Moving on again

Siliguri Travel Blog

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The station

As usual, I was awake frighteningly early. Life starts early and finishes early in this region. And Chowrasta came to life again at about 5:30am. 30s metal windows don't provide any kind of sound insulation.

Went to my favourite breakfast place again for banana, raisin and nut porridge, spiced with cinnamon, cloves and cardamom, and chatted with a Canadian guy I'd met yesterday. I've spent the last couple of days constantly bumping into people I met in Sikkim. Then headed for the zoo and the Himalayan Mountaineering institute. The zoo seemed well run, by Indian standards - but it was a bit odd to find myself less than three feet from a  tiger, separated only by a single chain link fence, while his enclosure was being cleaned out. Impressive though. Saw cute red pandas, a great big Himalayan black bear, and several other types of leopard, etc.

The train
The mountaineering Institute was great. It's not that I'm normally interested in that sort of thing, but this place was set up by Tenzing Norgay, who lived in Darjeeling - and it was very impressive, and almost emotional to see much of the equipment and personal things of his, from the 1953 Everest expedition. I really enjoyed it.

Another really lovely journey down to  Silguri and New Jalpaijari - through more tea estates. My jeep driver was troubled that I'd not actually been inside a factory, so stopped at one so that I could be shown around - really interesting. He was also quite a botanist, and often would suddenly stop to show me an interesting tree or plant as we travelled down to the plains.

My name's on this list, pasted to the carriage
There was almost a South East Asia feel as we dropped into the warmth and colour of plains life. I'd only been in the city and the mountains this trip. But this was the rural India I remembered. Cows in the street India. People sitting on railway lines India. Pedalbike ice cream sellers etc.

Got to the station with plenty of time to spare, and to enjoy the usual mayhem. Fortunately managed to lose a supremely patronising young English bloke who seemed to think I needed 'looking after' - despite my protestations that I knew exactly what I was doing thanks, and had done this before. "I'm just nipping out for a cigarette, but will look out for you when I get back to make sure you're alright. Don't worry - I'll get you on the train" ... not if I see you first you won't sunshine.

My compartment

Anyway - found my name when the lists got posted up, and found my compartment. This time I was sharing with a young marketing executive from Calcutta, and a middle aged couple who barely spoke to each other, let alone to us. The young bloke was really nice - we chatted for a couple of hours about everything from the state of our countries' national psyches, through cricket and football and  how climate affects personality, to migration. Then he showed me the photos from his Swiss holiday on his laptop.

The other three had meals from the tiffin tins they'd bought at the station, while I just had one of the foamy coffees that the attendant pours several times from a great height to make the foam - no mean feat, as the cups are tiny and the train rocks.

Then sleep. The middle aged couple both snored horribly, and the young guy and I had a good giggle about them in the morning.



 

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The station
The station
The train
The train
My names on this list, pasted to …
My name's on this list, pasted to…
My compartment
My compartment
My dinner at the station
My dinner at the station
Shovelling tea.
Shovelling tea.
Siliguri
photo by: cmgervais