Sillary Gaon The ‘New Darjeeling’
Sillary Gaon, a quiet hamlet in the lap of nature, in the Darjeeling district, is a wonderful weekend getaway for those who are tired of crowded streets and horn blaring all day long. The name ‘Sillary’ is derived from the name of a plant called ‘Cinchona’ that grows in abundance in this region. The Cinchona plant is used as a medicine to treat Malaria and is still cultivated in this region. Nestled amidst huge pine forests, this village offers panoramic views of the ‘Mighty Kanchenjunga’ and the FishTail peaks during the winter months when the sky is crystal clear. The sky remains covered with fog most of the time in the other seasons of the year. Thus, viewing the peaks in their full glory will be left to the fate of the tourist during the Spring, Summer and Monsoon months. The place, but, surely looks enchanted, for different blossoms of all colours and sizes cover up the region during these months, giving it a marvelous heavenly charm.
Sillary Gaon is at a height of about 6000ft, a growing tourist hub, often lovingly called the ‘New Darjeeling’ owing to its beauty. Sillary is a five hours journey from NJP Railway Junction. One might choose to hire a car till Pedong, or opt for a shared vehicle. A stony diversion, three kilometres before Pedong, half a kilometre ahead of ’20Mile’, another tourist spot, leads to the sleepy village of Sillary. The 4.5km undulated path is motor able, but trekking this stretch is better option to avoid a bumpy, roller coaster ride of half an hour in the car.
Our host, Mr. Dilip Tamang welcomed us very warmly in the Nirmala Resorts. Every facility was provided to us by Mr. Dilip. The village offers many other homestay options as this is the mainstay of many of the families residing in the village. The village shelters about thirty families and tourism is the main source of income for them. The warmth and hospitality of these simple village people is sure an added bonus to the charm and beauty of the place. Walking lazily around the place, listening to the songs of birds and watching the sun go down behind the towering mountains was time well invested for us in the evening of our day of arrival.
The next morning we headed to the Teen Chuley viewpoint. A trekking trip to the Tin Chuley viewpoint as well as the Ramitey viewpoint is a must-do when you visit Sillary. The Teen Chuley viewpoint, along with its grand view of the snow peaks, also overlooks the Sillary Gaon at a distance and the lush greenery of the hills and the pine forests all around. The breathtaking calm and peace, that nature serves in ample here, soothes and heals the very soul of a person. The Ramitey viewpoint has something more magnificent to offer. The sunset and sunrise over the beautiful white peaks is a priceless experience; but, this view point, a trek of 1.5kms from the village, presents unmatched beauty of the Teesta Valley. A long stretch of the Teesta River , with its numerous bends and turns, as well as its confluence with the Rishi River is visible from this point. A clear, fog-free day might even ensure visibility of the city of Gangtok at a distance. It, surely, will mesmerize any person, giving a picture that will stay in the heart forever.
The second day of our stay in Sillary brought about an unexpected and distinct experience. Mr. Dilip Tamang suggested a refreshing bathing experience in the Reshi Kola river. The river is more like a small and swift flowing mountain stream with mirror-clear, cold water. The water does not run much deep in this section at Rishikola and huge boulders in the bed of the river ensures a great bathing experience, although one must be careful of slippery and shaky pebbles. This destination is a forty-five minutes drive from Sillary and Mr. Dilip happily made all the arrangements, including hiring the car at a minimal cost. An unforgettable surprise, just a little example of the enormous hospitality we received from our host and the locals during our stay in the village.
The Damsang Fort and Hanuman Top are other sight seeing options around the place. The Damsang Fort, built in 1690, last had sheltered the Lepcha king, Gyabo Achuk. The fort, however, has now been turned into ruins by the inevitable hands of time added on by the earthquake of September, 2012. Beyond the Damsang Fort is the Hanuman Top with a sculpture of the Hanuman. It gives one a bird’s eye view of Kalimpong and the adjoining regions along with the lofty peaks.
Sillary Gaon, with all its grandeur, the pristine calm, and awesome sights, has surely made a permanent place in our hearts. The stunning beauty of the Nature made our departure difficult. We did leave, as we had to, only with a promise that we sure would come back, someday.