A good friend of ours named Trish called last night. She is traveling to Siliguri in February on pilgrimage and wanted to know if I knew the area and had any suggestions for her free time. This morning we woke to a foot
of snow and more falling, an event, which stretched through the day. Odd, but falling snow made me think of rafting and my suggestions to a friend made me long for India.
North of Siliguri, beyond Kalimpong, there is a small village named Rongpo and there you can send yourself into the current of the Tista. This river, also sometimes called the Teesta, is the main river flowing south out
of Sikkim. In fact, in Sikkim they call the Tista the ‘lifeline’ because of its consistent ability to bring water. The river rises at Cho Llamo Lake, a place I have never been, and flows to the Brahmaputra and then to the Bay of Bengal. Down from Rongpo, the
river runs quick and very cold; the turquoise waters rushing through emerald forest past round house-sized boulders. This is a half-day trip taking perhaps three hours and the rapids are an invigorating non-lethal class III. Did I mention the water is very
cold? There are white water rafting companies in Darjeeling, Kalimpong or Gangtok, arrangements are straightforward and the river makes for a thrilling experience. The white water ride ends at another little village named Malli and if you are a good planner,
further arrangements can see you bicycling back to Kalimpong. The bike tour at the end of the day is a fine way to warm up after the cold fast flowing river. Of course, not everyone finds the water too cold, our rafting guide jumped in repeatedly, always inviting
us to join him, though no one took him up on his kind offer. I hope Trish finds the time for this adventure.
Also in this area of West Bengal is the train ride from Siliguri to Darjeeling on the narrow gauge rail. It is a magnificent trip offering a unique experience and memorable views, especially coming over the hill to Darjeeling.
Once in Darjeeling, it is well worth the time to rise so very early and make the trek south from Ghoom to Tiger Hill. To stand at Tiger Hill in the before dawn with so many others, with the air chill and prayer flags flapping, is to feel a closeness with all
humanity then the sun bursts from the jungles of Assam sending a rosy streak against the frozen bulk of Kanchenjunga. Pipes, horns and drums begin to play and many begin to chant, the sun has found the Himalayas, the worlds greatest mountains. To be at that
place in the spring when the rhododendrons and magnolias bloom adds further joy to the senses. Will you go?
There is always much to see and do, now is the time to plan, life is too short to wait too long. Cheers.
Click on the picture below to organize a river rafting tour!