Ladies and Gentleman,
I think I have discovered my favorite place in the world. It might have been my desire for nature, peace and quiet or a cool temperature to counter the hot busy days that I have been enduring on the crazy streets of pre-Puja Kolkata. But everything about my trip to Kolakham this past weekend was perfection.
Kolakham is located in the northernmost region of West Bengal above Bangladesh, right below Sikkim and practically in Nepal. It actually felt like we were in Nepal more than India since most of the few people that we interacted with preferred to speak Nepali over Bangla or Hindi.
My roommate and I started our journey on Friday morning. The flight from Kolkata to Bagdogra only took one hour, but the journey to Kolakham took about five hours because most of the ride was uphill on a windy one-way road. I didn’t mind the drive however because the view was breathtaking. Along the way we passed tea plantations, waterfalls and a pine tree forest that reminded me of the Santa Cruz Mountains during Christmas time. We even stopped at a house-cum-convenience store for tea and momos. The tea tasted like magical perfection. After about 4 hours of driving, we reached the town of Lava where we switched into another jeep that took us to the Neora Valley Eco Huts in Kolakham, where we were staying.
Our accommodation was delightful. We had a nice cozy cabin with big glass windows that provided a view of the entire valley, mist and all. We ate all our meals in the main cabin which was equipped with a TV and a water filter. The food was delicious, which I was really happy about since there was no where else, in sight, to eat. We slept for 12 hours that night. At first, it was bizarre going to bed without the sounds of horns honking, families shouting and dogs fighting but after a while, the silence was soothing.
The next day we took a jeep to Chilguri Falls. The waterfall was only 6 km away but it took a long time because the road was all rocks and dirt. After viewing the waterfall, we did a short little hike back to the car. It was so nice to be out in the fresh air in what felt like our own little jungle mountain paradise. When we got back we were treated to a huge lunch of rice, dal, eggplant, and potato yumminess. Naturally, our big lunch made us tired so we napped right as it was conveniently starting to rain. Later that night, between tea time and dinner, the power went out so we chatted by candlelight as we waited for the power to come back on.
I was sad when I woke up the next day because I knew that we had to leave (and the power was out again so I couldn’t take a hot shower). The ride down the mountain was just as beautiful as the ride up. Once we got into town we stopped at a large but average looking hotel (name given to quick restaurants that are a step or two above street food). I was pretty hungry but I wasn’t expecting much. But boy was I surprised. We were served two thick and long pieces of naan with a generous amount of paneer plus a tall glass of hot tea to wash it all down. It was the best case scenario for the type of meal I would expect to have on a road trip. Simple, hearty and comforting.
A few hours later, we made it to the airport. And now, I am back in Kolkata, safe and sound and ready for Puja.