Travel

Good morning, Kanchenjunga

Tiger Hills, Darjeeling

It’s barely two in the morning and the last thing you want to do is get out from beneath the electric blanket. But, you do. Because, your guide told you to. More importantly, warned you that if you did not wake up at that hour, you would regret missing the sight of a lifetime. And that is how two mothers and their sleepy, shivering sons found themselves on Tiger Hill. We went unprepared; others had come with stacks of newspaper to sit on, or money to buy more woollens. We braved the cold. The platform from which you could view the sight was open to the elements. Construction work was on, and iron rods jutted into the sky, preventing a clear view of the haze in the distance. Coffee vendors made brisk business in tea country. And then, nearly three hours after we first sat down, there was a buzz of excitement on the right. “Ei dekho, ei dekho” screamed voices. And, like spectators watching an imaginary tennis match, we turned our heads this way and that, before it happened. Weak-kneed at Nature’s infinite beauty, tears laced many eyes as the mighty Kanchenjunga blushed pink and then glowed a fiery orange even before the Sun decided to rise from the East.

Good morning, Kanchenjunga
 

Batasia Loop, Darjeeling

After the rigours of Tiger Hill, the less than 10-kilometre journey back to Darjeeling feels like a warm homecoming. En route, stop by at Batasia Loop, about five kilometres from Darjeeling, below Ghum. The place is called so after the Loop, which was constructed in 1919 to ease the gradient on the ascent from Darjeeling. It’s considered an engineering marvel. The Darjeeling toy train still plies through the beautifully constructed loop, which spirals over itself through a hilltop and a tunnel. This place is also a memorial to Gorkha soliders of the Indian Army, who were martyred after 1947. A tall statue of a Gorkha solider stands on a platform beside a triangular granite cenotaph. Walk around the well-manicured gardens and you sight people, old and young, queuing up before a couple of binoculars mounted on stands. Most of them, you’ll remember from the morning trip to Tiger Hill. For Rs. 30, the person manning it allows you a chance to see ranges in the Himalayas, including the snow-capped Kangchenjunga, now bathed in sunlight, while the clouds play hide and seek. Sighting over, walk back to the main road, but not before you tuck into some hot bread pakodas, fresh off the frying pan.

Good morning, Kanchenjunga
 

Tashi View Point, Gangtok

The Kanchenjunga provides a semblance of familiarity as you drive down from Darjeeling via Kalimpong to Gangtok. It’s a constant presence, shimmering in the distance, narrating stories of ability, valour and faith. In Gangtok, a lovely spot to take in its majesty (you never tire of it!) is Tashi View Point. Walk up the narrow, steep staircase adjoining the 46 Black Cat Gunners, and enter a space that’s highly underrated. There’s little crowd, and an elderly lady fondly requests children and adults to click photographs wearing the traditional dress and ornaments and holding a musical instrument. The air is heavy with off-key notes and happy smiles. Closer to the platform from where you can catch a sight of the Kanchenjunga when the clouds permit you to, a wizened old man waits, patiently turning his pair of mounted binoculars to allow visitors a relative close-up of the range. You see its various peaks, jagged edges and how each face glows when hit by the golden rays of the Sun. For a good five minutes, I focus on the various peaks. When the nephew tugs at my coat, I reluctantly allow him a chance to savour the sight of the mountain. Long after you leave Tashi View Point, the magic of the snowy peaks lingers.

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Printable version | Nov 22, 2020 6:25:12 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/three-places-to-see-the-kanchenjunga-from/article18473506.ece

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