A Road Trip to Lava: Romancing the Hills and Painted Landscape
The lush green canvas of tea gardens and the tropical deciduous forests gradually changes to alpine as the elevation rises with each bend. Starting my journey in the morning from Nagrakata, I was on the way to Lava, a small picturesque hamlet which promises a gateway to some of the most pleasing travel wonders of the region. The topographical change is so diverse and captivating that it instantly charms the senses and increases visual appetite.
Lava is situated at a height of 2,138 metres in the Kalimpong district of West Bengal, India near Darjeeling. It is 34 km away from Kalimpong and 70.3 km from Nagrakata. I took the route from Nagrakata via Malbazar and Gorubathan.
The road trip to Lava is quite appealing and enjoyable for its landscape variations and scenic beauty. A number of spots are developed as tourist friendly but fortunately not touristy enough to become alien to the natural setting.
As I hit the road towards Malbazar, lush green tea gardens cast a spell on both sides of the road. They are so green and appear even brighter as the sunlight paints them. The tea gardens carpet through a long distance from here, presenting some of the most attractive landscape canvases of the region with occasional signs of villages, people and hazy hills near the horizon.
About 46 km from Nagrakata, Jhandi is nestled in the middle of alluring green hills. Developed into a tourist spot, the hills and the wilderness surely are endearing and a welcome note to the upcoming nature wonders. Hotels, eco huts, tourist lodges are available. The major attraction of this place is the picturesque Jhandi valley and Jhandi Dara Sunrise Point where the sunrise is bewitching over the snow clad Mt Kanchenjunga.
I had no plans of staying in Jhandi since Lava was my destination. However, what I found most amazing in this place is about a kilometre away. Surrounded with beautiful hills and a river, a hanging bridge connecting the two banks creates a mesmerising frame. Quite different from what I came across on the road trip till then, this point seriously invites an indulgence. I had to stop to capture some frames from the hill top. Hiking makes a great idea over this point and exploration from the bridge looks exciting. I walked my way down the inclined old concrete pathway to reach the mouth of the bridge. The landscape looks amazing from down there – the flowing river on the rocky bed, the green hills, the foot bridge with occasional missing wooden planks – everything exudes an exceptional charm.
Organic Tea Farms
The next stopover features a different attribute. While lush green tea gardens on the plains welcomed throughout a long stretch at the beginning of the road trip near Nagrakata, here the green hills guarding the stretches of land also produces tea that is organic. The Samabeong Organic Tea Farm extends over a big area, scattered on both sides of the road. This organic tea garden is known for its biodynamic farming technique. The greenery, both of the tea farms and the hills, is so profuse that at times it gives a feeling that a small piece of Munnar (in Kerala) has been planted in this region.
For its scenic beauty, this spot is gaining acceptance as a shooting zone for movies. Regional music videos and a number of Tollywood movies are already been shot over this region.
Hill View Point
The road takes on myriad bends and elevations after the organic tea farms. After about forty minutes’ drive henceforth, I come over to a hill top which overthrows a mind blowing panoramic view of the cliffs, already traversed and yet to traverse. The roads and the bends look captivating from this height and the landscape looks nonetheless like a painted canvas. Without stopping by and spending some time on this place means to miss out something really big for travellers, tourists and nature lovers.
The Alpine Fir, Pine and Birch Trees
Nearing Lava, I get to see some amazing alpine forestation of fir, pine and birch trees. This comes like a sudden surprise after the deciduous forests and tea farms. The cone shaped trees with dark green leaves stand tall like embellishments on the green hills.
I took a brief break in the middle of such attractive surrounding to experience it up close. A brisk walk is a great idea if you have time. I didn’t miss it.
Starting my journey again after some time, I enjoy my drive in the company of these trees as I get glimpses of the hill town of Lava from the distance.
Here’s my Route Map