Saturday, September 17, 2011


Back in Jaigaon, I browsed through the LP again to see where I could head for the next 3 days. Most interesting places in North Bengal and Assam were Wildlife reserves - out of bounds for a solo budget traveler. Tawang was too far. So settled down to Darjeeling.

Early next morning came down to the main road to catch the Bhutan Transport bus to Siliguri. Got more than I had bargained for - there was a North Bengal State Transport bus headed directly to Darjeeling waiting by the roadside! From the outside, the bus looked as rundown as one would visualize a state transport bus to be, however was surprisingly comfortable to travel!

The bus followed a picturesque route via Mangpu. Seemed to be quite an isolated  road with hardly any traffic after we left the highway. We joined the Hill Cart Road (runs from Siliguri to Darjeeling) after Jore Bungalow. Reached Darjeeling late in the afternoon. After a steep uphill walk, finally found a good hotel. I did not intend to do much for the next 2 days. I had only 2 items on my agenda - the museum at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) and the toy train.

In the evening I took a walk in the market area. Grabbed a bite at the famous Glenary's Cafe. An awesome place to grab some bakery goodies. The market is very crowded, typical of any famous hill station in north India... and like most them, it is also called 'mall road'!

Next day morning I first headed to HMI and the adjoining zoo.

The HMI museum is must-see for anyone having a remote interest in mountaineering and trekking. It showcases the Everest expeditions from over the years. The old newspaper cutouts about the expeditions make for an interesting read. The museum also showcases some of the equipment used by these expeditions. Makes one wonder how the trekkers in the 1920s managed with such frugal clothing and equipment!
I didnt have much to do for the remainder of the day. Picked up a book from the local bookstore and made myself comfortable at the CCD overlooking the valley. In the evening sampled some local street food. Momos and chowmein. Delicious!

Next day morning I left Darjeeling by the toy train. Currently the train runs only till Kurseog. It is a long 3 hour journey to Kurseog - more than double the time it would take by road. The train has been running since British times (opened in 1881) and is one of the few mountain railways in India. It has been bestowed the status of a World Heritage Site by Unesco. In the olden days is used to run all along the Hill Cart Road right till Siliguri. The train tracks criss cross across the road. At places houses and local markets are only a couple of feet away from the tracks!

At Kurseog I hopped onto a shared jeep to Siliguri. Thus ended my lazy trip to Darjeeling. Tomorrow morning I head to Guwahati by train.

No comments:

Post a Comment