Darjeeling

Trip Start Sep 01, 2005
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Trip End Ongoing


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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Darjeeling! Cool, misty, what can I say? It is called the Queen of the Hills. Set on the side of the mountain, the roads are connected by myriad flights of steps everywhere! It is so steep there are no rickshaws or tuk tuks, you have to walk everywhere, thus my glutes are in fine shape! Now if I could only take a hot shower as I haven't had a proper shower in about two weeks! My room doesn't have any hot water, or a shower for that matter so that will have to wait. Luckily it is jacket weather so I am covered up and not getting very dirty cause it is so clean up here. I walk everywhere! Some of the roads are pretty flat so it isn't all that bad. The days are warm and everyone starts late here so I sit in a restaurant every morning reading and sipping tea from a silver pot and porcelain cup waiting for the town to wake up. Quintessential Darjeeling happenings- tea and cakes. The English influence is obvious here, from the buildings and quasi-named streets to the English stuffiness! It is mostly Nepali and Bengali people up here so I am still not hounded by Indian stares and beggars. I rise early one day to go to Tiger Hill which is at 2500 meters to watch the sunrise over the third tallest mountain in the world! I take a quick jaunt up to Gangtok, about four hours North by jeep. Once again being crammed into the back. The jeep is small so I have to stay bent over, but the views are simply unsurpassed as we wind down and up the mountains. Gangtok is cute, not much to see, but I took a cable car ride down the mountain. I got some cool pics of prayer flags too. SO I stay for two days and head back to Darjeeling. I timed it just right cause a cold front moved in and the weather went from pleasant to freezing in the two days I was in Gangtok. The next day, armed with cookies, bread and a hunk of cheese I board the train for my trip down to the town where Buddha attained enlightenment, Bodhgaya. The train is the Toy Train, a World Heritage site and the world's highest train and one of only a handful of operating toy trains in the world! It took me four hours by jeep to get to Darjeeling, but since it is a toy train it will take 8 hours to get down. I have prepared though and it is a fun trip. I chatted with some Australian girls and at one point the train stops. We sit there for a while and then, BOOM! The train jerks forward. I get off to see what the hold up is and they say the engine jammed so they are using the last car, the luggage car, to ram the other cars and get it unstuck. About 20 guys are pulling this car about 12 inches up the rail and letting it go. I am so amused by this, but I know it won't work! I tell them they gotta pull it like feet up the railing so I jump on the tracks and start pulling as well! After a few minutes of rocking and shaking, it finally starts to move up the hill. We get it about 12 feet up and then we push as hard as we can...WHAM! It gets things going! The American saves the day!! Ok, maybe not quite as herioc as that, but what fun! We finally get into a po-dunk little town around 8 and I book the next train out to the next town I have to get to which leaves overnight at 11pm. Settling into my sleeping berth for the night I wake around 7. The train is supposed to pull into the station at 10:30, so I ask where we are and I find out that due to fog, our train didn't go anywhere all night and so we are running 6 hours late!! Argghh!! Well, the day gets longer and longer. We finally pull in, get this, at 10pm!! Twelve hours late! I was exhausted. I should've been at my destination by now, but now I have to get a room and leave the next day. The train the next day is standing room only and so cramped I have to stand next to the bathroom. Have you ever stood next to a bathroom on a train...in India??!?!!!! Not good I can assure you. On top of that, at one stop I had to get off to let someone else get off and so many people rushed on I couldn't get back on myself so I had to go to another car!! Unbelievable. Yeah, I am back in India. Woo-hoo. Thankfully it is only a two hour trip and we are on time. I cab it over to Bodhgaya and get a room. By now I am well versed in the room hunting. Luckily, this town is the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sight in the world so it has the complimentary touristy element going on. The only difference is that instead of just beggars there are kids hanging around all the restaurants hounding you as well. And that is a story for another entry!entry!
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