Hill station blues?

Darjeeling Travel Blog

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I like Darjeeling. A lot. It's everything I hoped it would be. The place perches perilously on the mountainside, and is wonderfully picturesque. The views are magnificent - or would be if the fine mist would lift. They're still gorgeous viewed 'in real life', but the camera can't cope, and so just picks up a grey blur. The lower part of town is as chaotic and noisy as any part of India, but further up, there's a chilled and relaxed feel.

When I was planning this trip, there were lots of things I planned to do in this area. But if ever a place was designed to make you think 'nah...can't really be bothered' it's Darjeeling. It's a place for wandering and mooching about. Yesterday afternoon I explored. Yesterday eveing I wandered. This morning I mooched.

I ended up sitting on the terrace of the 'Hot Stimulating Cafe'.. a little wooden shack overlooking the valley, drinking tea, eating momos (Tibetan dumplings stuffed with veg), talking to the owner, and playing with kittens (it's OK, I've had my rabies jabs). Then I checked out the shared jeep stand, prior to having to brave it in a couple of days for my Sikkim trip (it was madness down there) and picked up my Sikkim permit...very impressive it is, with important looking stamps on.

Then in a fit of activity, I took the Toy Train to Ghoom. The train is an ancient steam driven relic of the Raj. Most of the time, people walking alongside it are travelling faster! But it was fun, and the views, though still misty, were great.

Got back and sat outside a cafe on Chowrastra, the main square, and had iced coffee and a brownie.

I'm eating like a horse. Given that every road is a steep hill, all this wandering and mooching has actually been very energetic.

Disconcertingly, there's stuff going on here that could threaten the next bit of my trip. All day, jeeps have been coming through, full of cheering people and carrying Tibetan flags. They're apparently heading for the Sikkim border where a huge demonstration is planned tomorrow - around 10,000 people anticipated. While part of me thinks 'good luck to them', I wouldn't be at all surprised if the border is closed for a while. It's only just re-opened after the general strike, and given the volatility of this area at the moment... Also, overnight, many of the shops have put up Tibetan flags, and some have closed unexpectedly, so another strike could be on its way. We'll see - but it may be that I have to find a plan C. If Darjeeling could just stay open, I'd be fine - there are treks I can do from here, and I reckon I could enjoy myself if need be. But who knows. Whatever, it'll be an adventure. It's not as if the situation's dangerous - just possibly frustrating.


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photo by: philippe84