Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Darjeeling--Tea Anyone?

Tuesday morning Jyoti, Mahendra and Grace met us at the hotel in a taxi they had hired to drive us up to Darjeeling...the city above the clouds!  We felt Jyoti and Mahendra needed a break from the tedious days at school, and what better way to get to know the family and the country than on a road trip to Mahendra's hometown.

The drive up was broken by several wonderful stops to see God's fabulous creation...tea plantations, rolling hills and a beautiful lake up in the mountainous area.  We also stopped several times to relieve twenty-two-month-old Grace who found cars and winding roads were never supposed to meet!  She is a precious and well-mannered young child who suffers from motion sickness.

We were amazed at the lovely variety of terrains as we wound back and forth on hairpin curves through the forest, then through the tea fields, into fern forests and finally into a dense cloud of fog before rising above the clouds into Darjeeling! 

What a quaint city upon a hill!  Each house and business is built right out on the side of the mountain making Jonnie ask if they had to buy the air on which they built their houses!  The streets are narrow...the businesses are tightly squeezed together with doors wide open...the roads under repair...the cars passing within inches of each other in order to maintain the exterior of the car and to not run over pedestrians!  The pedestrians are dressed in their uniforms, saris, tunics, jeans, robes, etc...the first just as colorful as the next!

We arrived at our hotel...The Ivanhoe House...shortly after noon.  It is an old home converted into an enhanced bed and breakfast!  We were immediately served tea in the sitting area of our bedroom while they prepared our lunch to Mahendra's orders.  The dining area was filled with WWII newspaper clippings and vintage pieces.  We thoroughly enjoyed the cuisine and then headed out for a walk around town up one hill and down the next.  A quick stop at the Aliceville Hotel for pictures to send back to Gary Tate who remembers visiting there as a nineteen-year-old serviceman.  Mahendra walked us past his former places of employment, schools, etc.  We did a bit of windowshopping and stopped to purchase a few gifts to take back to friends.

Back at the Ivanhoe we enjoyed a fire in our bedrooms to warm our bodies and our rooms.  Then we were served a delicious meal of more of Mahendra's favorite dishes before turning in for an early bedtime.  A hot water bottle helped to take the chill off of the bed as we snuggled under two wool blankets!

Wednesday morning we arose early and were served a hot cup of tea in the lobby before leaving the hotel by 4:15.  Mahendra, Jonnie and I went by taxi ( unlike Gary who road a horse up the mountain) up Tiger Mountain to see the sunrise over the Himalayas.  We were thrilled to find a very nice viewing lounge out of the cold and wind.  We were a bit disappointed to find that the fog prevented us from the fantastic views we had anticipated, but it was a fun morning adventure.  On our way back to the hotel to join Jyoti and Grace for breakfast, we stopped by a Buddist Monastery and the WWII Military Memorial.

We were served a six course breakfast by the hotel in our rooms, cornflakes, papaya and banana, toast and jelly, omelettes, tea.  Then we bid farewell to our new friends at the Ivanhoe and headed out for the day's planned activities.  Mahendra was excited to show us his city. and had planned stops for us to see.  We drove up to the Tibetan Refugee Camp only to find it closed up tight for a Hindu holiday.  The drive up was lined with fern-clad hillsides reminiscent of the rainforest of Puerto Rico.  The frongs of the ferns were at least five-foot long!  It really astounded me to see this in such a frigid area.

Grace receives her Book Bag

Our favorite stop was the zoo!  Grace was thrilled with the red pandas and especially the monkeys.  We were impressed with the tiger and leopards of various ilk.  The Mountain Climbing Museum was also intriguing and very well established.

Winding back down the mountain, we found two troups of monkeys - one swinging from the trees and the other sitting primly on the fence posts.

It was a sad good-bye back at the Sinclair.  Jonnie and I have grown to love this family dearly.  They have become our family as well.  Jyoti will not be able to make the hour trip over to Siliguri to see us off tomorrow morning.  She will be busy teaching classes.  Mahendra will come to the airport to see us off to Guwahatti at noon tomorrow!

1 comment:

  1. What a delightful side trip and opportunity to know the country better before getting to the orphans and the challenges there. We will miss these blogs while you are away from the internet and look forward to catching up when you can transmit. May God be with you during these days.