Kalimpong Cactus Garden

By Jaya Misra [email protected] | 2011

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One is met with these verdant hills of north bengal just after a few minutes drive from the New Jalpaiguri Station (NJP). We reached NJP from Kolkata by the Darjeeling Mail which leaves Sealdah Station at 10pm and reaches NJP at 8am. Siliguri town is the largest in north Bengal and is the gateway to the hills in Eastern India.Our destination this weekend were the Kalimpong Hills.

We drove through the Sukna Forests which is around 12kms from Siliguri town. This is a charming locality dotted with greenery and tea gardens.The real ascent to the Himalayas begins from here.

The blue mountains and reserved forests are visible in the background of Sukna.The journey through this region was very pleasant and soothing

We reached Kalimpong after 1hr 30 mins drive. It is about 73 kms uphill from Sukna at an altitude of 1800 M. It was once the base of Bhutanese Governor and the name "Kalimpong" means "stronghold of the king''s minister". According to the Lepchas, it also means "Ridges where we play". We stayed at the west bengal forest development guest house, can be booked through wbfdc.com.

We visited the Pineview Cactus Nursery, about 2kms away from the town and were overwhelmed by the beauty of the Cactus Garden.This Garden is run by Mohan S Pradhan who has collected over 1500 species of Cactus from all across the Globe over the past 38 years

We never knew that Cactus comes in so many beautiful sizes, shapes, & colours, until our visit to Pineview - what a riot of colours it was.These pink cactuses were an extraordinary visual delight

Note the peacock-shaped cactus in the foreground. This is a very rare variety and palm sized flowers bloom only once in 4-5 years

This is known as Hermit Cactus and imported from Mexico. This resembles the hairdo of indian sadhus.

This is a rare variety of Red Pineapple Cactus from Central America. It is believed that the essence of this cactus helps to release anger and frustration

The highpoint of our tour was seeing these giant Tequila flowers from which the famous beverage "Tequila" is made. This plant was imported from Mexico and we were told that this plant flowers only once in 25-30 years and then dies - new saplings grow from it''s roots. The flowering stem looks like an elephants trunk and is about 18 ft tall - this was an aweinspiring sight and I had never seen anything like this before

From Kalimpong we went to Rongpo , about 40 kms uphill and the bordering town between West Bengal and Sikkim. Rongpo is a quiet town situated on the river Teesta. The Rongpo river is a tributary of the river Teesta

Rongpo is abou 2 hrs drive from NJP station . We bid goodbye to Rongpo with every wish of returning on another weekend.