Trip Start Aug 17, 2011
18Trip End Oct 31, 2011
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Where I stayed
The Way Up
We'd been warned of Indian trains, long before even leaving Taiwan. That they're dirty, dangerous, uncomfortable. Cockroaches will crawl in your bed, people without seats will sit on your bed while you sleep, YOU WILL DIE! What's worse, because of the holidays up in Darjeeling, all the AC sleeper cars are booked, and we have to take a coach sleeper. Well, as with most things, all the warnings we'd heard and fears we'd feared matched up in part with our experience. Unlike SE Asian trains, there are no separate compartments, and the individual berths don't have any sort of privacy curtain. There's no bedding, just a half inch of seat cushion. And there are cockroaches, though luckily none made it to our beds. People were great, friendly, and only sat on our beds early on while the train was packed with commuters. We slept well enough, and awoke to find that we were delayed about 5 hours due to a fire on the tracks
The train takes us to a place called Siliguri, where we're expecting to take a bus to the toy train, but a landslide has put both the highway and train out of commission. So we jump into a share taxi--11 people pack into a jeep fit for 8--and up we go. As I said, the main road is damaged so we take, mmm, the alternative route, where the pothole to road ratio is about 1:1. The road is bumpy beyond nausea, windy beyond disorientation, and steep beyond vertigo. Leanne struggles to keep her stomach in her stomach, and Rob attempts to enjoy the view without smashing his head on the glass at every bump.
But enough with the buses and trains! You're thinking this while reading, and we were certainly thinking it in our 20-some-odd-th hour of transport.
We pull into Darjeeling, and it's a world removed from India. The clean air's got a chill to it, the people look more East Asian than South, and the city itself feels lifted from Europe, more Alpen than Himalayan.
Darjeeling turns out to be one of our favorite stops, not for any particularly outstanding sights, but for its simple charm, its people's warmth, and the peace. So often, you go to some beautiful, exotic locale, and the locals have little appreciation for the beauty of their home. Not so in Darjeeling. The locals walk side-by-side with the tourists admiring the views of tea estates and the Hills beyond.
So for a few days we relax, wandering the mountain roads and enjoying the mountain views, but soon, we've got to move on. There are more mountains to see out there.