Smelly jeeps and hillstations

Siliguri Travel Blog

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After a leisurely relax on the hotel terrace, it was time to move on and pile my stuff into a taxi to go to the station. Within yards, it became apparent that this taxi ride was to be familiar. As we reached the top of the road, the taxi hit a tiny motorbike carrying a whole family - including two little children. No harm done, but what amused me was how surprised they all seemed ... come on people - this must happen to you a dozen times a day given what I've seen so far. Everyone stopped briefly, words were spoken and then we carried on.

The station was madness. The taxi driver got me a porter, who took me to the exact bit of platfrom that my carriage would stop at - fortunately. Because as the train pulled in, everywhere else there was a huge scrum to get on. I've never seen anything like it.
Just a sea of shouting people. My name was posted on a list outside my carriage, and I found my berth. I was sharing a cabin with three men. One was a Sikh policeman. A very high ranking one it would seem, as he had his own army officer escort to see him on to the train. This young man stood so straight  it seemed as if he could snap, and gave the smartest salute you can imagine.

The policeman and I chatted for a while, arguing mildly about who had the more important/worthwhile job "You do"..."no, you do"..."no, really, you do" Then one of the others, someone fairly important in a tea company (see, that's what you get travelling AC1st class), engaged me in detailed conversation about Sevenoaks, which he desperately wanted me to know about, as he had been there to visit his head office (only a few yards from Marks and Spencers apparently).
Unfortunately I've never been, but that didn't stop him. I made up my bed, and settled down for the night. It's so relaxing dozing off to the movement of a train - like being rocked... lovely. I woke up at seven, and watched India go by for an hour. Nothing but fields, but there was always someone to be seen working in them. Someone wandered the aisles shouting "coffee...breakfast" and my police officer friend insisted on buying my coffee - which apeared to have been made with about four sugars.

As we arrived, another young army officer was waiting. As we left the train, we made an odd trio. The army type was carrying the policeman's small case, the policeman nothing, and I tottered along trying to lug my backpack without the straps, which I'd zipped away. Thanks chaps.
But my new friend did prove himself useful in other ways. As we reached the bus/taxi/jeep rank, I was instantly surrounded by people pestering me an shouting place names "taxi...jeep... lady". But the they were soon taken in hand, and the best price obtained for my shared jeep.

A shared jeep is a smelly way to travel. Especially when it's carrying half as many people again as it was intended for. And they're all in yesterday's clothes, having slept in them. I'm afraid I was probably contributing more than my share of general smelliness too. The journey was spectacular. And scary, what with it winding higher and higher up narrow roads, with unprotected bends and steep drops. But three hours later, we arrived in Darjeeling, and I found my guesthouse - which of course was up another steep hill. And hills are twice as steep when carrying a backpack. I'm sure there's an equation for it somewhere.

And then I discovered the delights of the 'hot bucket' as provided for my room. Having been truly disgustingly sticky, ladling hot water over myself  from a big bucket was SO much nicer than a shower. Who'd have believed it. But it was bliss.

I explored (wonderful) Darjeeling...but this entry is too long already. Let's leave that for tomorrow.
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Siliguri
photo by: cmgervais