheduled date of departure, disaster struck.
A 6.9 magnitude earthquake rocked Sikkim. To make matters worse Mangan, a place that connects both Dzongu and North Sikkim was the epicenter of the devastating quake. It took a lot of lives, left many homeless, and gave a serious blow to the plans of many like me who were planning our trip.
A fortnight passed in apprehensions, re-planning, and even thoughts of canceling the trip altogether. However, being bitten by the bug strongly enough, the mind suddenly seemed to clear up and streaks of positive rays started tickling the grey matter.
We decided to head towards South and West Sikkim, the two areas which were least affected by the quake. So, the bags were packed, all other arrangements were made and we finally set for our trip on a pleasant Autumn afternoon – 15th October.
Day 0 and 1: Delhi to New Jalpaiguri
We had our journey tickets in Dibrugarh Rajdhani, which leaves New Delhi at 2 p.m. The fact that we got an auto-rickshaw right at the moment we reached the stand ensured the old proverb ‘Morning shows the day’ held true. Our trip to Sikkim from Delhi had started right on time.
The train left right on time and it was a usual Rajdhani ride, food, and more food. The journey itself was uneventful; other than me living up to the reputation of being a modern Kumbhakarna, and dedicating my life to only 2 worldly activities – sleeping and eating.
The train reached Kishangunj the next day. I could feel a tweak in my adrenaline levels as I chewed a dry butter toast. To me, the excitement of ‘finally reaching the hills’ starts from Kishangunj itself. It is roughly an hour away from New Jalpaiguri (NJP).
I got a call from Rinchen, our driver for Njp-Ravangla, that he had reached NJP and was waiting for us. What could be better news than that? Finally, after vanquishing all criticisms against Indian Railways, the train reached NJP right on time, setting up an even better mood.
Guess even the Gods took pity on my anticipation. After a quick post-breakfast/ pre-lunch at NJP and withdrawing money from SBI ATM at the station premise, we set out for our journey.
Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary
We reached the Mahananda wildlife sanctuary in no time. The road seemed to be more beautiful than ever. The trees seemed greener, the road looked better tarred, and the air smelled fresher.
Everything around seemed to re-decorate itself to welcome me back. Guess my inner glee was translating into such visual delights. As we plied through and were busy setting up my camera, I was distracted by my wife’s voice ‘Look there in front’.
A flash of the eyelids, and I could see the inviting blue mountains standing erect at a distance, wrapping themselves in a smoky haze. I had discussed innumerable times with my wife about the excitement I feel while getting the first view of the hills from the road.
Hence, she was well aware and pointed right on time. The Teesta was starting to show in the meantime. As usual, I again felt a desire to spend a full moon night sitting on a rock on the sandy bed. We gradually hit the hills and crossed Sevoke temple and took a quick photo break near Coronation bridge.
A feature of this road is the innumerable and animated monkeys that frequent this road. There were only a few to be seen this time. We spent the rest of the time analyzing the reasons behind their disappearance. My wife seemed to have the strongest reason. She opined that it was because it was a Sunday!!!
She also seemed to be interested in keenly analyzing another fact. Which one’s face (of the few that were seen) and more importantly attitude resembled mine. She again came up with a gem – all of them.
I normally develop a ‘Sab Maya hai’ type attitude during such drone attacks. I just kept a smile that was somewhere between stupid and meaningless; however more inclined towards the former. Poor life!!
After some negotiations with rugged and dusty roads, we finally reached Teesta Bazar and stopped to have lunch. Our gut had made merry of the breakfast and the post-breakfast/ pre-lunch long back. Courtesy of the rugged road and the jerks, our appetite was soaring.
The otherwise bland Chicken-Rice (not to mention the straw-colored water they sold as ‘Dal’) seemed to taste better than Arsalan’s Biryani. For those who don’t know what Arsalan is, it’s a Biryani joint in Kolkata. He is known for his Biryani, which feels like straight out of God’s kitchen.
There can be no better way to prove the theory of relativity than this. We at the end of lunch felt almost like anacondas that had just feasted on large tapirs.
It was travel time again. This meant more encounters with the disastrous road that testified to the damage caused by the quake and a long, recently concluded monsoon. A drive of mere 5 kilometers was enough to sublimate the tapir of the stomach and yearn for a capybara shortly.
Sab Maya Hai
Rinchen, our driver was a man of few words and a voracious smoker. Only almighty knew what bug bit him. He suddenly turned on a strange song. It was truly a strong antagonist to the tympanic membrane. My wife, who preferred to sleep all this time, suddenly woke up.
She murmured ‘even you sing better than this’ and somehow fell asleep again (only she knows how!). I asked Rinchen if he had any other album to play. He immediately obliged by tuning on an El Classico, Himesh Reshammiya!!
I donned the ‘Sab Maya Hai’ hat once again and philosophically watched the vibrant Teesta making its way towards the plains. If there was any agony that the combo of dust, jerk, and Himesh Reshammiya had caused, it was instantly wiped by the view of the beautiful emerald river, flowing like a playful kid.
After a couple of hours or so of driving, we reached Namchi, the district headquarters of South Sikkim. Namchi is a beautiful little town. It has a busy market area marking its heart, and quaint hills bordering its periphery. India’s answer to ‘Christ the Redeemer’ (okay I am joking), a 135 feet tall statue of Guru Padmasambhava is located at Samdruptse, 8 km off Namchi.
We stopped at Namchi for a tea break, and more importantly to put our bones in place. The violent road, one on which even the great Rajnikanth would hate to drive seemed to have re-aligned my patella somewhere between my ribs. Oh, I forgot. Why the heck would he drive? He would have a foot at NJP and put another at Ravangla, effortless. Rajni fans, please don’t take offense. He is irresistible.
The way I stood resembled the lightning sign (remember the Rin ad?). I had to put in quite an effort to get back in human shape. Those who have seen the post camel ride scene featuring Santosh Dutta in Shonar Kella might be able to appreciate the kind of effort I am referring to. Like every other good thing, the tea break came to an end too. Finally, we headed for a non-stop journey towards Ravangla.
Namchi to Ravangla
The road was much better now and was a dream to drive on. To me, the most fascinating part of Ravangla is the 5 km stretch of road that leads to the town. The road passes through dense wood on one side and the mountains on the other. More often than not, it is covered with fog.
The road takes a sharp bend, and one can see smoky clouds gradually elevating upwards and engulfing the woods. It’s the play of the clouds among the trees, a view that creates a surreal and mystic experience, which is the most scenic thing about Ravangla.
The fog renders the trees hazy and grayish and appears to paint a white curtain on a translucent screen. The view of the road coming out of and leading into this mysterious tunnel of cloud is a view to die for. Rinchen stopped the car at my request and I took a few quick photos, breathing the clouds in the process.
It was the freshest of air one could imagine. There was an evident smell of purity in it. It was something which I could not even dream of, even in the greenest area in Delhi. The photoshoot was over and I wondered why no one had come up with a hotel or a resort on this stretch of road.
We finally reached Ravangla. This was our night halt destination for the first day of our trip to Sikkim from Delhi. We checked into a pre-booked hotel, Twin Dragon. The hotel was nothing special and can be at the best rated as average. Although it was clean enough.
The so-called view rooms probably overlooked the wide valley and the snow peaks at some indefinite time in the past. But they give only the view of another hotel at present. It was late evening and light had started to fade.
Ravangla wrapped itself in a blanket of a mist of various shades of blue. After a refreshing shower, we went out for a brief stroll and making arrangements for our next day’s journey to Borong.
My previous 2 visits to Ravangla were at different phases of my life. The first was one was with my parents while I was in school. The second (although we didn’t halt for the night on that occasion) was on the way to Borong, with my friends.
During my first visit, Ravangla was a pristine little hamlet, with only a couple of hotels and a few local houses. It was a completely different picture this time. Scores of new hotels ranging from luxurious to basic have come up. The clutter was a bit of a heartbreak.
It’s never a wise idea to compare past and present and crib about either. Development is an apparently unavoidable process. My mind however tended to travel down the memory lane, and visualize the tranquil Ravangla of the past.
Ravangla to Borong Shared Cabs
The hotel where we stayed was roughly a kilometer away from the main jeep stand. The weather was perfect. It wasn’t very cold and made the stroll enjoyable. On reaching the jeep stand we inquired about shared jeeps to Borong. The answers ranged from ‘there are no shared jeeps’ to ‘there are a lot of them’.
Confused, we decided to move ahead and inquire further. Closely watching the copious shops (most of them selling liquor) that had come up on the road that used to be pitch dark during my first visit, we located a board in front of a grocery.
The board had the details of the shared jeeps available for various places from Ravangla. On asking, the owner, humble like every other Sikkimese, informed us that the jeeps are available for Borong in the morning. We could collect our tickets the next day.
Relieved, we decided to satisfy our next agenda of the evening stroll – Chicken Momo. Destiny had other plans though. The entire Ravangla seemed to have turned vegetarian.
We retraced our steps back to our hotel and had a quick dinner. The train journey and that deadly road journey had sapped off of every bit of energy. We decided to retire to bed at 9.30, a time when I normally remain at the office in Delhi.
A few pictures from our trip to Sikkim from Delhi.
With that ended our first day of the trip but the fun had just begun. There were many more roads to be traveled on and many more sights to be awed by. One of the most cherished memories that I have about Ravangla is the beautiful sunrise I had witnessed during my first trip. That is what I was looking forward to the next day.
Trip to Sikkim from Delhi – Conclusion
We continued exploring South & West Sikkim for the next few days and it turned out to be one of the most memorable trips of my life. Please click on the link below to continue reading the next part of this travelogue.
- Journey Ahead: Ravangla to Borong – The Magic of Sikkim
I hope the travelogue and information on a trip to Sikkim from Delhi 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.