Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Himalayan Holiday - Darjeeling

The next day we woke up at 5am in order to see the sunrise. Unfortunately cloud had rolled in, but we went outside for the short walk to the sunrise view point anyway. It was very peaceful with prayer flags fluttering in the wind. The only other person around was a local doing his early morning yoga. We did eventually see the sun after it had risen over the thicker mist near the horizon. We then returned to our room for a cup of teas and a quick nap. After which we rose for the second time, and ate a breakfast as substantial as the meals we had been offered the previous day.

We set out on a walk to find the caves that we missed yesterday. We took the upper fork in the path rather than the lower one, and marched on for quite some distance without seeing any holes in the earth. We did see more of the pine forest, and some very large ferns. After quite some distance we came across some people working below us. San asked for directions, and they told us to go back a short distance and head down from the path. This led to a large rock surrounded by prayer flags. The caves turned out to be simple depressions around the rock. The rock itself was in a tea plantation. We picked our way through the shrubs, made it down to the lower path, and headed back to the village to leave.

We said our farewells and climbed into the jeep. It headed back along the route we had just walked, and it turned out that we had almost made it to the tarmac road. Once on the road it was about an hour to Darjeeling. By this time it had started raining, and the water continued to fall all the way to our hotel. En route we caught out first sight of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, otherwise known as the toy train. The tracks demonstrated that narrow guage was indeed narrow, so the nickname is apt. We saw one steam locomotive picking up water by the roadside. Our afternoon was free, so we had a buffet lunch at the hotel whilst the rain continued to pour, and then we went for a walk around the town.

Darjeeling is similar in some ways to Gangtok, as it is another hillside town. Gangtok felt a bit cleaner and calmer, but Darjeeling was very pleasant all the same. Darjeeling had a bustling population of monkeys - always a good think in my opinion. There were also many smartly uniformed school children walking around the town. Darjeeling is the major town in the region, and has many boarding schools where older children from the surrounding remote hillside are sent to study. We ended up at The Shrubbery, a park at the top of the town. Once more splendid views of Kanchenjunga were promised; one more we saw nothing but cloud. An evening of local dance was promised, and we watched two of the dances. The dancers were Gorkhas, but rather more svelte than the ones in Tinchulay. Perhaps they hadn't been eating their double helpings.

As the sun set we headed back towards the hotel; stopping off at some shops to buy some knickknacks, and some warmer clothes for out forthcoming trek in the mountains. Plastic bags are banned, so we headed back clutching paper bags. A police poster states that if you collect five items of plastic and hand them in you will receive a free chocolate! San dressed up in the Sikkim dress she had bought a few days ago, and we had an early dinner. We had to sleep early as we would be getting up at 4am for another sunrise, and of course splendid views of Kanchenjunga.



Blogger Aanchal gupta said...

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