I have a fascination for mountains. I find it extremely hard to resist the call of mountains. So, when a friend suggested we visit Meghma, a sleepy village in Darjeeling district, I just packed my bags and landed in Darjeeling.
It was October and the nip in the air was unmistakable. Early next morning, we began our journey towards Meghma, located along the popular trekking destination of Sandakphu. We hired a vehicle up to Maneybhanjan, which is the starting point for trekkers to Sandakphu in the Singalila range. The place was teeming with trekkers, and it was exciting to watch their enthusiasm to undertake the arduous trek.
Though Meghma is only 12 km away from Maneybhanjan, not all vehicles are sturdy enough to make the journey. Result: we had to give up our comfortable vehicle for a tougher Land Rover. The ride up to Meghma was not bumpy. The view was simply out of the world.
And the fact that the town lies on the border of India and Nepal added to the allure of the place. Along the way, we stopped at various points to admire the views. Driving past a small hillock, the road descended to a valley. “Meghma,” announced our driver. But, all that we could see was a misty veil of clouds. No wonder the place is called Meghma, the ‘mother of clouds’, we thought. As we approached the village, we could see a cluster of houses, huts and a red monastery. The place looked like a picture postcard. Clean, pollution-free, and above all, surrounded by snow-capped mountains. At 2,900 m above sea level, Meghma is mainly inhabited by friendly and ever-smiling Nepalis.
Our first visit in Meghma was to the restaurant in the centre of the hamlet. Sipping on piping-hot tea, we interacted with a few trekkers who were enjoying a hot lunch of curry and rice. They were surprised to learn that our visit to Meghma was just to enjoy the beauty of the place, and not as a transit point to any other trekking destination.
We proceeded towards our cottage in Meghma, a basic wood-finished hut. The place was cosy and anything but ordinary. Overwhelmed by our experiences, we decided to spend the rest of the day at the cottage. Evening being cold, we ended up sitting inside the kitchen, warming ourselves near the earthen oven, listening to stories about the place related by the friendly owner of the cottage.
In a place like this, every other person you meet becomes a friend. Very soon, a few villagers walked in for a cup of tea and we were all exchanging stories till late evening. They told us how agriculture was their main source of income, and how they were experts at making cheese and butter, too. We didn’t remember how many cups of tea and how many bowls of scrambled eggs we downed.
Early next morning, all that we did was to have a cup of tea and toast, and watch the majestic mountains around. It was fascinating to see white stone-markers all around the place reading either Bharat or Nepal. Going around the tiny place, we also came across several men in uniforms who were manning the India-Nepal border. Eager to talk, they made it known to us that we were welcome at the place. They shared their stories and pictures of their families. Allowed to go home only twice a year, they told us they missed their families but took pride in their work. Two of them were even kind enough to accompany us to Tonglu, a hamlet just a two-km walk away.
Imagine the view
Along the walk, with the sun playing peekaboo with the clouds, we spotted several shepherds with their flock, and yaks lazing around. We walked in silence, enjoying the view of the snow-capped mountains around. One of the border security guards accompanying us pointed at the Kanchenjunga mountain standing as the tallest among the snow peaks.
Back at Meghma, it was another evening of peace at the cottage over endless cups of tea, aloobhajjis and bowls of hot noodles. The very thought of leaving Meghma the next afternoon sunk us into depression, but we cheered ourselves up thinking of our visit to the monastery the next morning. The monastery, known as Hoshel Dechenling Gompa, built in the early 1950s by one Pasang Tamang, belongs to the Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism, we were told. Housing 108 Buddhist idols, this monastery is a must-visit owing to the beauty of its idols and its quiet ambience.
It was time for us to leave, but we had loads of interesting memories of the place that would keep us company in the days to come.
By air Nearest airport is Bagdogra, 85 km from Darjeeling.
By rail Nearest railheads are at New Jalpaiguri, 85 km away, and Siliguri, 75 km away from Darjeeling.
By road There are several direct buses from New Jalpaiguri and Siliguri to Maneybhanjan, from where vehicles can be hired.
Warm clothes & a comfortable pair of shoes. A raincoat is a must.