Every time I feel the deep need to resolve the poverty of the mind amidst abundance of our materialistic civilization, I plan a trip – a trip that enriches my mind, body and soul.
This time the chosen destination was Tinchuley, a Himalayan hamlet of Wet Bengal, near Darjeeling, nestled in the lap of Mother Nature. It is called Tinchuleybecause it has ‘tin’ or 3 prominent hilltops which appear like ‘chullahs’ or ovens.
How to reach Tinchuley from Kolkata:
By Train: Howrah/Sealdah/ KolkataStation to NJP Station (8hrs – overnight journey is preferable)
By Bus: Kolkata to Siliguri (12.30 hrs journey)
By Flight: Kolkata to Bagdogra (55 mins)
It is 73kms from NJP Station (2.5-3 hrs drive) and 77kms from Bagdogra Airport (3-3.5 hrs drive). From my personal experience, it is preferable to request for a pick up facility by the homestay/guest house one has booked (especially if one is travelling from Bagdogra Airport). The vehicles will charge one (Rs.2800 – Rs.3200). Tinchuley is very remote and so getting shuttles is difficult.
Where to stay at Tinchuley:
There are 3 most popular guest houses and/or homestays – Gurung’s Guest House www.tinchuley.com, Rai Resorts http://www.tinchulayrairesort.com/and Abiraj Homestay https://ontrip.in/abiraj-homestay-tinchuley/. Rai and Abiraj are more humble and basic in terms of their pricing and service. These guest houses serve good homely food. It is wise to eat here as there is no shops eateries available at Tinchuley.
The Gurung Guest House, run by the local Gurung family, hosted us. They were very hospitable, courteous and friendly, making us feel at home. The neat and clean rooms are nicely done with most of the provisions and amenities of a modern day good hotel. However, one should not expect WiFi. Even mobile phone signals are very weak here, almost all the time. However, that is a bliss if your purpose of the visit is to rejuvenate your mind and soul. We stayed in the Super Deluxe Room which had huge glass windows on the 3 sides of the room, giving us a wonderful views of mountains and the forests. We woke up with the sounds of the chirping birds. As we removed the curtains of the windows behind our bed, the Magpies and the numerous bright green Barbets flew away with flapping wings and the bright morning glories wished us ‘good morning’. We could see the clouds gushing in through the pine forest. From the windows on the other side of the room we could see the Kalimpong hills. Clouds rushed inside the room the moment we opened the windows. The bed tea with such view is therapeutic.
The Gurungs served us amazingly tasty home cooked meals (Rs700 per person for 3 major meals and the morning and evening tea). For me, a happy belly, is key to a happy soul.
Note: There is no place to eat other than where you are staying. There are no shopsans ATMs. The minimum distance one needs to travel to go to a market for basic necessities is 3kms away, at Takdah. Local taxies run till 4pm in the evening and they charge Rs.20 per person for Takdah. It is better to carry your medicines and water with you, all the time.
Things to do atTinchuley:
As the car climbs up the hilly road to Tinchuley (5800ft), you will have the Teesta River meandering by your side. You should cross the Coronation Bridge and grab some food and use the refreshment rooms at Lohapool. Don’t be in a hurry. Even here you can chose a table by the window and keep nibbling at your food while admiring the flowing river.
Once you reach Tinchuley, freshen up and have lunch (Preferable reaching time must be by 2.30-3pm), soak yourself in a sense of romantic solitude and silence by a quiet hike. I was assisted by a guide, provided by Mr.DipendraGurung, the owner of the Guest House. The hike was beautiful, through the valley, woods and tea gardens and the village. I could hear the birds, I could hear the sound of the prayer flags fluttering in the air and I could even hear the sound of a falling leaf. That was the magic that silence and quietude brew. This place is still untouched by man’s greed for urbanization. People seemed contented with the little materialistic things and vast Nature’s gifts they had. Whoever I met on my way were welcoming me with a broad and warm smile, even willing to offer me evening tea. The place is green and full of vivid wild flowers and orchids. Then I was drawn to the music of Tibetan trumpets, gongs and drums together with Buddhist chants from the TinchuleyMonastery. I went to see the evening prayer ceremony. I sat there watching the ceremony and meditating for quite some time. It was so soothing. After all this, I realized that I worked up a proper appetite with this hike in the mountains and greens and by playing with the furry street dogs for quite some time. So then the sumptuous hot momos served the purpose.
Site seeing: One whole day is good enough for seeing all the places around. The places are as mentioned below:
Tinchuley Monastery and View Point: The Monastery is a minute’s walking from The Gurung Guest House. It is a very small monastery, simple on the outside but ornate inside. Colourful prayer flags flutter all over. The view point is again at a 2 minutes walking from the monastery. One can see the majestic Kanchenjunga from the view point (From Mid-September to April/May). Most of the times, Tinchuley has a very pleasant and cool weather.
Gumbadara View Point and Cave Point:Gumbadara view point (6000ft) offers breath-taking scenic beauty. One gets to stand amidst the tea gardens and see the gorgeous Kanchenjunga range, Sikkim’s NamchiChardham and Samdupchey at the North and the Kalimpong Hills, Durpin and Delo in the East. Teesta and Rangit can also be clearly seen from there.
RungleeRunliot Tea Estate:It is one of the oldest tea gardens of India. Carpeted with lush green bushes and intercepted by tall pines and cottony clouds floating just above, this tranquil spot provides a lot of solace.
Takdah:As already mentioned above, Takdah is a town with a basic hill market selling all necessities. Takdah was a cantonment area in the British period. So in Takdah one gets to see a few heritage classic colonial bungalows which were built in the pre independent era for the high ranking officials of the British Army. Takdah has a beautiful monastery overlooking the RungleeRunliot tea gardens and an Orchid Centre housing numerous varieties of Himalayan orchids.
Orange Gardens at Baramangwa:It is an amazing forest trail. The entire firm is organic. It houses different types of trees and plants. Vegetables, fruits and berries are grown. It is so natural. The humming sound of a little stream flowing through is so relaxing. There is a seat for meditation inside the garden. It was such a rejuvenating walk. They also have a factory selling products using fruits and veggies from the firm.
Poomong Darjeeling Hanging Bridge: It is a wooden hanging bridge which is more than 100 years old. With mist and tea gardens around, the place appears mystique and tranquil.
Lamahata Park:It is an Eco Park, beautifully decorated with prayer flags and colourful flowers. A hike up the hill will take one to a lake. It is a very serene spot.
One can also have a day trip to Darjeeling. Darjeeling is 32 kms from Tinchuley (2-2.5 hrs of drive). The Lamahata Park, Ghum Railway Station, India’s highest Railway Station and Batasiya Loop will be sites on the way. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (The hallmark Toy Train) has been granted World Heritage Site Status by UNESCO.
Another separate day trip to Kalimpong and Delo Hill Top can be very refreshing too. Kalimpong is 35kms from Tinchuley (2hrs drive). The Orange Garden at Baramangwa is on the way.
The trip to Tinchuley can be a very short and sweet, well-deserved break to detangle ourselves from the shackles of the mundane. And these kind of breaks are essential for us to get rejuvenated and refreshed. I request you to travel to such pristine pockets of West Bengal (India) and please travel responsibly – please minimalize the use of plastics and do not litter. Please maintain the quietude and serenity of the place. Let it remain insulated from the hardcore complex urban behaviour.
Thank You :)