Friday, 29 March 2013

Darjeeling, West Bengal

Just getting here was an adventure!

Yesterday morning (Thursday) we checked out of the Casa Fortuna Hotel in Kolkata, and got a cab to the airport, via Modal and Son (8 Rabindra Sarani, Kolkata), who sell musical instruments. Here Jenny bought a sitar. It's a lovely looking instrument, 7 played strings, 13 sympathetic strings... It's quite large. It barely fitted in the back of the cab...

At the airport, all our checked luggage was scanned and sealed. We decided the sitar should go as cabin luggage, but had it scanned and sealed anyway.

The plane was delayed somewhat, I think around 30 minutes, and there was an unannounced change of departure gate, but otherwise fine. The cabin crew were fine about the sitar and found a safe place for it for the flight.

The flight to Bagdogra was uneventful, and our luggage came off the plane quickly. Next mission, getting to Darjeeling (about 90km from Bagdogra / Siliguri). Normally, (it says in the Lonely Planet) you just get a prepaid cab, should be about Rs90 (say around £1). However, Wednesday and Thursday were Holi, so most cabs weren't operating. I was offered a jeep for $100, which I felt was a little steep. Eventually, we joined up with another 4 people going to Darjeeling and arranged a shared car for Rs5000. Much better. And thanks to Mr Mathur for negotiating.

The road journey through Kurseong and Ghum, climbing to 2100m, is brilliant fun - a narrow twisty road, with vertiginous drops off one side on occasion, and steep in places (imagine the Hardknott or Wrynose passes in Cumbria, but 90km long). Sometimes you're travelling alongside the toy train track too, though the line from Siliguri is blocked by a landslide.

Eventually into Darjeeling and to our hotel, the Hotel Mohit. Old-world compared with the hotel in Kolkata, no lift, real keys for the doors and everything. A nice room, with a balcony looking east over the town and away into the distance. No views of the mountains, though, too misty at the moment. We arrived at dusk and it quickly got dark. A decent meal in the hotel's restaurant, with a bottle of Tuborg (no Kingfisher). Then, off out to have a walk around. It seems most places close by 9pm so not much to see.

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