Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Darjeeling

We left from Kurseong to Darjeeling by the 6:00 am toy train, which had a steam engine dragging only 2 coaches, out of which we occupied the whole of the first class coach.

The train covered the 30 km distance in 4 hours, with a speed of 8 kmph - slow enough for a person to jog alongwith the train, and we saw a lot of locals just hop on and off the train while it was still moving. We crossed three small stations on the way, and since the first class coach had been fully reserved for us, the train conductor used to ensure that we were ready to leave before starting the train again :) - at one of the stations, the "whole train" waited while our piping hot samosas and tea was delivered to our coach !! Awesome !

Darjeeling itself looked like any other town, and after the awesome hotel at Kurseong, our hotel at Darjeeling was a disappointment (in spite of being so much more expensive). We freshened up, and left immediately for an early lunch, and then hired a cab to drive us to a tea estate, which was gorgeous. At the tea estate, we were given a tour of the tea factory, by a very friendly guy called Edward. We learnt how tea leaves were softened in cold air for 8 hours, followed by drying in hot air for 4 hours, followed by cleaning, and rolling to release its enzymes, and hot air to dry it further, and give it its color, and finally some sorting is done manually, to remove twigs. Edward had a very cute Nepali accent, which made it very hard to understand what he was saying, and we had to ask him to repeat what he was saying 2-3 times each time :)

After that we roamed around in the tea estate, and fooled around, posing for pics with the typical tea basket on our heads, but then it started to rain, and Edward started getting worried cause his tea basket was not waterproof. We then went to a chai tapari, where we sat down for multiple cups of tea. This tapari was right on the edge of a hill, so we had the most beautiful view of the valley, with the rains, and as we sat and watched, the clouds moved to block our view, and then moved again to unblock it. As I caught glimpses of the greenery, through the soft drizzle, and the hazy white clouds, sitting on a wooden bench, sipping hot tea, I felt at peace, even as I missed everyone who was not there with me.

In the evening, we went shopping, and I bought a lot of tea, but didn't like any of the souvenirs being sold, except for a small pretty pink Japanese fan, which I got for Jisha. We had a "light" dinner of daal, chawal, dahi and curd, and returned back to our hotel to catch some sleep at 11pm, feeling very tired, and a little sad about the end of the last day of this wonderful holiday.

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