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Bijanbari – An ‘O-Range-y’ Affair 

Bijanbari – An ‘O-Range-y’ Affair 

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The story is about a couple’s trip to Bijanbari, an offbeat hill station in Bengal during the summer. They stay at a beautiful homestay, go on treks, and encounter a leopard. The trip is marred by the sight of plastic pollution on the riverbank.

Summer in Kolkata cannot be expressed in words and especially this year it has been a complete love affair with the AC which otherwise disgusts me. So one such day I suggested a short trip to my wife to some offbeat hill stations in Bengal. My wife seemed skeptical at my suggestion as that day was April Fools Day. So looking at her doubtful eyes I added “I am serious. If you can manage your office, we can both go by this weekend.” She looked interested “Where?” she asked. “Search for one & do the booking, I am all set to pack our bags.” …and that is the beginning of the narrative of our trip to Bijanbari.

April-MAy is a time of the year when the wanderlust Bengali finds a yarning relief by visiting the hills. Naturally, the demand for railway tickets takes a rise. We were unable to find confirmed tickets on the train, but when there is a wish there is hope, and hope it was when we got bus tickets from Kolkata to Siliguri.

Siliguri, Tenzing Norgay Bus Terminus was exceptionally busy that day. Tourists looking for shared cars for Darjeeling – Kurseong – Kalimpong. We too joined the throng in our search for a car to “Bijanbari”. But as it is located at a distance of 25 km from Darjeeling no cars agreed to take us as passengers. But then hope came in the form of Ningma bhai, Ningma Sherpa, the owner of the homestay named “Shasing Valley Homestay”. I called him to express the issue. He contacted a few known people and the next thing we find ourselves in a car to Relling, Bijanbari, at the bank of River Rangeet, where our homestay is located.

Bijanbari, Relling, Shasing Valley Farmstay.. After a beautiful but hectic journey of four and a half hours, the destination we reached was like a soft embalmer to which I fell in love at the first sight. What mesmerized me more was our room which had 3 big windows which give us a view of beautiful hills & glimpse of the river Rangeet.

Shasing Valley Farmstay's room view with 3 big windows

By the time we reached we were starving. Ningma bhai & his beautiful wife along with their pets, the furry white dog, I named him “Snowy” & a three-month-old cat named “Daisy” welcomed us with a great gesture & invited us for the lunch..

The dining area had a majestic view. So with the delicious homely meal prepared by them, served with the social Nepali culture, we enjoyed the beauty of nature thoroughly. That evening we enjoyed the special alcoholic drink prepared by them named “Tongba”, which is served on the bamboo shoot, along with Pakoda, dry chili chicken & french fries. We enjoyed the drink and food as the full moon veils the hilltop majestically as if the hill & the moon kissing each other. We had an early dinner as the real trip starts the next day.

while roaming in Bijanbari

Expedition of Bijanbari… It was a beautiful morning the next day as the sun rays kissed upon the earth from the eastern horizon. In a while, after a luscious English Breakfast and 2 cups of Darjeeling tea, we went trekking from Relling to Upper Relling. It’s a walk between the forest, keeping aside the line of the hill & so many orange trees on the hilltop. That was such an adventure because there is no one on this route except us. Only the raw sounds of the jungle, some unknown bird’s chirruping… & suddenly we heard a growl… We stopped, tensed, thrilled & scared… After a couple of minutes of silence (it’s like hours at that time), we started walking back towards our homestay, crossing some hill trees & most importantly the orange trees… After reaching our homestay, we asked Ningma bhai about the growling sound, he answered that local people spotted leopards 2-3 times in the morning & night, but no humans were ever killed to date… We are on a sigh of relief & as well as disappointed not to see the Yellow-Black spotted animal.

orange trees were blooming in Bijanbari

We rested for a while and went for lunch. After the delicious lunch, Ningma bhai, me & my wife stepped for the second half adventure towards the Rangeet River bank. We saw some small fountains on the way but what made me concerned is the way people had left empty plastic bottles and wrappers on the water. Can we not keep our earth clean? After a walk of 30 minutes, we reached the Rangeet River bank. Beautiful hilly river Rangeet, which is usually at full flow during monsoon was now merely a narrow stream like Tagore’s “Amader choto nodi, chole anke-banke”. After spending some time we continued our trek to the beautiful tea garden on the hilltop, and my wife decided to stay back.

Rangeet River, Bijanbari

When I found the feces of an animal that looked unusual, I asked Ningma bhai about this, he looked at it carefully & nodded his head by saying “ Sir, this is the feces of a leopard, look at it carefully you can find some fur of another animal which he/she ate”. This gave me goosebumps. Then we came downwards to the tea garden, Ningma bhai showed me another trek route from there between the dense orange trees to the hilltop but it’s a full day trip & better to go during the season of oranges which is usually from October to January 1st week… Now It’s evening & “Poornima”… The moon is once again on its full avatar in the East… We started walking back to our homestay…

Homestay at Bijanbari
Shasing Valley Farmstay, at Bijanbari

Shasing Valley Farmstay, Bijanbari… after reaching our homestay, Ningma bhai showed me their organic farm on the premises of the homestay, that’s why they named it Farmstay… All the foods they cook are organic, that’s why they are so tasty. Ningma Bhai is a master’s degree holder in agriculture & now trying to expand business in homestay & organic farming. That evening after a cup of Darjeeling tea, we tasted the special momo, which is made on charcoal & wood burner & it was so delicious.

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Whta view of the majectic Brahmaputra river from the MBRHC


We started packing, as we had to depart the next morning. After packing, we spent our leisure time with the pets, “Snowy” & “Daisy”. At night Ningma bhai, his wife & cook dada arranged a special dinner for us with “Bhindi Do-Piyaza”, “Fish tomato curry” & “Chilli Pork”. It was a beautiful starry full moon night, don’t know when I fell asleep by looking at the hills from our window. The next morning at Bijanbari started with a cup of Darjeeling tea & it was time to wrap up as our car will come to pick us up at 8 AM. Ningma bhai, packed our breakfast to have it in the car.. Ningma bhai, his wife & cook dada privileged both of us with a sash/ scarf (uttoriyo) at the time of departure.

More oranges

Bijanbari, wish we could stay for a couple of more days here. But we will come back for sure, probably this year again at Shasing Valley Farmstay, during the season of oranges. Ningma bhai promised to guide the trek route. So it’s time to say goodbye to Bijanbari, Shasing Valley Farmstay, Rangeet River, and these big-hearted people, Snowy & Daisy, we will miss you. Love you.

The car started, and it was time for our next destination, that will be another story on some other day…


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