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January 3, 2017

India Day 7 – Darjeeling Sunrise 7/10/16

Up at 4am (earlier actually) to go and see the sunrise over the mountains at Tiger Hill. Good thing we did leave so early, there were traffic jams getting there and up the mountain – although let’s be honest, with roads this narrow, it doesn’t take much to make a traffic jam.

Around Darjeeling, coming home from Tiger Hill

Around Darjeeling, coming home from Tiger Hill

So it was just us and 1000 of our closest friends. Coffeeee, coffeeee screeched the old ladies, interrupting the chatter of 980 of my best Indian mates. (There were a few other foreigners up there.) The sun barely had time to rise when the crowds quickly dispersed, leaving a more reasonable number & making it a bit easier to move around and see something. Thanks to the random Indian who moved a section of the crowd so I could get to the front and actually see it rather than looking through a camera held up high… Had a chat to a couple of Indian guys later on who could name Shane Warne and Brett Lee. I suggested perhaps India doctored their pitches so they keep winning here, he took it well! And didn’t deny it…

Sunrise, Tiger Hill

Sunrise, Tiger Hill

As well as coffee for sale up on the mountain, there were also beanies and winter jackets. For the Indians visiting the area, it was cold. For us it was really pleasant, especially after the hot humid weather of Siliguri (mid 30’s plus humidity) – a light jumper or top was all you needed in the evening/morning. And Tiger Hill marked the start of a phenomenon that we’d gladly have done without – we kept getting stopped and asked to have our picture taken. After about 2 or 3 times the novelty wore off, but it only got worse as the trip progressed.

Dew on the grass, Tiger Hill

Dew on the grass, Tiger Hill

From there back to our hotel to wait for something to open so we could have breakfast. Ended up having left over pizza from last night.
Just caught a glimpse of some snow capped mountains from the hotel window when the clouds parted. You could argue that we didn’t need to go to the sunrise to see snow capped mountains after all! Bought some baked goods at Glenary’s bakery for lunch and snacks.

Darjeeling Tea in Darjeeling

Darjeeling Tea in Darjeeling

Headed to the Japanese temple and saw some good views of the area (mainly clouds) and then off to the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoo, where they also had the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (and accompanying museum) commemorating Mt Everest expeditions, as well as the Bengal Natural History Museum – these were worthwhile taking a look at. Animals mostly seemed to be kept ok and it’s worth a visit, especially if you like zoos and animals. Bears, goats, sheep, big cats and birds are some of the animals kept there. The mountaineering institute and Mt Everest museum had some really interesting exhibits with information from the earliest Mt Everest treks til now, including a display of equipment used through the ages. Honours the sherpas as well as the Europeans who are well known for their Everest climbs.

Himalayan Wolf, Darjeeling Zoo

Himalayan Wolf, Darjeeling Zoo

Streets are really narrow in Darjeeling, unlike anything I’ve seen before. They are shared with pedestrians and are sometimes one way. They have hair pin bends and you know they’re tight when you need to do a 3 (or more) point turn to get around them. Traffic police directed traffic at the tightest spots and although you would be regularly stopping to give way, you soon moved on quickly enough. Houses and buildings were on stilts, but concrete stilts. Interesting design compared to other Asian hillside towns. The houses and buildings seem to be more European in design, which is a contrast to other parts of India and Asia in general.

Darjeeling Street

Darjeeling Street

Along the edge of the road ran the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (now UNESCO heritage listed), which would often cross the road. The Railway now only runs from Darjeeling to Ghum, it climbs at 1 in 20 gradients, which is fairly steep and is extremely narrow gauge, so that the train can navigate the tight bends. Unfortunately I didn’t get to go on it, or even look round the station, but it did drive past a few times, with both steam and diesel engines.

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway - Steam Engine at Darjeeling

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway – Steam Engine at Darjeeling

We stopped at Batasia Loop on the way home, which has a war memorial and a loop for the train to enable it to climb (or descend) the incline a little easier.
We also visited the Nepal Refugee Centre (Himalayan Tibet Museum) where there’s lots of info about Tibet, the political system and the refugees. It’s great to see that there’s also something for the refugees to do, to make them feel valued and able to contribute through making hand crafts like bags and carpets.

Spinning, Nepal Refugee Centre, Darjeeling

Spinning, Nepal Refugee Centre, Darjeeling

On the way back to Siliguri we went via the Nepal/India border route and caught a glimpse of the Nepal/India border crossing near Pashupatinagar. It took us a few seconds to figure out why the driver had stopped and what he said as he waved in the direction of the back window. It dawned on us just as he took off. I wasn’t able to do much more than snap a photo and hope it worked out. Would have been great to take a look around the area, even if we couldn’t cross into Nepal. Saw plenty of tea plantations this way. Mostly though, it was foggy so unfortunately we didn’t get to see a lot until we made it out of the mountain area.

India Nepal border at Pashupatinagar

India Nepal border at Pashupatinagar

Stopped at Mirik Lake for a few minutes for a bit of a rest. The lake area looked good, but we weren’t really sure how long we had here, so we didn’t venture too far. Watched a heap of fish feeding – not sure whether I’d actually like to eat those fish, but if you did go fishing there, I’d pretty much guarantee you’d catch something!

Lake Mirik

Lake Mirik

When we made it back to Siliguri they had a farewell concert and meal planned for us. The concert was really good, the students did a few items for us and thanked us for coming over. For the meal, they kept putting food in front of us, couldn’t eat… any more. Then came the cake.
Finally got to bed around about 10pm, that was a very long day.

Cosmos, Batasia Loop, Darjeeling

Cosmos, Batasia Loop, Darjeeling

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