In my CouchSurfing profile, I shared that one of the most amazing things I have seen in my entire life is the sunrise at Mt. Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas. Mt. Kangchenjunga is the 3rd highest mountain in the world at 8,586m (28,169ft).
No, I did not climb Mt. Kanchenjunga but I watched the sunrise from the Tiger Hill in Darjeeling, a popular tea estates tourist spot, in West Bengal, northeast India. Darjeeling has an average elevation of 2,050m (6,710ft). Tiger Hill in Ghoom, where you can find the world’s highest railway station, is about 11kms from Darjeeling.
In order to see the sunrise at Kanchenjunga, Julie (my VSO co-vol, friend and travel buddy in India) and I had to wake up at bloody 3:30AM at an “I-don’t-know-how-cold-nut-I’m-freezing” temperature! Being in India for a while by then (October, 7 months in!), we didn’t really expect them to be serious about the pre-arranged shared jeepney to Tiger Hill, the viewing point, to go by 4:00AM! But yes, they did and even called us up before 4 to make sure we were on our way.
With the number of shared jeeps, vans, cars and other vehicles heading that way—there’s like about 200 vehicles at the parking lot and that’s a conservative count—the traffic was really bad especially when it was already nearing Tiger Hill.
Upon alighting, we were told to just go to the ticket booth to pay for the Rs 10 entry fee to the hill’s “viewing deck” area. Since we thought we could rough it out anyway, Juls and I decided not to go for the extra Rs 20- and Rs 30-rupee tickets for the viewing deck that’s inside a taller building.
We joined the multitude of jacket- and sweater-clad (sometimes with bonnets too coz it’s too freaking cold!) of local and foreign tourists first on the right side of the building for an earlier view of the sunrise, you know, ala-Breaking Dawn!
I thought that was it! That we were unlucky to see Mt. Kanchenjunga because it’s too cloudy! But I was wrong! Because, the sun’s rays are to hit Kanchenjunga in the opposite side of the viewing deck. Juls was the one who saw it just when we were about to walk down!
Forgive the photo quality here (click to enlarge; I can give you original resolution ones if you’d request) but I assure you, the white snow-capped mountain peaks of Kanchenjunga turning into varied hues of orange is indeed a sight to behold.
It was an amazing moment for me. Like, really amazing. It’s not everyday that we get the chance to witness a natural beauty, some say a testament of God’s gift to humanity, and be blessed with the feeling of a better day unfolding before our eyes, sharing it with strangers from all walks of life. Sunrise at Mt. Kanchenjunga is amazing, isn’t it?
After the sunrise,I think Juls and I descended from the main viewing deck and found our way to the shared jeepney. Yes, the day has just begun as the Rs 150 tour is good for three points of interest in Darjeeling (Tiger Hill, Ghoom Monastery, and Batasia 360 degree loop), stories of which I will tell in my next posts.
For now, I leave you with memories of my time with Mt. Kanchenjunga and experiencing cloud 9, perhaps figuratively and literally! Happy wandering!