Monday, April 11, 2016

2 September 2015 – Darjeeling to Jaigaon - Day 13

When I woke up to start the thirteenth day of the Trans Himalayan Expedition from Darjeeling to Jaigaon (border with Bhutan) it was misty. I stood on the balcony with hot cups of tea and took in the salubrious and tranquil surroundings. I wished I had at least a week to spend there, leisurely walking around and filling the lungs with unpolluted air. Well, that would have to wait for another time. There was a time distance task t be completed. Reluctantly I got ready for the drive via Kalimpong,Gangtok, Sevoke and Gorubathan.
The 377 km journey during the day was done in about 12 hours. The road conditions were good, by and large. Along the way I enjoyed the UNESCO heritage railway stations of Darjeeling and Ghum, lovely misty woods with trees that seemed to kiss the skies, majestic River Teesta which ‘demanded’ closer scrutiny and the green capital of Sikkim, Gangtok. The last named is another personal favourite. It is, without an argument, the greenest capital of an Indian state. The politeness of the local people and their ever smiling faces add to the appeal of the city.

The final stretch for the day from Nagrakatha to Jaigaon detoured via Falakatta due to collapse of a critical bridge that had held up normal traffic over the past many days. The detour went through small villages and dusty roads. Fortunately, there was an army convoy ahead of me and I tailed that for much of the distance. I did lose my way in Gorubathan and had to retrace my path before reaching Nagrakatha. I found a container trailer on the way and asked for directions since Google Maps decided to be non-cooperative. The crew were from Tamil Nadu and they started speaking animatedly in their lingo. They seemed to be happy to meet someone from the South after many days! It was dark by the time I reached Jaigaon. And light drizzle accompanied the inky blackness.
I had not made any arrangements for stay in Jaigaon and I did not know if it had any decent place where I could park the car safely too, besides a clean bed and toilet. I stopped when I saw an ATM because I had to replenish the cash on hand. When I came down from the ATM I saw a medical shop where a person was reading the newspaper. I dropped by and asked him if he could suggest a good hotel. He suggested one near the Jaigaon police station, which he said is safe and clean. I found the HotelKasturi without too much of hassle and parked near the hotel entrance. I was a bit worried that it did not have private parking. I went up to the first floor reception and requested to see the room. Though small it was clean and cheap. The room boy also promised to find me a parking slot adequately supervised by the security of the hotel.
Jaigaon is a small town located at the main entrance to Bhutan and is the gateway to Phuntsholing, the Bhutanese border town. This makes the city a thriving trading point. People are mostly into the business of logistics and trading. As Bhutan is a Himalayan Kingdom, it does not have roads linking to all its towns. Therefore, Bhutan uses Indian roads to reach most of its cities, namely Samtse, Gomtu and SamdrupJongkhar,Jaigaonlies on the banks of the Torsa River.

Just after I had finished a small dinner the room boy announced that the parking slot was ready for the Champion to be moved in.He gave careful directions to squeeze the car into the narrow slot. Seeing the anxiety on my face in leaving the car in the open he introduced me to the hotel security. I made a special request to the security personnel on duty to keep an eye on the car.

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