It was one of the best trips I have ever been to. Full of first timers. Had been to Gangtok from 23rd March to 28th March with my VGSoM friends.
March 23rd, 2005
We left the hostel in the afternoon after faking the dates on the station leaving forms. The journey to Gangtok comprised of 4 legs. On the first day we were to take the local from Kharagpur to Howrah. From Howrah we went to Sealdah which is a twin station to Howrah. Our train, Uttar Banga Express, was scheduled for 7:30 from Sealdah station. Luckily our tickets which were in RAC got confirmed. The train journey was as usual boring and sad, and my trusted discman once again kept me company. I slept through most of it.
March 24th, 2005
We reached a station called New Jalpaigudi which is just before Siliguri. From there the upward climb began and we took a car in which all 10 of us huddled together and began the last leg of the journey to reach Gangtok. As soon as we were out of the Siliguri town, the army area began and we saw a lot of Ammunition dumps and the army camps in and around the place. Then began the ascent and the surrounding view was simply superb. It took us 3 odd hours to reach Gangtok. After we settled in the hotel, we went out for lunch and everyone was quite tired to go anywhere. We went out in the market generally looking at some stuff. At night came our usual round of drinks in the which most of the people went to sleep due to the fatigue of the journey. I had a few drinks and went to sleep myself.
March 25th, 2005
Gangtok was simply superb the view from our hotel balcony was amazing. We could even see the Kanchenjunga peak. The climate was cold but simply fabulous considering we came from a place which was absolutely hot and humid at that time. We hired 3 Maruti Vans and left at about 10:30 to have a look at the famous Monasteries. First up was the Ranka Monastery. The location was quite good. Well, I dont know about the others, but I didnt find it as interesting as it was made out to be by others who had been there before. Same was the case with Rumtek Monastery which is supposed to be really old. It was built in the 19th century sometime, and then was in the ruins. It was rebuilt in 1960 by some reinacarnated monk (?). Only good thing I liked about the Monasteries was the peace and tranquility of the main prayer hall. You just feel like sitting there for hours on end. After leaving the Monasteries we went to the cable car which not only is a tourist attraction, but is also intended to be used for transport in order to avoid the strain on the local road transport. It was quite good. We could see the Sikkim Assembly also from the cable car.
March 26th, 2005
We started off early in the morning for Chhangu lake and Nathula Pass. The permits was Nathula pass had been freezed but since a friend’s dad was an ex-army man, we were able to obtain a pass for that (only later to know that it was of no use). We started off with a chinky driver whose name was Arjun-da and he was playing some good local music. We drove upto Chhangu Lake which was completely frozen and the surrounding, trust me, was really amazing. Sadly the road ahead was blocked due to landslides and dense snowfall. Surrounding Chhangu were snow covered peaks and a winding road cutting through the snow at an altitude of 12000 odd feet. We saw Yaks for the first time and had a lot of fun in the snow, sliding and making a snow man and stuff like that. Finished it off with a cup of piping hot coffee, which felt really good. On our way down we got quite a scare. It started snowing suddenly and the visibility ahead of the car was nearly zero. Everyone was quite tensed, but Arjunda drove superbly. Must be one of the best drivers, I have ever seen. He went to the extent of talking us through the entire dense fogged road and trying to calm us down.
March 27th, 2005
We were to take the train back to Kharagpur on this day and we started off at 8:00 in the morning. First stop was white water rafting. One more first timer for everyone in the trip. It was one of the best experiences ever. We rafted through the waters of Teesta. The water was awfully cold. Almost freezing. The best part being that the entire adventure was being videoshot by a man. We had to dole out 800 bucks for the entire footage, but I believe it will be worth it. One to always remember always. It was a 11 km long rafting distance after which we freshened up and started our journey back to New Jalpaigudi. On the way we stopped over at Hong Kong Market in Siliguri. Almost everyone bought fake zippo lighters there. Finally we took our train back to Kharagpur and had an extremely uncomfortable ride. Our tickets were in RAC and it was an overnight journey. Anyways, the high of the trip was enough to take care of the comfort levels.
I have uploaded a few photographs which will give you a fair idea of what I am talking about. You can have a look at them here: http://photos.yahoo.com/jay_mody. You can find them under the Gangtok folder.