Seeking Kanchenjunga around Kalimpong, Part 2: Rishop, Kolakham and Morgan House

Continued from: Deolo Hills and Lava

The hills around Lava shields us from a clear view of the majestic Kanchenjunga range. That view is supposed to be best from Rishop our next destination. Late morning, we hired a local vehicle from the Taxi association to take us to Rishop, the highest point (8500 ft) of our trip. A shortcut from Lava to Rishop is an extremely steep ride through boulder roads, but we preferred it to the other route which takes about an hour extra. As we climbed up to Rishop, the mountains seemed to have suddenly come alive, and the majestic peaks were visible around every bend.

We had carefully chosen our place of stay and booked at Kanchen View Lodge, a homestay that has an open space in front providing a spectacular 180 degrees view of the mountain. The wooden two-storied building has about six rooms, and all of them open up to the mountains in front. Our stay here was the crown jewel of the trip, where we sat down with a cup of local tea enjoying the beauty right from sunrise to sunset.

The staff here were smiling and helpful, the food (again basic Bengali fare) was much better and prepared with care.  Onion pakodas regaled our evenings, while hot and runny khichuri with aloo bhaja and omelet helped to combat the chilli conditions here. What I used to most look forward to among the dishes was the breakfast of fluffy puris with Alu Dom.  We also tried their standard chicken thali for lunch one day, and it was just par for the course.

While travelling to remote locations in Darjeeling district, it is a disgrace that the homestays prefer to serve Bengali food, rather than local fare. The reason may be that most of the tourists are Bengalis, and many of them prefer to stick to their own cuisine.

Very few places have the mountains staring at you almost at an arm’s length, and Rishop is one of them (Munsiyari and Auli are two other places which immediately comes to mind). We were so enamoured with staring at the mountain range that we even dropped visiting the well-known Tiffindhara viewpoint nearby. From before sunrise, you can see the mountains change colour from the time the first rays touch them.

A couple of days at calm Rishop was really refreshing, and we were ready for our next destination Kolakham. The village is located on another hill, and journey takes you through the dense pine and cedar forests of Neora Valley. Kolakham (height 6000 ft) is a quaint small place which houses located different heights and a winding road bringing them all together.  Our hotel, Hotel Pinewood, was located at a higher plane surrounded by vegetable fields and flower gardens. From here you can see both Kanchenjunga and the Lava monastery at quite a distance. Kolakham is not at a great height, but its beauty is in that it is extremely green. A typical place to settle down after retirement. We stayed here only for a day, and really rued leaving the place so early, but our reservation at Morgan House Kalimpong was already made for the next day.

The taxi charges in the Lava area is very high, and one has no room for bargaining as it is fixed by the local Taxi association. We paid Rs 3200 for a two hour journey from Kolakham (via Lava) to Kalimpong. Morgan House is a property of West Bengal Tourism located on top of Durpin Hill at one end of Kalimpong. The British style bungalow was built in the 1930s by Mr. Morgan, an English tea and jute businessman.  The property has a reputation of being haunted though during our two day stay here we did not have a fortune of seeing or hearing anything. The lodge, the room as well as the garden are maintained well, and we enjoyed the long walks through the adjoining golf course and the army areas.

The food at Morgan House was very good, though as per our plans we took quite a few meals at various restaurants in Kalimpong town. Two items here that should not be missed are the Chicken Roast and the flavourful Darjeeling tea. The lodge is connected to the Kalimpong city centre (about 4 km away) by regular share-taxis. If you love a long walk, you can also walk down the winding road from the army establishment close by to the town below, passing the golf course on your way, enjoying the view as well as flora and fauna.

Kalimpong was the last point of our trip and we came back to Hyderabad via Bagdogra. The whole trip was for about eight nights. In hindsight, I would add a day to Kolakham for the complete experience. Some useful phone numbers are given below.

Kanchen View Lodge, Rishop : Mr Prantik 9830329591

Hotel Pinewood, Kolakham: Mr Sukanta 9163596075

Taxi from Siliguri to Kalimpong: Subhas 7679134151

Also Read: Deolo Hills and Lava: The first part of this travelogue   

#Rishop #Kolakham #Kanchenjunga #MorganHouse

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