Waiting, Freezing, Hoping...

Darjeeling Travel Blog

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Darjeeling after a big storm

I made it to the hill town of Darjeeling after a near-vomit-inducing ride crammed in a Jeep with about 10 others, over a bumpy, winding, narrow road, climbing up to about 2100 meters.  My timing in getting here was both good and bad.  The strikes ended the day I arrived, but I also arrived with a cold and have found nothing but bad weather.  I have yet to see the Himalayas! I see pictures all over town of the great view, but alas, I see nothing but clouds and rain.  Did I mention how cold it is?  My hotel room is a constant 49 degrees.  I sleep with a hat and gloves on.  I don't know if they've heard of central heating here.  I have to get a bucket of hot water to bathe.

After tea time - she's been working in the fields for years!

Aside from all that, I love this place!  I feel like I left India, though, as faces have changed and so has the pace of life.  It is so peaceful here with no hassles. I can walk along the street with no one shouting at me, asking if I want a rickshaw or want to check out their shop. I've been "hit up" by a few beggars (literally hit by one kid when I wouldn't give him anything), but I feel anonymous again. 

Darjeeling is nestled on the side of a hill and home to many tea plantations. I've spent a great deal of my time reading and drinking tea between bouts of blowing my nose.  That cold medicine I've been carrying for 9 mos. is finally coming in handy.  I could easily stay here for a while, and I must given the weather.  I refuse to leave until I see the mountain view, or my visa runs out, whichever arrives first.

These hills should be covered in green tea!
  Let's hope the former.  Apparently you can see an amazing Himalayan horizon, including Everest, from a spot called Tiger Hill outside of town here.  Most go at sunrise, requiring a 4 a.m. rise, so I guess given my cold it's a good thing I've been unable to enjoy it yet. 

One thing I have been able to enjoy is my hotel's kick ass library.  They don't swap or sell them, but they loan them out.  Any book you've ever wanted to read is in this library.  So my days are spent sipping tea (so much I fear I may float away), reading good books, eating good food and looking outside, waiting for the clouds to clear.  Not a bad life.

I have done a few touristy things.  I checked out the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI).

Finally - here's what I've been waiting for! Although I had to go to Pelling in Sikkim to see it.
  Darjeeling was home to Tenzing Norgay, the sherpa who first summited Everest with Hillary in 1953.  Following this great feat, they opened up the HMI.  They run mountaineering classes out of here, but they also have a couple of museums, including one about Everest.  Even before my Kilimanjaro climb, I've been obsessed about Everest, although not actually thinking I'd attempt it myself.  I was excited to check out the museum.  It was small but it houses some of the gear used by Tenzing back in 1953.  You wonder how they ever made it given what they had back then compared to all the equipment and synthetic materials we have today.  There were news articles and desciptions of others who've attempted the climb and a model showing all the various routes.
One of those peaks is Khangchendzonga, the third highest peak in the world!

I also walked down below town to check out a tea plantation.  Again, timing is a little off as not much going on in the fields and they were rebuilding the factory, so no tour was possible.  But I sipped tea with two others among the familes who work the fields and bought some tea.   I then walked back up to the main part of town, thinking I might just die along the way...so many steps.  At least I finally warmed up.  Speaking of warm, one thing I have to stop myself from buying here is warm gear!  I've bought a few items out of necessity, and let me tell you, this stuff is cheap. I bought this great wool hat with fleece lining for about $1.50 when you'd pay at least $20-40 back home for it.  Being from Minnesota, I'll always be able to use this stuff, but I don't want the hassle of carrying it or sending it home, so I must resist buying one for each of my family members.

Breakfast in winter gear - with my pals from the Czech Republic along with Chau from Malaysia

I've also woken every morning to find that I can see my breath, something I haven't been able to do in ages.

I decided to move up a little further north, however, into Sikkim, which requires a permit.  I secured one today and will set off with a couple of lads from the Czech Republic in the morning.  It promises more great views (so I'm told), more peace and quiet, and importantly, more warmth (it's not as high up apparently).  Hopefully on the way back down through Darjeeling, I'll get to see that view from Tiger Hill. 

Until then I will drink more tea to stay warm and pray for the clouds to part. 

agedoldlady says:
Dear Chris, Now you will understand why I go to India so often, other than the health thing. For me, when I am there, it feels like I am home. I hope you will see Everest - I did. Magic. Simply magic. Be safe. I love you. Your Aunty.
Posted on: Mar 05, 2008
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Darjeeling after a big storm
Darjeeling after a big storm
After tea time - shes been workin…
After tea time - she's been worki…
These hills should be covered in g…
These hills should be covered in …
Finally - heres what Ive been wa…
Finally - here's what I've been w…
One of those peaks is Khangchendzo…
One of those peaks is Khangchendz…
Breakfast in winter gear - with my…
Breakfast in winter gear - with m…
photo by: philippe84