Tuesday, September 29, 2009


After Kolkata we were going to Darjeeling. A place in North-Eastern India where it is no further than 100km to 4 other countries – China, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan. On the train trip up we met a young women who was visiting her family in a remote village East of Darjeeling. She moved away from home to the big smoke and had since landed a dream job of working 12 hour days in a call centre speaking to Canadian’s about their phone plans. I didn’t think much of the position but she seemed like she was the luckiest girl in the world. Her English was very good and we spent quite a lot of time talking about her aspirations, her pending arranged marriage and family life. It was a rare insight into the mind of a “true” Indian (the ones at the orphanage don’t count).

We always arrange our arrival into a new city for the morning, leaving us plenty of time to organise taxis, hotels and eating without having to rush - this makes for better decisions and less harried travellers. Darjeeling is an ex-British hill-station designed for the dual role of summer retreat where the higher altitude makes for cooler temperatures, and it’s suitability as India’s (arguably the worlds) premier tea plantations. The weather was Indeed cooler with all of us breaking out the jackets and jumpers for the first time in India.

As the train cannot make it all the way into the hills due to the elevation we were forced to take a 3 hour Jeep journey from Siliguri to Darjeeling. The 3 hour journey ended up being 4.5 hours due to a huge procession of school children blocking the road to traffic and yelling something about “We want Ghorkaland, we want Justice” it was quite interesting to sit on the side of the road and see so many kids (1000’s). Their mob-chanting was really quite practised – much more vocal than an equivalent Aussie mob would be.

After arriving and organising a hotel our first stop was for a pot of famous Darjeeling tea at a very quaint cafe on the edge of the mountain – the views here are quite breathtaking I hear but all we saw was a grey wall of cloud, something we were to see a lot of over the next 3 days. We were cheered by the excellent quality of the tea and it was served black, with milk and sugar separate – whereas the rest of India has Chai (loads of milk and sugar pre-added). We were looking for some scones, jam and cream to go with it but we had to make do with some custard rolls instead.

For the next 3 days we explored Darjeeling, walking through the narrow, steep and winding roads and visited the Zoo, tea gardens, Botanic Gardens and Tenzing Norgay’s Mountain Museum. On a clear day you can actually see Everest from Darjeeling but all we managed was a 30-second glimpse of a snow peak through a gap in the clouds. The real highlight of the trip was meeting up with a group of kids who escorted us around the Botanic Gardens and solemnly signing our arms with their names at the end – the 4 colour pen used was donated to them at the end and they were pretty pleased with their foreign encounter.

1 comment:

  1. Had to make do with a custard roll... I feel for you, I really do.