Foggy ride to Burimari
` The next morning the rickshaw driver took me all the way to Burimari (the border) in complete fog. (By the way, when I tried to leave the hotel I discovered I was locked in and it wasn't until the rickshaw driver yelled that someone came and opened the door. I guess they don't have much to do with fire codes out here.) Once we arrived some guy took my passport and I was sat down for cha in a room with five guys who asked me questions. I couldn't understand most of what they said but I did hear Michael Jackson and New York. After an hour, the rickshaw driver drove me to the real border a hundred feet away. I was then told to walk to this little hut where three men sat around a table with papers everywhere. They asked me questions then signed my passport. I was told to walk through a little shack with armed guards and walked across a field supposedly to India.
Kids living along train tracks
On the other side, three men under a shade at a table wrote something in my passport under a sign that read Bangladesh. I then walked to another hut, followed by two more before I was finally admitted into India. Very strange, and took about two hours.
I avoided the hustle of taxi drivers who went from 100 rupees to 5 rupees by the time I walked by onto the town of Chandra bara. There I waited for a bus to ( I believed) Siliguri
. Well it went to Manali
at which point the driver put me on another crowded bus to Siliguri (and paid my fare apparently). Six hours later I arrived only to find out my homestay fell through.
On the train with one of the people I had to take photos with
SO I checked into a decent hotel, found something to eat and searched in vain for more tissues before settling on a package of napkins. I also went to a pharmacist and bought a five-day supply Levofloxacin and a heavy duty Robuttussin-like medicine including terbutaline for 80 rupees (about $2). I spent the rest of the night coughing my lungs out in my hotel room while watching Malcolm in the Middle and the Simpsons.
The next day, I took a rickshaw to the very confusing train station where I eventually got directions to my train to Darjeeling
. There were six other people in my section, and every single one took turns sitting next to me while a guy recorded on his video camera which felt a little awkward because he was continuously recording me for about twenty minutes while they played musical chairs.
My helper and his niece
As I've said, I'm quite important here apparently. We rode for less than 10 minutes when the train stopped for an hour and people got off and started drinking cha. I was confused since I didn't speak Bengali or Hindi, but luckily an Australian guy came up to my window and explained there was a strike in Darjeeling so they were not going to let our train through. We were allowed to go to the next station where we were told to get off the train. A local guy carrying his young niece walked with me for an hour looking in vain for a place to refund my internet ticket until we finally learned I could do it anytime in the next three days on my own. He then suggested I go to Gangtok
instead and put me on a share jeep set to leave in the next 15 minutes.