A Leafy Way, A Flowery Tale

Nabanita Chatterjee

Photographs: Author
Category: Featured Travel
Date of Publication: Oct 23 , 2013Vol-01 Issue-02

"He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature"

March 28, 2013 kept a lot in store for us. A group of five family members was about to explore nature as never before. It was a decision taken in haste by me. I had a strong desire to visit some off-beat places since long time. So I finally planned to visit a part of West Sikkim, popular for its spectacular display of rhododendron, Okhrey-Hilley-Versey Rhododendron Sanctuary. With the colors of holi in the air and the full moon humbly luminous from above, all we awaited was to play holi with the immaculate beauty of the blooming rhododendrons.

Okhrey, hilley

We reached New Jalpaiguri on 28th of March at 2:45 a.m. After an hour break, we hired a car for Hilley. The last two hours of our journey was just wonderful as the cold breeze, the misty and foggy atmosphere and the snake like hilly roads and mostly the hide and seek play of clouds lifted our spirits. I intentionally rolled down the car windshield to enjoy the play with the clouds.

We reached Hilley next day at around 9.30 a.m. A chilled cold wave welcomed us heartily. At Hilley, the motor road comes to an end and from hereon, one has to embark on foot to reach the Versey Rhododendron Sanctuary, which is 5 km deep walk into the woods. Although the young minds were too excited for the adventure ahead I felt a bit anxious for the aged members of the group as for them it was their first experience of such kind. Finally, after taking the formal permission to enter the Rhododendron Sanctuary we ventured through the densely foggy, mysterious, calm and leafy forest way. Gradually, as we climbed upward the forest became so unfathomably charming that no words can ever be sufficient to express such a beauty. The long walk through the dense rainforest could have been tiring if not for the constant companionship of nature and also the positive encouragement of the returning trekkers whom we met on our way-wide with smile and satisfying gestures. Near about after one hour of trekking we saw the first ever rhododendrons, pure as snow, impeccable in beauty. Okhrey, hilleyAfter that every step surprised us as more and more rhododendrons bloomed to its alluring beauty in vibrant colors of white, pink and red on our way upward. Inside our heart, each of us understood why people come so far to explore this panorama of nature. It worked like a catalyst to finish the trial quickly as they were waiting for us with their entire gallery at the top.

As we finally reached the top of the Guras Kunj-Trekkers Hut at Versey, the first feeling was that the heaven has opened its gate for us. The landscape was so spell bounding that it completely justified the motif of our journey. We forgot all our exhaustion and fatigue and it took real time for us to believe that natural beauty of this extent exist on this very earth!! The small, medium and tall rhododendron in various iridescent shades of red and pink were nodding their heads to welcome the visitors...leaving them just overwhelmed and speechless.

We checked into Guras Kunj and dislodged ourselves in the dormitory to take some rest. Full with hunger we really enjoyed the hot lunch prepared and served by the Sherpas there.

By the evening, the surrounding of Versey Rhododendron Sanctuary becomes so mysterious and charismatic that in spite of harsh and cold weather we came out of the hut to enjoy each and every moment. Okhrey, hilleyThe entire range was flooded with moonlight submerging us into its heavenly beauty and at some moments I strongly felt the presence of God. There was no rational explanations to the questions that were arising in my mind. Why is there a plethora of flowers blooming so naturally and impeccably? Why and how in so many shades and colors, each with its unique beauty? For whom they bloom? How they bloom with no manual and regular care taken at any particular time? And probably all these questions have only one answer that 'Nature is actually God'.

I inhaled the fresh air deep into my lungs to refresh myself yet again. After some more moments of rendezvous with nature we had to reluctantly come inside the hut as it was too dark and unsafe to stay out anymore. The place doesn't have any electricity. The only source of light was the melting moonlight peeping through the glass panes rendering the small hut an awesome gothic ambience, taking all of us back to a time where man lived in tryst with nature.

Altogether, we were 35 tourists, mostly from Kolkata, spending the marvelous night inside the small hut. We spent the night together chatting, singing and exchanging each other's opinion in different aspect of life, all in the same tempo. After having dinner we went to our respective dormitories but excitement kept sleep away from our tired eyes.

Okhrey, hilley
Okhrey, hilley

At 3:00 am, I was suddenly shaken out of the bed to see the famous sunrise at Kanchenjunga. Excitement griped me, as since yesterday, we were eagerly waiting to see the golden sunrise but clouds veiled a curtain so thick that it was impossible for the sun to perforate through it. After a long wait and may be due to the strong wish of all the tourists, the cloudy curtain disappeared and a silence so profound and unfathomable disseminated that each one of us was momentarily captivated by magnificence of the moment. With the first beam of scarlet falling on the silvery snow the tops of the towering peaks became alive and burning. As the flames spread rapidly over the inclined ridges, the whole valley seemed lit up under the orange halo. I was only broken out of this reverie by sound of clicks of the cameras and flashing of the lenses. Parts of the Kanchenjunga Range and Mt. Pandim gave a short yet satisfying glance as the sun came to full bloom before they once again moved behind the dense curtain of cloud. After that we moved up to another part known as Versey Top and experienced a picture postcard like view of Rammam Valley and some ranges.

Around 8.30 a.m., after taking breakfast we packed to bid adieu to this heavenly garden and felt very sad as it was such a short trip. The downhill journey took quite less time and was less exhausting compared to the uphill journey of the previous day. The huge mountain trees standing stoic at places gave me a sensation of being so little and diminutive creature in this gigantic world.

Okhrey, hilley

We reached Hilley around 10.15a.m and after a warm tea break we drove downhill to Okhrey in our hired car. We checked into a Sherpa lodge and after having lunch we went out for some local sightseeing. Some of the interesting places to see around Okhrey are the very old Gumphas and the postcard perfect view of Ribdi Valley. We also interacted with some local children and residents whom we found to be very friendly in nature.

In the evening we enjoyed the view of the giant Himalaya from the cottage window. Next morning, we woke up with sweet chattering of unknown birds and came outside to see the Kanchenjunga sunrise yet again. The view was not as impeccable as yesterday but its holistic beauty did render the surrounding with the same touch of purity and serenity.

On our return trip as we gradually moved downwards, the warmth of the hot sun impinged us with a tint of sadness marking the end of journey. But yes, this short trip of just two days sufficiently renewed us with the lost energy and a confidence and inspiration to plan for our next trip back again.

Okhrey, hilley

"I thank you GOD for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes" - E.E.CUMMINGS

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