We planned a trek to Mulkarkha Lake in one of the extended weekends. Unfortunately, on the day of departure, we got to know that rain had come down in buckets there. A quick change of decision, and we zeroed in on Tonglu, in the same old Darjeeling district.
Boarded Padatik from Sealdah, and off we set. We reached NJP at about 10.30 AM. It took us another half an hour from there to Darjeeling More. We took shared cab from there to Sukhia Pokhri, which took us around 3 hours to reach. We enjoyed a tea break at Dudhiya staring at the firing range. After satisfying our hunger for some steaming momos at Sukhia, we took another shared cab to Dhotrey, and reached there at about 5 PM.
After leaving our rucksacks in a home-stay, we went to the viewpoint to catch the setting sun and got welcomed by the magnificent Kanchenjunga. We had supper at 7.30 PM and retired to bed by 9 PM. We slept to the humming tune of strong wind blowing outside.
The alarm woke us up at 5.20 AM, and we headed to the viewpoint once again. The sunrise was not that spectacular, but the Sleeping Buddha lay in front of us without a speck of cloud blocking any part! By 6.30 we came back in front of the home-stay. Clicking photos of the local dogs (including a Dalmatian), we waited for breakfast. Momos, again – steaming and scrumptious, with the dale chutney.
At about 8 AM, we started our trek for Tonglu. The trail from Dhotrey to Tonglu is surrounded by huge trees. Rhododendron and Magnolia adorned the entire track in an exquisite way. We could see around 4-5 kinds of birds, and butterflies. The feast for the eyes, however, were two red pandas running on high branches of a tree.
We reached Tonglu at around 1 PM. The little place has a small water body, where two ducks were playing away to glory. After we left our luggage at the lodge, we climbed up the hummock there and let our worries and frustrations of mundane life being blown away by the chilly winds. On our right was the Kanchenjunga. On our left was Tumling, playing hide-and-seek, as the clouds kept passing by. The most melodious sound was that of the whooshing strong and chilly breeze that eventually brought forth the clouds, which brushed our faces with nippiness. We took a break for lunch and a siesta. For lunch we had delicious steaming hot rice, daal, aloo bhaja, and omelette.
We went back to the hummock in the evening, and sat till dusk. Back in our lodge, we had our favourite Bengali snack – jhaal muri. Thanks to Souvo (Chowdhury) Da for carrying muri (puffed rice), onions, tomatoes, and lemons all the way from Calcutta. Putting together all the ingredients in candle light was fun. As our eyes watered from cutting the onions, our lips continuously had a smile with excitement. After the snack was ready to be savoured, it started raining. We went out to have a look, and that was so brilliant a sight for us. It was lightening far towards the Kanchenjunga, brightening up the whole place for fractions of a second. We stood there awestruck for some time, before we were hit by the cold wind, and came back to our room to gorge on the jhaal muri, at 10000 feet. Unfortunately, just after half an hour when we decided to gulp some Old Monk, Daju came and said that dinner was ready to be served. Once again, steaming food was served on the table. It was khichdi this time, along with aloo bhaja, and omelette again.
Back to our room after dinner, we kept looking outside the window to see the lightening. Soon enough as we sat with our glasses again, did we realise that it was also hailing along with rain. We opened the window to find an irregular hailstone that was about 2.5 cm in diameter. It was just a weekend trip and so much to experience. What more could we have asked for?
The next day, after having noodles and roti and aloo subzi, and some amazing tangy tamarind pickle, we started descending from Tonglu to Maneybhanjan, from Meghma and Chitrey. The descent took us around 4 hours. In between we stopped at Chitrey for the special coffee by the famous barista there. I am not a coffee or tea person at all. Yet, I was found sipping a refreshing cup of coffee, and chomping on some butterfly biscuits (gets the name due to the shape that resembles a butterfly), as the wintry clouds buffed my face off. We got a shared cab again to reach from Manebhanjan to Sukhia Pokhri and then to NJP. As we were coming down by car, we saw broken branches and trees at intervals, which let us know the intensity of the rain last night. Overall, the weather was very pleasant, which we did not expect before going. The torrential rain that poured through was due to some air depression, and not expected at the time.
Clothes needed: There was not much of a temperature dip, but the constant chilly winds actually made us shiver a bit. A sweater and a jacket each did fine for us.
Dhotrey to Tonglu: 7 Km
Route: Darjeeling more – Sukhia – Maneybhanjan – Dhotrey – Tonglu.
For more photos click: https://www.facebook.com/prankster.tania/media_set?set=a.10153401198411057.1073741836.566276056&type=1