Yeh haseen waadiya… Yeh khula aasmaan... Aa gaye ham kaha…
These beautiful words from the evergreen AR Rahman song kept playing in my mind on a loop as I took in the mesmerizing view from our cottage at Chamong Chiabari. Finally we were in Darjeeling, the Queen of Hills.
Four girls; three cities; and a long awaited trip since four years. A lot has gone behind this holiday – haggling with the management to get my leaves approved, sleepless nights to finish up all the work commitments before time, and meticulous planning to co-ordinate everyone’s timings together. And now are checked in our rooms at the wonderful paradise of Chamong Chiabari.
This sprawling tea estate welcomed us with captivating sights of adjoining tea gardens and snow-clad mountains. Chamong Chiabari is more than a 100 years old tea-growing estate. With deluxe rooms that are a perfect blend of luxury and comfort and a Himalayan spa for the ultimate relaxation, it is one of the best places to stay in Darjeeling. These tea-covered hills give you the perfect place to hide, away from the rest of the civilization.
Inn waadiyon mein… takra chuke hai… Humse musafir… yun toh kayi…
As the four of us went down for a small hike in the tea gardens around Chamong, we came across local tea workers working in these plantations. Interacting with them, we heard many colourful stories about Darjeeling and its people. These mountains have seen it all. From the first kiss of a teenage couple to many a lovers’ quarrels, Darjeeling has hundreds of stories hidden in its depths. Staying at Chamong Chiabari, we too became a part of these stories. Hiking through the tea-covered slopes, we had the chance to talk to the local tea workers. These lovely ladies were sweet and welcoming and patiently answered all our questions about the tea-growing life they lead.
We decided to go trekking on one of the enticing Himalayan trails found near Chamong Chiabari tea estate. Walking through dense forests beaming with flora and fauna is one of the best experiences we had. The Rong Bong River flowing down the valley and the lovely rhododendrons add to the beauty of the trail. We were just awestruck by the scintillating view of Mt. Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalu and Lhotse – all in a single stretch. If I had the calibre of someone like Gulzar, I would have penned down some wonderful songs at that beautiful sight.
You must have seen the movie, or at least heard the songs from “Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar”. Set in Dehradun, Aamir Khan races through the twists and turns of the hilly routes in his fancy sports cycle. At Chamong, we got the chance to bring to life this childhood dream. Exploring the area around the tea estate on bicycles, we all felt like Aamir Khan racing down the hill slopes and singing “Pehla Nasha” in off-key tunes.
What we loved most during our stay at Chamong Chiabari is the amount of time we spent bird watching in the area. All around the tea plantations, one can see different species of birds flying over your heads. This sprawling tea estate is a like a little piece of paradise for all nature lovers. The panoramic views of snow-laded mountain ranges and the lush green cover of tea plantations make it one of the best places to stay in Darjeeling.
Four friends, who had grown apart in life due to work and responsibilities, once again found each other at this haven of green hills and rolling mist. The nights we spent at Chamong Chiabari, sharing the stories of our joys and sorrows have now a part of our lifetime memories. We will always remember Darjeeling fondly, with a special place reserved for Chamong Chiabari in a little corner of our hearts.