“Moonlight disappears down the hills,
Mountains vanish into fog,
and I vanish into poetry.”
― Sanober Khan
The owner of the Cozy Nest Homestay, Wangchuk, had drawn a route map out for me on a scrap of paper. He’d done the same when I went exploring the tea fields previously, further emphasizing that home-stays are so much better than hotels. “From Chowrasta, you walk along this path,” he said, indicating which fork I should take, “then follow it until you get to the main road. From here, turn this way and look for this road. It will take you to Yiga Choeling.” Scrap of paper tucked in my back pocket, I followed a narrow lane on a walk through the mists in Darjeeling.
The road curved along the hillside as I passed a small cluster of homes, and a gleam of gold caught my eye further up the way. A monastery was perched there, an ethereal carpet of mist roiling up from below as sunlight struggled to pierce it.
A short walk around the bend brought me to the gates of Magdhog Monastery. I stepped through and the elderly caretaker waved me in the direction of the proper door.
After removing my shoes, I stepped into the lower sanctuary and stood in awe at the explosion of color. Vivid paintings covered every inch of the walls, depicting scenes from mythology. Behind the altar were intricate wood carvings of flowers, and dragons, and deities, decorated as vividly as the walls around them.
I spent a while gaping at the room before leaving. The lane wound along the undulating hillside, passing small hamlets of houses perched precariously on the slope. Tibetan prayer flags flapped in the wind from where they were strung over houses and along the road.
At last, the road spat me out into the town of Ghum. I walked into the hustle and bustle of the city, hearing the sound of Taylor Swift’s ‘Bad Blood’ drifting from the open door of a tiny, run-down shop as I went. Strange, the things you hear in remote places.
Ghum’s two highlights are the railway station — which is the highest in India at 2,258 meters — and Ghum Monastery, also known as Yiga Choeling. Constructed around 1850 by a Mongolian monk, it was the first of its kind in the area.
By this time, the mist was heavy and laden with the promise of precipitation. Parts of the monastery were nearly obscured from view, but I walked the grounds and enjoyed the stillness. For a few minutes, chilled droplets of rain dusted my fleece jacket, but they abated quickly enough and I left the grounds with gloved hands in pockets.
The walk back to Darjeeling was easier, now that I was sure of the way. The mists receded a bit, revealing views further down the slopes. I found what appeared to be an abandoned building with a ground-level roof and sat on it for a while, enjoying the view and the solitude.
Coming back into Darjeeling, the familiar clamor and commotion of the small city re-materialized. The silence, like the mist, dissolved and dissipated, leaving no trace of it having existed.
When’s the last time you took a walk to get away from the hustle and bustle of a city? Where did you go? Share your experience in the comments below!