For inherently lazy travelers such as us, Day 2 began rather early at around 8.30 AM. After going through our morning ablutions, we set out to have breakfast – at Keventar’s. You simply can’t give those lip smacking sausages and scrambled eggs a miss!
Mr.B’s familiarity with the streets – he has done his schooling these parts – helped us in finding a less steep and convenient route to reach the market area. This one took us on the front-facing stretch of the Municipality Building. The side which has the – still functional – Clock Tower.
My previous trip to Darjeeling, some 13 years back was rather perfunctory. I stayed somewhere near Observatory Hill, the area which houses the poshest hotels in Darjeeling and never came down Chowrasta to see this side of town.
Mr.B – on the other hand – knows every nook and cranny. He was rather saddened by the changes that has taken place since he left school some 20 years ago. Too many cars, too many hotels, an eye sore called Ramada, and an awful lot of under construction buildings. There is also a ugly mall right opposite Joey’s Pub that houses Reliance Trends and an Inox among other things.
By the time we reached Keventer’s, most of Mr. B’s sadness had gone away at the prospect of having a hearty breakfast. Thankfully, his expectations were not dashed, for Keventer’s indeed serves the best of pork sausages, eggs and the signature frothy coffee.
Keeping with the unpredictable weather in the hills, the fog had given way to a bright sunny morning. We found us a seat in the Al Fresco area reading our respective books and sipping coffee. In spite of the sunny morning, the Kanchenjunga peaks opposite us, were still a blur .
A while later, we walked up the road, crossing Glenary’s, Pineridge Hotel, and a thousand other stores and hotels, to reach Chowrasta Mall. Throughout the walk, Mr.B lamented the commercialization – we even spotted KFC and Biswa Bangla (ughh) – and not finding or recognizing the small stores from his childhood.
He had almost given up on finding the bookstore he frequented. To our delight, the quaint and spacious Oxford Bookstore had withstood the ravages of time. True to the hallmark of a State Administrative Service personnel, our friend finally arrived a full two hours later, just as we were coming out of Oxford. We whiled away a little more time walking about the Mall area till our car came.
Senchel Lake is the water reservoir for the town of Darjeeling. It is a little ahead of Ghoom, on the way to Tiger Hill. You might as walk through the woods to reach the Lake, but you can’t enter the property without taking special permission.
Apparently, a couple of years back a local girl had committed suicide and the body was found a month later which meant the townspeople were drinking and using the poisoned water unbeknownst to them. Since then, it remains under lock and key with at least 2 guards inside at any given time. Ergo, we we needed the Sarkari Babu to take us there.
The car can’t go beyond a certain point. So we walked for almost an hour – amidst thick forests of pines, and ferns to reach the lake. The driver, a local, urged us to stay close. The jungles surrounding us are home to wild boars and leopards. The hike wasn’t all that steep and the absolutely quiet and clean surroundings made for some excellent shots of the natural landscape.
When we finally reached the lake, it was worth every bit of that long walk. Surrounded by thick forests on the hills lies Senchel. It’s water still and green, reflecting the copious thicket. We made a circular round of the property, thanked the guards, and headed back.
The flora of the hills in distinctive. It is not just pines. You’ll see wildflowers everywhere. What the locals call guras – or Rhododendron – is used for making a brew, the driver quipped. The clouds were dangerously low, so we hurried back as fast as our city-bred legs would permit. It didn’t rain but the sight of the clouds hanging so low, like you could almost touch them- between the trees – was quite something.
All that exercise made us ravenous. A half hour drive later, we plonked our asses down at Glenary’s for a well deserved lunch comprising a mixed platter of meat, egg, veggies, and bread doused in a tangy sauce. Not to mention the beer to go with it.
By the time we finished, I had dozed off on an unoccupied table at the corner as the dying rays of the sun fell on my face. We headed for some coffee at the relatively new Park. Mr.B was suddenly reminded of momos from Penang’s. So he ran down the road to order two plates, which we were to pick up later, for dinner.
Strangely enough, we rounded off the day with the evening show of Pacific Rim 2, at Inox!