The hills are alive...
Overlooking the lush green Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary on one side and Mt. Kanchenjunga on the other, sits the Selim Hill Tea Estate – at an altitude of 4,500 feet.
It was set up by Mr. Henry – a British planter, in 1800, and is about 35 kilometers from Siliguri, located off the arterial Hill Cart Road on the way to Darjeeling.
If folklore interests you as much as it does us, then get this --- some locals say that the name ‘Selim Hill’ owes its origin to one Selim Sahab - as the locals fondly called him, a Planter who took charge of the tea estate after Mr. Henry. Other locals seem to believe that the ‘sailing hills’ that border the estate have contributed to the name - as ‘sailing’ became ‘Selim’ over time. Intriguing!
Tucked away in a quaint corner of this retreat - that easily makes it to the upper ranks of the list of the finest tea estates in Darjeeling, is a 150 year old Tea Bungalow – complete with antique furniture, the charm of a tea planter’s life and (hold your breath) the faraway hoots of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.
From this bio-dynamic tea garden you can feast your eyes on spectacular views of the River Mahananda and Balasun River Valleys. Weather and Travellers’ luck permiting, a glimpse of the majestic Mt. Kanchenjunga in the distance is no rare sight - all from the Selim Hill Tea Estate.
Having explored the nearby tea factory, in-house badminton court, table-tennis room and library the day we arrived, the following day is all we had left to soak in Selim Hill.
We enjoyed the morning perched in a wooden gazebo, sipping piping hot tea, as milky clouds floated among us. Afternoon slipped into evening as we went roaming through the Mahananda Forest, skipping pebbles (trying to) across the shimmering Teesta River as it meandered down to the valley below, and just about made it back to the bungalow in time to stare into a liquid tangerine sun as it melted into a verdant horizon.
We then packed and prepared to depart early the next morning.
After dinner, as we sat around a bonfire savoring the last few moments of the sublime weekend that had been, there was no one who disagreed that what we saw earlier that evening at Selim Hill was in fact the most magical sunset one has seen for the first time in a long time!
We boarded the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway from New Jalpaiguri and disembarked at Gayabari Station. The Selim Hill Tea Estate is walking distance from here.
For the less patient folk, cars are easily available on hire from Siliguri to Selim Hill, and take a little over an hour to reach.
Written by: Laressa Gomez for M3.tv