Travel through north India IV.
7th day (Thursday 12th February 2009)
During our waiting time-period, when new day is coming, we discuss with a man from Nepal, speaking good English. He informs us that he works for travel agency, mediating excursions into Sikkim Region (in eastern direction from Darjeeling), and gives us excursion catalogue. We discuss about India in general, and explain our actual situation. He offers us two free places on coupe in train, he is also travelling with, and his travelling target is, by coincidence, also New Yalpaiguri. However, we refuse this offer, and just this indicated to be quite improvident. Nevertheless, our nine-hour waiting for train is over, we do not know, how. We follow information table, where platform No. 13 substitutes originally announced No. 9. I have loudly abuse in order to discharge my anger. Despite the fact that next delay is coming, we are incited against a fact that we did not took any other train going in the same direction to our target, together with this Nepal-man, for instance. At least, Northeast Express arrives on the platform at half past eight a.m. We are totally collapsed. The train takes other delay, as we wait in each stop for the train coming in opposite direction, and, moreover, we go uncredibly slow. We find that in our coupe there are to be found of four persons more, as possible (this coupe is reserved for six persons) – simply, when you have bad luck, you have bad luck. When we prepare to fold down our lounges, we meet with disagreement from part of other passengers. Anyway, a couple of sharp words and views could be sufficient, and we find ourselves in our beds. However, the sleeping was possible for two and half hours only. So, wakeful condition keeps tea-cups pushing (cost INR 5,-) and book reading. Owing to very slow drive of this express train and long waiting in each railway station, I manage to get off the train and buy something to eat from time to time. However, railway offer is nearly the same – biscuits, chips, sweets, fruit and vegetables, and simple meals, such as rice with a sauce, all in aluminium package. Anyway, you can buy anything (except the last one), you cannot risk any dangerous consequance for your digestive organs. We calculated that we could reach our target (final point of this train travelling) till midnight. So, we try to catch the guard, in order to know the concrete time of arrival, or how many stops there are necessary to be passed. The guard is found in first class, but he is absolutely unable to reply us something concrete, and moreover, he was rather drunk. We have to rely on passengers, to get some concrete information. So, we sleep in such way, that one of us is keeping a watch, however, nobody of us could take an ordinary relax.
8th day (Saturday 13th February 2009)
Finally, we arrive at New Yalpaiguri - main business centre and the second biggest town of Bengal Country, entry gate into Darjeeling - at half past two a.m. Nevertheless, even at this time-period, there are waiting taxis and jeeps for arriving passangers. So, we take a jeep and go ahead (for INR 120,- per person). We are so exhausted that we have no humour or strenght for any haggling. We pass the railway, as the driver needs to take as many passengers as possible. So, nine persons together are travelling to Darjeeling, including driver. Our luggage (rucksacks) are placed on a roof, let´s hope that we get it on spot. Jeep has Tata brand, (with motion on all four wheels, long-distance lights are on), is mounting upstairs through narrow path to the town, situated in an altitude of 2100 meters above sea level. Anyway, I am glad that there is dark night, so I cannot see hundreds of meters deep precipices from some curves. The drive takes 3,5 hours, i.e. we reach Darjeeling at half past six a.m. Outside, it is quite cold.
Place of interest No. 1 - it is marvellous view on mountain panoramas, especially on Kantzendzanga (8586 m) the third highest mountain of the world. Local people seem to be more nice as those in big cities - overhelming majority is formed with bright Asiats (they have no intention to force us upon something and are smiling all the time). We test some 5 hotels and choose finally one room with nice view, wide bed and warm streaming water- for price of INR 450,- per one night. We accommodate, change into warmer dressing and go to take a breakfast. Finally, masala and Tibet bread let to forget partially our train adventure.
Local attraction – Toy Train – is 7 kms long narrow gauge railway up to Tiger Hill (with nice around view) is, what bad luck, temporary closed for two weeks, due to some section reconstruction. So, our photo advanture of mountains panorama is out of order, so we make some photos of this Toy Train at least. We decide to visit Tibet Refugee Centre, founded in 1959. Approx. seven hundreds of refugees are living here, feeding on mostly with production of carpets and people´s products. You can watch them directly at their work. As far as the other places of interest are concerned, there is, first of all, ZOO Garden (it is not too attractive), sanctuary on hill-top, hung with Buddhist prayer´s flags, church of 19th century in English style, Himalaya Mounteneers´ Institute and botanic garden. The name-brand - Darjeeling Tea - is not to be mentioned. As a dinner, I ordered again chow-mein and try local coffee with milk. It tastes more as cocoa, but in general, it is quite someting different as in Europe. Anyway, coffee in India, this means something different, it reminds more as less drinkable varianta to the tea. We buy two gift packages of tea in night market. We have good luck, internet connection is functioning, so we send some e-mails (INR 30,- for 30 minutes), take our last bath, as the next couple of days we spend trekking.
Text/photo: Jakub Štantejský, Infoglobe redactor
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