“For as long as you are young, travel to the mountains”, a family elder once told us. It’s good advice, we discovered, on this trip to the Glenburn plantation retreat, nestled in the mountains at 3,200 ft.
The shortest route to Glenburn from Pune took us almost a whole day. We survived three takeoffs and three landings as the plane flew from Pune to Calcutta via Chennai, followed by a connecting flight from Calcutta to Bagdogra. I’m not a big fan of flying and the kid usually returns the airline food in an airsickness bag, but we lucked out this time and got to Bagdogra smoothly, without feeling queasy and without incident.
We arrived at Bagdogra at around 1.30 pm, and were met at the airport by Bhupen, one of the estate drivers. A comfortable Scorpio ferried us to the estate, stopping mid-way at a viewpoint overlooking the valley where the River Rangeet flows into the mighty Teesta. Here, we enjoyed some fruit, sandwiches and cake, washed down with a cup of refreshing Darjeeling tea, all packed for us in a picnic hamper by the estate staff.
The sights and scenes along the way to Glenburn were awesome. The road, however, was not. Narrow, broken, bumpy and winding endlessly up and down the mountains, it was quite simply, a nightmare. But Glenburn arrived, through dust and mist, an endless 3-and-a-half hour later, and this was where the nightmare ended and the dream begun.
Jenni, our very charming and capable host, welcomed us with a traditional scarf and a refreshing drink. She quite rightly commented that a bit of hell had to be endured before getting to heaven. We were led to our room, a colonial style, beautifully appointed suite named after the scenic Singalila mountain ranges that can be viewed from its balconies and windows. Beyond the Singalila range, Mount Kanchenjunga stretches majestically toward the skies.
We gave the cocktails and hors d’oeuvres served at the Burra Bungalow in the evenings a miss, and wandered around the Water Lily Bungalow, in which our room was located, instead. The Burra Bungalow, home to generations of planters, remains the focal point of Glenburn hospitality, and offers 4 lavish suites, while the newer Water Lily Bungalow stands cocooned in its own private space on the edge of the Glenburn spur, affording dramatic views of the mountains from each of its 4 suites as well.
|Water Lily Bungalow|
The Glenburn property extends beyond these bungalows to the neighbouring hills covered with a patchwork quilt of tea gardens, and dotted with villages, covering an area of over thousand acres.
Dinner is served in true planter’s style here, all the guests brought together around a long, oval table. The meal is formal, served in courses, while the conversation is light and entertaining. It’s a whole new experience, to break bread with people from different nationalities and cultures, and to listen to their travel stories while you share your own. It’s a place where some lasting friendships begin.
That first day, dinner was typical Tibetan fare, beginning with a flavoursome thukpa(a mildly flavoured soup served over noodles and vegetables), followed by a choice of vegetable, pork or chicken momos(dumplings) accompanied by sauces. Dessert was a soft circle of sponge cake drenched in warm caramel sauce. And of course, the meal ended with tea – or coffee. Yes, heaven, indeed!
But a full day of travel can leave you feeling exhausted, and we were pretty much dead by the time our head hit the pillows. We fell asleep to the summer sounds of cicadas and nocturnal bugs. It was a good sound to fall asleep to, in contrast to big city noises like the impatient honking of cars, the rumbling of heavy vehicles and deafening music emanating from impromptu party venues.
I like to think it marked the beginning of a good holiday.
Getting to Glenburn
Location: Darjeeling, West Bengal, India
(Altitude: 3,200 ft.)
By Flight: Daily flights to Bagdogra from major cities in India. Glenburn is a 3-hour drive from the airport.
By Train: Overnight trains from Kolkata to New Jalpaigudi station. Glenburn is a 3-hour drive from the station.