Thursday, March 31, 2011

India part 26a: Darjeeling

I heart Darj

Or do I? The plan was to spend a few days in the hill station of Darjeeling, then head on east to the obscure village of Mungpu, where Sarah was set to do some teaching. The plan was thwarted by the echoing repercussions of history and race, as usual.

The views in Darjeeling are breathtaking, though we couldn't actually see any of them, due to clouds. Instead, we saw St Andrew's Church, which could've done with a scrub...

St Andrew's Church

...and visited the two-in-one zoo and mountaineering institute:

Bengal bear

Monkey

Napping tiger

Red panda, red wall

Then, on the evening of the third day of our stay, things got interesting, and we were forced to begin preparations for a siege. It was announced the town would be shutting down to show their solidarity in favour of the creation of the independent state of Gorkhaland. I shouldn't have made that joke about 127 Hours in Calcutta.

Looks like heaven but could be hell

The Freewheelin' Gorkhas

"When you said Darjeeling was a striking place, I didn't think you meant this!!11!!1!" As a result of the action, everything and everyone was closed, with pharmacies and hotels the only exceptions (and even they started locking the doors behind you).

As it became clear that the strike would be indefinite, the tourists started fleeing and we watched from our hotel room window as a long line of jeeps headed down the mountain. Sarah and I thought on it, and decided to sit it out. I felt like the guy in the movies who passes up his place on the last chopper out of the embassy to stay behind and help the people - although our plan was actually to eat biscuits and watch Burn Notice on TV. Our reasons for staying were fairly prosaic and practical: Mungpu is only 35km away, and the trip back down to the plains long and sick-inducing.

To be continued...

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