There’s always something new to discover at Glenburn, and the beauty never ceases to astonish, and delight.
On our 5th day there, we visited the Glenburn campsite, on the banks of the River Rangeet. The ride down the mountains was a hair-raising experience, thanks to impossibly narrow dirt tracks strewn generously with rocks, acute hairpin bends and a small landslide along the way. The numerous, exotic purple blooms of the wild turmeric that we found growing along the slopes made a feeble attempt to keep my mind from imagining, in vivid detail, the various ways in which our jeep could have made it to the valley in less than 60 seconds.
We arrived at the river a never-ending hour later, but the campsite was worth every bit of the downhill torment.
I’ll let the picture describe to you the sheer awesomeness of the valley. I was at a loss for words then, and I am at a loss for words now. But I remember feeling the same exuberance that shone on Julie Andrews’ face when she ran across the hills in ‘The Sound of Music’, singing ‘My heart wants…to laugh like a brook when it trips and falls over stones on its way’. Of course, I will admit that some measure of that joy came from having admirably survived the drive, and finding firm ground beneath my feet.
We wandered in different directions, discovering the campsite from every angle. The log cabin was spacious and cool, while the tall trees outside painted a picture of imposing nature. The Rangeet hurried past, its song subtle and constant.
We enjoyed an al fresco picnic lunch here. Although the table was laden with mouth-watering dishes of all kinds, we chose to pig out on the hot, freshly barbequed chicken, washed down with chilled beer and lemonade. Perfect.
We burned off all that food though, on our hike to Mangitar Bridge from the campsite soon after. It was a 45-minute walk to the bridge, the guide informed us. It sounded like a long walk so I’d debated leaving the kid behind (he quite liked that idea too) but I ended up making a bad call and taking him along when she said she took children there all the time and that they managed it pretty well. Halfway into the trek I figure, the guide must have been talking about the hardy kids from the hills, not the lazy ones from the city, who assume they’ve been delivered directly onto the plush backseat of a luxury sedan. Too late to turn back, we walked on. And on. And oh my God…on!
No doubt the walk was spectacularly scenic, but the 45 minutes doubled to 90 by the time we finally reached the bridge, with a straggling kid and a straggling me.
The Mangitar Bridge connects the state of West Bengal with Sikkim, across the Rangeet. It is said to have been build after the original cane bridge was washed away by a cyclone in 1899. A suspension bridge that heaved and swayed slightly under our feet, it was difficult to imagine it being over 100 years old. We crossed it and stepped into Sikkim, but didn’t venture into the village beyond. We had a further 90-minute walk back to contemplate, after all.
The only thing I can say about the walk back is, that we made it. Eventually. The kid couldn’t walk beyond a point and had to be carried piggyback. I might add, that carrying a squirmy, fidgety 8-year old on your tired, aching back is not the most fun thing ever – but the husband did it easily and rather happily too. And I think I love him a little more, just for that.
It was late afternoon when we returned to the campsite. We glugged down water like we hadn’t had a drop to drink in weeks, and then slumped down on the cool grass near the water’s edge. Another few glasses of lemonade later, we headed back to the estate – a gruelling uphill drive over the same bumpy dirt track where you could feel every rock and rut on the road jarring your bones.
The bungalow arrived sooner than expected, much to our immense relief. It was twilight, and the sky took on a vivid, unforgettable shade of blue. We sat back with a cup of tea on the Burra Bungalow porch and shared an awed silence while looking out at the hill opposite Glenburn on which a thousand pinpricks of light appeared, marking Darjeeling town.
The little lad preferred the company of a friend, indoors.
Dinner began under the stars with succulent chicken starters and cocktails around a warm, blazing bonfire, and continued with a very delicious Bengali main course indoors.
It was a veritable feast of Macher Paturi (fish steamed in a banana leaf parcel), Luchi (deep-fried flatbread) with Cholar Dal (spiced lentils), Phulkopi-Aloo Tarkari (cauliflower & potato curry), Aloo Posto (potatoes cooked with poppy seeds) and finally, Chingri Malai Curry (prawn curry) with steamed rice. I think my husband – Bengali himself – enjoyed the spread more than anyone, that day.
After dessert and tea, we headed back to the Water Lily Bungalow, crossing this handsome stag beetle on the way, and the zillion other insects that buzzed around, attracted to the warm lights of Glenburn.
Getting to Glenburn
Location: Darjeeling, West Bengal, India
(Altitude: Approx. 3,200 ft.)
By Air: 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.