Mongpo, Delo and the Neora Valley Jungle Camp Part 2

The road down to Lava was as pleasant as it always is. The forests are as dense as ever and the road deserted except for a few vehicles toiling up the hill to Kalimpong. These are among the best birding sites in the world and many rare birds have been spotted here. Serious birdwatchers can check this out.
About two km below Lava, an unmettaled track takes off into the forests. This road willl finally lead to several Rai villages but now we plan to stop at the 8 km level at the Neora Valley Jungle Camp. The camp is run by Help Tourism and has utilised local resources to build and run it. Several cottages made of local timber with all the modcons and huge glass windows that give breathtaking view of the mountains and a dining hall which has the same view all nestle along a hillside backing into the forest.


Trails go off in all directions, into the forests, down to the Rai village from where this Camp gains sustenance, and the road such as it is to the waterfall that lies below.
The cottage is a so called attic cottage: A huge bedroom, attached bathroom, a sitting room with glass windows from where we can catch the Kanchenjunga, now bathed in the afternoon sun. A ladder leads up to the attic where there is an low roofed bedroom with a mattress but again glass windows to give you a view of the mountains as you lie in bed. Just a few meters down from our cottage is the dining hall where we repair to restore the tissues as Bertie Wooster might have said.


The food is cooked in a wood fired adjacent kitchen, again by locals who are teh employees of this Camp. The food is amazing. Rice , two veg, dal and chicken disappear in minutes as we tuck in, our appetites heightened by the long drive and the crisp mountain air. Replete , we decide to go for a jungle walk. The hillside is now bathed with the afternoon sunshine and we are reluctant to walk too far Into the cold sunless forest. However we enter a trail that leads us deep into what looks like primeval jungle and soon we are out of sight of the road. Birds chirp and several fly past, we recognize some familiar friends,, but are frustratingly unable to, recognise the rest. Suddenly we are brought up short by a sinister rustling in the hill above our trail

. Some large creature is moving here, but what? Despite the fact that we can hear it clearly, we simply cannot penetrate the leafy coverings to be able to see it. Could it be a bear? We retreat; discretion proves to be the better part of valour.
The evening draws on, the Kanchenjunga becomes orange and then disappears. As the sky darkens the not so distant Sikkim Hillside comes alive with lights. The lights of the still under construction Pakyong Airport are seen, suspended on the dark hillside. It is cold. The winter temperatures regularly reach sub zero level. It is not that cold now, but still pretty chilly. Malaysia has made us too used to a tropical climate , so we move indoors.
There can be very little to compare with the pleasure of sitting in a warm room, over a cup of tea and pakoras and having a chat with friends. And this is exactly what we do. Mr Ghosh and Uttam who runs this camp sit with us filling us up with the stories of this camp. There have been many notable visitors, most recently Gautam Ghosh who stayed here for a month writing the script of his next movie. Mr Ghosh lives here while his family lives in Kalimpong because of his childrens’ education issues. We discuss recent political changes in the State and the state of the world in general. We agree many issues, I find.
Diner is scrumptious as well. We decide to stick to rotis, hot, with vegetables, dal and fish. A very welcome cup of soup precedes the meal. Back in our cottage we sit together discussing our day. Susmita and I are a little despondent as our daughter , Shreya will go back to the hostel soon; we had spent almost a month together after a long time.
We sleep like tops, the rezai keeps us as warm as toast. We wake before dawn and poke out head outside to see the first light on the Kanchenjunga. It is another beautiful day. The sky is crystal clear and the light changes the colours on the Kanchenjunga , the Sincholu and the other peaks that make up what we refer to as the Kanchenjunga range. The colours keep changing as the light increases and soon the first sunlight falls on the highest peaks. We have seen this on a daily basis in Pokhara, but the magic never fades.


There is a geyser, so hot water is available. We shower and head out for a walk, this time down the roadside. We avoid the village and stick to the forested hillside. An hour’s birdwatching later we return, ready for breakfast.
We plan to leave shortly after breakfast, so we say our good byes and Ramesh drives us down the road toward Dam Dim, We insist on a detour, we cannot possible go back with visiting our favourite Murti River. On the way back we stop at Bapida’s Restaurant opposite the Bus Stand at Malbazar for some of the best Chitol Mach I have ever had, it is a trifle pricey, but worth every penny.



Now back along familiar roads. But we will be back, next year and every year, the travel gods willing.

Comments

What a devastatingly tempting post and pictures. You make the place come alive. Great post, thanks for sharing your journey.

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