There’s something about revisiting places from the past. Walking through the long-forgotten alleys, finding those rusted landmarks again and watching those memories come alive – no words can best describe that feeling.
Riddhi Debh (aka rids_goes_places), a travel photographer and renowned travel influencer embarked on a ten-day-long road trip through the valleys of North Bengal with Savaari. In this blog, you will find how she reconnected the dots of her childhood while exploring an unknown village called Rishap. She also shares her heart-warming experience of staying at a homestay in Kalimpong and the thrill of driving to the offbeat places in the bustling town of Darjeeling.
From sitting under the starry sky to driving through the misty mountains roads to finding the offbeat in a popular tourist destination – Riddhi’s journey is enthralling and refreshing after a year of restricted travel.
Without much further ado, let’s get right into it!
- The beginning of something special
- Rishap: The journey, the exploration and everything in between
- Kalimpong: Saying hello to the smiling faces
- Darjeeling through a different lens
The beginning of something special
Riddhi’s journey began in the city of joy – Kolkata. An overnight train took her to a remote railway station in the valleys of North Bengal. “Mal Junction” – the station board read. Outside the station, she was greeted by a person who lived up to the meaning of his name every day – Love Subba. Love is a Savaari chauffeur who is known for his stories on the go and expert navigation. Riddhi and Love shared stories from different times and places as they headed to their first location, Rishap.
To those of you who aren’t familiar with Rishap, it is a quaint village at an altitude of 2600 metres, near the Neora Valley National Park. Rishap is about 114 km from Bagdogra airport. Far away from the shackles of commercialisation, Rishap will give you a glimpse of the rich culture and sheer beauty of North Bengal.
She was welcomed by the chilly Himalayan breeze. The snow-capped peaks shrouded in mists, the curved roads winding through the valleys, the sprawling tea gardens, the mighty Teesta river burbling through the woods, the lofty hills dotted with quaint little villages, the divine helpings of Gundruk soup, Momos and Thukpa – returning to the road, as though breathed life into her soul.
Rishap: The journey, the exploration and everything in between
You must be thinking, what all can you actually do in a village up in the mountains? Well, watch as we unfold the many hidden gems of Rishap.
Riddhi realised that there was much more to Rishap than she imagined – a bumpy but picturesque drive through Neora Valley National Park, an hour’s trek to Rishap’s highest point Tiffindara, experiencing the magnificent Changey falls, hiking down to a village called Seoul that epitomises religious harmony, and spending time with a sustainable tourism community in Kolkakham village.
On her way, Riddhi observed the quaint but difficult lives of the locals. From collecting wood for fire to the cold Himalayan weather – no two days in the mountain life are the same. She found stories of locals who have spent a lifetime living this life. She found harmony tucked away beside the Kanchenjunga peak when she visited a temple with idols of Buddha and Shiva kept right next to each other. “The population of the village is such, 50% of the population is Hindu and the other half follows Buddhism” explained the priest.
Riddhi’s love for offbeat explorations took her to the roads less travelled. Her enthusiasm was complemented by the expertise of our chauffeur, Love Subba. On one such occasion, Love Ji suggested Riddhi to stop by and look deeper into the beauty. “Madam Ji, if we take the next right turn and travel 2 km, there is an amazing photo stop not many people know about. It is a mesmerizing canopy of pines like they show in the movies”, he said. They stopped the car at the charming forest with tall pine trees, for a few beautiful clicks.
They say every picture has a story. Well, now you know the story behind this picture –
Kalimpong: Saying hello to the smiling faces
It was now time to head to another town known for its charm and cute little cafes. “I had fond childhood memories of Kalimpong, sitting on a balcony, and watching the tiny houses afar in the mountains”, recalls Riddhi. What is a better way to experience the true essence of any place than staying at a homestay? Riddhi spent her time in Kalimpong at a homestay, run by a charming lady, Duke aunty, trying local dishes – ring-shaped Sel roti and hot momos.
Savaari’s chauffeur Love Ji’s recommendations for offbeat outings were always ready! Following his guidance, Riddhi visited the experiential Tribeni camping site by Teesta river, stopped by Kalimpong’s highest spot Deolo for a sunset, and went to Munsong, a place beyond clouds near the Sikkim border. Discovering new places through the rocky terrains – she felt at home again.
Nom-Nom North Bengal: A food trail
Of course, no trip is complete without amazing food stories. Here’s how Riddhi explored the cafes of Kalimpong and curated a list of suggestions for all of us.
Darjeeling through a different lens
“My interest lies in discovering the road less travelled, and hence I was sceptical about visiting Darjeeling after almost a decade”, Riddhi shares.
Outside her car’s window, were the trails of raindrops and ahead of them a cloudy mist, reducing the visibility on her way to Darjeeling. Love Ji cheered her up, “Madam Ji, rains could often be a nuisance on these roads. But when you forget about it and enjoy the beauty of nature, it is nothing but magical!”
She stopped to explore Lamahatta Eco Park and walked up to the foggy and slender forest to finally reach a sacred lake. To satiate the wanderlust in her, Riddhi chose an organic farm-stay, Suma Aavaas, 7 km from Darjeeling, in a place called Lebong.
It was the ease of having a car to herself that made her venture into the untrodden and lesser-known parts of Darjeeling, changing her perception of this popular destination.
Bidding farewell to the roads
All good things come to an end but the memories stay forever. This is how Riddhi’s ten-day trip to North Bengal with Savaari came to an end. The journey wouldn’t be half as exciting if it weren’t for Savaari’s veteran, Love Subba, who chauffeured Riddhi and her partner through the extremely challenging terrain. Love, with his happy-go-lucky disposition, and native expertise, proved to be delightful company over the entire journey.
“I am so overjoyed to have made this decision of exploring my state of birth, that it reinforced my love for travelling in incredible India”, concludes Riddhi.
If you liked Riddhi’s story as much as we did, then share it with your friends and plan a trip to North Bengal soon! For an enhanced experience simply book a taxi from Siliguri to have a hassle-free road trip experience. When was the last time you went to an offbeat travel destination? Let us know in the comments.
Download our Savaari car rental app for a smooth and pleasant journey.