The depressing part was we had to travel in a Tata Sumo from Gangtok to Darjeeling. The happy part was that this was the last Tata Sumo drive on this tour. This too was to be a four our drive, and the driver spoke a smattering of Kannada.
Darjeeling is the worst idea for backpack travel. This agents-infested place is a horror show. If you do not mention a hotel, they demand to provide you with accommodation. There is no getting away from them. We got to a strictly okay hotel and it cost us Rs. 600.
The next morning, at 4, we were to leave for Tiger Hill, some 10-15 km away, in a shared Maruti Van.
Next morning, we woke up, but not the others who were supposed to come. The driver suggested we pay Rs.350 for the van if we went by ourselves. We took the offer, and what a move it was!
Tiger Hill was choc-a-bloc. People crammed in wherever they could. We placed our tripods and waited for the darkness to lift. At first, it was a dull light which began to spread. Everyone was looking to the east for the sun to rise. I saw a faint glimpse of a snow-capped mountain to the north. I wasn’t sure, but gradually, the veil of darkness lifted and the Kanchenjunga materialized. It was one hell of a scene. We had seen the Kanchenjunga for a moment in Gangtok when we had been to the Enchey Monastery. And to think that we were about to skip Darjeeling had we gone to Nathula!
Apparently, the day before had been a disappointment on Tiger Hill for a heavy mist had descended during sunrise. Not today. The sun rose slowly from the east and there was a huge applause from the capacity crowd. That was it; the tour had rounded off well. Or so we thought.
Toy Train – Darjeeling to New Jalpaiguri… or rather… to Siliguri
I had a great desire to travel in the Toy train from Darjeeling to New Jalpaiguri. After traveling on it, I can probably which it was a little faster. It took 10 hours to traverse a distance of 88 km. Hardly ever was the speed faster than that of a man jogging. It was an awfully boring journey with families with their children flooding the train. An amazingly dour route through Kurseong, it was probably disappointing because we had seen all the hills that we could in the month on tour.
At Siliguri, we got down. We had had enough. Even though there was just another half an hour to go from there to Jalpaiguri, we thought it better to take a bus to Kolkata from Siliguri. There was a Madras Café outside the main bus stand at Siliguri, and it was run by a Malayali. Food was awful.
The bus to Kolkata was a “Rocket”. It didn’t fire off that well though as it seemed to drive for more than the worth of the Rs. 330 tickets. Next afternoon, we were in Kolkata.