The first-daywe got little suspicious with the transport rates being quoted by Kanchan View Hotel Manager. We reported that back to Calcutta the tour operator Mr. D. Ghosh. But once you are away from home and you have limited option to negotiate a bargain. The Hotel person by now have charged us 2500 for the first day covering only Tagore Smritivan , monastery and forest bungalow. For the second day we paid 2500 to cover 5/6 places but the distance was more. By now we have checked few blogs and travel sites thanks to borrowed usb modem and quite certain that we are being robed :( The charge for travelling to Burniok to Kurseong was a whopping 4500. Somehow by now we kind of lost faith on that travel agent :( of Calcutta.
Only good part we got a new Mahindra Xylo and started travelling back to Jorethang on the same road and took a turn there towards Kurseong The road was really bad as we entered West Bengal luckily we were in a SUV. The road was narrow, long and without any major village to stop or rest over for few minutes.
We called the guest house in Kurseong to get a direction and he explained the same to our driver. On the way weather also changed its mood and it became very dark and started to rain as we approached Kurseong. Ghum (highest point on Toy train line ) was completely submerged in cloud. We could hardly see anything beyond few meters. Once we reached Kurseong we were lost with direction and had to come back to towards Darjeeling again to reach our home-stay. The home-stay is on a hill top near St. Mary. We approached it via such a narrow lane that there was no chance for our SUV to go to the end and had to drag our luggage ourselves. It was not a pleasant way to approach a new place & moreover there was no help from the home-stay and it was raining. By the time we got into our room it was almost 2:30 PM and it was really cold. Although the house had wooden floor but it was really cold and we felt little unprepared for this weather in the middle of summer. We had some hot Maggi and sandwiches as snack or late lunch. My mother decided for a rest while we decided to explore the market of Kurseong. So we walked back to the highway (Darjeeling -Siliguri NH 55) and got a shared jeep (taxi) which took us to the market.
The market we explored about travel option of our own this time. We fixed one taxi for next day’s sightseeing and also inquired about rate for going to Darjeeling and Siliguri. With that our suspicion became reality ? that we were cheated by our travel agent.
We walked around the market area and it started to rain. We left the market area behind and tried our luck in stopping a taxi to drop us back. But that turned out negative and we continued and reached “Kurseong Tourist Lodge”. Stopped there for a break we ordered coffee and French fries for Aarush. Must admit after a long time had a good coffee in the kingdom of tea :). The sky got little cleared and we started walking back again on NH 55 to reach our home-stay. Walking along the Highway and toy train had its share of fun. Aarush did an excellent walk of 3 KM walk with uphill. Dinner was a simple-one egg-curry with rice and we headed to bed as it was really a long day for us.
Next day, the weather was not better compared to first day. After breakfast we started with our sightseeing. The first stop was Dow Hill Girls School. The place was not open to public that day and due to rain and cloud we could hardly see anything. This school is 130+ years old started in 1879. From there we went to Dow Hill (Deer Park) which is little further on the same road. It seems there is a big plan to make a zoo/entertainment park with rope-way in couple of years. Knowing it is West Bengal I have personal doubt that it will ever be made.
From there we went to Makaibari Tea Estate, normally on a regular day you can visit the factory and have a guided tour of tea leave processing. But being Sunday factory was closed and we just bought some tea. En route we passed Castleton Tea estate which is one of the most expensive Darjeeling tea. While heading back we stopped for few minutes to explore Cochrane Place and taking pictures around tea garden as Sun suddenly came out between the cloud. This resort/hotel is really cool and worth checking out if you are looking for better stay with excellent view.
After this we came to TV tower which is also known as Eagle Crag. It is a high point and provides panoramic view of the valley down . The sky was not very clear but it was better than the initial morning and we could see the road going to Siliguri and the great flat land near from there. The river Torsa;’s white mark was very faint.
The driver suggested some options which really did not appealed us but then he suggest Goethals Memorial School. For that we drove past our home-stay. This time we got lucky and guard let us in the school yard. This school is the boy’s convent started in 1907. There are many distinguished alumni’s who represented India from Olympics to Corporate leadership. It was a real nice feeling to explore this school from outside, reminded us of the Montfort School of Yercaud,TN.
The driver dropped us back to the same place where we had snacks previous day evening. The place was packed with tourist but luckily we managed a table and had some hot meal there. We went back to our home-stay with a local Taxi.
Now like weather our camera also made a big drama, one of the plastic pins of memory card got broken and it refused to work. We explored St Mary’s Hill in the evening. It was a nice stroll from home-stay. We crossed Eastern Forest Rangers’ College (another British Legacy) on our way. It is a scenic natural area covered with lush green forests all around and the way leading to The Grotto. A statue of Mariam (Mother of Isa) is placed inside a open cave. There were only one or two worshipers when we were there to lit candles.
Well that is also end of Kurseong, settled the bill & booked a Taxi for next day morning to take us early in the morning to train station to get a ride on famous Toy train to Darjeeling