India Revisited PDF Print E-mail
Written by Peter Smith   
Monday, 20 April 2009 10:38
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Day 49: Thursday 9th November - Hotel Avocado to Darjeeling

After a good breakfast we left the hotel grounds but not before the bus became trapped by an overhead cable that hung across the entrance. Leighton and Emmett very quickly scaled the roof of the bus and freed it and we were back on the road again. The route once again skirted the foothills of the Hymalayas and after many hours eventually came to a stop in a large car park across from a modern looking hotel with an ATM machine in the wall.

After a delicious curry and copious amounts of beer it transpired that were to be driven to Darjeeling in smaller vehicle which turned out to be less comfortable than ours. The journey started well enough and we very quickly found ourselves high above the town looking down on the lights as they disappeared below us. The route then followed the tracks of the light railway that runs all the way into Darjeeling. The only thing I can remember of the rst of the journey, thanks to the copious amount of beer I had consumed in the hotel, was the bus rattling as it crisscrossed the railway lines. The rest of the journey was terrifying according to Anne who had not participated in the good beer and spent all the three or four hours of the journey looking at - as the bus veered away from the edge - the drop and the lights flickering thousands of feet below in the dark of the night. I regained consciousness as the bus bounced along the cobble streets of Darjeeling and suddenly stopped a few hundred yards below our hotel. I was still complaining about having to carry our bags up the wet cobbled streets to the hotel and stand around in the cold mountain air waiting for it to be opened when Anne's face told me worse things had happened whilst I slept. The room was gloom even when lit and distracted Anne from the horrors of the journey.

We awoke with some difficulty still very tired from the night journey up the foothills. Breakfast was served late and was a treat with cornflakes and cold milk, naan breads with a very tasty, mild, vegetable curry, scrambled eggs and to finish off a banana. Instead of coffee, which I have favoured mainly because of the milky, sweet and sickly tea they serve in India, I had tea. I couldn't sit in the heart of Darjeeling and not have tea. In fact it was so good I had a second cup.

After breakfast we set off to the market which was spread out all around our hotel and the immediate are. Unfortunately it was raining, the streets were muddy and the whole place was rundown. We set off to explore with JaenPol who very quickly went off to find a bar selling cold beer. We finished up in the local museum which was very run down and old fashioned but interesting in a strange antique type of way. All the exhibits were falling to bits and faded but nevertheless had a quaint appeal.

An hour later we bumped into JaenPol walking down the hillside and he had found a pleasant little bar overlooking the tea plantations. He was content to take us back to the bar and we spent a very pleasant hour talking to the waiter about the views down the hillside to the refugee camp, monastery and signed wall photos of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, BB King and Janis Joplin. According to the waiter all had visited Darjeeling at sometime but had not signed the photos.

We left JaenPol, who went back to the hotel to sleep, and made our way down the hillside to visit the tea plantation and the Tibetan Refugee Camp. We somehow failed to find the tea plantation which gave us more time at the refugee camp. The refugees had fled Tibet when China took over and were made welcome by the Indian Govt who gave them the piece of land below Darjeeling. The camp consists of a nursery, school and workshops providing the inhabitants with education, skills and self respect.

On leaving the camp and making our way back up the hillside to Darjeeling we met a group of women from Australia, New Zealand and Scotland making their way slowly back up the very steep hillside. The woman from Scotland was in her 60s and she told us she was teaching for three months in the town. It had cost her a lot of money to get here and pay for her own accommodation and she even told me she had gone out last week and bought new chairs for the kids to sit on in the classroom because the facilities were so bad. She admitted the young kids were very antagonistic but as they got older they recognised the importance of education and were a pleasure to work with.

Once back in the town our walking partners showed us to a jewellery shop in the square with the most amazing collection of stock. This was a cross between an antique shop and specialist jewellers. The shop which wasn't that big was a sea of hanging bracelets, necklaces, cases full of rings, brooches, lucky charms, all made of silver or gold and all unusual, different, novel as the lady from Scotland said. We spent a good £60 - 70 once again on our daughters. As we left the night was drawing in and preparations seemed to be a foot for Davali the Festival of Light. I asked the owner of the jewellery shop what would take place later and he replied nothing it is only the first night and he was right.

We had a meal in the hotel and very good it was just like the breakfast. As the meal finished Ozbus members slowly made their way outside into the street where young kids were setting off fireworks. They were lighting Catherine Wheels and dancing round them like Scots performing performing an intricate sword dance. The kids were amazing setting of cherry bombs, Catherine wheels and various fountains and all the time enticing the younger element of the bus into the antics. The whole series of events culminated in Marcus asking one of the youngsters if he had a firework he could handle and the lad gave him a cherry bomb which exploded his hand; causing serious burns. The rest of the evening was spent trying to quell the pain in Marcus's hand, which puffed up in great blisters, by holding it under the called water tap in the hotel. This was abandoned when the hotel staff complained about the amount of water which was being used. It seems that Darjeeling is constantly suffering from a water shortage.

We made our way upstairs back to our room. Once again we had been given a room that did not really endear itself to us. It smelt fusty and was damp. It did have plenty of room with an anti room consisting of a sofa, telly and chairs but was not very warm or inviting and was in an annex section two doors up the street from the main hotel which had good reviews from those staying in it and the Lonely Planet guide.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 May 2010 10:51