Enter the Himalayas, where nature awaits with her bounty…
My love for the Himalayas goes beyond the grand view of snow capped peaks. I love them while the place becomes dreamy with mist and fog, or showers, during autumn when the trees turn all shades of red and brown making everything look more colourful. Even when it rains, making it slushy with streams flowing from every nook and corner, in its most errant form.
I reached this place when the sun was setting, making the surrounding hills even more beautiful with golden hues.
As night fell, hills became dreamy with clouds resting on the valleys at the bottom and part of the main city on the opposite hill getting drenched with the last rays of the sun.
The other side of the mountains, happy, happy people…
I see Sunita, going about her usual activities, taking care of the family, walking up and down the slopes, singing a line of Nepali song aloud to herself as she negotiates the heights, happy and busy. I see Abinash, her husband, helping her hand in hand with everything.
There have been some thirty thousand minutes wasted talking about some of the recent tensions in the hilly areas around Darjeeling. Yet no one looks at the picture above which is more common in this area. Simple and honest and proud and happy people, the other attraction besides the sights of the mountains itself go unnoticed by many.
The mountains that get drenched and slides during the monsoons, also bloom during autumn. The regions of eastern Himalayas is home to Sunita and Abinash and so many other beautiful souls, who welcome each visitor with open arms and genuinely want to share the warmth and show them the inherent beauty of the Himalayas.
In my recent short trip, I travelled to the part of the mountains that has the Tamangs and Bhotias and Rai mingle and stay together and saw Lord Shiva being presented with a Khatak and Lord Budhha being worshipped alongside.
Nestled in the areas around Kalimpong in the eastern Himalayas, there is a tiny village, called Echay Gaon at the height of 5800 ft. The place is just above Kalimpong, some 15 kilometre from the main city of Kalimpong, the journey taking about 3.5 hours from Shiliguri.
The fun begins when you leave the Kalimpong main road and see the narrow, stiff road that connects Echay Gaon.
Abinash manoeuvres the vehicle effortlessly through the road, surrounded by shrubs and Cinchona plants to our final destination of Echay Gaon or Ichhe Gaon, as it is popularly called.
The entire village has only about 30 families and is surrounded by the Echay forest. If you love the mountains as much as to be dreaming about them, you recognise those deep green alpine forests and tinkling lights on the surrounding hills from your most vivid dream immediately.
Night skies bring bright stars where each constellation could be clearly spotted. In simple terms, this place offers one a lifetime experience to be really close to nature.
Echay is some times pronounced as Ichhey , which means “Wish” in Bengali. This place seems like it IS a place where your wish for being in the most beautiful mountains comes true!
The only accommodation available here are some home stays with limited capacity, which I believe is helpful towards keeping this pristine piece of heaven intact. I hope that only the people who genuinely love the Himalayas and have the capacity to try to understand and respect the local culture visit this place.
And then, there is the real buzz of a bee and (a lot of) Kanchenjunga…!
The phone alarm rings again. It is 5:20 AM. I have snoozed it twice already, checked the status of the sky through the window beside my bed and went back to slumber finding it non exciting. There is a buzz again. This one belongs to a real bee. I realise that the flower bed outside, full of flowers in bloom has attracted a lot of bees going busily from flower to flower.
Busy bees.. I muse in my half sleep as my thoughts take me back to the cubicle life where this is the only term that could be aptly used on a daily basis. Never have I found myself amongst such beautifully enchanting solitude. But as some say. Life does pleasantly surprise you, if you let it!
I see a faint white tinge in the sky through the blue curtains on the window now. I get up from my sleepy, dreamy spell to fully awake in a matter on seconds. I get the heaviest winter wear that I have brought with me and slip it over my night suite,
‘coz, baby its cold out there! 😉
And I proudly carry my obscure self out of my room into the open. I have managed to bring both my camera lenses with me however, and an extra fully charged battery. I think this would be a long shoot!
And I gasp in awe..
I have always known Kanchenjunga. Being a Bengali, I inherit all the patented cliches like my affinity to sweets, Rabindranath and off course the “Thing” that most of the Bengalis have for “Berano” (Travel).
And from the most important man in my life, I have contracted this disease of love for the Himalayas.
From Darjeeling, I have seen Kanchenjunga bigger and grander. But here, in this quintet little village in lap of the lordly Himalayas, I get to see a panoramic view. As the first rays of the sun falls on the cliff, the curves and edges are seen clearly. As I get ready to click , I change my lenses in silence and find it to be a privilege to be the only one witnessing this view.
With not a single soul in sight, the stray dog, Bhulu gives me company. After a while, he decides to rest just beside me without interfering as any good companion would.
Kanchenjunga however, decides to be brighter and after a while the entire sleeping Budhha range is visible from the kitchen of our home-stay. And before I know, Sunita, my ever so caring hostess, hands me over a cup of warm tea, sending me to a state of ecstasy! The cold is bitter but Sunita and I share a conversation over the first cuppa of the day looking at the Kanchenjunga and sipping on the warmth in liquid form.
And I cant help but think, Life does feel perfect at times… 🙂
Up next, experiences of a jungle trek to Cellary Gaon and back… with two mountain squirrels! 🙂