A dream destination for most of the Indians…..came true for me and my family this summer (2017). Yes, it has been a childhood dream and fascination for me to visit Darjeeling, a hill station in West Bengal, India. This wonderful place also boasts the title “Queen of the Hills” for its pristine beauty and splendor.
Queen of Hills – Darjeeling
I started using the weather predictor websites 15 days before our departure to see how Darjeeling would treat me while we are there. Results from the predictor was indeed very pleasant and this only increased my anxiety….
First leg of our tour was Darjeeling, the Queen of Hills. A beautiful and serene place which certainly justified and lived up to its title. Very cold mornings and even colder evenings were the norm of the day in Darjeeling. The majestic view of Kanchenjunga (third highest mountain in the world) from our resort was an added delight during our stay.
Kanchenjunga (third highest mountain in the world)
Expectations were slowly building up for our last leg of tour which was Gangtok, a Himalayan range in the East of India. Much hyped and publicized place of must visit site was the famous Nathu la pass which is a mountain pass that connects the Indian state of Sikkim with China’s Tibet Autonomous region. The pass is located at 14,140 feet above the sea level and therefore we left no stone unturned to prepare for this big trip.
I made sure that I charged all my gears (Camcorder, Mobile camera, Power banks, etc) the previous night itself. Our trip started at 8 am and the expected travel time was 2 hours to reach the peak. There were huge traffic jams right through our journey. We were almost used to this because of our stay in Darjeeling prior to Gangtok. We reached the peak around 12:30 pm after a brief sojourn on the way to relax our legs and to use the restroom. Tourism is so good in this place, yet I was wondering why there was no good restrooms to use. We somehow managed our natures call in that chill weather (around 8.6° C) and proceeded towards the peak.
Once in the peak the temperature was 4.2° C and therefore we could not avoid wearing our hand gloves to protect ourselves. It was such a beautiful visual treat for all of us including the thousands of tourist who had thronged to have a glimpse of this historic place. Several warnings were given to us on the lack of oxygen at the peak which worried us a bit. But we took a brave move and reached the apex. We were not allowed to use our cameras or mobiles which was a bit disappointing though.
Nathu la pass
Also to our dismay was the lack of any medical help by the Indian Government to the tourists who were suffering from breathlessness. There was no sight of emergency aid or first aid and it was only the fellow tourists who were helping each other by passing on some camphor pieces to sniff and alleviate the breathlessness problem. Little were we aware of the most dreadful thing which we were about to experience during our descent.
Tranquil setting of the mountain pass was indeed a delight to watch and it certainly got registered in our memories even though not in my camera. But the freezing cold weather forced us to look for a washroom with some urgency. Eventually we saw one, not through any sign board but because of the huge crowd flocking at that place. I could see two distinct queue for men and women. My wife joined the long queue which was serving only one toilet for the so many tourists who had come to this place after paying a good sum of money to the authorities (legal). I was waiting patiently with my kids for her to return.
There she came after a while with so much of tears in her eyes and started to vent out all her frustrations and anger on me for using ONE OF THE WORST TOILETS IN HER LIFE TIME. Yes, it was so appalling it seems that she came and told me “I feel like amputating my legs!” for treading on such a nasty and dirty toilet. She was visibly perturbed and was becoming sick by the minute recounting her experience and her inability to have used such a (in) convenience provided by the Indian Government.
To me, Nathu la pass, was till then considered as India’s Pride but it turned out to be a shame on the Indians to been made to use such a filthy facility in a prime tourist spot. Glad this spot is not allowed for the foreigners…..
Swach Bharath (Clean India) program is such a revolutionary movement by our Prime Minister which deserves a lot of Kudos, but we seem to be thousands of miles away from reaching our goal.