Deep Gazmer, TOI, DARJEELING: Tourists in Darjeeling received an unexpected surprise as overnight snowfall covered Sandakphu some 61km from the India-Nepal border in a white blanket on Saturday.
The temperatures dipped to around four-five degree Celsius during the day making the overhead condition dark and foggy. The snowfall triggered a rush of activity as tourists made a beeline for Sandakphu even as the land rover providers — the only mode of transport from Maneybhanjyang, 32km below — had a harrowing time meeting demands.
"We have around 42 vehicles in our syndicate and all of them have been booked. Tourists have been pouring in from the town, enquiring about the availability of land rovers, but unfortunately, we have had to disappoint many of them," said Anil Tamang, coordinator of the Singalila Land Rover Association.
Sandakphu usually receives snowfall in the December-January period. This year, the area witnessed snowfall on January 2 and 10. "The snowfall was heavy on Friday night, but it has been occurring at intervals since Saturday morning. Nearly six-seven inches of snow has accumulated," the coordinator added.
Kajal Sharma and her family from Kolkata's Beliaghata were an eager lot who wanted to get to Sandakphu. "I heard about the snowfall from the hotel staffers. I have requested the manager to reserve a vehicle for us. I am really excited to experience snowfall — a first for me," Sharma said.
IT professional Rishab Sinha from Kolkata was also eager to reach Sandakphu, but the hotel he was staying in could not arrange for transport.
"I have been told that most of the vehicles are booked and I have to wait for some time as the hotel does not have its own car," he said.
As March to mid-May is a busy tourist season, the rush of visitors has made it impossible for hotels to provide vehicles to all. "We have three tourist vehicles that have already been booked. We are trying to contact agencies to hire vehicles — even if it is at a higher cost — as we want our clients to feel satisfied," said Rajesh Rajak, manager of a popular hotel in Maneybhanjyang.