Shades of the Sky: Tiger Hill, Darjeeling
Picture an Indian ‘baraat’, the wedding procession of the groom and his family which is welcomed with great eagerness by the bride’s family. There is merriment in anticipation, preparations, sound, music and what not- everything to give a hearty welcome to the groom and his family. The situation at Tiger Hill is not very different. Though there is no light, sound, music, sweets or any nuptial arrangement, the feelings of eagerness and happiness in the people is quite much the same.
About 11 km away from the town of Darjeeling, Tiger Hill is extremely famous for its sunrise and the panoramic view of the Kanchenjunga and Mount Everest. It can be reached by cabs and jeeps, either private or shared.
Every year in the clear weather, thousands of people visiting Darjeeling sacrifice the joy of their cozy early morning sleep and head to Tiger Hill, only to discover the joy of a lifetime. The scene at the hill is truly exultant: hundreds of people are gathered in the dark, wrapped up in their woolens, and an air of excitement that drifts along with the aroma of the hot tea being sold seems to catch everyone. The vigor seems to rise up a notch with the slightest hint of light that appears in the sky. It begins with an interesting pink tinge on the tip of the milky white mountains in the distance. The sky turns to a bright orange, signaling the coming of the much awaited solar sight. Then if the sky is clear, an unearthly radiant sun starts to peep from behind the hills. The sharp rays finding their way through the clouds and mountain peaks leave you gazing in amazement. The sky now becomes a deep brownish-maroon from black and soon the sun hangs in there like a bright orange egg yolk. Within a few minutes, the entire horizon and the snow on the Kanchenjunga and its adjoining peaks is bathed in a rich crimson-orange, the color of hot lava from a volcano. As the sun climbs up higher and higher, the entire view becomes clear, a comfortable warmth pervades and you can see the majestic mountains standing in unison. These include the famous peaks of Mount Everest (8,848 meters), Makalu (8481m) and the twin peaks of Kanchenjunga.
A visit to Tiger Hill must start early. Reach there by 3.30 a.m. to avoid the rush from delaying you. The last mile begins to line up with vehicles and you may have to walk uphill. An observation deck with several floors is erected there which serves the dual purpose of sheltering from the cold and letting people catch the view from a greater height. The higher up you want to go, the higher you have to pay, but the charges are very reasonable.
On your way back from Tiger Hill, you can cover places like Batasia Loop, the famous Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and the zoo on the very same day before you head back to your place of accommodation.