Darjeeling, ever since the British set it up as a hill-station, has been a popular summer destination. But nowadays the jostling touristy crowd and the traffic jam can be a tad uncomfortable if you were looking for a quiet Himalayan holiday. It was at such a juncture on a visit last year, yearning to escape the noise and the crowd, we discovered Rangaroon through a local friend.
This quaint hamlet, about 16km by road from big brother Darjeeling, is excellent for taking a tranquil break among the hills. We cut short our visit to Darjeeling by a day and hired a private vehicle to drop us at the homestay in Rangaroon. Accommodation is limited and so it is advisable to book in advance.
The hamlet has grown around the Rangaroon Tea Estate (a British era tea estate now owned by an Indian company) and sits in the middle of the Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary of West Bengal.
The weather in Rangaroon is rather unpredicatable, we had been warned. Expect anything from sunny days and starry nights to misty mornings and rainy days, our friend had said. If the weather is fine, you will see the town of Darjeeling sprawling on the hill slopes beneath the lofty Mt Kanchenjunga.
Thankfully, the weather gods were kind and we had a brilliant weather, allowing us to explore the village and the countryside. We sauntered down the village road to be greeted by seasonal flowers by the wayside. The land was undulating and when our feet got tired, we sank into the benches kept by the flower beds. There was a temple in the middle of the village. If you are here in Spring, you will find a profusion of rhododendrons and magnolias.
Unless you have knee problems, you may go down the narrow trails through the tea gardens for wee treks. But do remember, you have to climb all the way up while returning. Thanks to our homestay owner, we were accompanied by a local person who took us through trails that allowed us to see the homes of the people from close quarters. The people were hospitable and encouraged us forward as we huffed and puffed our way through the trail.
The British era tea factory has been shut down. If you are lucky, you may come across a former staff who might be willing to show you around but we could not find anyone that day. Apparently, the factory still has some of the old machines which had been shipped from England during the colonial period.
The evening was spent at the homestay. The sky was clear and we could see lights twinkling along the hill opposite. That’s Darjeeling pointed out our host.
We could not complete the downhill trek on the morrow to the Rungdung River flowing below the village and had to satisfy ourselves with the noise of the water which can be heard from far. It is a good three to four hour trek and best to take along a local guide. Not only to show you the way but also to warn you of wild animals. The green hills often form a natural corridor for migrating animals within the sanctuary.
Getting There: Rangaroon is 16km by road from Darjeeling. If you are coming from Bagdogra (nearest airport) or New Jalpaiguri (nearest railway hub) or Siliguri (road transport hub), you have to either hire a taxi from NJP/Siliguri or take a shared jeep to Jorbungalow/Ghoom and then another shared jeep to Rangaroon. Rangaroon is about 80km from Siliguri.