Ooops, a change of Plan...trouble in Nepal !!
Trip Start Apr 29, 2009
19Trip End Ongoing
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Today we took our long awaited trip on the steam 'Toy Train' ...otherwise known as the Darjeeling Himalayan railway.... this is a working narrow gage railway and was constructed in 1879 starting at Siliguri, it now runs from NJP to Darjeeling a distance of 88 kilometers, but we didn't bother taking it all the way from there on our way in, as it takes about 7 hours as opposed to 3.5 by car!! and that's if it doesn't break down, which it frequently does, often due to landslides!! Its quite remarkable how they managed to build this at all, as it mostly climbs uphill all the way, much of the time going slowly backwards, and was completed in just two years, much of it running along the very edge of the hillside ridge....it weaves in and out across the roads (177 times!!) & there are 4 complete loops. It regularly holds up the traffic as it goes, but makes a pretty picture and enchanting when the 'whistle' (horn??) blows constanttly!! choo choo !!! a really old fashioned sound...
We went on the 2 hour 'joy ride' i think it cost 400 rupees or it might have been 250 each??? whatever it was well worth it..... it was a great experience, and quite a thrill, as this railway now has world heritage status, only the 2nd railway to receive this honour... the train took us on a round trip to Ghoom, the world's highest railway station at 2222 mtrs high, where there is also the most famous old monastery in the region 'Yigacholing Gompa' built in 1875, it has an image of the future Buddha, different from any other, as it sits in a western pose and has blue eyes!!
In the afternoon we walked for miles and looked at many interesting things, well actually, not sure you can can call a smelly, dirty and disgusting meat market interesting??? just take a look at the pics it has to be the most dreadful meat market i have ever seen...and i have seen a few!!!! the chickens hanging up looked like they had been half eaten and were foul...get it!!?? fowl!! haha ... no, really, i could not believe this place, sat almost on the street, and it hummed!!! it really is enough to put you off eating meat forever!! we didnt go looking for this as a tourist attraction by the way, just happened to chance upon it!!! just to set the record straight!! but this place is very pretty and still holds many relics from the Raj years, which i personally find fascinating, the buildings look (and many are) ancient,and i can imagine it is wonderful at christmas here, as the guide books say, with all the log fires burning, as most rooms and restaurants have them....
we also visited a Monastery (well one of many!!) tucked away amongst a mangle of pongy back streets down some (more) narrow stairs, (we had to pass a stinky public toilet to get there!!) but it was lovely once you eneterd the metal gates, and here we chatted (well mostly sign language lol) with the principle Lama. and as Mike had taken a picture of the lama and me, he asked if we would get him a copy which we did later and dropped back.... tink we earned a bit of good Karma there??!! haha We sat in here for some time watching the monks praying and at work doing weird things to Hindi statues, as in removing the bottoms and pulling out what looked like loads of rust and little paper scrolls all written on in Hindi, prayers i presume?? ...odd!!
I was very surprised to note that the wealthy owner of our hotel has a land-rover.... but upon closer examination and chatting to him we discovered it is in fact some other (lesser) 4x4 ...but he just loves Landrover but can't get one here, so he has plastered it with every possible landrover sticker on the planet, even the spare tyre cover at the back is a Landrover one. . I think he is obsessed...and was hyped right up with envy when i showed him a pic on our camera with our Freelander in it!!!
we have just been updated!! ... The newspapers today are full of bloodshed and trouble in Nepal, as the Prime Minister has stepped down and they currently have no government, there are also elections going on, it doesn't take much as this a volatile place at the best of times and has seen many troubles over the last few years ...I also got a foreign office email warning against possible riots in Kathmandu (which is not unusual) and trouble in the terai regions.. .this has not in any way put us off going to Nepal, as we have been both there and Kashmir before when there has been a risk of trouble, and enjoyed both times, but it has had an impact on our travel plan, as we had been intending to cross the border overland at Kakarbhitta, as i had already said in an earlier blog, the bridge has been washed away etc but now we are being advised by most locals and agencies here that it would be potentially risky/dangerous to cross here, as there is a lot of trouble going on in the terai and the border may even be closed, so after much thought, we have decided it leaves us little option other than to fly, unless we want to do a lot more travelling on trains/buses across India to a different border, so we have arranged tickets first to Delhi and then onward to Kathmandu...all flights these days to Kathmandu are expensive, they used to be so cheap...so unfortunately we had to shell out about 300 stirling but 'what to do'?? and not the best of flight times..
While i was on the internet yesterday Mike got chatting again to the owner here, he enquired what our plans were and I cracked up when Mike told me that he had replied...' well i don't think i will be doing any of those trekking thingies, I am not cut out for it...(read too old!! haha) . he went on to explain that he had walked to the market that morning which supposedly takes only 10 mins, and it took him 20 ...he then didn't find what he wanted there and took 45 Min's to climb back up the hill and thought he was going to 'expire' en route ... I couldn't stop laughing when he related this to me as he was so serious!!! .....
Its really odd how here in Darjeeling everything closes so very early, which also means the internet cafes, making it difficult ....as its mostly evenings i use them generally, same with eating.....luckily, our 1st night, we ate out early, but on night two at 8.15pm we couldn't find anywhere to eat as everywhere stops serving and closes at 8.30pm and by 9pm the streets are dark and totally deserted, however fortunately we came across what appears (to us at least) to be the one and only restaurant that stays open till 10.30pm and its a definite for putting on your list if you are thinking of visiting Darjeeling, its called Mahakal restaurant, it's near the pony stand in the mall near Chowrastra, it does Indian, Nepali, Punjabi, chinese and continental is dead cheap (currys from 30 rupees to 100) 8 pieces of momo's for 20 rps (these are lush, i didnt use to like them..but now have a passion, they are a nepali food and look rather like a cornish pasty shaped dumplings and have either meat or veg fillings, they are mostly steamed, but you can have them fried, both filling and very yummy) ........
It is quite chilly at night and I had to put on lots of layers before going out, not having anything thick and warm (apart from the yak socks i bought in Manali) and was concerned before we left, so asked Mike; ' i don't look too wacky do I ??!!' his laughing response ..'yes, totally, but you always do!!' ....... thanks for that Mike :-) ....... mind you in my opinion the yak socks looked pretty cool i think!! ....... we had a little photo shoot just so you could have a good laugh!! yes!! I did go out looking like this..... think i might make it on 'Americas next top model'????!! lol maybe not!!!
so off to enjoy some more of Darjeeling... not sure i will be able to get on here again until we leave for Delhi?
thanks for all your lovely and encouraging messages etc.... sorrt not able to reply individually as such but really do appreciate them :-)
Love Gilly and Mike (aka Chilly and Mick) xxxxxxxxxx