Darjeeling is our happy place. Sleepy, slow and submerged in nostalgia. It’s where you go to stop the clocks for a minute or two. Or a day or week. And each time you visit, you fall a bit more in love with it. Amazing food, beautiful mountains and adorable mountain dogs. What’s there not to love? My partner and I visited Darj back in 2011. And this time, getting a long weekend, we decided to revisit one of our favourite places. Here I’ll try and break down parts of our journey, how we went, where we stayed and what all we did. Expect a lot of food photos, shaggy dog photos and photos of a happy-giddy couple!


How we went: So 12th September, a regular Friday morning, instead of going to work, I found myself headed for the airport. Yes, we were on our way to Bagdogra, from where we would catch a car to Darjeeling.
Getting there: We took an Indigo flight, which took us roughly 45 mins to reach Darjeeling. Short journey, really. It took us longer to reach the airport than to reach Darjeeling! You can also take an overnight train, or a bus. Darjeeling Mail is usually what people opt for but last time we had a bit of a catastrophe traveling by train, and having very little time in hand, we decided to take a flight.
After reaching Bagdogra, we were on the hunt for a pre-paid taxi to go to Darjeeling. Since it’s a question of safety, it’s a better idea to take a pre-paid taxi from the airport itself. It usually costs Rs 1600-1700 to reach Darjeeling and then another Rs 200 to get a drop to your hotel. We got real lucky because there was a lady who was also going to Darjeeling, and coincidence of coincidence, staying in the same hotel we were staying. We all three of us shared the cab and were on our way!
The journey to Darjeeling: The car journey is quite pleasant, as the scenery starts getting very pretty as you keep going uphill. It takes roughly 3.5 to 4 hours to reach. Our new friend was visiting Darjeeling for the first time, so we shared our past experiences with her, with a flurry of oh-you-must-eat-heres and oh-you-must-shop-theres. On our way, we were determined to stop at Kurseong Lodge. Last time, we had some of the most delectable momos with beer over here. So we told our driver about the plan and roughly 1.5 hours into the ride, we reached Kurseong Lodge. As we sat, having the chilled beer and spicy roasted peanuts, the cool mountain air gave us goose bumps, as we stared out of the window, getting a peek of the Himalayas. The mountains were ushering us to the land of sleep and surreal tranquillity.
The piping hot chicken momos arrived, with a spicy chilly momo sauce. Juicy dumplings stuffed with minced chicken in a thin casing of steamed flour. Sheer divinity on a platter.
After that we were up, up and away on the uphill mountain climb!
Where we stayed: My partner surprised me by booking our stay in this beautiful, colonial style place called Sinclairs, which is one of the heritage hotels in Darjeeling. Beautifully furnished with wooden floors and lovely chandeliers, our room also had a gorgeous view of the mountain range. Lucky us! It cost us Aroun Rs 3,500 a night. The hotel was a bit of an uphill walk, but very close to the mall / chowrasta, which is like a 5-6 mins walk from it.

 

Other hotels to explore:
First Night: Freshening up a little bit, we decided to head out. It was a Friday night after all! We made an evening plan with our newly made friend and went out in search of food and of course some beer!
Darjeeling strictly follows the “early to bed and early to rise” policy. So everything shuts down pretty early. We had to leave by around 7:45 pm so that we could stay out a little bit. Our first stop was Joey’s Pub. A small little pub, it’s a regular haunt of every Darjeeling lover. For some it’s the “only true pub” in Darjeeling. Beat that! In the mood for a pint of beer over some lovely music? Think no more. Head straight for Joey’s. There is a small iron gate outside and then you reach the main door. A wooden board hangs outside from the beam with a bold signage of “Joey’s Pub”. The pub is run by Puran Gongba. This building was originally built in 1948 by his father who ran a small hotel and a restaurant here for the backpackers. Tiny and done up with posters of the Beatles and Hendrix, to name a few, it’s right next to the Rink Mall.
We sharing a couple of beers and some old monk, and the bill came to something around Rs 400 for all of it. After that we decided to head over to our next destination, Gatty’s Café. We have never been here before and right before the trip, I had done a quick search on pubs and food haunts to visit that we hadn’t prior to this trip. Gatty’s is one of the few places which actually stays wide awake post 9pm in Darjeeling. It’s located right near the TV Tower and not very far from the chowrasta. But it’s quite a steep little hike from there, be warned! Being exhausted and slightly heavy from all the beer, it was quite a climb for us to reach the dimly lit, spacious pub which has some kickass graffiti on its walls.
Sadly, there was a birthday party going on that day, and the sheepish staff told us there’s hardly any food available, and only the last 3 bottles of beer left. So we quickly pounced on the beer and ordered whatever was available- a pretty decent dish of pasta and meatballs. It was very good, actually and we polished it clean in 2 minutes. We met a young musician couple seated next to us, who were locals. And chatting with them, we were strongly referred Sonam’s Kitchen for breakfast. Gatty’s Café is a neat place to chill in. With wooden décor and low tables to sit on, and quirky artwork all around. Right when we entered, we were greeted by a vintage Royal Enfield. And if you are a Star Wars fan, keep an eye out for the Empire’s war machines, the Walkers, on the walls.
After Gatty’s Café, we wanted to head to Buzz, the pub section of the eponymous Glenary’s, but by then, our legs had pretty much given up. So we decided to keep it for the next day.
One major good thing was it was not raining at all. Literally everyone, from concerened colleagues and overly protective parents had told us not to visit Darjeeling in August. But we took a chance and it sure seemed like it paid off! Just prayed that the weather gods remained as kind to us for the rest of the trip.

Day 2: Aveek had firmly told me that this trip is going to be all about “unlimited sleep”. But I guess being early risers, our body clock automatically made us wake up by 6:30. I was nagging him to get out of bed, so we were up by 7:15. Then came the Great Breakfast Conundrum. Now Sinclairs offers breakfast along with the room tariff. But who comes to Darjeeling and has their hotel breakfast? Two very hungry people who unless fed immediately might start gnawing at each other I guess. So we decided to check it out. What can possibly go wrong? A lot, actually. The dining area is really lovely, but the food? No. But we don’t really blame them. They offer very typically Indian breakfast fare consisting of idlis, dosas, parathas and sabzi, the token “scrambled eggs” and sautéed vegetables and chicken cutlets. We had a bit of tea and toast, just to keep us up and running for the day and decided to save our appetites for later.
We did a LOT of walking today. A LOT. A good 25-28 kilometers, if I am to believe my iPhone at least. So we started off by walking to the chowrasta. My heart was crying out to go to Glenary’s but we weren’t really hungry. So first up we wanted to head to Lover’s Point. Which is a straight road that goes from the right side of the chowrasta and goes round all the way to the Zoo and a walk back to the chowrasta. It’s like our Darjeeling ritual, and we can never get enough of that beautiful, familiar route, full of happ, sleepy mountain dogs and school children and little tea stalls offering piping hot, milky, sweet tea.
But me being a shopaholic, I wanted to quickly check out a few of the curio shops. In the last visit, I had picked up some beautiful stone and silver jewellery from Nepal Curio House. But sadly, we found out that it was closed for renovation. The three dreaded words “Closed for Renovation” would haunt us later too when we found that Hot Stimulating Café and Kunga were both CFR. Sigh. Anyhow, we checked out the first curio shop and the first thing that hit me was that the prices had REALLY shot up. Now, I don’t expect prices to be at a stand still but I am saying 5-6 times the cost of the literally the same thing I had picked up last time. For example, a pendant I had picked up for say Rs 400, was easily Rs 1800, minimum. Now, another point to note when shopping for stone jewellery is that unless you are an expert, there’s no real way to gauge the authenticity of a stone. And most of the shopkeepers know that. So they can pass off a blue stone as lapis or turquoise easily but unless you know your stones like the back of your hand, you can be duped. So I quickly ran out of the first shop, my heart sinking a bit. But luckily, Habeeb Mullick was open and I remember it being one of the finest jewellery shops. So in I went with a meekly enthusiastic Aveek into an antique wonderland crafted out of silver and stone, studdd with rings and pendants and earrings and Tibetan masks and wall hangings. What a lovely place! Make no mistake, this is not cheap by any standards but the designs here are exquisite. So I went slightly crazy sifting through lapizes and emeralds and turquoises. Phew! I picked up a beautiful moonstone mandala pendant, after great deliberation that Aveek gave me as a gift. We also picked up lovely stone earrings and some pendants for our moms.
One thing that I sorely missed were the lines and lines of colourful little street shops that sold beautiful woollen scarves and stoles on the pavements right on the chowrasta opposite Keventer’s. Not a single one existed. Instead, we found a line of shops on the pavement as we made our way to Lover’s Point. It was named Mahakal Market. We didn’t really fancy going through the stuff there.
So after a little bit of shopping that left me considerably light on the pocket but also mighty happy, we started our walk down memory lane. Hand in hand, we walked down the little bend beyond the chowrasta, greeted by the bluest skies on our right, dotted with snowy peaks, peeking out at us from beyond the mist and clouds. It was a riot of green and blue. A mix of sun and wind on our faces. The mountains embraced us with open arms as we walked, feeling so relieved to leave the cacophony of urban chaos behind us. What a wonderful feeling to just let everything stand still. Enjoying that moment of pure bliss as you lean over the iron railings, leaves lightly caressing your face and the view of the misty mountains calling out to you. We reached Lover’s Point and rested for a little while, sipping on tea and just enjoying the view. Stretched out in front of us were sleepy mountain dogs, languishing in the sun.
Quick note on Darjeeling dogs: If you can get over how intensely fluffy and beautiful they are, you will also notice their utter disdain towards tourists. Darjeeling is there town and they know it. Noble and friendly in a restrained way, even non dog lovers cannot help but marvel at how utterly wonderful they are. Also note that they are quite vampiric. By day the sleep, sunning themselves in the mountain sun and wind. But by night they rise. And how! As tired tourists retire for the day, the dogs of Darjeeling awaken. With a flourish of barks commencing their nocturnal shenanigans.
So after the tea, we headed to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and Darjeeling Zoo. Also known as the Zoo. Personally, I do not like visiting zoos unless they are really well maintained and genuinely care for the animals. But the Darjeeling Zoo actually looks into the proper care of all their animals. Though the space provided for some of the animals like the Snow Leopard and Clouded Leopard are bit too cramped, they are well looked after and healthy. That’s the beauty of this place. They really do love their animals. Be it the wild ones in the zoo or the dogs. And that speaks a lot about the people here. We spent the day going around the zoo. We got a peek of the Bengal Tiger and also spotted a very jolly bear rolling around on top of a rock. A young Snow Leopard yawned at us impassively and went off to sleep and the famed Red Panda, in a sociopathic move, climbed to the absolute top of a rather huge tree so that visitors could not bother him. Good for him, I say!
In the Zoo we bumped into a friend of ours from Calcutta who was also visiting with her boyfriend. We made a quick plan to meet in the evening for dinner. Penang was where we decided to go, followed by Gatty’s Café.
By 1:30, we were starting to feel pretty hungry. So having done our round of the Zoo, we decided to walk back to the chowrasta and have an early lunch, followed by some beer and a quick nap in our hotel. So we started walking down the other side of Lover’s Point. I wanted to go to Hot Stimulating Café and make a quick stop for some momos and Tongba – a local made alcoholic brew of millet seeds. But we were out of luck. HSC was closed for renovation. We had lovely memories of this café. It is here that we had met the most delightful cat last year. She was so regal that we had named her Princess Fenelamela. A bit disappointed, we carried on walking and after 20 minutes or so, reached the chowrasta. We both wanted to try out some local momos and phaleys. So we walked our way towards the horse stables in search of somewhere to eat. The one place that was pretty full was Kalden Café. It’s very small with 3 wooden benches set up for seating and we plopped down to rest our weary legs. We ordered chicken momos and a plate of chicken phaleys and they were absolutely delicious! The momos had a thin outer casing and packed with minced, flavourful chicken. And the phaleys are kind of like deep fried mini chicken potpies. The momos were so good we simply had to order one more round.
Our tummies happy and having rested a while, the beeraholics in us started itching for a pint. And we knew just the place to go. Everywhere we travel to, we always discover that one little place that we make our own and keep going back to. Dafey Munal Bar is one of them for us. A simple, no-frills, non-touristy bar that sells cheap and delicious food and crisp, cold beer. It’s located right on the Taxi stand of Laden-La road and near the junction of Gandhi Road, and is very easy to miss. But we wouldn’t miss this for anything in the world. It’s not that it serves the best food on this planet or boasts of amazing décor. But it’s the quiet familiarity of this bar that makes us always long for it. So we walked over to Dafey Munal and settled down for some beer. Aveek also had some dry chilly chicken, which was pretty nice. Sitting down here and spending a quiet afternoon brough back a flood of memories for us. And a moment of absolute gratitude for being able to enjoy each other’s company without a care in the world.
After the beer, a shroud of sleep descended on us and we somehow managed to waddle back to Sinclairs and crash on our beds. We had walked a long way today and wanted to be nice and refreshed by the evening. Around 5:30 we went down to the balcony of the hotel to have our evening coffee. Every evening, they serve coffee and namkeens (salty, deep fried snacks) on the house, and both of us are devoted coffee lovers. We finished our coffee and headed out. We were to meet our friends at around 7:30 and go to Penang’s for dinner. We met them at chowrasta and headed straight to Penang’s. Located in a dingy little space that is queerly located in the middle of a stairway, the exterior of this restaurant is definitely not the most appetising. Now, Penang is known mostly for its Nepali food. But we had reached pretty “late”. Which is like 8:15 pm. And they only had Chinese food. So we settled for a very regular chicken fried rice and hot garlic chicken. Our friends had the pork equivalent of the same thing. Honestly, the food was okay. Nothing to really write home about. We quickly finished our meal. It was time to head to Gatty’s Café! So up and up we climbed, with out creaking knees and aching feet on the rocky, cobbled roads. And guess who we bumped into? The most lovable black and white dog we had encountered the evening before! He followed us all the way up to the TV Tower. And refused to have biscuits that we gave him. Stupid dog. So huffing and puffing and panting, guess what we discovered when we finally reached Gatty’s? Closed bloody shutters. The place was closed! On a Saturday bloody evening! Can you imagine our frustration? For exactly 2 minutes, we were really lost. But there was really no moment to be lost. It’s Darjeeling and if you want to have any semblance of an evening out, you better run, you better rush! Aveek and I wanted to go to Buzz in Glenary’s. But our friends kept hemming and hawing about how expensive and overrated it is. So we went to Joey’s Pub instead and chilled over beer and Old Monk. They were telling us about how they reached Darjeeling. They had opted for a bus, which is a lot cheaper but also very time consuming and pretty uncomfortable. After that they had taken a shared cab, which roughly cost around Rs 130 per person. In shared cabs, anything between 7-8 people can travel in a large car like a Tata Sumo and make their way to Darjeeling.
Having a few round of drinks, we said goodbye and made our way back to our hotel to retire for the night.
Our Old Friend, the Monk: Whenever Aveek and I travel, we have a little ritual. We don’t go anywhere without carrying a bottle of Old Monk with us. It’s like our good luck charm and faithful companion. This time it was an especially strategic move because Monday was 15th August. Our Independence Day. Which is a dry day. What an irony for the lot of us! So after reaching our room, we had a little night cap and mulled over what to do tomorrow. I was getting a bit hyper on what we should do, but Aveek wanted to take it easy, so though I twitched a little bit, I acquiesced. He said, “It’s Darjeeling. The only plan is to have no plans.” And honestly, I couldn’t agree more.
Day 3: Today, we woke up nice and early and decided to go to Sonam’s Kitchen for breakfast. We had heard so much about it, we definitely wanted to give it a shot. So much so, that we opted for it over Keventer’s. Blasphemy, some might say, but it was really alright! This small little family-run eatery is located on Zakir Hussain Road. You can walk up to the place from the chowrasta in few minutes. It’s an uphill short walk through a busy market area. The place has only 3 tables, and always quite full. Luckily, when we reached, our friends were just wrapping up breakfast so we grabbed that seat. We were so insanely hungry that w3 couldn’t wait to place our orders. Pancakes with banana, honey and nuts, and a plate of fried eggs, hash browns, grilled tomatoes, cheeses and toasted bread. With that I had a hot chocolate and Aveek had coffee. The food was amazing and pretty cheap. The bill came to within Rs 200. I especially loved the hot chocolate.
Today we wanted to take a toy train ride from the Darjeeling station. It’s a heritage ride which takes around 2 hours for the whole journey. But when we walked down to the station, much to our disappointment, we had just missed one train and the next train we could have taken was unfortunately cancelled. Now there are two types of train rids you can take. The diesel train, which is Rs 600 per person for a ride and the steam train, around Rs 1100. We had ideally wanted the diesel one, but would have settled for the steam one, but both were cancelled. I was feeling pretty disappointed, but Aveek had a great idea. On the way to the station, we had spoken to a really nice old cab driver who we wanted to hire for a day trip the next day to Mirik. Aveek suggested that since the trains were cancelled, we could hire a car, which would actually amount to lesser and visit nearby places like the Ghoom Monastery, Batasia Loop and all. So we gave Rajesh, the driver, a call. And though he wasn’t available today, he provided another guy, Promit, who was just as nice and who agreed to take us on a short day trip. The idea was to return and have a late lunch at Keventer’s.
We picked up a few bottles of beer and left for the trip. It was a beautiful misty day and the ride was really pleasant as we made our way to the first stop – The Japanese Peace Pagoda, which is about 15 minutes driving distance from the Darjeeling town center. The temple is also known as the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple. Here’s some pictures of the place.
After that, we drove along, sipping our beer and enjoying the scenery and reached the Ghoom Monastery. Now, the word “ghoom” in Bengali means sleep. And Aveek, being the high priest of the sleep kingdom, was really excited about visiting the monastery. After all, what better sanctuary to a sleep lover than this? It was a lovely, peaceful place and one of the oldest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Darjeeling, located below the Ghoom Railway Station. The monastery houses the 15-feet high statue of the “Maitreya Buddha”. We went inside the temple, and said our prayers. And with steely determination, avoided the lines of hawkers selling everything from Japanese fans to stoles and shawls and caps and cardigans.
Next stop was the wonderful Batasia Loop, located on the Hill Cart Road. The word “Batasia” relates to “Batas” or wind. And rightly so for this cool and airy place. We got a magnificent panoramic view of the entire town of Darjeeling here, along with the Eastern Himalayas and a glimpse of the Kanchenjunga. And the place itself is very picturesque – a beautifully made landscape garden in which is laid the toy train track. The train makes a complete loop of this flower garden, hence the name. In the centre of the Loop is a War Memorial that pays homage to Gorkha soldiers who laid their lives in different wars post India’s independence.
After visiting the Batasia Loop, we were on the way back to Drajeeling. In between we stopped for a little while at the Orange Valley Tea Estate, also known as Bloomfield Tea Estate. This is one of the many fine estates scattered all over the stretch in and around Darjeeling, famous for its rich and aromatic tea, popularly called the “champagne” of tea. The hundreds of tea estates produce tea that is one of the most premium varieties, cherished all over the world. We took some lovely photos over here and were on our way again.
Reaching Darjeeling around 3pm, we headed to Keventer’s. We had visited once in the morning, before going to the Railway Station, and it was so frightfully crowded that we had not managed a seat. This time round it was again very crowded and the staff seemed really harassed. When we finally got a seat in the open terrace, after a long wait, it started to rain. And as luck would have it, our table did not have an umbrella covering it. Ah well, c’est la vie. So we had to head inside. Aveek had ordered a plate of fried eggs and bacon. I had ordered a sausage platter and a chicken hotdog. Along with that, two chocolate milkshakes. The food was disastrous. The hotdog was icy cold, the bacon was cold and merely a few measly strips. And the worst of the lot of the warm milkshake. We were very disappointed. Keventer’s is one place that practically every foodie who has visited Darjeeling swears by. Be it the legend surrounding it or just the amazing food itself, it’s always an unforgettable experience. Sadly, this experience was unforgettable for all the wrong reasons. We quickly finished the meal and headed to Dafey Munal’s. Our comforta place. And washed down the horrible Keventer’s experience with some beer and some lovely, fluffy cheese balls.
Afterwards, we tried to take a nap but didn’t get any sleep. So we had some coffee and headed out for the evening. Gatty’s was sadly closed. We had called and inquired. So we went to Joey’s Pub instead and downed a couple of bottles of beer. Then we headed to Buzz at Glenary’s. The place has not lost even a bit of its charm. If you visit, don’t forget to check out the Jim Morrison mural on the wall and the huge array of pop culture music and film posters all over. Then we headed to the Glenary’s restaurant and found it very crowded. It would be a long wait to get a seat and we were both very hungry. So we hopped over to Shangrila next door, which also offers amazing food. We settled for Chinese- some Chinese fried chicken for starters, with beer and hakka chicken noodles with a schezwan chicken for mains. The food was great and afterwards, we made our way back in a slightly drizzly evening. Tomorrow we had a long day ahead.
Day 4: A Monday morning, with no stress of going to work! That’s the true essence of independence. (Not that I want to be jobless, no, but wishful thinking) So today was effectively our last day in Darjeeling. Bittersweet, as we really were having the best timeout ever. There was no time to be lost today. We wanted to cherish every little moment spent – be it a lovely cup of tea or catching that elusive sunset over the mountain peaks. There was still so much we had not done yet. Like have breakfast at Gleanry’s! So that had to be redressed. ASAP. So the plan for the day was go on a day trip to Mirik and have a little picnic by the lake. But first thing first – breakfast. So off we went, nice and bright to Glenary’s. We ordered a pot of Darjeeling tea and a platter of fried eggs, sausages, bacon and toast. Along with that, Aveek had a donut. Apart from that, we packed some chicken club sandwiches, a chicken hotdog, a donut and a decadent looking, creamy French Brest pastry for lunch. Today being a holiday, the whole place was pretty crowded, with tons of tourists. The food came after quite a bit of wait but it was well worth it. The staff was very polite, and we did not feel rushed at all, unlike Keventer’s. It felt good that somethings had not changed at least. Most of the shops in the chowrasta were closed. So after the delicious breakfast, we headed back to our hotel. While on the way, we found our driver, headed to pick us up and he gave us a lift to the hotel.
Soon we were on our way. Our driver, Rajesh, was really awesome. He was friendly and chattered away, telling us little anecdotes about wherever we were going. Telling us about his life in Darjeeling midst all the political unrest and the difficult times they were facing. Unfortunate how petty politics were threatening to disrupt the beauty of such a magical little place.
I had a really bad cold, nose blocked. I guess my frequent sneezing and sniffling gave it away. Rajesh stopped in the middle of us climbing uphill and we saw him picking up something from the shrubs at hand. He offered me some fragrant green grass and advised me to smell it, as it’s a great cure for common cold and congestion. He proudly called it “Darjeeling’s antibiotics”! He also gave us yak milk candies to have, those having great recuperative properties as well. We were pretty lucky to get such a nice driver who was more like a guide. Mirik was about 2-2.5 hours away but hallway down the way, there was a sudden halt and we saw cars lined one after the other, completely immobile. Turned out there was an Independence Day parade going on which obstructed the path. Our hearts sank immediately. It was around 11:30 in the morning and it wouldn’t clear till at least 3-3:30 it turned out. Our hearts sank as Mirik was our second choice as a day trip. Initially we had wanted to go to this place called Rocky Island in Samsing, but it was really far away, being about 5 hours for a one way journey.
But Rajesh suggested another place called Lamahatta for us to visit. Apparently it’s still not as crowded by tourists and a really lovely spot for a picnic. Having no other option in hand as such, we decided to go ahead with it. It is around 25 km away, which is roughly 1 hours from Darjeeling. This is a pretty recently developed place, and interesting the name stands for “Lama” which means a monk and “Hatta” which translates to hut. So it stands for a monk’s hut.
We visited the beautiful garden over there, with vast stretches of greenery, dotted with orchids and mountain flowers. A Rs 10 ticket gives you entry into the gorgeous manicured park, where you can take a leisurely stroll. Now, we had the option to just sit and relax in one of the many pretty, wooden gazebos lining the garden, but we decided to be a little more adventurous.
I have a fixation for water bodies. Be it the ocean, lakes, rivers, I love being around water. Probably because I am an Aquarian? Who knows. So we had the option of taking a short hike through a scenic nature trail that went right up to the top and had a lake. The locals call this the “sacred lake”. I simply had to see this! Armed with a bottled of rum mixed with water, and our picnic basket packed from Glenary’s, we started our journey. All was going fine. The initial road was nice and even. But I was casting suspicious glances at the steep uphill stretch lying beyond me. But what could really go wrong? As we started climbing however, I realized that I wasn’t exactly being able to channel my inner mountain goat. Soon I was clambering all over the place, with my dormant vertigo acting up. But with Aveek’s encouragement (which post the trip turned into absolute Danny-shaming and elaborate mockery of my inept climbing skills) I trudged on. I distinctly remember at one point being on all fours, as amused locals looked on at us trying to climb the stretch. To my indignation, we saw some women making the climb even wearing slippers and high heeled shoes. I mean, seriously? After much determination, will power, leg work, and a few sips of rum in between for courage, we made it to the top! We did it! Woohoo!
The view on top was absolutely gorgeous and it wasn’t actually infested with people. There was one big group of people, who were quite friendly and turned out to be locals from Darjeeling. They were very sweet to us and even insisted we share some beer with them! It felt just so good to sit down by the lake on one of the wooden benches. We just wanted to be there, without anyone interrupting us, anyone rushing us, just the two of us and the mist and the trees and the waters. It felt good. The climb was totally worth it. My dear hungry betrothed then started unpacking the food because by no we were pretty much starving. So we had a wonderful lunch of the Glenary’s club sandwiches, hotdogs and pastries and the rest of the rum. The cool air and the beauty surrounding us made it one of the most memorable afternoons we have ever had. So glad we did this.
After spending a little over an hour there, we started our downward climb. The climb downhill was actually much easier. Aveek acted as my trusty Sherpa, guiding me all the way down. These are times when I feel smug to be with a sure footed Capricorn. After reaching the bottom, we went to the only little tea stall and shop opposite the garden and had some wonderful tea. Aveek also bought a jar of “Dalle paste”. If you are an adventurous eater and have a taste for spicy food, do make sure you pick up one of these pickles! It’s fiery hot and super spicy and packed with flavour. Then we were on our way back, having an spent an awesome day. I am glad we didn’t get the glitch in our plan spoil the whole day for us. When travelling, it’s so important to make the most of every single moment. It’s just not worth moping for a plan if it gets cancelled. At times, something better lies in store for you, as we discovered.
Cost of hiring the car: A trip to Mirik would have cost us Rs 2000, but the trip to Lamahatta took us Rs 1500.
In the evening, we wanted to have a nice and early dinner at Glenary’s. We wanted it to be special, as it was our last evening here. We went out, and since it was a dry day, all the pubs were closed, so we took a walk around the chowrasta and went to Glenary’s. Sitting outside in the newly opened balcony for a while, we went up to the restaurant around 7:30 for dinner. I had been craving Shepherd’s Pie for a while now so that was going to be my dinner and Aveek opted for a hamburger steak. Along with that we had a plate of fish fingers as starters. The food was absolutely scrumptious. We had the best possible meal we could, without any complaints. The fish was fresh and crisp fried, the tartar sauce was well flavoured and smooth. My Shepherd’s Pie was very flavourful and rich, while the hamburger steak was juicy, with sautéed vegetables and a rich, brown gravy that tasted superb. Bon appetite! The entire bill came to Rs 1100 which was well worth it.
We had to head back a bit early as we had to finish off our packing. The next morning we were off to Calcutta, this sweet, sweet holiday coming to an end.
Day 5: We woke up very early today. The alarm set off sharp at 5 am and we were promptly out of bed, scurrying about and finishing our shower. By 6 am we were out. We wanted to take one last, long stroll around our beloved path around the chowrasta, crossing the zoo and passing Lover’s Point. There was so much we wanted to hold on to but so little time. Today, we also had something really special to do. Aveek’s grandfather used to have a beautiful bungalow right in Darjeeling. He has told me so many stories about it, of the beautiful décor and its old world charm. And today, he wanted to show me the house. I was really looking forward to seeing it. He managed to remember where it was, and we were soon on our way. It was towards the road leading to the zoo, being right next to heritage Ivanhoe House. It was a bittersweet experience, especially for Aveek. The bungalow no longer existed. It had been sold off around 15 years ago, and in its place a swanky new hotel was under construction. It must feel strange, when something so familiar, so close to your heart ceases to exist. Leaving behind only memories.
As we reached Lover’s Point, we got a majestic view of the Himalayas. There was not a single cloud or mist and it is as if the hills were giving us a warm farewell. We sat down silently, soaking in the serenity of the surroundings. And afterwards, we went back to Glenary’s for a quick cup of tea. It was still very early and breakfast was not open yet, so decided to go to Keventer’s. We were really hoping that this time round, one of our favourite places redeemed itself by being as amazing as it usually is. Fingers crossed, we went up the small flight of wooden stairs and joy of joy, it was not overcrowded! We got a seat outside in the beautiful sunny open terrace and placed our orders. Bacon and eggs, sausages and toast and milk shake. And egg sandwiches to be packed for our lunch. When the food came, we were just so happy. It was like our old Keventer’s had returned to us. The portions were very generous, the bacon crispy and perfectly hit the spot. The sausages were on point and the milkshake was chilled and wonderful! We couldn’t be happier.
After our breakfast, we went back to the hotel and bid a final farewell to our room. Bags packed, we were soon on our way to the airport. We left a little early as we wanted to have a quick stop at Kurseong tourist lodge and have a last round of beer and momos.
Note on booking cars: We had a little bit of trouble regarding car booking. Rajesh, our driver from the Lamahatta trip was not free and unfortunately could not give us another driver. The hotel was charging over Rs 3000 to book a car and we would have happily paid but it was unavailable. Aveek then went to the taxi stand nearby and managed to get a cab, which charged us Rs 2000. Normally it takes Rs 1800, but it was still alright considering the time crunch. Thankfully the driver was safe and we reached without any hassle. Even managing to have the momos and beer despite the threat of running late for our flight!

It always feels so heavy when you are packing your suitcases to go back home. They say “Home is where the heart is”, but for us, heart is never at home, and we feel at home wherever we wander, always making it our home instead. Till the next time, stay as gorgeous, Darjeeling. And thank you for giving us an experience as wonderful as last time!