After last year’s road trips to Kochi and Goa I was really looking forward to a more relaxed and luxurious vacation this year. However, T had different plans for us. We had discussed Bhutan as a destination but without proper permission on his end it didn’t seem possible this time so the next best thing was Sikkim, according to him. I actually thought a getaway at the nearest Novotel Hotel would be great too but that, I guess, was so ‘normal’!
As days progressed, I found T hunched up on his various electronic gadgets (the phone, tab, laptop, mapmyindia) and even paper maps at some of time. I went on with my daily stuff blissful in my utter ignorance in what was to come. When T presented me with the excel sheet of our ‘Journey’ details, I finally knew there was no turning back and I would just have to suck it up and do what I do the best – organize!
It took me a whole day to detail out and pack up all that we would require on the trip – from heavy woolens to the water heater and cup noodles. We packed up the car and on 8th of June before Mr. Sun made his appearance on our horizon, we were up and ready to roll. Pickle, thankfully, is a very morning person like us (he literally turns cranky beyond his bedtime) and was super excited for whatever was to come. As we took off on our epic journey, my only preparation was to empty my bladder and pray like hell that we find proper toilets on the way.
We stopped at Kolkata after 14 hours, T will say it was 13 hours and 15 minutes (like it’s some kinda achievement) and spent a day there meeting relatives. The next day’s trip, from Kolkata to Siliguri, was by far the worst we have ever been on (the return journey on that road was the same). After spending the night at the Skyview Lodge in Siliguri and eating a weird breakfast (we hoped for a continental spread and got puri sabji) we headed towards Darjeeling.
As the hills approached, the weather became pleasant and we started driving with our windows down. The climb was scary. T being an experienced hill driver managed fine and at one point proudly declared that you need just need to do two things to climb the hill, put the car in first gear and manage the clutch. Personally I felt the two things were, close your eyes and pray to all the gods in the universe.
We stopped at a roadside restaurant just short of Darjeeling to eat an amazing lunch that consisted of steamed momos and Chicken Chowmein. That’s when our vacation really began.
The next part was again a little dicey and not because of the roads. T was confident that we would reach our hotel in another half an hour or so. Believing his calculation, I happily drank all the water in the world and then went through a tortuous time as Pickle made my bladder his private trampoline. We probably drove around the whole Darjeeling with no luck in finding our hotel just ‘cause T thought asking for directions, when you have so many gadgets, was pedestrian!
After I fumed and gave him like 30 million dirty looks in the rearview mirror, he finally started asking for directions. We reached the hotel just in time for Pickle’s dinner and didn’t have much time for anything else. Our stay in Darjeeling was really great as we ate (of course), drank (was there a doubt) and made merry amidst the hills in a beautiful weather.
From Darjeeling we headed towards Gangtok. The drive was beautiful the first half of it was literally on the banks of the River Teesta. A slight drizzle, the gurgling noises from the river and hot cups of Chai made it perfect. Though I am not a tea drinker, I figured when in Rome and all that. However, the chai from the roadside tapris were so much better than the ones poured out in our hotels.
Anyway, we managed to reached our hotel in Gangtok sometime after lunch and had enough time to unwind. We spent the remaining day/evening sorting out the paperwork for our Journey to Nathula and then hogged brilliant bacon-chicken burgers and bacon platters at a café on the MG Marg. The next day was spend in the Nathula trip which surely was the trip of a lifetime. Evening was hogging time again, along with some souvenir shopping. The last day in Gangtok was a bonus since we had planned to go up to Lachung but had to cancel at the last moment due to bad weather and landslides. So we shifted hotels ( to a much more luxurious one – T’s compromise for dragging me on the trip) and spent the day like regular tourists, doing touristy thing.
On our journey back we went to Lava which is a Forest resort in West Bengal and spent two whole days decompressing and relaxing in total isolation before our trip back home. It took us two more days to finally get home and though I had started the trip with a truck load of apprehensions and even subjected T to a full blown tantrum in the very beginning of it, I was so very happy that he actually decided to do the trip by road.
We spent the next whole week unpacking, retelling incidents, reminiscing and gloating over our loot of Sikkim Rum and Musk Brandy. Though it was hectic, it was definitely the trip of a lifetime and the mother of all road trips… yet!