How much can you stretch yourself for a crazy travel experience? I decided to just extend my pre-planned road trip from Mumbai to Patna by yet another leg, Darjeeling, totally unplanned. That’s the best thing about having your own car, you don’t need to plan anything in advance.
With two days of leaves and one weekend still in hand, I wanted to use this opportunity to take my family to Darjeeling in our first ever car. Considering my first few days on this road trip where I travelled more than 500 Kilometers in a day, a 300 Km journey to my hometown, Katihar and then to Darjeeling (260 Km) the next day, appeared a cakewalk. Needless to say, the credit for this confidence and ease, goes to my super skilful driver, Vinod ji who drove us to Patna earlier from Mumbai. Read about this trip in my earlier blog post featured right.
Patna to Katihar (303 Km)
Day 8 of this trip was just about reaching Katihar. It was probably the hardest part of the entire trip where I had to leave Sonam in Patna and travel alone, without hopes of seeing her anytime soon. With a heavy heart and tearful eyes clouding my emotions, I left in the morning only to find myself crying silently in the car, thinking about her. Later during the journey, I also realised I left my camera in Patna, which was a major setback in terms of photography results I could have achieved from this upcoming trip. The only good part was, I drove the last 20 Km of this trip successfully. As somebody very new to driving, this was indeed a step-up.
Katihar to Darjeeling (275 Km)
If you are travelling to Darjeeling from the west side, there are two possible routes that you can take; one via Araria and another via Kishanganj and Islampur. We took the latter one, as it was slightly shorter and strongly recommended by one frequent traveller.
Once you are in Bagdogra (just before Siliguri), you have again two options to ride through the mountains. You can choose either a gradual ascent to the mountains taking the Mirik route which is longer, or a shorter route via Kurseong with steep slopes. If you are new to driving in the mountains, we suggest the former which we chose.
We started from home at 6:30 AM and reached Darjeeling at 2:30 PM; good eight hours on the road. The best part was the latter half, roads passing through verdant green tea estates, a small serpentine river, dense forest, towering trees, offering a spectacular view of the colossal mountains. It was indeed the finest part of our entire road trip starting from Day 1.
Darjeeling to Kalimpong (52 Km)
Day 10 started with a wake-up call from my brother to catch the sunrise view of Kanchenjunga peak from the hotel. I deliberately chose a property that could offer this mesmerizing view, without having to visit the famed Tiger hills of Darjeeling. This was a thrilling experience, as we were witnessing the third highest peak of the world, shimmering with vibrant colours changing every moment with falling rays of the red sun. With a small phone camera in hand, I could barely capture the magic of this moment. Needless to say, I badly missed my Lumix camera and Nikon binoculars this time.
People say, the grass on the other side always looks greener. We made our version of this – ‘the mountain on the other side always looks higher. Being in Darjeeling already, we decided to make a small trip to Kalimpong the next day, as we had already seen the best part of Darjeeling in the morning.
Kalimpong is around 2.5 hours ride from Darjeeling. The good parts of this ride can be summed up in the following key attractions:
- Lamahatta Eco Park
- Tukdah Forest
- Crossing the Teesta River and Bridge
- 7th Mile View Point
- Deolo Hill and Park
The journey was more about the roads and the ride than typical sightseeing. We spent the whole day on the roads with only one major stop at Deolo Park. If you are interested in paragliding, Deolo Park is where you come, if you don’t mind paying a bit extra for this adventure. Overall, it was a nice one day trip worth the time and effort.
Darjeeling to Katihar (254 Km)
This was the last day of our trip. As we had not explored Darjeeling yet, we used the first half of the day to have a good breakfast at Keventers and collect some bakery delights from Glenarys to have later on the journey. We also bought lots of Darjeeling tea, some woollen clothes and a few magnets.
While shopping for the tea leaves, I also learnt about their different varieties (first flush and second flush), salient features, and how to prepare them. If you are planning to buy some tea leaves from here, my first brand recommendation is Lopchu tea followed by Golden Tips tea. I also learnt a few things like, Darjeeling tea is not supposed to be boiled with milk, as it loses its aroma and essence on boiling. Most of these tea leaves are better without milk and should be made using a good infuser.
We left for Katihar in the afternoon taking the Kurseong route which is shorter. Taking this route also added many new viewpoints on the way which we had not seen yet. If you want to make the most out of your road trip to Darjeeling, I would suggest taking both the Mirik and Kurseong routes.
Gear: All photographs are shot from the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE phone camera.