I stumbled upon this name Lepchajagat around a year ago. A quick Google Search created an urge inside me, to visit this place instantly. As usual, without wasting much time, I planned a trip to Lepchajagat along with Darjeeling and Tinchuley immediately. Tinchuley during that time was an offbeat and unexplored destination. Unfortunately, that plan of ours couldn’t materialize due to sudden political unrest.
Well I took this opportunity in an optimistic way, and planned for destinations around South Bengal, which I’d have never visit otherwise. Being an ardent mountain lover, I could never think beyond my love for North Bengal, North East and other Himalayan destinations of India. Well, fortunately the destinations like Salboni, Bankiput, Baranti & Garpanchkot, Joypur Forest was really overwhelming, specially Mousuni Island – which I completely fell in love with.
However, whatever it be, my love for the Himalayas is more than anything else. As we say in Bengali – “Sob ek dike, pahar ar ek dike. Pahar er aladai moja ache” (I’m okay with other destinations, but mountains have different aspect altogether). Unfortunately, sea beaches or forests doesn’t attract me much. Although after my visit to Sundarban and Dooars, I’d love to explore more of forests!
Finally, once the political unrest came to end, we ended up planning a short trip to Tinchuley. And finally, we felt like we were back on track!!
Well, I always had this dream of spending a New Year in Darjeeling with a cup of Darjeeling Tea in hand overlooking the almighty Kanchenjunga with a fine Novel in my hands. Unfortunately, I’m not much into Novels. Short Stories are fine, but Novels makes me bore. So, I thought of taking up the opportunity of X-Mas – New Year holidays, I quickly chalked out my dream plan of visiting Darjeeling and clubbed up Lepchajagat. As we had already been to Tinchuley, we clubbed up Chatakpur which lately has become famous for its serene beauty and unobstructed view of Kanchenjunga.
So here’s our final draft of the Itinerary that we adhered to
26th Dec – Day 1 : NJP – Lepchajagat
27th Dec – Day 2 : Lepchajagat
28th Dec – Day 3 : Lepchajagat – Chatakpur
29th Dec – Day 4 : Chatakpur
30th Dec – Day 5 : Chatakpur – Darjeeling
31st Dec – Day 6 : Darjeeling Sightseeing
1st Jan – Day 7 : Day Trip To Simana, Mirik, Pashupati Market
2nd Jan – Day 8 : Joy Ride. Darjeeling – NJP
We booked up the hotels accordingly well in advance, considering the rush season due to the X-Mas – New Year holidays. Although we didn’t book any vehicle this time, as we were on a tight budget, so planned to travel in shared vehicles or hire vehicle as and when required on spot.
Gradually we were becoming restless, as days were nearing by and our excitement was reaching another level! Finally the D Day arrived.
25th Dec – Day 0 : SDAH – NJP :
Finally, the D Day arrived and we were really excited about our upcoming trip. We had our reservation on Darjeeling Mail and accordingly we reached Sealdah well ahead of scheduled departure. We had ample time left so we had our dinner at Janata Ahar (a budget-friendly IRCTC accredited & subsidised restaurant). Within a few minutes, our train was announced and we embarked on our journey to our beloved North Bengal! We were overjoyed to go back again! The rest of the journey was uneventful.
26th Dec – Day 1 : NJP – Lepchajagat :
When we woke up, we were already traversing through North Bengal! Soon, the train reached our destination – NJP. We planned it to keep things in the budget, and thus we didn’t book any vehicle for pickup in advance. I had already discussed it with Mr Tamang about the route if we travel in a shared vehicle. So it was like – We have to take the shared vehicle to Darjeeling and get down at Ghoom (around Rs. 300/- per head) and from there another shared vehicle to Sukhia which will pass through Lepchajagat (around Rs. 100/- per head). So with around Rs. 400/- per head, we’d have reached Lepchajagat on a budget. However while bargaining outside NJP, a person came up and offered to drop us at Lepchajagat for Rs. 2200/-. Although I tried to bargain it down to Rs. 2000/- but it went into the vein. But even with Rs. 2200/- it seemed to be a nice offer, as even with shared vehicles it’d cost us around 1800/-. So extra Rs. 400/- seemed to be a nice offer considering we can travel without a headache and with all the luggage, we don’t have to take much hassle.
From Bagdogra / NJP / Siliguri, there are 3 routes that you can opt for, to reach Kurseong viz. Rohini (the most popular and most used), Pankhabari and Sukna. From Kurseong you travel up to Ghoom and from Ghoom onwards, the routes to Darjeeling and Lepchajagat takes a diversion. We took the Rohini road as usual. In between, we halted for breakfast at a roadside food joint. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it was really nice, having their arrangements at a balcony offering breathtaking views.
Soon, after having done with breakfast, we again started moving towards our destination of the day – Lepchajagat. Finally, we reached our shelter for the day – Kanchankanya Homestay (owned and run by Mr Passang Tamang) by around 12:30 PM. So it took us around 2:30 hours to reach Lepchajagat from NJP with a 30 mins halt in between.
Noticing us, Mr Tamang came forward and showered us a warm welcome and asked us to follow him to the rooms. He asked us if we’d like to have some Tea and we all exclaimed yes! We are kind of ardent Tea lover (well addict would be a better word though 😛 ). The rooms were really nice and clean, so are the washrooms. The whole property is very clean and well maintained. We were allotted rooms on the first floor where they have a balcony adjoining to it. I walked up there for a smoke taking a sip from my cup of tea, but couldn’t stand more than a minute due to the freezing wind.
Later around 2:00 PM, we were called downstairs for lunch. They served Rice, Dal, Alu Bhaji, Sabji and Egg Curry. The food was steaming hot and was finger licking. It felt like a pure home cooked food. Considering the freezing weather, they provided us with hot water in a thermal jug for washing hands and such.
After having our lunch, we got ready and went ahead for a walk around the village. First, we went towards the WBFDC Lodge and from there we took a narrow uphill stair to reach the Pine Forest. I must say I’m out of my vocabulary to describe my walk through the pristine forest. It was so silent that you can literally hear the chirpings of the birds and insects. The photos don’t justify the beauty either.
After spending some time there exploring various routes, we came back. There was a small tea joint nearby our hotel, which was like a place for both villagers and tourists to gather together to hang around over a cup of hot tea. Some villagers had already lightened up a fireplace for everyone to get warm. We took a halt there and chit-chatted with other villagers and tourists over a cup of tea and warming ourselves up before proceeding towards the View Point.
Lepchajagat is a very small village with around 20 or such families living in there. All the families are actually relatives of some sort. So it’s like you can walk and stroll around the whole village within 5-6 minutes. There are properly marked uphill stairs leading to the forest and further to the viewpoint. Most tourists come to this viewpoint during dawn and dusk to experience the Sunrise and Sunset respectively. We too were no exception and went ahead to the viewpoint. Considering the steepness of the route, my mom had to hold back. Although she climbed up the forest, but couldn’t proceed further due to her leg pain.
Unfortunately, it was all cloudy and thus the visibility was very low. Otherwise one can experience Sunrise / Sunset over the gorgeous Kanchenjunga from this viewpoint. Although Kanchenjungha can be viewed throughout Lepchajagat, like from the rooftop of our homestay or even from that tea joint. Villagers seemed to have sponsored a lot of benches for tourists to sit, on memories of their deceased family members at this viewpoint.
After spending some time there, we came back to the food joint again. Well, I must say, there are 2 such shops there, however, most people gather around that specific shop (1st one in the row) mostly because of the behaviour of the lady there. She’s so humble and always smiling. Another great thing is, she makes a hell lot of tasty momo’s. I being an ardent momo lover always used to have around 2 plates of such every time I went there.
As I was about to light up my cigarette, a lady came up and exclaimed “Krishnandu Da na?” (Aren’t you Krishnandu?). I replied “Haan” (Yes), still trying to remember where I have crossed paths with her. She then finally said, “Well, I know you from your blog, and we also chatted over Email regarding our Honeymoon plan for Lava, Loleygaon, Rishyap and Kolakham”. I recalled that she once commented on my article of Lava – Loleygaon – Rishyap – Kolakham, and I helped her out by planning her honeymoon. But I felt like “Wow!”. It’s a great feeling when people recognize you because of your blog and that you cross path with your readers on your trip!
Well, we chit-chatted for a while over another cup of Tea. They informed us, they were coming from Dawaipani which is a very beautiful offbeat destination and would be staying here at Lepchajagat for 2N. Ahh, BTW, she’s Samraggi Bose! Just wanted to say, if you are reading this article, I’m glad that we met. It was really nice meeting you and your husband! Hope to cross path with you guys again somewhere 🙂
It was getting very chilly by the time and also shops started closing as they ran out of supplies and also during the winters, it’s hard to stay outside after 6:00 – 6:30 PM. We all went back to our respective homestays. Soon we were served Tea and Pakodas. I already asked Mr Tamang if he’d be able to arrange Barbeque and Bonfire for us post lunch. However, he informed us that another group had already booked the same today by that time so he promised to arrange the same for us tomorrow. He further said although he won’t be able to arrange Barbeque today, but he’d provide a fireplace for us where we can warm up ourselves in the evening.
As the evening settled in, the distant glittering town – Darjeeling came up lively. Thanks to Suparna for assisting me on such a chilly night outside to help me capture the moment!
Later at around 9 ‘o clock, we were called downstairs for Dinner. They served smoking hot Rice & Roti’s (as per our preference), Dal, Sabji and Chicken Curry. As expected, the food was heavenly. After having our dinner, we called off the day and hit the bed soon considering the chilled weather out there!
27th Dec – Day 2 : Lepchajagat :
We woke up once in the morning to check out the scenario outside. However, it was all mystic and cloudy. So we went back to bed as there’s no point in going to the viewpoint considering such weather. Later we woke up at around 7:30 AM and got freshen up. Soon we heard people exclaiming with joy and we rushed to the rooftop guessing the obvious. And as expected the clear view of the almighty Kanchenjunga was in front of us! I thought of rushing to the viewpoint, but as I was about to proceed, in the next few seconds, the mist started flowing in and covered it all up. Later at around 9:00 AM we were called for breakfast.
Today we planned to hike to Hawa Ghor (also known as Hawa Mahal) and Ghoom Rock and later planned for a day trip to Jorpokhri and Simana View Point.
As per our plan, Mr Tamang assigned us his nephew Lendup as our Guide. At around 9:40, Me, My Dad and Suparna started for the hike. It’s a total 5KM hike from Lepchajagat and you are expected to walk through the beautiful dense Pine Forest. You need to walk up towards the forest through the highway for a KM or so and then start hiking through the forest. Well, I’d say it’s an easy hike. We enjoyed the walk through the forest. Before we entered the forest, Lendup warned us to stay away from the specific trees which he’d point to. He informed us that, there are lots of medicinal plants along with some poisonous one which can make us numb within seconds of touching it. Lendup was really a great companion, starting from chit-chat to hand-holding us through the steep climbs. We had a great time together.
Soon we reached Ghoom Rock. It was a massive rock. He also explained to us the stories about the Guru who used meditate here and pass through the small tunnel within the rock to Hawa Ghor. After a quick halt, we started proceeding towards the Hawa Ghor. Hawa Ghor is actually a viewpoint where on clear whether you can see all the 5 peaks of Mt. Kanchenjunga. Unfortunately, it was all cloudy and mystic for us, leading us to no views.
We halted up there for a few minutes, had smoke and started climbing back. Lendup took us through different route this time. In between, he pointed us towards a few Tree Poachers out there cutting the trees. He expressed his brief grief towards the local authorities, who does nothing about these poachers. He looked at me and asked me if I’d be able to help him and the village through my writing. I assured him that I’d definitely write about this, but I also told him that, I being a very small level blogger, I don’t think my piece of writing would help them anyway. Well, so here it goes – If you are an influential person or someone with authority, reading this, try to help the villagers out there.
Finally by around 12:30 we came back. We all went ahead to the food joint. I called up my mom for having tea and momo together.
Later around 1 PM, we went ahead for lunch. Shortly after having our Lunch, Mr Tamang went ahead and bargained with the drivers who came up to drop tourists, for our visit to Jorpokhri and Simana. Finally, after a few rounds of requests and bargaining, we were fixed at Rs. 600/-.
Soon, by around 2:30 PM we started towards our destination. Soon, after driving for a few KM’s, we came up to a big town comprising of a huge market. Mr Gudda – Our Driver, informed us that it’s Sukhia and the nearest town to get everything. We decided to stop here for a while, coming back. The road past Sukhia was really scenic and adventurous as well in it’s own manner. On one side they have this Christian Graveyard while on the other side, it’s for Hindu’s. We stopped there for a while to click some photographs.
Soon, we reached Jorpkhri. Unfortunately after reaching Jorpokhri, we were informed that we won’t be able to go further to Simana, as the road is undergoing maintenance. We were really saddened hearing this, as Jorpokhri didn’t seem any good to us. It was just a lake and a small park built around the lake. Upon enquiring with Mr Gudda he informed us that there’s another route, which we can take from Sukhia, but that’s the longer route and it’d cost us more. Instead, he suggested that, when we’ll go to Darjeeling, and take up the trip to Mirik, the vehicle would go through the same route and then we can anyway cover Simana that time. He also suggested us not to take a seperate trip to Mirik, instead the day we’d go to NJP, he asked us to inform the driver to go via Mirik. He’d charge around Rs. 500/- – Rs. 800/- extra and we can cover Simana, Pashupati, Mirik all on the same day without spending separately for the same. But if someone is planning to do shopping at Pashupati, this is not a good idea, considering the rush for catching the train.
Well I know, he really made sense there, but that leaves us with nothing to do for the day. He suggested us to spend time at Sukhia market and then he’d take us back to Lepchajagat. Well, economically, it didn’t make any sense to go to Simana as we’d anyway cover it up later in this trip. So after having a round of Tea at a small food joint at Jorpokhri, Mr Gudda drove us back to Sukhia.
So it’s like from Sukhia, there are 2 diversion – One which goes to Jorpokhri and the drive through this route is really enjoyable due to the pine forest and there’s another route which goes to Simana and further that there’s another diversion to Maneybhanjan and Mirik respectively. Well it felt like Rs. 600/- literally went in vain, but there’s nothing we could do about it. Instead, I tried to think in a positive way, because our trip to Mirik wouldn’t have covered this heavily route through the Pine Forest comprising of Graveyard.
Finally, after exploring the market at Sukhia, we hopped in and went back to Lepchajagat by 3:30 PM. At first I thought of going to the viewpoint again, however considering this mystic weather, there’s no point in climbing up to the viewpoint. Instead, we went ahead and gathered around at the food joint with other locals and tourists. As expected, I lost the count of cup of tea and momo’s we had. Soon, I noticed Samraggi and his husband along with their family. They too joined us, and we had a great time discussing our budget travel stories. She was amazed to know, how I travelled Ladakh for 15N with a total budget of 30k.
Once the evening settled in, we all returned back to our homestays. Soon we were served evening tea and snacks. We were gossipping together when Mr Tamang came up and handed over a bottle of Whisky which I asked him if he could help with. Actually one of his family members was about to pay a visit to Darjeeling for market and considering the cost here in this remote town, I asked him if he could get me a bottle.
Soon we were called up for Barbeque and Bonfire. Unfortunately, our experience with the barbeque was not so good, as they almost overcooked and burnt the chickens which made it completely bitter in taste. However, we enjoyed the bonfire which helped us to warm up ourselves. Today, it was more freezing than yesterday.
Finally, at around 9:00 PM, we were called up for dinner, and soon after having our dinner, we packed up most of our belongings to keep it easy next day, considering this to be our last night at Lepchajagat. Soon we called off the day and hit the bed.
Kanchankanya Homestay : Lepchajagat is a mystic town, with clouds stuck into the gaps of Pine Trees. The homestay is the 3rd one from the entrance of the village. Mr Passang Tamang and his family run this homestay. The rooms, washrooms and the whole property is really clean and well maintained. The family members are very friendly and co-operating. All the rooms are equipped with geysers to cope up with the freezing temperature there. Few rooms also have bed warmer which really helps you sleep. Like we had one on my parent’s room and considering their age, it really helped them keep warm throughout the night. The food is really nice and finger licking. It feels just like back home. They can arrange the pickups and drops if you want that and can also arrange the day trips around Lepchajagat. If you are planning to visit Ghoom Rock or Hawa Ghor, you can ask him to get you a Guide. Well, the guide is generally the local villager (someone from the family) who knows the route well and do’s and dont’s within the forest. They can also arrange for Barbeque and Bonfire if you wish to. We really enjoyed our stay here 🙂
Dinner at Janata Ahar, Sealdah : Rs. 315/-
Water & Uncountable cups of Tea throughout the journey: Rs. 250/-
Breakfast (En-route to Lepchajagat): Rs. 565/-
Vehicle (Drop to Lepchajagat): Rs. 2200/-
NOTE: You can instead take shared cabs from NJP / Siliguri to Darjeeling / Ghoom and get down at Ghoom, which costs around Rs. 300/- per head. From Ghoom you need to take another vehicle to Lepchajagat / Sukhia and get down at Lepchajagat, which costs around Rs. 100/- per head.
Vehicle (Sightseeing to Jorpokhri & Simana) : Rs. 600/-
Guide Charge (For Hike To Hawa Ghor & Ghoom Rock): Rs. 300/-
Barbeque and Bonfire : Rs. 700/- (Chicken @ 200/- per KG, Bonfire @ Rs. 300/-, Helping & Arrangements @ Rs. 200/-)
Kanchankanya Homestay: Rs. 8000/- (Rs. 1000/- per head per day for fooding and lodging)
Uncountable Cups of Tea and Momos at the Food Joint: Rs. 252/-
NOTE : I have tried to draft all the detailed costs as much as possible, keeping my personal expenses (like Whisky 😛 ) out of it!
Mr. Passang Tamang (Kanchankanya Homestay) : +91-95935-65309 / +91-89103-96465
Mr. Chotan Dutta (Driver – NJP – Lepchajagat): He’s a very good, humble and co-operating person. Drives a White Hyundai Xcent Prime with registration number – WB 73E 5965. +91-86707-97888.
Lendup (Guide For Hawa Ghor & Ghoom Rock) : +91-73385-96409 / +91-86953-77365. Although he works at Bangalore and comes to Lepchajagat during his holidays to help up his maternal uncle with the household chores. A very nice chap to walk with and be around. With him, time flies like a moment.
Mr. Gudda (Driver – Lepchajagat Sightseeing) : In short – Honest and nice person to travel with. Drives a silver coloured Maruti Suzuki Wagon R with registration number – WB 76 6936. +91-96099-82756
Mrs. Ravina Tamang (The owner of food joint, right at the entrance of the village) : Always smiling and very humble lady. Cooks finger licking heavenly momo’s. You’d find all the villagers and tourists gathered up nearby her food joint for snacks and tea. +91-62961-47893.