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
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
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
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.