Lamahatta: The land of the wise (Review)
Siliguri, West Bengal: Travelling unfurls my soul. So each time I travel, I realize how important it is to go out and meet the world. We see all sorts of people when we step outside.
We see all sorts of ways in which people drive and use the road or the locality. And each time it only provides one to reflect on how one feels when one encounters unpleasant people and experiences.
I don’t want to sound like a preacher but I invite you all to try to travel once with just the intention of observing nature and yourself.
Trust me when you come back you will have changed as a person. This time I traveled to a place known as Lamahatta which is snugly protected by the hills in the Kalimpong district of North Bengal.
THE ICONIC CORONATION POOL THAT CONNECTS TWO HILLS IN SEVOK. BUILT BY THE BRITISH EMPIRE, THE BRIDGE IS A POPULAR DESTINATION FOR THE LOCALS AND YOUNGSTERS FROM NEARBY SILIGURI (IMAGE COURTESY OF ANKAN DEY FOR WE THE WORLD)
REFLECTION OF THE ICONIC CORONATION POOL(IMAGE COURTESY OF ANKAN DEY FOR WE THE WORLD)
One can never get enough of the hills. Although they all belong to the same mountain range, what diversity lies in each bend. It’s unimaginable!
THE TEESTA RIVER, SECOND-LARGEST IN WEST BENGAL, MEANDERS THROUGH THE VALLEYS IN SEVOK. THE RIVER IS OF IMMENSE IMPORTANCE TO THE LOCALS, BOTH STRATEGICALLY AND COMMERCIALLY (IMAGE COURTESY OF ANKAN DEY FOR WE THE WORLD)
ANOTHER SNAPSHOT OF THE TEESTA SNAKING THROUGH THE SEVOKE VALLEY IN WEST BENGAL (IMAGE COURTESY OF ANKAN DEY FOR WE THE WORLD)
Lamahatta, literally translates as the village of the Lamas. Lamas are in turn the spiritual leaders according to Tibetan Buddhism, like the ever humble and wise Dalai Lama.
Before going to Lamahatta I reminded myself, “I need to bring a lot of takeaways from this destination’. Who would know what beautiful experiences were lying ahead?
A VIEW OF THE LAMAHATA ECO PARK FROM A VANTAGE POINT (IMAGE COURTESY OF ANKAN DEY FOR WE THE WORLD)
In order to reach Lamahatta from Siliguri, the easiest route lies through Sevoke and Teesta Bazar. There are various view-points located along the way from where you can ogle at the serene hills scattered in every direction.
One of the more famous viewpoints which have managed to attract many visitors is called ‘Lovers Meet View Point’. It is located at a distance of around 3 km from Teesta Bazar.
Lovers Meet View Point
The road to the viewpoint is uphill and you need to pass through pine forest to reach the viewpoint situated at a curve on the route.
The viewpoint has been rebuilt with a concrete structure where locals from around the district have set up stalls where you can treat yourself to authentic momos, waiwai, and even freshly cut pineapples. Tea, coffee, and many varieties of packed snacks are also available.
THE 'LOVER'S MEET' VIEWPOINT ON THE WAY TO LAMAHATA. THE TEESTA IS VISIBLE FROM THE VIEWPOINT (IMAGE COURTESY OF ANKAN DEY FOR WE THE WORLD)
As the name suggests the spot used to be a favorite among couples looking for a quick getaway from the adjacent towns.
One can enjoy the sprawling vista of the majestic Teesta river snaking its way through the hills. The first look of the vista is sure to pop up a “wow’ in your mind unconsciously. It’s that appealing!
THE EVER-GRACEFUL TEESTA MAKING ITS WAY THROUGH THE HIMALAYAN VALLEYS. IMAGE TAKEN FROM THE 'LOVER'S MEET' VIEWPOINT (IMAGE COURTESY OF ANKAN DEY)
On interacting with the humble stall owners I got to know they come to the spot in the morning and carry out their business until 4 or 5 depending on the rush.
They pack up before the sun sets and return back home with their vehicles, usually pick-up trucks that are kept parked near the spot.
The packed food is charged 5 rupees extra for all the pain they take to bring them up to the isolated location. But tourists happily pay the amount mesmerized by the beauty.
One interesting thing that attracted me to the shops was the language used by the stall owners to attract buyers. They kept saying, “Sir/Madam, please come. Shall I make some coffee/tea for you? Shall I make some Maggie instead of just shouting “Chai/ Coffee”, like most vendors resort to. All their love and dedication are poured into the food they serve.
The takeaway from Lovers Meet ViewPoint: The sheer efforts undertaken by the stall owners of the place to bring food and beverages to tourists inspired me to stop cribbing about little discomforts here and there. The humble smiling faces of the stall owners will surely fill you with warmth and happiness.
The journey goes on:
Lamahatta was not even known as a tourist destination until 2012 when the Eco Park in Lamahatta was inaugurated.
The village has been promoted as an eco-tourism destination which finds its reflection in the interplay of subsistence business practices taken up by the locals.
You will not find any modern malls or posh restaurants. But you will find the humble locals selling souvenirs and food all along the way to Lamahatta.
VIEW FROM THE ENTRANCE POINT OF THE LAMAHATA ECO PARK. THE TICKET COUNTER IS VISIBLE IN THE EXTREME RIGHT (IMAGE COURTESY OF ANKAN DEY FOR WE THE WORLD)
A VIEW OF THE LAMAHATA ECO PARK FROM A VANTAGE POINT (IMAGE COURTESY OF ANKAN DEY FOR WE THE WORLD)
Once you reach the Eco-park, you will be greeted by the mighty evergreen trees luring you into their mystical aura. The park flaunts a beautifully manicured garden in the front.
There are multiple sitting-style gazebos for one to sit and drink the beauty of the place. There is a treehouse from where you can get a clearer view of the hills stretching beyond the horizon.
If the weather is clear, you can catch a glimpse of the lofty Kanchenjunga with its snow-capped peaks.
A TREEHOUSE AT THE LAMAHATA ECO PARK MADE FOR A CLEARER VIEW OF THE AREA (IMAGE COURTESY OF ANKAN DEY FOR WE THE WORLD)
A VIEW FROM INSIDE THE TREEHOUSE AT LAMAHATA ECO PARK (IMAGE COURTESY OF ANKAN DEY FOR WE THE WORLD)
For the more adventurous and physically fit crowd, you can follow the foot trail uphill to reach what they named as the sacred water-body/pond.
Once I entered the park I was constantly looking forward to seeing what the sacred pond was all about.
THE PINE FOREST TRAIL LEADING TO THE LAMAHATA SACRED POND (IMAGE COURTESY OF ANAKAN DEY FOR WE THE WORLD)
Needless to say, I started my hike up the pine forest. The journey itself is mesmerizing. You will pass many enthusiastic people who are either going up or coming down.
This is where your anticipation will be heightened. Some people will be kind enough to tell you what they saw up there or how far you need to reach.
Interestingly, strangers will seem familiar as everyone around will be undertaking the same journey around you.
A SIGNBOARD SHOWING THE WAY TOWARDS THE SACRED POND VIA A SCINTILLATING PINE FOREST (IMAGE COURTESY OF ANAKAN DEY FOR WE THE WORLD)
THE ROAD GOES ON(IMAGE COURTESY OF ANAKAN DEY FOR WE THE WORLD)
In my opinion, what lies up there can only be described subjectively. For me, the sacred pond and its adjoining contour met every expectation that was budding inside me.
As you undertake the 750 meters or so, journey uphill, you reach the hilltop, which houses the sacred pond. It is a water body with a concrete embankment much like an artificial pond.
It is surrounded by sacred Buddhist prayer flags all across. As far as your eyes can see you will find the tall coniferous trees and hear the wind swooshing the leaves.
If the cloud or fog decides to pay a visit, your day is made. Fog and pine forest is a deadly combination.
THE SACRED POND SHROUDED BY THE PINE FOREST ALL ALONG (IMAGE COURTESY OF ANAKAN DEY FOR WE THE WORLD).
Once up the sacred pond, I simply explored the area on foot and for the major part just sat down, closed my eyes, breathed in the musty crisp hilly air, and listened to the birds singing and talking in a language unknown to us.
The thump of my own heartbeat trying to relax after a hectic climb and the silent humdrum of the old forest is an intoxicating combination.
It rejuvenated me, uplifted me, and filled me with all the positive vibes that I needed for coping up with our busy lives down in the plain.
ADJACENT VIEWS FROM THE SACRED POND (IMAGE COURTESY OF ANAKAN DEY FOR WE THE WORLD).
Takeaway: Nature is and always will be our best healer. You just need to talk to the trees to imbibe their wisdom.
Advice: Try to be as quiet in that place as possible.
Many enthusiastic people create a cacophony like they are used to in the city. It absolutely disrupts the peace of the area. Just stay silent and let the surrounding give you what it has in plenty-----peace and tranquillity.
IMAGE COURTESY OF ANAKAN DEY FOR WE THE WORLD
The 10th-mile monastery
On interacting with a few locals I got to know that there lies a very old (around 500 years old) monastery just 20 minutes from the park.
You need to ask for directions from the locals and they will show you the exact location. The monastery is now guarded by the Forest Department.
The monastery is not visible from the road. You need to enter the premises of a protected area and the people present there will show you the path to the monastery.
WALKWAY LEADING TO THE 10TH MILE MONASTERY IN LAMAHATA (IMAGE COURTESY OF ANKAN DEY FOR WE THE WORLD)
A GLIMPSE OF THE 10TH MILE MONASTERY (IMAGE COURTESY OF ANAKAN DEY FOR WE THE WORLD)
You need to walk downhill through thick foliage and the age-old ‘gumpha’ stands there in all serenity amidst thick outgrowth of trees.
I did not find a chance to meet any monks as they were all in prayers. The place is absolutely silent and calm.
THE 10TH MILE MONASTERY (IMAGE COURTESY OF ANAKAN DEY FOR WE THE WORLD).
You can spend some time seeing the beautiful architecture from ancient times. It has been restored but the original structure remains the same.
The walls are dotted with Buddhist symbology all over. Let me tell you, it is not a teeming tourist spot. So do not expect anything extraordinary.
The only thing that is extraordinary is its sheer age and simplicity.
Food and accommodation in Lamahatta: There are a number of homestays and simple restaurants in and around the Eco Park area.
You can choose to stay in Lamahatta if you are looking for a quiet getaway. Also, Darjeeling, Tukda, and Tinchuley are in close proximity to the place so you might make plans accordingly. For most people staying in Siliguri and adjacent areas, a day trip usually suffices.
To wrap up, visiting Lamahatta enriched me with memories of a lifetime. The simplicity of the locals and their warm demeanor humbled me.
I will definitely find chances to visit the place again. The added perk is that you can visit this place all year round due to its location and good road connectivity.
But every season will present you with a different vista for sure. If you have visited Lamahatta or you know something interesting about the place, then we are all ears. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.