We woke up at 3.00am and got ready to go to Tiger hill(8800 ft) to the view sunrise. The jeep picked us up at 4.30 am. It was a 40 min drive uphill. Atop Tiger hill, the Darjeeling tourism board has built a double storeyed house with glass windows. It is equipped with plastic chairs for seating and electric coil heaters to keep tourists warm. They charge 20 Rs. for using the facility yet all the fun is outside, on the edge of the hill in the open, ignore the chill weather. What do we wake up at 3.00 am for?
Many women sell small cups of coffee here for 5Rs/cup. It is a much need cup to give one that warm feeling. We stood there from 5.30 am and watched the dawn. The sun, lighting the skies a crimson red and slowly the ball of red came up above the Kachenzonga hill range and it proclaimed day break!
"It was sunrise that we will remember all our life" told us the British couple who are senior citizens. They are visiting India that their ancestors talked about. Yes that is true we agreed.
As we drove back we saw Kanchenzonga peak barely visible through the clouds, had our chauffeur not pointed out we would have mistaken it to be just clouds.
Our next stop was at the monastery at Ghoom. The Buddha looming over people and all the decorations.
The frescoes depicting the life of Buddha done in Tibetan style.
The place was colorful and reflected a rich heritage that the Tibetans had to move with them as they are exiled from their country.
Here we found a lone photographer with Nepali costumes. Dad and me decided to get dressed up for pictures. He let us use the costumes for a mere Rs.10/person. We tipped him Rs.5 and he was so happy. Since the economy here is entirely dependent on tourists people respect their earnings and accept with both hands in the true Hindu tradition that we city breds have forgotten.
Later we returned to the hotel for a quick bath and breakfast. In about 1.5 hrs we were ready to go. We had luscious aloo parathas for breakfast with pickle, pineapple juice, bread toast with butter/ jam and coffee.
The Himalayan zoological park & Himalayan mountaineering Institute are located on the same premises. We bought the tickets Rs. 30/person for entry.
It is really beautiful to walk around the zoo under the towering conifers, teak, sal, rhododendrons and Chapha trees. The mild scent of Chapha floats in the air through out the park and is quite intoxicating.
The Chapha Tree
This park is one which has provided semi enclosed natural cages for the animals. We saw the barking deer, black Himalayan bear, snow leopard, common leopard, tiger etc.
The Himalayan mountaineering Institute has a small museum that houses the mementos from history that made the world take note of India. It is home to the heroic adventures of Sherpa Tensing. He was the director of HMI till his death and his body lies in a quite corner of the campus. We paid our salutations to his memorial. It is a must visit and makes every Indian proud. Hillary was present when HMI was inaugurated. It still continues to conduct courses in Mountaineering.
The hills of Rhododendrons
This boy makes little name or message bands near HMI in mins. I requested for 2.
We then went to see the site where new mountaineers are trained. These are 2 rocks named after the heroes Tensing and Gombu, here they learn to climb without cables.
The traditional Tibetan attires
At the hotel we ordered for spring rolls and cheese grilled sandwich with a pot of Darjeeling tea.
After the high tea we walked down to Darjeeling station. Our hotel is situated 2 buildings away from the raj bhavan. Our days in Darjeeling will be most remembered for our lovely walks, especially the chaurasta. The colonial architecture and the British influenced hospitality.
It was the second day in Darjeeling and now due to the packed itinerary, we were not able to go for the joy ride on the heritage train. So we told the hotel staff to arrange for he tickets.
The walk to Darjeeling station takes about 30 mins downhill and 40 mins uphill. The uphill walk was a good workout for me and I was sweating by the time we reached back at the treat.
We had an early dinner of peas pulao, dal fry, phulka and veg makhani and slept early.