Makaibari, Fall 2004
My Swiss colleague Andre and I were standing in the compound of the Makaibari tea factory. I was smugly showing him around because, as the one with 48 hours head start in Kurseong, I of course was the expert sensei teaching my little grasshopper all about tea. We were waiting for the legend: Rajah Banerjee. After half anhour of my half-assed tea manufacturing lesson to Andre, we suddenly heard a thundering gallop. A khakhi-clad, Aussie hat toting figure on a gorgeous black race horse sped right past the Makaibari gates, much to the amazement of Andre, who had seen neither horse nor rider ever before. Eventually Rajah slowed the horse down, turned around,and cantered into his compound, got off his steaming horse, and introduced himself to a delighted Andre. Rajah was a gracious host to us that trip, as were many other folk from Darjeeling, whom I will write about in other stories.
Since those early days, Rajah and his lovely wife Srirupa Banerjee havehosted me and mine many a time. Their hearth is always welcoming, the conversation ever inspiring. Their tea is incredible and the passion they share for Darjeeling and its people is unbound.
I know Makaibari through work, but they also have tourist facilities. If you go I recommend you try the homestays they have developed with their tea workers’ community.
- Figure out when you want to go and for how long (e.g. is this part of a larger trip to India or are you happy hanging out in Darj?): I recommend at least a couple of nights to take in the full experience that is Makaibari.
- Follow the link above and get a hold of Rajah or Srirupa
- Fix a schedule to go and let people know when you’re going
- Getting there:
– Bagdogra is the closest airport: When I started going upthere only 2 carriers flew to Bagdogra. Now, it seems that the numbers keep multiplying exponentially. The following airlines currently fly into Bagdogra from within India: Indian airlines, Jet airways, Kingfisher, GoAir, and SpiceJet. If you google any of them you can get to their website. Buying e-tickets from any commercial airline in India is a breeze nowadays and I speak from personal experience.-Getting up to Makaibari:
If you’re staying at Makaibari, ask if Makaibari has transport.
If there is no transport available, you can get a pre-paid taxi to Makaibari right before you leave the arri vals hall of the airport
The cute way: take the toy train: https://www.irctc.co.in/ Register. The start station is New Jalpaiguri and the end station is Kurseong
- Getting around up there: try the low-carbon way: walk. For longer distances/sightseeing, the Kurseong Tourist lodge just up the hill from Makaibari has taxis.
- Safety: Darjeeling tends to get a little snarky sometimes (but hey, if you’re going to be finicky about such things see my extended family vacation options: they’re also fun). Rajah and Srirupa wouldn’t play with your safety so ask them for guidance.
In case Makaibari is booked up, you can also try Cochrane Place, a wonderful little hotel in Kurseong: http://www.imperialchai.com/