It was a bright and sunny morning, a perfect time to enjoy the morning chill and with a cup of Darjeeling Tea in my hand, I was simply gazing at the ranges towards Sikkim. It was not yet tourist season thus the hotel owners were frantically doing the last minute patches to the newly constructed dining area. My daughter had managed to find a playing partner of her age and was busy building sand castles amongst the heaps of sand that were there for the construction. My wife, on the other hand, was relaxing back in the room.
Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr oooooooo mmmmmmmm a thunderous sound erupted and the ground started shaking violently. Since all the houses have tin roofs thus the sound was amplified even further. All around hell broke loose the trees were violently shaking and then the locals started shouting “Bhoochal Ayooo”. Even though I don’t understand Nepali but by then I knew it was an Earthquake.
It lasted for few seconds but the damage was done, I was speechless and the construction workers had jumped from the rooftop to take cover. This was for the very first time I was witnessing earthquake in the hills and with a good panoramic view, I could see the shock waves moving away towards the hills of Sikkim.
My trip to Kolakham was taken in the year 2013 along with my family and that year I wanted to travel somewhere which was out of the common tourist trails. After much deliberations with my family, we managed to freeze on Kolakham. As luck would have it one of the travel agents who manages to book for Kolakham had their office just within 100 meters from my house.
The booking for Kolakham are done as a package and this would include lodging and food. Rooms are almost similar and the rate differs according to the view of the mountains. The food includes breakfast, lunch, evening snacks and dinner. The menu is almost the same as being an isolated village the options for anything exotic are remote.
Additionally, travel arrangements need to be made from the station or airport to Kolakham. The travel agent themselves will help you do this booking also but the rates are standardised as per the fixed rate from the taxi syndicate.
We took the evening train from Sealdah are reached early morning at NJP (New Jalpaiguri). Our driver Jemling Bhutia was waiting for us at the station with his well-maintained Bolero. We purchased a crate of packaged water 1 X 12 Litres since there are no shops in Kolakham and it’s better to stock up on water else be dependent on the spring water.
The journey took us through Oodlabari – Gorubathan and the scenic beauty dramatically changed from plains to the lust green tea gardens of Darjeeling. Kolakham is an isolated tourist spot near Neora Valley, the isolation has its advantage as well as disadvantage also. You get very low tourist compared to other tourist spots due to its offbeat location but on the negative side, the place is like a prison and the only way in or out is through jeeps that connect the village to Lava which is comparatively a small hill town with paved motor ways. From Lava, the vehicle takes a left which will take you to Kolakham.
If you want to experience a lunar surface driving then this is the best spot. I am sure NASA would come here soon to test their lunar or mars rovers soon. The journey from Lava to Kolakahm takes around an hour and it’s a pain in every single bone in your body. There are actually no paves roads but stones and boulders placed randomly all throughout. This very last leg of the journey makes one extremely tired but this all pays off once you reach your final destination.
Kolakham’s isolation is its plus point, the natural beauty is in itself the beauty of this place. This place only recently has been connected through electricity and was once just a small village on the map of Darjeeling district. The enterprising locals saw the opportunity and opened up several resorts (more of small hotels) all along the hill slopes.
There are no sightseeing points and the only place one can visit that too with a vehicle is Changey Falls. If you are brave enough then do trek the 4.5 Kilometres but it’s not recommended since the uphill climb will be real tough.
The best way to enjoy Kolakham is to go around the village for short walks, carry some water and a camera and just starting walking around. The flowers, trees and orchids will greet you all around and if you want some space just look North-West and on a clear day you will get the perfect view of Kanchenjunga.
As mentioned earlier the food out here is limited, for breakfast, you will be served puri sabzi, for lunch and dinner it will alternate between chicken and egg. Fish is not available here since there are no markets but I can bet that you will fall in love with the chicken since these are all country chicken from the hotel owner stock. In the evening you will be served bhajji pakoras with hot Darjeeling Tea.
Do not come to Kolakham if you want 24X7 action and roaming around sightseeing points, come here to enjoy nature in its most natural form. This is the best place to relax and disconnect from the crazy city life. Our hotel did not have a television set and this was much needed to disconnect for the world that we leave behind.
And did I forget to mention about the earthquake that I was mentioning in the beginning, don’t worry it was just a 5.0 magnitude earthquake but then at that point it really spooked me.
Our initial plan was to spend the full vacation at Kolakham but then during our stay, we decided to leave bit early and detour to Darjeeling since I had never visited Darjeeling previously and since we were so close it would be unwise for us no to visit Darjeeling.
That’s it for now, hope you enjoyed going through my blog and see you in my next blog about Darjeeling, the “Queen of hills”.
Some Important Contact Details:-
Jemling Bhutia – (driver for Kolakham / Lava / Rishop) – 97330 48001
Spring Vale Resort – (Kolakham tour operator) – 98301 07780 / 94329 64242 / 91430 58689 / 94772 16161