Attractions Of Darjeeling...

Darjeeling Adventure Sports
Darjeeling was the first hill region in India where Dr. Hooker first conducted organized trekking in the 1840s. The breathtaking panoramic views of Everest and Kanchenjunga have been alluring thousands of nature lovers from different parts of the world since then. Treks in this region are organized through both high and low altitude areas.

The best time of the year to undertake this region is April-May and October-November. It is advisable to carry one's own provisions. Trekking equipment can be hired at nominal charges from the Youth Hostel. Apart from being acclaimed as one of the best Hill Resorts, Darjeeling is also a veritable paradise for trekkers and adventure seekers. Trekking in Darjeeling is an experience which no lover of nature should miss. It takes one to places from where one can feel the proximity of the stars and is still in its primeval majesty. It brings one face to face with the snow-capped mountains with the sublime grandeur of the Himalayas. The region abounds in rhododendrons, magnolias, primulas, orchids and ferns of numerous varieties. About six hundred species of birds inhabit the emerald green forests on the slopes of the mountains. Mountaineering is a sport reserved for the trained and well equipped personnel, but as far as trekking is concerned, it is a sport for one and all. There is no need to be a professional climber to enjoy the magnificent grandeur of the Himalayas, just an ordinary person who has the will to walk along the narrow paths of the hills and who has the inquisitiveness of viewing the serenity and sublime of the mountains. There are different routes for trekking and the right hand column above corresponds to some of the most popular and most rewarding treks in the region. In the trekking package, one can explore the beautiful terrain of Darjeeling and adjoining hills overlooking the golden heights of majestic Kanchenjunga. Sandakphu at an altitude of 3,636 m on the famous Singalila ridge offers clients to savior the breathtaking beauty of the Eastern Himalayas. It climbs up through forests of rhododendron, giant magnolias, spruce and other trees of sub-alpine and more than 600 varieties of orchids - the largest to be found in one geographical area in the world. Phalut which is only 48 km from Kanchenjunga as the crow flies is bestowed with the best view of Kanchenjunga. Forming the junction of Nepal, Sikkim and West Bengal, Phalut along with Pemayangchi and Sandakphu, is considered one of the most rewarding places to visit.

Trekking in the Darjeeling Hills began almost a century ago. In fact, the first organized trekking route in India was established here along the Sangalila range. The trek begins in Darjeeling and proceeds through Maneybhanjyang, Tonglu, Sandakphu and ends in Phalut. The alluring natural beauty is replete with countless varieties of Rhododendrons, Magnolias, Orchids and Wild Flowers. The dense forests, the verdant meadows, the savage mass of Mount Everest, the everlasting beauty of Kanchenjunga, the rugged Lhotse or the mysterious Makalu - all in one sweeping glance, present an experience that can never be equaled. There are trekker huts under the management of Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council Tourism Department all along the route to Sandakphu.

Say Darjeeling and you will get an echo …..Tea. Darjeeling produces the world's most aromatic variety of tea. The unusual mixture of soil, altitude, sunshine, rainfall and the character of the people help Darjeeling produce the most fragrant teas. Thus, good Darjeeling tea is indeed the champagne of teas.

It was around 1834 when Lord William Bentinck appointed a committee "to consider the question of importing seeds and plants from China; to decide upon the most favorable localities for growing them..." Around 1835 seedlings and tea seeds were distributed to various parts of India, mostly in the hilly regions of the count. Meanwhile, tea seeds were introduced in Darjeeling and an experimental nursery was started in Lebong (near Darjeeling town) which was found to be very encouraging. This success encouraged prospective tea growers to procure land. The first tea gardens to be started in Darjeeling were Makaibari near Kurseong town and Alubari near Darjeeling town. Soon after, Tukvar, Moondakothi, Dooteriah, Margaret's Hope were started.

The local people soon learnt the trade and continued to work in most of the factories. Some Europeans like Dr. Grant, The Barnes Brother, Capt. Masson, Capt. Samler, and Mr. Smith. Dr. Brougham, Mr. Martin, Mr. James White, Mr. George Christison as well as a local resident Mr. Bhagatbir Rai were some of the pioneers of Darjeeling tea, planting and manufacturing tea in different parts of Darjeeling. By 1866 Darjeeling had 39 tea estates covering about 405 hectares. Mr. W. O'Brien Ansell, a very competent engineer, further helped the growth of the tea industry in Darjeeling by using the first power driven tea roller and tea sorters. He was also the first engineer to survey a hydro-electric scheme for the electrification of Darjeeling town and he installed turbines on many tea estates of the Darjeeling. By 1872 this completely revolutionised tea manufacture. After India's independence in 1947, many of the British owners, who controlled about 90% of the plantations in Darjeeling hills, started to dispose their properties. By 1956 a large number of Tea estate's ownership changed hands. It was very difficult for inexperienced young Indian planters and fierce competition in tea auctions demanded improvement in standards of tea industry. The Darjeeling tea industry, however, owes a good deal too few European planters like Mr. C.W. Emmett and Mr. T.J. Hardingham who stayed back and helped Darjeeling tea.

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
It is lovingly called the "Toy Train". The journey to Darjeeling is regarded as among the most spectacular in the world. Travellers are awed by both the scenery as well as the railway line which is truly an engineering masterpiece and without doubt one of the wonders of the world. The history of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is equally fascinating. It was in the year 1878 that Mr. Franklin Prestage put up a proposal with a detailed scheme to the Government of Bengal for laying a train line from Siliguri to Darjeeling. Sir Ashley Eden, the Lieutenant Governor, appointed a Committee to examine the project. This Committee reported that the project was feasible and would be of great advantage to the Government and public and was accepted in 1879. The construction started that very year and by 1880 the railway line had reached Tindharia. Later that year the line was completed till Kurseong. By July 1881 it was opened for traffic right through to Darjeeling. The name given to the railway line was "Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Company". Later the line was extended from Siliguri to Kishanganj and towards Kalimpong in the Teesta river valley. This was known as the Teesta Valley Extension and was started in 1915. This line used to go from Siliguri to Riyang station passing Kalijhora and then to Geille Khola Station. Later with the construction of a bigger line, the service from Siliguri to Kishanganj was discontinued. In 1950 landslides caused severe damage to the line from Geille khola station to Siliguri. This was never repaired and so the services to Gielle Khola station were discontinued.

The original passenger vehicle was a small four-wheeled trolley with canvas roof and two wooden benches for seats. After sometime proper 26 feet long bogie was introduced. The steam engine of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is specially designed for unusual conditions of Darjeeling by Sharpe, Stewart. The whole railway track from Siliguri to Darjeeling is considered an engineering marvel. In 51 miles of track it climbes from near sea level to about 7,400 ft. altitude. To attain this climb engineers have used "loop" and "zigzag reverses". In "loop" the railway track circle round and passes over itself by a bridge, thereby quickly attaining higher elevation. In "zigzag reverse" for obtaining the same result by running the track back diagonally up the hillside for a short distance, and then again resuming an alignment parallel to the original alignment but higher up. There are no tunnels; as a result the railway line has very sharp curves depending on the contour of the mountain.