Darjeeling - Land of the Thunder Bolt

Trip Start Sep 19, 2012
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Trip End Jul 22, 2014


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Where I stayed
Hotel Tranquility

Flag of India  , Bengal,
Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I woke up at 3.30 this morning and put just about every piece of clothing I own on. Rushed off to the Jeep stand and arranged to share a jeep with a family from Assam. Destination - Tiger Hill which is about 11 km away and took us about 40 minutes. Passed through Ghoom and then a steep winding track up Tiger Hill. There were probably about 150 jeeps there already and our driver informed us that in the peak season there can be up to 2000. Each jeep can hold up to 8 people. Walked up to the viewing platform and there were a couple of hundred people standing around looking over the valley. It is about 2585 meters above sea level. Lots of ladies selling Chai and coffee which helps take the chill off the morning as it is about 8 or 9 degrees. We have a 360 degree view of the hills and the valleys and as the dawn begins to break and the sky lightens we all look north and there it is. Rising nearly 8500 meters it is the third highest mountain in the world. Its snow covered peaks and the surrounding Himalayas reach out above the clouds. It is an awesome sight.

Slowly the fiery ball of the sun rises in the east and the gathered crowd all cheer and clap. Then the magic starts. The rays of the sun pick up the Mountain peaks and paints them from white to gold.. The peaks stand out in stark contrast as the sun throws shadows and light. This spectacular show goes on for about 15 minutes until the sun rises higher and bathes the whole valley in light. It is truly one of the most spectacular sights I have witnessed. Photographs do not do any justice as iy is such a vast vista to take in.

I have been in Darjeeling for 5 days now and am loving it. It is at an altitude of 2134 m so it is getting a little fresh as we head closer to winter. The local people are Indians, Nepalese, Tibetan and Ghorkas. They have a light complexion, round faces, slightly oriental eyes and girls are stunning!!! I have never come across such happy people. Everybody smiles and greets you. It is one of the nicest places I have ever been to.To get to Darjeeling one arrives at New Jalpaiguri and takes a taxi ( there used to be a narrow gauge railway but is not running at present due to landslides) up the hill. You start at about 480 feet above sea level and rise up to Ghoom at 7407 feet and then a slow descent to Darjeeling at 6812 feet

The narrow gauge railway was built between 1878 and 1881 and is 82 km long. Now here some facts: It crosses over 503 bridges, crosses the main road 177 times and has 14 stations. It is an amazing piece of engineering and the original steam locomotives are still in use on a daily basis. In 1999 it was awarded World Heritage Site. At present it is only running from Darjeeling to Ghoom and mainly for the tourists.

Being situated on top of a hill Darjeeling is a maze of twisted steep roads interlaced with step stair ways and lanes. At the top of the hill is an open area surrounded by shops and stalls called the Chowrasta. This is the meeting place for everyone. It has 4 roads leading from and one is a circular pedestrian loop of about 1.8 km that circles Observatory Hill.On top of the hill is a Buddhist Temple. This is my favourite place to be. Early in the morning at about 5.30 I am up and about and do my walk of the circuit. The chants and the bells from the monastery ring out all is good. There are already plenty of people about from young kids, old people, early morning joggers and of course the Porters. Porters in Darjeeling carry anything on their backs, from shop supplies, huge baskets of chickens, Gas bottles, timber and furniture. It is back breaking work but they just plod along from one pick up to the next.

Have a very nice hotel with great views over the valleys and 37 steps to a great coffee bar and pub. he English have left their stamp here and most people speak English. Every morning after my walk I go to Keveners for breakfast. They serve BACON!!!!  Old fashioned thick, salty tasty bacon! The restaurant is over 100 tears old and I think the waiters were there for the opening. But a bacon sandwich and  a pot of the finest tea for less than 12 SA rands is a bargain.

On Sunday Went to the ATM to draw some cash. managed to get cash but my card never reappeared. Went back on Monday and the bank was closed.There were a couple of other people who had the same problem. Little bit of panic set in but in the end all sorted out on Tuesday. That's as exciting as life gets here.

I love just walk to through the lanes and have so far been to some interesting places. Visited the Himalayan Mountain Institute which is one of the main training schools for climbers from around the world. Next to it is a museum set up after Tensing Norgay and Edmund Hilary climbed Everest. Some great displays and when you look at the equipment used and compare it with what is used today there were strong men. One of the displays showed the equipment used by a team from the Institute in 2003. There was a freeze dried vacuum pack meal of Babootie from South Africa.

Will probably spend a couple more days here than head off to Lucknow before it gets too cold on this beautiful little hilltop
  
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Comments

GabonPhil on

What fun Gus, sounds great. I'm enthused for an India trip. Phil.

Lu on

Your Tiger Hill experience sounds awe-some!

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