Bumper Orange this year, head to Sitong
Come November-December and the verdant hills of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts are resplendent in hues of bright orange and wide beaming faces of locals reflecting their happiness and contentment. The political unrest and bandhs that crippled life in the hills from June 15 this year for 104 days was a big blow, but Kurseong, a sub-divisional town in Darjeeling district has already recorded a bumper crop of oranges.
Sitong, a quaint little village in Kurseong, has an overabundance of oranges this year. The fruit-laden trees in the orchards struggle to hold on to the ripe oranges and loads of them scatter on the ground, ready to be picked up. The markets of Siliguri are flooded with oranges. Excess production of this winter fruit has at last brought back the smile on the faces of locals. Their livelihood is largely dependent on the tourism industry which came to a standstill earlier this year following the wide-spread agitation. But now the beaming faces reflect optimism. The people of Sitong are now hoping to welcome tourists to their virgin land with their own produce.
Sitong is quite close to Siliguri. A drive down NH 10, via Mongpoo to Riyang bridge and the verdant greens beckon one and all. Surrounded by hills on all sides, Sitong is a riot of orange and green colours. However, not many tourists are aware of this ‘paradise on earth’ which was discovered only recently and hence very few venture to Sitong. It is a storehouse of natural beauty. There is a small Lepcha neighbourhood, which is surrounded by mountains and rivulets or ‘khola.’
There are no hotels in Sitong and homestay is the only option available. However, recently members of the local Sitong Eco Travellers Welfare Society has taken initiative to clean and beautify different spots and develop them as tourist attractions. They also plan to set up tents on the banks of Riyang river for adventurous trekkers. The picturesque Riyang River, bamboo bridges, winding paths, tempting orange orchards, a small church amid bountiful nature are just some of the attractions. In fact, optimistic tour operators insist, if a visitor has ever stepped into Sitong, he/she is bound to return.