A summer in snow

A summer in snow

enchanting east

The temperature dropped mercurially as we zoomed into the vast expanse of greenery. Mist settled in, and a slow drizzle caressed our car’s windshield.

The compelling aroma of tea led us into a small roadside shop, where we indulged in piping hot glasses of sweet, delicious tea.

Hours later, the car swung into the charming city of Darjeeling. By this time, the cold was unnerving, but that did nothing to spoil the spotless beauty of the place — on one side, colourful shops with local souvenirs and on the other, a truly breathtaking view of endless mountains, sliding in and out of view amidst racing clouds.

The next day saw us take the route to Gangtok, visiting many points on the way. The Peace Pagoda, a calm and beautiful place, gave our day a wonderful start.

Our next stop was the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and Zoo — a must-visit destination. The mountaineering institute gave us a teaser of the risk faced by its students on expeditions, and had all the visitors gazing in awe at the equipment displayed.

The zoo, an extremely delightful place, houses very rare creatures like the snow leopard and the red panda. Once we were back on the road to Gangtok, we stopped once again at Tashi View Point.

The view from this point literally took our breaths away. With curves that any woman would die for, the muddy brown Teesta river (a tributary of River Brahmaputra) and another green strip of water mingled beautifully — without changing colour. We stood there, enraptured by the view, until we reluctantly tore our eyes away to embark, once again, upon the journey to Gangtok.

Following that eventful day was yet another unforgettable experience, a visit to the Tsomgo Lake in Gangtok. When we set off, we didn’t have the slightest idea of what was in store. As our journey progressed, patches of snow began to appear on the hillside. We were utterly shocked.

SNOW, in the peak of summer! Beyond a point, the roads became dangerously narrow, the weather suddenly freezing, and our view of the road ominously hazy. Slush covered our path, and the engine whined like a lost puppy. Our hearts in our mouths, we almost jumped in joy once we reached the lake (an amazing feat, given that our limbs were frozen numb).

A dark blue, crystal clear stretch of water dominated the scene. Apart from this, there was snow everywhere, and loads of snowball fights to relish. The whole world seemed to move in slow motion, making us believe in the unbelievable — a completely surreal experience.

Returning to the hotel was another herculean task, but our trusted driver managed to accomplish it. At this point, it is almost mandatory to mention the risk taken by the labourers toiling to create a path in the mountains for the tourists’ pleasure.

They work night and day, taking shelter under sheets of canvas when the snowfall is voluminous. Any moment, the rocks may tumble down and cause a landslide, but these labourers work on valiantly, occasionally joined by a yak or two. These yaks pompously wander onto the roads and settle down like kings on velvet

After a bit of shopping in the quaint little shops in Gangtok the next day (the notable shopping destinations being M G Road and Lal Bazaar), we boarded the train back to Kolkata.

Dirty, tired and exhausted, we reached the packed Sealdah Station in Kolkata. As we traversed between hawking porters, the rattling wheels of trolleys, sleeping travellers and all shapes and sizes of luggage, all of us had the same thought — we had not been on a mere trip, but had experienced a memory, a treasure beyond all else in the world.

It was a priceless treasure to cherish for a lifetime, for the lessons we learnt, the happiness and bliss we experienced, and the bonds we developed.

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