A day in Darjeeling

What does one do when your visa gets delayed? Sit and crib and brood…which I did because Ive been wanting to visit Philippines for a while. Yeah; there have been many times when I have cursed for the passport I hold; no offense to my country but I strongly feel countries should revisit their visa policy from time to time and not have a blanket policy. More about my ordeal later.

So yeah; since Philippines was ruled out. Where next? I certainly didn’t want to cancel my vacation just because I didn’t get visa! After deliberating about Myanmar to Laos to Vietnam (last minute flight bookings mean expensive tickets and I would sure lose some money in canceling Philippine tickets); thought why not Bhutan? It was on my wish list and so everything needs a time 🙂

I knew it was not going to be flying to Bhutan for the same reason – flight tickets. The idea was crossing Bhutan by land. The way to do is fly to north West Bengal and then travel by bus until the border. Darjeeling from Bagdogra airport (Siliguri) is about 60 kms and so it made a good first stop. With all these confusion and indecisions and finalizing was Mrigank who was to travel with me to Philippines as well. He took it well; my mad moments.

The taxi from Siliguri to Darjeeling is an interesting story. Its a Bolero or Sumo and they shove 10 people inside; everyone sitting on one another literally and the route is mountainous. It was shocking to me first but then I learnt that it was the best way to commute since thats the only mode of public transport. The rains made it even more nicer. The night for resting; started next day pretty early to explore the town.

My only intention of a Darjeeling stopover was to ride the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways. That has always been one of my notion of romance. Remember “Meri Sapon Ki Rani” song? Seeing the tiny 2 feet narrow gauge through the journey from Siliguri to Darjeeling the previous night excited me enough. It was chilly, foggy and rainy. That wouldn’t stop us, would it? The rainier the better 🙂

The bustling narrow main road
The bustling narrow main road

Bought an umbrella and we set off for the train journey. The return loop from Darjeeling to Ghum costs 600/- per head and is for touristy purpose only. The railway stations are by themselves heritage sites and one can spend hours gazing at their architecture.

Darjeeling Station
Darjeeling Station

We set off and I chose to sit by the window though it was pouring; tried to fix it by placing the umbrella strategically and it worked.

All Set!
All Set!

Riding on the Toy train is fun; its so slow and the lines are so close to houses and shops; one can just jump from a house entrance into the train! I haven’t rode the Nilgiris Railway so I dont know if its as amusing as this one. The train stops at one location called Batasia loop which offers an amazing view of the Himalayas on a clear day.Nevertheless the gardens and flowers in the Batasia loop is charming enough and the views were worth.

Batasia Loop
Batasia Loop
DHS - The Heritage
DHS – The Heritage
View at the Batasia Loop. On a clear day; one can view Himalayan ranges
View at the Batasia Loop. On a clear day; one can view Himalayan ranges

What happened at the Ghum station is dramatic. The train just stopped and we all got out. In a minute or so I am saying Mrigank “Hey can you please hold me. I think I am feeling giddy”. Thats when I realized it was the earth quake and the train beside us was wobbling. As much as scary it was; that was my second encounter of an earth quake and I dismissed it off until I knew later in the night the Nepal quake’s disaster. Spent some time admiring the decades old steam engine; standing near by and observing the engine man pour oil, clean the burners, the shiny copper steam pipes and loading coal. It was a privilege to have touched a machinery that old and still the grand old man chugging along the beauty of Himalayas. Took conscious decision not to visit the rail museum; the live piece was right there! why a museum.

The lovely steam engine - centuries old still functioning. Also Ghum station - built 1861
The lovely steam engine – centuries old still functioning. Also Ghum station – built 1861

So after getting back to Darjeeling; walked around the town and walked all the way for a couple of kms in the rain to St. Andrews church in the mall area. Its a beautiful Anglican church sitting on a hillock built in 1843. Couldnt enter inside as it was closed.

St. Andrews Church
St. Andrews Church

Noticed this lovely lady in deep thoughts. The flowers on the sill made it dramatic; requested her for a snap via gesture and she agreed.

women

The day was pretty much done I guess!

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