Welcome to the second part of my Cycling in the Mountains travelogue. In this section I will be covering my ride from Kurseong to Darjeeling and will include information on where I stayed and what I saw and did. So, keep reading.
# NOV 1
All set to leave for Darjeeling – “Queen of the Hills”
On my way I met Nilesh Dwivedi, a 22-year-old cyclist who is on an all-India tour. He set out on his journey from his home in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, on September 25th. He’s gone through eight states thus far and now reached Tripura, covering a distance of 2400 kilometres, with the goal of cycling across India in 14 months.
The most interesting thing he told me was that his daily food and lodging budget was merely Rs. 250/-. To save money he frequently spends the night at religious places, police stations, petrol stations or where he is permitted to pitch his tent.
To keep up with his adventures, please subscribe to his Youtube channel “Banjare Hum”:
and also follow his Instagram account : https://www.instagram.com/banjarehum/
Some photos clicked along the way:
Samdup Targeling Sherpa Buddhist Monastery
Ghum Railway Station
The highest railway station in the India. It is situated at an altitude of 2,258 metres (7,407 ft).
Druk Sang-Ngag Choling Monastery
This is one of the largest monasteries, located at Dali, 5 kms before Darjeeling. It was constructed in 1971 during the time of Kyabje Thuksey Rimpoche, who was regarded as a well-known religious instructor. The monastery belongs to the Kargyupa sect. It also serves as the headquarters and residence for Drukchen Rinpoche the XII, who is the supreme leader of the Kragyuga sect.
Darjeeling Railway Station
(c) Locomotive workshop (r) Steam toy train leaving the station for Ghum
Checking into the Dikila Hotel
(its 400 mts from the center of Chowrasta).
Cost per day: Rs. 1200/-, which includes breakfast.
Cleanliness in the room and bathroom could have been better (hotel had just open after been closed for 2 years cause of the pandemic). The room had a TV and Hot shower. Okay restaurant. Helpful and courtesy staff.
# NOV 2
This boulevard, located in the centre of the city, is a hub of activity where locals and tourists alike gather to grab a bite to eat, shop, or simply take in the amazing views of the surrounding Himalayan peaks and Darjeeling’s colourful valleys while sipping wonderful Tibetan tea.
Statue of Bhanubhakta Acharya who was a Nepali writer, poet and translator, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the Nepali language.
St. Andrew’s Church
The foundation stone of this old Anglican church was laid on November 30, 1843, the day dedicated to St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland. It was substantially rebuilt in 1873 following the extensive damage sustained by a lightning strike in 1867. The Scottish soldiers and tea planters stationed in Darjeeling were among the first members of the congregation.
Gorkha Rangamacha Bhavan or Bhanu Bhawan
A gorgeous white four-story building. On top of the building, there is a statue of a Gorkha with a kukri on top of a globe, as well as a statue of the goddess Saraswati at the entrance. It is directly across the road from St. Andrews Church. Unfortunately, tourists are not permitted inside the building.
Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park
The zoo spread over 60 plus acres was established on 14 August 1958 with a goal to study and preserve Himalayan fauna. In 1975, the park was renamed after Padmaja Naidu, the former governor of West Bengal and daughter of Sarojini Naidu.
Entry fee: Rs 60/-
includes entry to the Zoo, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and Bengal Natural History Museum
It specializes in breeding animals adapted to alpine conditions and has successful captive breeding programs for the snow leopard, the critically endangered Himalayan wolf and the red panda.
Himalayan Mountaineering Institute
The institute was built as a tribute to Sherpa Tenzing Norgay so that he could impart his skills to all those who pursued climbing activities in the Himalayas. Tenzing was the first Director of field training in HMI.
All those who are interested within allowable age limits can enroll for the various mountaineering and rock climbing courses offered by the Institute. There are 16 scheduled courses that take place every year other than special courses that are organized on demand.
Bengal Natural History Museum
One can find preserved remains of bird species, reptiles, insects, fishes, and mammals displayed in a replication of their natural habitats. A display of the various minerals of the region is present here as well.
One of the best ways to experience the panoramic views of Darjeeling is by taking a ride on the ropeway. The Darjeeling Ropeway was started in 1968 and is the first cable car system in India. It was initially set up to cater to the tea gardens in the valleys below, which did not otherwise have easy access. Starting with just one cable car or gondola, it was upgraded to accommodate 16 cable cars, each having a capacity of six people.
From the cable car, you can get a breathtaking view of the valley below and see the spread of lush green tea gardens on the hill slopes.
Gomu and Tenzing Rocks
This is where students from the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute come to practice rock climbing. For Rs 100/- he will assist you climb up the rock.
St. Joseph’s School
Popularly called St. Joseph’s School North Point (as it serves as a landmark for the North Point locality in Darjeeling), it is a private Catholic primary and secondary school for boys. The school was founded on February 13, 1888, and is owned and managed by the Jesuits. The school was founded by Fr. Henri Depelchin at Sunnybank, Darjeeling, with 25 students on the rolls. It was shifted to its present location in 1892. North Point celebrated its 125th year anniversary on November 10th, 2013, which was graced by the presence of the then President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee.
The lanes leading to Chowrasta come alive in the evenings with vendors selling fresh, tasty street food.
# Nov 3
The Town Hall and Clock Tower
Lord Ronaldshay laid the foundation stone in October 1917. The hall was built at a cost of Rs 2.5 lakh, with the maharaja of Cooch Behar donating half of the funds. A 600-seat hall, a reading room, a 100-foot-high stone clock tower, an octagonal gable roof, and a flag-staff were all part of the design. It was inaugurated by Ronaldshay in 1921. In 1850, a full-fledged municipality was established in the hall.
The clock, like the Big Ben, has four faces and manufactured by GT Gent and Company, based in England. The clock had stopped working after a devastating fire in 1996 and thanks to the efforts of the Darjeeling Rotary Club, it was repaired in 2006. The West Bengal Heritage Commission has designated the town hall as a heritage property. Unfortunately, the structure is in ruins and the clock not working.
The one thing on my Darjeeling bucket list was to go on a ride on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) toy train.
You can book a two hour joy ride from Darjeeling to Ghum. This ride includes the to-and-fro fare, a 10 minute halt at Batasia Loop and a 25 minute halt at Ghum where you can visit the DHR Museum. The joy ride has the option to select the steam locomotive or the diesel, which is cheaper.
However, most of this two hour trip is through the congested hill town itself, passing very close to the houses and the town traffic. To warn pedestrians and drivers of an approaching train, engines are equipped with very loud horns and whistles which train drivers sound almost constantly.
The loop is 5 km from Darjeeling, below Ghum. At the centre of Batasia Loop stands a war memorial to the Gorkha soldiers of the Indian Army who sacrificed their lives after Indian independence in 1947. The loop has a panoramic view of Darjeeling, with Kangchenjunga and other snow-capped mountains in the background.
Ghum railway station.
The DHR Ghum Museum is one of the three museums of DHR. In 1999, the famous narrow-gauge Toy Train of the DHR was accorded UNESCO World Heritage status. And in the year 2000, the Ghum Museum was established and opened to the public to showcase its heritage. A well-kept museum. Worth a visit.
The Baby Sivok, the oldest toy train engine of Darjeeling Himalayan Railways that started its operation in 1881 providing the first ever rail link through the mountains.
On the way back from Ghum, I went to the locomotive shed, located just across from the Darjeeling railway station. If you’re a train enthusiast, you’ll enjoy getting a close look at the train engines being serviced.
# Nov 4
Saw these beautifully murals created by artists Ramesh Thami, Madhav Rai and members of Our Art Society on the road leading to Chowrasta.
An ancient Mahakal temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and a Buddhist Gompa can be found after a long hike up Observatory Hill. It is a unique religious site where both religions coexist harmoniously. The entire area is festooned with colourful prayer flags.
Distance: 700 mts from Chowrasta
“Step Aside” is the house where Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, the great patriot and freedom fighter, spent the last month of his life. On June 16, 1925, he died in this house. The first level, where he lived, has been converted into a museum to house his personal belongings.
It was unfortunately closed and does not appear to have been maintained in a long time.
Distance: 500 mts from Chowrasta
I took my cycle in for some minor repairs. It’s next to the Tom and Jerry Cafe, close to the hotel where I stayed. They rent out bicycles and motorcycles, as well as organise tours and treks.
One of Darjeeling’s most popular eatery. Stopped there for a muffin and a cup of coffee
# Nov 5
Time to head to the next destination – Kalimpong, details of which I will post in part three of the travelogue. If you need any more info feel free to contact me at lynn(at)barretomiranda.com
You can follow me on Strava at Lynn Barreto Miranda
This is the route I took from Kurseong to Darjeeling. Click to view more details.