Amazing Views, Bitterly Cold

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January 14th 2010
Published: August 9th 2017
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Geo: 27.04, 88.2636

To get to Darjeeling from Kolkota you take an overnight train, so mine left at 10pm and arrived around 9am the next morning. I thought i was going to get a sleepless night but it turned out OK, the guy kinda next to me had some serious snoring happening, almost louder than the train.
I managed to wake up around 7:30 and I arrived into New Jaipaguri at about 9. Once out of the train station there are so many jeeps offering rides to Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Gangtok along with many other places but mostly these three. I had to get a Sikkim permit in Siliguri so i grabbed a bike taxi and 30min later i was applying for my Permit. I then hopped in a shared jeep to Darjeeling.
There was only four in the jeep but people hop on and hop off all throughout the journey, at one point four of us were crammed in the back seat so i sat in the back after having some old guy squish me for too long. The road up to Darjeeling is pretty bad in spots and good in others, the usual pot holes and traffic, but the view or impeded view up the long, steep and windy road is pretty spectacular, seeing houses perched on the steep hills. Along the road follows the toy train, a small diesel train with only a few carriages makes its way up the steep hills. The tracks cross the road at points along the way which acts as speed bumps for the traffic.

So i arrived in Darjeeling about 2pm, the weather was dramatically colder than what i have had in the last 7 weeks, during the day it's not so bad, but at night it's friggen freezing. I had no accommodation booked so i just grabbed a room which was fairly expensive but it had a balcony overlooking the hills but because visibility is limited up here, there wasn't much to see. I did have a TV and supposedly hot water. As i donned the winter wear i went for a walk, looking for a internet place but there was a power cut at the time, which happens at least 2 times a day, so there was the constant sounds of generators. I kept walking around for a bit trying to get my bearings.
I had noticed the lack of foreign tourists roaming the streets, I hadn't seen any till I met Thumas from Finland. I was looking for more cheaper places to stay so i was asking others where they were staying and how much they were paying. Thomas was a little bit drink when i first met him and he showed me where he was staying, he quickly trundled off to bed and i headed back. Again I asked a guy from the Czech Republic where he was staying, and he showed me, from there we both grabbed some dinner when another power cut happened. Next to us were two girls from England, Zam and Fleur who where going to see some sights the next day, so i asked if i could join them.
I found it bitterly cold on the first night and I went back to my room with no power, but thankfully there was backup power, I had no torch cause i had lost it somewhere, so I rugged up in my sleeping back and chuck a semi blanket on top. After maybe half an hour the power returned and I watched TV all night, rugged up not wanting to move, not even to the toilet. The room was absolutely freezing and not a heater in sight, but i think you have to be pro-active and ask for those privileges at a cost. After surviving the first night, i was keen for a hot shower, but it wasn't working, so i asked if they could bring me a bucket of hot water and the guy seemed disinterested in helping out, so I cracked it and packed my bags and left. It had been a couple of days since my last shower.
I went to Hotel Pagoda where Thomas was staying, there i was assured of hot water as he boils it and doesn't have to rely on electricity. The manager is really nice and friendly so i was glad to stay there. I had to meet Zam and Fleur at Sonman's kitchen for breakfast so i navigated the intertwining streets following a map I had to hand draw to find the place.

After grabbing a pretty nice breakfast and finally seeing where all the foreign tourists had been hiding, the three of us set off in aim to see the zoological park and Tibetan refugee camp.
Most of Darjeeling is walkable, no rickshaws exist. We followed the main road North to the Zoological Park which, unknown to us, was closed, only on Thursdays. Poor Fleur and Zam had to leave the next day so they were a bit disappointed. But from there we walked to the Tibetan Refuge Camp, it was a nice place but not too much to see. There were rooms where they were making the carpets at a phenomenal pace. And just other small rooms where they made string, pin cushions and other fabric stuff. The camp also had a room of photographic images of how the camp developed and the time-line.
We realised it was going to be a long walk back and up hill so we caught a van back, we stopped at the tea plantation but it was off season so the factory was closed, so i left the others. I was walking back to the hotel and bumped into Thumas, we went to a small bar for a few drinks and a snack and then headed back to the TV room in the hotel where there is a wood fired heater.
I finally had a hot "shower", from the bucket, the next morning, it had been 3 days so i was nice and clean. I grabbed some breakfast and headed to the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park which also housed the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. The Zoo was smaller than I thought, but I saw the Red Panda, Tibetan Wolf, Indian Tiger, A Sleeping Black bear and Snow Leopards, plus some birds and deers. The Mountaineering Institute was a few rooms about the Tibetan and Indian accomplishments in the Himalayas, it also houses a small Everest museum which explains the history of people and groups attempting the Everest climb.
From there i walked to a small lookout just behind Observatory Hill which had amazing views of Khangchendzonga, the third highest peak at 8500m. I then followed the small road around to Observatory Hill which is a Temple which is absolutely covered in Prayer flags, it looks so colorful. I was on my way back to the accommodation when I ran into Thumas again who was walking up the street, we went to grab some food and beers for the remainder of the day, we came back to the hotel and played a few games of cards and set in for another cold night.

Thumas and myself were walking up the street when we ran into a Spanish lady named Irma, who we had met briefly the previous night, so the three of us decided to team up for the day and look for the Bhutia Busty Gompa. This was the first Tibeten Monestary that i have visited and when we got there we were told that the monks had left, but that was ok.In front of some amazing views we were entertained by a man who spoke way too much about how he took drugs and how our religions are all different and asking us why we had come to see the temple, it was hard to wriggle out without being rude.
We ran into two German guys looking for the Tibetan refugee camp so we all went together, i had already been a few days before, but Thumas and Irma had not. Knowing that it was a long way back we grabbed a taxi and went and got some food. It was an early night for us because we were going to see Tiger Hill the following morning.
Both Thumas and myself were up by 5am but Thumas was a little worse for wear with some stomach problems all night so he bailed understandably. I was also feeling a little weird in the morning but not as bad as Thumas, so Irma and myself crammed into the back of a share taxi for the 30min trip. We arrived in time for the sunrise but arrived in a frenzy of people all josteling for the best position along the railings. The constant calling of "Coffee,Coffee" by ladies was a bit annoying. The sunrise was good but nothing special, it did hit Mount Khangchendzonga showing it's beauty and just over the hill you could see the very tip of Mount Everest but only for a short time before cloud enveloped the summit. By 6.30 the place was empty, all leaving at once we hopped back into the share taxi where we got dropped off at Ghoom where there were some Tibetan Monasterys to explore. The problem was that all the local tourists did the same so Irma and myself went and got some food and waited for the place to clear.

We entered the monestary to some chant's,we peeped into one of the rooms where a class of young monks were chanting away, it sounded really nice. At this point Irma and myself were both feeling queezy in the stomach department. But we pressed forward and walked down the hill to the Batasia loop which is the Gorkha war memorial which has a dramatic background of the mountain and hills. We then took a taxi back up to Yiga Cholin temple where Irma and myself took turns at using the sqatters for our bad stomachs. Once semi recovered we headed back towards Darjeeling but stopped of at yet another monestary called Druk Sangak Choling Gompa.
This huge monestary is home to many monks from all ages, this was by far my favourite.
When we got there we were still feeling it in the stomachs so we rested here for a while.
I was invited to play a game with monks which is similar to pool except you play on a sqaure board and you hit round discs into the corner adding up to a number.This was a great experience to play with monks. On top of the building we watched young monks and old monks play cricket with planks of wood as bats. We stayed there for about 3 hours, mostly resting and going to the toilet but it was great. The monks were so helpful and friendly to us.
As we were leaving we saw a room with 6 big prayer wheels where four old people were sitting, we got invited to take the other two spots, so we sat and spun these big prayer wheels by pulling a rope at the base, this was also an amazing experience.
We headed back to Darjeeling with the aim to rest.

It was my last half day in Darjeeling as i was heading to Gangtok in Sikkim at midday with Irma.
So Irma, Thumas and myself grabbed some breakfast and then quickly saw the Japanese temple and by then it was time to go.

I enjoyed myself in Darjeeling and met some cool people, It was bitterly cold during the night but completley fine during the day. It's pretty busy some days, the hords of jeeps, trucks and cars and local tourists through the one way streets with the constant honking of horns takes away some of the beauty. I found Darjeeling to seem a bit undeveloped than other places, there seemed a lack of clean places to eat and sleep, and with the constant powerouts and hot water issues doesn't help.

So now it's off to Sikkim..

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21st January 2010


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