Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Darjeeling - No Easy Way Up

The Darjeeling Crew.
Meet Phurbu, Sherab, and Tashi
For just over a week, I stayed with some friends from Nepal/Tibet. They rock! Their families are originally from Tibet, and my friends were born in Nepal and now study in Darjeeling, India. I met Phurbu in Marpha, Nepal, when I was teaching English. Across from the guest house I was staying at, there was a woman, Phurbu's mother, who owned a Tibetan shop. She introduced me to Phurbu, and about a month later I was in Darjeeling staying with him and his friends. They showed me around the town, introduced me to some high quality Darjeeling life and new foods from Tibet that I had never heard nor eaten in the past. Thanks for everything Phurbu and crew!

One cloudy and chilly morning, Arun (also part of the crew, below) and I woke up around 330am to hike to the top of Tiger Hill. We didn't see any tigers, but we definitely found a mighty big hill. There are no shortages of hills in Darjeeling, as Darjeeling is situated over 6700 feet above sea level. As we were walking up through clouds picking up a cold sweat, we noticed many cars and jeeps, which were taxi's, driving up to the sunrise spot where we, too, were headed. We noticed them noticing us, and we thought they were thinking that were were crazy for walking up in the cold and cloudy climate towards the famous sunrise destination. The drive would have been just over 20 minutes or so, while we hiked up for about 2 hours. As we approached the top, we noticed the same people who noticed us before, and they were now noticing us as they were driving down, but they had faces of disappointment. We knew why; the overcast of clouds had coated the sky preventing any anticipated glorious sunrise over the valley. We finally arrived - tired, sweaty, and now cold, but we didn't want to depart like everyone else, so we stayed for a little while. There was an indoor chai shop where we helped ourselves to two cups of chai and sweet sweet biscuits, and boy did it taste so good. We were now warm and our stomachs warm and happy, too. We stayed for just a little while longer, then proceeded back outside to figure something out. But we didn't need to figure anything out; when we went outside, not only were there no other tourists around, but the sky had cleared up. We could still see many clouds, but this time, the clouds were above and below the valley - allowing us to see Mt. Kanchanjunga, the third highest peak in the world. It was perfect. We had clouds, peaks, valleys and smiles. We chose not to take the easy way up, and sure enough, our hard work paid off.

A nice walk to some tea gardens where I enjoyed some internationally known locally grown tea.

Some festive attire as the Hindu's celebrated, well, being Hindu. Much of Darjeeling, however, is in fact Buddhist. People of Darjeeling speak Nepali as many migrated there for living and schooling. This was nice because I could continue using the little Nepali that I had learned while in Nepal.
Went to the Darjeeling Zoo and was pleasantly surprised at how well the zoo was maintained. Typically, zoo's in the developing world are not well kept, but the zoo in Darjeeling was clean. We saw some tigers, yak, turtles, and one nice treat was the Red Panda. They were so adorable and looked all fuzzy and fun to play with. Although, I don't want to imagine what they would do with their long and sharp claws if you did actually pick one up. Anyways, they looked fun to play with and were a good sight for the zoo.
This old man was sitting next to some prayer wheels and a local Buddhist Monastery, the oldest one in Darjeeling. I just thought this was a joyous picture, but don't tell him I took the picture, I'm not sure he knows he is now pasted on the internet. If one were to tell him he was online, I'm sure his wise Buddhist outlook would simply respond, "Is that so?" and turn away with a smile privy to those who only know.

Just a picture of some ugly ass bald guy in the midst of a number of Buddhist prayer flags.

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