It is like the return of winters with snow, hail, rain and thundershowers continuing unabated in Darjeeling and adjoining Sikkim. With temperatures plummeting, feather jackets and winter clothing have come out of the closets once again.
While many areas of the Darjeeling district witnessed sporadic rainfall and thundershowers, Mirik in the lower reaches witnessed heavy hailing. Snowfall continued in Sandakphu at an altitude of 12,000 feet and the adjoining areas.
"From Tumling to Sandakphu there is snow. Vehicles are going up to Bk-Bhanjyang which is three kilometre from Sandakphu. However, there are very few tourists in Sandakphu now. There is an acute shortage of food and water owing to the heavy snowfall. We are advising tourists who are still planning to visit Sandakphu to carry plenty of bottled water and food," stated Anil Tamang, Coordinator, Singhalila Land Rover Association.
Dhrubojyoti Das, a tourist who had just returned from Sandakphu, stated that bottled water and instant noodles are being sold at around Rs 100. Food and essential commodities are being carried up to Sandakphu from Maney Bhanjyang in Land Rovers. However, due to the heavy snowfall, not many are plying.
Tourists usually drive till Maney Bhanjyang, 28-kilometre from Darjeeling and from there they either trek to Sandakphu or avail Land Rover services.
"There is an upper air trough in the mid tropospheric westerlies over this region. From Wednesday, the intensity and distribution is expected to reduce" stated Dr Gopi Nath Raha, in-charge of the Met office in Gangtok.
"To escape from the biting cold we are lighting fires. Such weather is rare in March," claimed Ratan Rai, a hawker. Tourists were seen buying winter clothes including caps and gloves as tea stalls did brisk business. "After the stifling heat of the plains, I am thoroughly enjoying the weather here. It is like back home," said Andrew, a tourist from England.