Around Glenburn and Shikari Dura
Dawn comes early here. Back home, this time of the year, the first faint rays of light spread across a waking city at around 6am. In Glenburn, daybreak announces itself from behind the mountains at an early 4.50am.
It was the light that prompted me awake; a vivid blue that seemed almost eerie. A heavy mist hung in the air, shrouding the surrounding landscape in mystery. But there’s something magical about breathing in this cold, crisp mountain air, your hands drawing warmth from a hot cup of tea. It’s a moment to hold on to, for when you return to the scorching, dusty plains of everyday.
Breakfast came with a view of the misty mountainside. Outdoors, surrounded by abundant nature, everything tasted better! There were cereals to choose from, followed by warm, brown toast with eggs, fried bacon, sausages, grilled tomatoes, hash browns and fruit, washed down with fresh fruit juice, and finally, tea.
We had arrived quite late the previous day to see much of Glenburn, so after breakfast, we took a leisurely stroll around the premises. Flowers of every kind and colour surround the bungalows and enrich the view. We observed plenty of butterflies and bees hovering over the flowerbeds.
We came across a perfectly maintained kitchen garden as well, behind the main bungalow. Tidy, and full of character, it boasted of a variety of herbs and vegetables, all used in the cuisines served here.
We concluded our stroll at the Burra bungalow, for – but of course – a cup of tea. It’s quite a treat to sit under its cool shade and gaze across the valleys while sipping on the delicate brew. I was especially fond of the living room, complete with a fireplace and library, for those chilly evenings when you could curl up in a comfortable armchair in the corner and read about Himalayan wildflowers or tea plantations in India.
It was time for lunch soon after, and the food was, quite simply, a treat to the senses. There was pumpkin soup for starters, and contrary to what I’d imagined, it tasted quite good. There was quiche for the main, accompanied by mustard chicken, a preparation of olives and aubergine tossed in olive oil, a carrot and lime salad and a green, leafy salad garnished with edible flowers. Dessert was a warm chocolate tart that was to die for, the meal concluding with a satisfying cup of tea.
A short siesta later, we left with our guide Nilima on a hike to the nearby village. We followed a narrow trail that led to Shikari dura (dura = village) before returning to Glenburn within the hour via the tea gardens.
The houses in the village are gaily coloured, each home presenting a neat garden with potted flowering plants arranged in rows.
Fruit trees grow in abundance here, and we spotted a number of pomelo and fig trees. We also saw numerous Buddhist prayer flags dancing in the breeze, each flag signifying a special blessing that is carried across the land through the wind. The flags are of 5 colours, representing the elements, and are arranged from left to right in a specific order of hue – blue, white, red, green and yellow.
Almost all the village folk are fourth-generation plantation workers at the Glenburn Tea Estate. There are three schools for children and one high school a few miles away, and children as young as 3 years trudge up and down the mountain tracks from anywhere between half-an-hour to 2-and-a-half-hours to get to school and back. After which they attend tuition too! We crossed a merry bunch of school kids returning home, on our way back to Glenburn. They were quite delighted when I asked them if they would pose for a picture and obliged rather readily amid laughter and giggles!
Tea, with cake and cookies, was brought to us when we returned. An uphill walk can make you hungrier than you could possibly imagine! (This is, of course, one way to justify holiday gluttony)
Once you’ve given in to gluttony, it becomes even easier to give in to sloth. Which is why we spent the rest of the day until dinnertime, lazing in the room, reading the books we’d picked up from the Glenburn library.
Dinner is always exciting, especially when you’re wondering about the menu, and the people you’re going to be placed next to, at the candle-lit table! The food that day was Indian, and the company, Spanish. Both, equally enjoyable!
The pulao arrived first, carefully wrapped in a banana leaf, and it was flavourful and delicious. The vegetable kurma, koftas and chicken curry were served in quick succession. Cabbage fry, and beans cooked in typical South-Indian style, with coconut, mustard seeds and curry leaves, were also part of what made my plate heavier than usual. Dessert was caramel custard, sprinkled with chopped nuts, adding a crunchy surprise to the otherwise soft dessert. Top it all off with yet another cup of the finest first flush tea and I was good to go – to sleep.
If the day had taught me anything, it was this –
Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may diet.
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.