“Holy Cow!!” we let out a collective gasp as our car drove down the steep roads of Darjeeling. My hand on the dashboard was the only thing that was saving my face from hitting the windshield. I was wearing seat belt, but I somehow had lesser confidence in them than my triceps. Up until that day I felt that 5 months of gym had made my arms rock hard. But this one downhill drive had debunked my myth completely.
This wasn’t my first trip to Darjeeling, I had been on these roads before. But this time around the road felt steeper and curves more aggressive. May be it was the driver who was for some reason un a hurry. Mountain roads are steep, but this road in particular should not be even called a road. It was a roller coaster masquerading as a road. My triceps were burning now, I was wishing for this drive to end quickly, but from my earlier experience I knew that the Rock Garden was still some distance away.
The Barbotey Rock Garden – A brief history:
We were heading towards our last stop for the day, the Rock Garden of Darjeeling. It’s full name is Barbotey Rock Garden, and was created by the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC, now known as GTA). It was created so that the visitors have an added incentive to come to the hill station. After all tourism has been one of the main sources of earnings for Darjeeling.
The roads leading up to the rock garden were laced with Tea estates all around. It was one of the most scenic roads in our trip till then.
So after oscillating between feeling of ecstasy, generated from the prettiest mountains and the adrenaline that the hairpin bends gave us, we finally turned a corner from where I could hear a faint sound of water splashing on rocks. I have had my fair share of waterfalls to know that we were nearing the coveted Rock Garden and the sound was from the mighty waterfall.
Soon we could see the sliver of water cascading down from the rocks and groups of frantic tourists taking turns in front of the fall for that one good picture.
The entry of the rock garden is laced with multiple makeshift stalls vending everything touristy. Shops ranging from food to souvenirs have found a strong footing here. There are even a couple of Car Wash shops as well. You read it right, Car Wash. It is worth noting that Darjeeling suffers an acute shortage of water, so water is conserved and spent only on essentials. So when someone comes to this part of the town, they utilize the free and abundant water to wash their cars. Some enterprising enterprenure must have come up with the idea of monetizing the whole affair.
It was the month of December, and it gets dark very quickly, therefore we had decided to have our lunch at the rock garden itself thereby saving some daylight for our tour. We were not in the mood of a typical lunch and hence decided to go light. So, we braced ourselves in one of the shacks and ordered momos, omlets and magii to our hearts content. Soon our food was in our stomachs and we were ready to explore the place that was promised as the highlight of our trip to Darjeeling.
Don’t be fooled by the name, this is not a garden made of rocks. It is more like smaller gardens nestled inside rocks. Basically the whole areas have been created by cutting and arranging rocks around a natural waterfall. It has been terraced to form a multilevel picnic ground with seating arrangements at various level. Each level provides a up close and personal view of the waterfall that comes all the way from the top and over the rocks to down below.
There are plenty of seating arrangements on all the levels. These seats are placed strategically so as to provide a backdrop of the waterfall. These seats are more sought after for the stunning photos that one can have rather than serving as seating areas.
We started our assent towards the top of the garden. We kept climbing stairs, go up ramps and cross small bridges across the rocks to reach up to the top.
There were many flowering plants around, I since it was winter they bore some beautiful flowers. I was so happy to have come in the winters.
We kind of thought that we will make our way to the top of the mountain and check out the source of the waterfall. So we started climbing up the stairs and narrow pathways careful enough to place more weight on the side of the path that was towards the mountain and not on the railing. We were climbing at a relentless pace and stopped only for photographs. One can’t really be blamed when the surrounding is so beautiful.
So after clicking a million photographs we reached the top, or should I rather say the most high the pathway reached. Unfortunately the path doesn’t lead to the top but rather turns around midway and drops you off at the starting point. So basicaly you get a panaromic view of the small hill that forms the rock garden.
That however didn’t leave me unsatisfied. It was one very peasant trek which provided for some views those were unparalleled. I believe this might not the best thing Darjeeling has to offer, the sun rise at Tiger hill still tops my list of best Things to do at Darjeeling. The hill town is full of nature’s bounty and the Rock garden might just be the cherry on top of a very pleasing dish served with lots of love.