The rain had almost stopped by this time. We now had a taste of traffic snarl of Darjeeling. Although two main thoroughfares have been turned one-way, the roads that were designed during the British era are now inadequate. We had to hold patience as we were on the way to two famous spots – Padmaja Naidu zoological park and Himalayan Mountaneering Institute. The latter is housed inside the zoo and had Tenzing Norgay as its patron.
Statue of Tenzing Norgay at HMI
It has so many memorabilia of different expeditions to the mount Everest – we even saw a small bottle which contained water melted from the ice that had been collected from the peak of the Everest.
The zoo is very well-maintained.
What we couldn’t see at Zuluk were kept there – monal and red panda.
It also boasts of several high altitude animals – except yeti. We felt that these two places are must-sees in Darjeeling – so informative, so engrossing.
Lunch was taken hastily at a roadside restaurant and we started for a nearby tea garden which didn’t really touch our mind.
We could see a race course which people said was the world’s smallest and highest.
The famous idol of Samdruptse at Namchi, Sikkim was also visible. On our way back we saw a very big school, and two rocks where HMI students are trained.
We came back to the hotel, but were yet to see the most famous part of Darjeeling – the mall. I had earlier visited Darjeeling more than 35 years ago and the only memory I had was that of a small kid who, having made to ride a horse on the road there, was so scared that he cried all the way because none had accompanied him. When we reached the mall it was already getting dark. However we made that roundabout walk, but didn’t have time to see the Mahakal temple and came back where we had started – near the statue of Bhanu Bhakta, the Nepalese poet.
A programme was going on there to make tourists familiar with Nepalese culture.
It was the last evening of our tour, but how could a visit to Darjeeling end without a shopping spree? So we bought some woolens and went back to the hotel, with the hope that the last day would be as beautiful as the previous ones.
This was the day for returning to the mundane world of the plains. Although there was a light rain in the morning, it had stopped before we started.
From Ghum, we took a detour towards Sukhiapokhri and later on another one for Jorpokhri. There is a small water reservoir atop a hill at Jorpokhri and next to it there is a tourist guest house.
It was Dashami, or Dussera, the last day of Durga puja and there was no tourist there. The booking counter was also closed. We entered inside, had a quick look and started for Mirik.
The journey from Sukhiapokhri to Jorpokhri and then towards Mirik is astounding.
The meandering road has found its way through deep jungle of tall trees, where every bend offers a magnificent view.
Just after Jorpokhri, there is a point wherefrom the Nepal hills can be seen. Then comes Pashupati Fatak, the gateway to Nepal, where tourists generally go for shopping purpose only.
As we were descending gradually, the tall trees made way for something no less beautiful – the tea gardens.
Words really fail to describe the greenery offered in this waving terrain, dotted with conical trees. We were almost speechless when we reached Mirik.
We drank the beauty of the serene lake there, and started again, through innumerable tea estates. Even when we reached the plain land, those breathtakingly beautiful tea gardens were there on both sides of the road to see us off.