Early on when we were planning for this honeymoon, Darjeeling was high on both of our lists. After Varanasi we had our high hopes that we wouldn't be disappointed with our decision to travel to this more remote part of India...and we weren't.
We weren't able to get the seats that we wanted for the Varanasi - Darjeeling train and had to book the second cheapest tickets in the "Sleeper Car" category. We were warned that it wouldn't be enjoyable and we had to keep our belongings chained to our beds or our bodies. At the station we had to wait in a special room with other westerners only to be escorted to the train that was 3 hours late by a police officer. I guess the train station in Varanasi is not the safest place for beautiful and gullible Scandinavian men. We found are beds in the car and both of us had the upper bunks, there are bunks in 3 different levels. Lower, middle and upper as you can see in our video. Upper bunks are the safest for theft but worst for the air circulation, mosquitoes and temperature. I decided to give K.G relief from duty and I stayed up almost the whole night, took a little accidental nap at 4 am.
The sleeper class is mainly occupied by locals traveling and it is a fun circus with people selling and trading anything you could imagine, it never got quiet during the 20 hour train ride. At 2 am the conductor checked our tickets and I told him not to wake K.G up unless he wanted to die painfully by the hands of my little bundle of joy. After the conductor left a cheeky local fellow came to tell me that we were in his bunks and needed to move, he was pretty relentless and finally I had to tell him to leave or I'll wake up my wife and she'll kick his ass. Maybe it was the moonlight from the window that lit my bicep when the train slowly turned that made the man realize he was better off moving to the next car and find an easier target. I like the latter option.
We arrived to our station around noon and hunted down a jeep with Alex and Elena from Russia, whom we met in Varanasi to take us to the town of Darjeeling at 7000 ft. It took about an hour to fill the jeep with 8 people including some locals and a lady with her son from Australia.
Darjeeling is famous for 2 things, tea and the toy train. The tea is amazing even for a coffee drinker like me and it is served everywhere here with great pride like wine in Italy. We've sampled a lot of them and visited 2 tea plantations including the very first one established around 1850 after the British had found this area's climate perfect for growing tea.
The second thing is the toy train that is another British invention, it is called the toy train because the tracks are only 2 feet wide due to the terrain. There is a steam and a diesel version and the going is very slow, you can jump off and take a couple of pictures and jump back on. It was a key piece in developing Darjeeling to what it is now in terms of transportation but these days it is just a cute way to travel few miles for tourists.
We've spent the days here hiking the hills up and down with Alex and Elena and stopping to taste teas and local pastries. Yesterday we took the gondola ride down to the tea plantations, the ride was a super fun way to see all the hillsides tea plantations. On one of our walks we got engaged with the local kids for game of hacky sack that's called chungi by the locals and I also got to do it with students at the local monastery. The population here originates from Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan and they are extremely nice and hospitable. They invite you to their houses for tea and tell about their lives here and their dreams of one day having this area as separate state called Gorkhaland. We've really enjoyed staying in Darjeeling, enough to spent 5 days here instead of the planned 3. Highly recommend this place, especially those traveling in India who are seeking for a place to relax and breath the clean mountain air.
Tomorrow K.G and I head back down to the valley to a town called Siliguri that is about an hour away from the Nepalese border. The plan is to cross to Nepal the day after tomorrow ( Saturday) and catch a bus and start heading towards the city of Pokhara in the middle of Nepal. Nepal has had some hard times after the earthquake and the fuel crisis and we are expecting the traveling to be more challenging from here on, but at the same time we're really excited to see it and to spend few dollars to help the nation rebound back.
Peace out, we're heading out to drink some green tea and eat some momos!
PS. One of our group photos is shot in the local Indian style, can you guess which one?
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K.G. & Ville
On a cruise ship, heading north up the west coast to Los Angeles.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. Thompson
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