Day 182 - First Day in Darjeeling

Trip Start Nov 07, 2010
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Trip End Jan 01, 2012


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Where I stayed
Tower View Guesthouse

Flag of India  , West Bengal,
Saturday, May 7, 2011

After a few days in awe of the former capital and acclimatizing to my new surroundings, my skin starts to tingle with anticipation for what else lies out there beyond these city walls. I've found myself more and more drawn to the countryside of wherever I’m traveling, seeing the truest form of a people and experiencing life on their scale.  I still have a lust and fixation with sprawling metropolis of every country I’ve been to, but my heart lies in the beaches and mountains and back country villages tucked away in untouched parts of the world.  I feel it’s time to say goodbye to my new friends and head north - away from the city lights, chattering cars and suffocating smog - into the widespread majesty of the Himalayan foothills.  I hop a night train to Darjeeling at the ant hill that is called Sealdah station and settle in for the long ride ahead.  Somehow fortune smiled on me that day because sitting directly across from me was probably the only other westerner I had seen boarding the train that night.  Coincidence of fate, I took it upon myself to keep her company, and between our fascination with this country and the four friendly Indian gentleman sitting next to us, the ride went by in a flash.  When we arrived at New Jalipuri Station, we still had to catch one more mode of transportation to reach the former hill fort town of Darjeeling.  A platoon of jeep taxis stood at the ready across from the train station, filling their seats to the brim and then chugging off in a cloud of diesel smoke up the narrow twisting roads that lead to the hill towns.  Ours was no exception and we were crammed with nine other people in a jeep that was probably meant to seat six total.  As we wound our way up through the river strewn valleys, cloud skimming ridges and heart stopping blind corners we crept ever closer to our destination.  Finally, topping a hill and scanning across the empty expanse of space, it appeared through a haze of mist like a lost city hidden from the rest of the world.  A secret few knew about and others never shared for fear of despoiling their precious haven in the hills.  It was breathtaking.  An entire city that was previously a fort town for the British colonial efforts, transformed into a thriving cascade of quaint little bakeries, delicious outdoor restaurants, hundreds of thousands of acres of some of the best tea plantations in the world, and a Mecca for trekking, wildlife discovery and mountaineering institutions.  It wasn’t long before we fell in love with this city and all it had to offer.  Sitting atop the balcony at our guesthouse, overlooking the alien panorama of the city at night - an echo of the starlit sky recreated in every fold of mountain and point of light as far as the eye can see - I couldn’t be more at peace.  We have plans for the coming days, but for now all I am and all I can imagine are those twinkling specks of light faintly flickering in the distance of the cold mountain air.  Each one a family, a home, a life story untold.  Somewhere out there, looking back on where I stand, my own light shines bright, burns passionately with the fever to be seen.  My life story unfolds, and there’s no place I’d rather be right now than here on this balcony watching the stars smile down on me.
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