Waiting, Freezing, Hoping...
Darjeeling Travel Blog› entry 120 of 151 › view all entries
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.