My cousins and I were in the ‘Queen of Hill Stations’ in May this year and we couldn’t stop gazing at its landscape that was enveloped by the emerald green sheets all through. The town is not only known for bearing one of the world’s finest and most expensive leaves – the Indian Darjeeling Tea – but also for the most sort after Himalayan Toy Train ride through the green hills.
Since the gang was in Darjeeling for less than 24 hours, we wanted to make the most of it. Lucky for us, my friend had booked us on the last of the three steam-powered trains that service in a day; the 04:05 pm one out of Darjeeling station. A huge board in the station read that this UNESCO World Heritage Area was completed in 1881 and started operating from September of the same year. Phew, that’s longer than a long time ago! The map on the board also highlighted that Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) toy train (as it is called) covers about 72 kilometers and runs between Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling.
History lessons aside, the toy train blew its whistle sharp at 04:05 pm and all of us stopped strolling in the platform and hopped on to the only coach that was attached to the steam engine. We were all excited as the train started its 2 hour ride to Ghum and back.
But as soon as it began to trill and trot on the tracks that was built alongside the narrow roads with shops on either sides, and launched into negotiating with the people crossing the tracks by blowing its horn and almost brushing against the trees and brushes on its way, we embarked on that typical journey of doubting our decision to take the train.
Except that it went on only till we reached the famous Gorkha War Memorial and the engine, for some time, stopped huffing and puffing and chugging like the classic choo choo train it was.
It is said that around seventy and odd Darjeeling soldiers sacrificed their lives for the nation since independence. And this tribute to the Gorkha soldiers who bravely fought but lost their lives, was located right in the centre of the picturesque Batasia Loop.
This spiral railway track that runs amidst the tastefully landscaped garden with flowers of almost all colours one could fathom, wraps itself here, and is said to have been commissioned to curtail the elevation of the DHR. Though the Batasia Loop was built as an engineering requirement to overcome the concern related to the geography of the place, it looked so in sync and in harmony with the entire scene – like the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle that completes the puzzle mat and makes it the perfect picture. The train stopped and let us take a few good shots before we resumed our journey.
The next stop was Ghum, the Highest Heritage Railway Station in the world, which sat at an altitude of 7,407 feet (2,258 meters).
We walked towards the railway museum that was housed beside the station which had a collection that stood there as a commemoration to the bygone days of the railway.
It was the perfect place, time and weather to sip on some piping hot cup of Nescafe. I know, who has coffee when she goes to a place that’s known for its tea. For me it is not a mere beverage that you have every morning. I don’t drink coffee everyday but every time I do, it gives me a feeling of wakefulness.
And this time, it added a unique flavour to our short tryst with the Queen of Hills before we headed back to Darjeeling station and crossed the scenically eloquent and historically significant war memorial, for one last time! Rest in peace heroes, among the brightly coloured flowers that bloom just for you while you overlook the aesthetically appealing view around and ahead. Rest in Peace!
If you think the photo quality is better, then it is all thanks to a borrowed iPhone 7! 😉 But I am secretly waiting to buy the One Plus 5. I hear the photo quality is in par with its expensive iOS counterpart.