Sikkim Silk Route was high on our wishlist, and when we started planning for it early this year, among the things which took the least amount of time to decide was Sillery Gaon as our first stop. Known as Little Darjeeling, this small village near Kalimpong is growing popular each passing day. And not only among the Silk Route explorers, but also as a stand alone place. The village got its name from the Sillery plant, similar to garlic leaves, which used to grow in abundance in that area. When we asked the locals almost everyone said they used to have Sillery Shaag when they were younger. Unfortunately these plants are not found nearby anymore.
Situated at an altitude of 6000 feet, Sillery Gaon is approximately 95 kms from New Jalpaiguri Railway Station. There are no direct transport available. The best option is to take a shared cab to Kalimpong from Pani Tanki (shared auto available from railway station to Pani Tanki). Once you reach Kalimpong taxi stand look for shared cabs to Pedong. Ask them to drop you at Ekkish Mile (21 mile). From 21 mile you can either walk (5 kms) or ask your host at Sillery Gaon to arrange for a pick up. Alternately, if you have a bigger group you can book a reserved car all the way till Sillery Gaon.
We reached Ekkish Mile on a shared cab and saw a red alto waiting for us there. It was sent by the owner of the homestay where we booked our stay in, Mr. Dilip Tamang. Though we were travelling on shared cabs, the journey till now was smooth. But this 5 km long road to Sillery Gaon was very bad. We felt it more as we were in a smaller car. Walking is the best option here if you have backpacks or rucksacks. But we were so excited we didn’t mind the topsy turvy journey. And soon we reached Sillery Busty or Sillery Gaon, a village with small houses built on the slopes of the mountain.
Dilip Tamang’s Nirmala Village Resort is located on the topmost landing of the village. You need to climb a flight of steep stairs to reach it. The bright green cottages looked beautiful with dense pine jungle just behind them. Every cottage has a small balcony where you can sit and enjoy the view. The slope of the hill descends to Reshi river, beyond which is Sikkim. Gangtok, the capital, is on the opposite mountain and its lights can be seen from Sillery Gaon after sunset. To its left can be seen the mighty Kangchendzönga on a clear day. And all these you can enjoy from your room through the window.
It was past three PM when we reached Sillery Gaon. The cottage was nice and the toilet clean. We were cleaning ourselves when we were informed they are setting up our lunch in the dining hall. This made us realise instantly how hungry we were. The kitchen is just beside our cottage on the left while the dining hall is on the other end. The menu was rice, daal (lentil soup), papads, fried shredded potato, a veg side made with cabbage and egg curry. This is the standard lunch menu at all homestays on the Silk Route. The veg side and the type of lentil were the only variables. The menu might sound basic, but the taste was excellent. As most of the people visiting these places are Bengali, they serve typical Bengali food. We however were a bit disheartened as we love trying local food.
Post lunch we started making plans. Khaling, Dilip’s brother, told us not to visit Damsang Fort that day as it was already four thirty and the lights won’t remain good. Taking his advice we started for the Ramitey view point around five. The road which brought us here cuts through the village and leaves it meandering through the jungles towards Ramitey. This 3 km stretch have no diversions and hence no guides are required. We walked slowly through this jungle trail enjoying the nature around us. The bends, the trees, the flowers and the sounds of various insects and birds. It was a lovely relaxing and enjoyable walk.
Soon we reached the view point. It took us around 30 minutes. The jungle trail ends in a concrete road that goes up turning into a stair leading to Ramitey View Point. Once we reached the platform the view was great. Although the sky was not clear we could still see small villages on the slopes of the mountains and the Teesta river below. Fourteen bends of the river could be seen clearly on a bright day.
There is a small rock at the other end of the platform and climbing it would give an even better view. We wished the sky was clear, but what we saw was not bad either. I mean when you are in the mountains, everything you see is amazing. We sat on the rock and enjoyed the view till it started getting dark and we decided to return. A nice place to spend some quite time with the nature. Just be careful with the leeches. The road is through a jungle and the view point also have them. Its always better to wear covered shoes and dresses that cover your legs completely. High ankle shoes will give extra protection.
While returning the fog became dense and the whole area looked magical. Visibility was less, but as it was a proper trail we faced no difficulty. Soon we reached the village, just in time for the afternoon tea and onion pakodas (fritters). We started enjoying it sitting on our cottage balcony as slowly the light faded around us. The opposite mountain was looking bright from the lights of Sikkim. We could easily locate the capital from the density of lights. The surrounding lights created interesting patterns and we could even notice a heart sign among them right opposite us.
Dinner was served soon and the only deviations in the menu were rotis in place of rice and chicken curry instead of egg curry. The chicken pieces were super soft and the curry delicious. We decided to enjoy a post dinner adda (chitchat) sitting on the verandah and enjoy the clear dark sky sparkling with stars. But suddenly we heard sounds of loud music playing nearby. We were surprised for few moments thinking who would be playing them here! And then we noticed the guests in the cottage beside the dining hall are dancing to the tune in front of their verandah and a portable wireless speaker is kept on the railing. Meet the latest breed of blockheads who would play music (their choice of music mostly consists of off tune singing with loads of noise in the background) as loud as possible, everywhere they go, and think they are doing a favour to everyone around by allowing them to do nothing else other than listening to the shame in the name of music they play. These are the same people who won’t mute their mobiles at theaters or hospitals or a mourning and would generally have a very loud and noisy ringtone which would go on playing multiple times even after angry gestures from people around.
After we asked them strongly not to break the peace around, they stopped for few minutes. And then they continued the party inside their cottage. Disgusted we also called it a day and went inside to hit the bed. The irritation was soon replaced with excitement of whether we would be able to see The Sleeping Buddha the next day, followed by a wonderful and deep sleep with dreams of misty roads through jungles, cloudy mountains and falls.
… to be continued