Thursday, April 07, 2016

Northeast India Trip - Darjeeling

Another clear morning dawned over Yuksam, again the Holy Mountain was lit-up:

After breakfast we drove right the way down to the valley that crosses South Sikkim, before starting our ascent to Darjeeling.   I had time to recover while we drove, even enjoying this view of the river valley on the way down:

After a while we had to start the steep ascent to Darjeeling, making use of some 100+ year old engineering by the former British occupiers on the way.

We approached Darjeeling:

I'd always wanted to visit the city both because of it's association with tea but also because of its past.  Everyone we'd spoken to when we said where we were head wrinkled their noses and said it had grown very quickly in the last two decades and was now worth avoiding.

Our agent had booked us into the Elgin Hotel, one of the two fine hotels in Darjeeling:

The tea rooms were splendid as indeed was the tea, with more than ten varieties to choose from:

I can vouch for the coffee too, the best we had in India.  The room was pleasant, the hotel a British Indian oasis in an otherwise very typical Indian City.

It was heaving outside, open sewers, very crowded, lots of noise, diesel fumes and general hubbub:

We decided that the following day we'd have a day off to recover as we didn't fancy visiting the same hill twice and the weather was poor and forecast to stay that way.   So instead we walked into the City, visiting the train station for the old mountain railway:

A number of engines were making steam, with some services heading off:

Aside form this though, Darjeeling is actually pretty rotten.   Someone spat on my back as we walked around.  I wouldn't go there again, it's filthy, crowded and stinks.   If you're mad keen on railways, start and finish lower would be my advice, there's plenty more hill towns worth visiting.

We retreated back to the comfort of the Elgin, drank a lot of tea, relaxed, drank more tea and used their wifi.   It's a real oasis in there.

The next morning we packed-up the car and headed for Tiger Hill, the site of a monastery, various communications masts and also a popular tourist spot.

We left it later than usual as our guide expected the hill-top to be covered in tourist cars and we did indeed pass a good few coming down the hill as we made our ascent.

We parked in the near deserted car park and walked up the hill:

This is your correspondent walking back down with some sun breaking through the heavy cloud cover:

And the temple:

Dotted around the forest on the hill were flowering Magnolia and Rhododendron, a lovely sight:

We reached the top, which was actually quite shocking.  Rubbish everywhere, it was filthy.  This is a major tourist attraction and it's filthy, I tried to crop out the rubbish here:

We did see some birds including this White-browed Fulvetta amongst a few others:

Walking back down the hill we passed the former entrance:

Another species was this Rufous-breasted Accentor:

Tiger Hill was a disappointment, as was Darjeeling.  We didn't even but any tea, unlike in Assam where we'd stocked up on the stuff as gifts for our return.

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