India, March 12, 2017

Day 27-Darjeeling

It was supposed to be a super early morning with a 4:30 am pick up for a 45 minute drive up Tiger Hill to watch the sunrise over the Himalayas. We were somewhat  relieved that the rain and fog made visibility so bad it wasn’t worth making the journey. We have had a lot of early starts with not enough sleep, so enjoyed the leisurely pick up at 9 am.IMG_0720

Our first adventure today was taking the 2′ narrow gauge train from Darjeeling to Ghum (7407′ elevation) a 4 mile trip each way. The narrow gauge allows the trains to run through the tight, twisting mountains. The train runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling in the state of West Bengal.  When the railway opened in 1881 it was the major means of transportation between the hill villages and towns. It now traverses 48 miles in the incredibly mountainous terrain with 4 diesel locomotives.  Our little vintage locomotive was a coal fired steam engine, built by the British, that spewed coal smoke and had a whistle that could raise the dead. All in all a fun experience, with great views of the little villages perched on mountains and in the valleys. The photo below is of a Monastery we passed on our way to Ghum.

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These massive retaining walls are what’s holding up the mountainside roads, train tracks and structures in many places.

 

Back to the hotel for a quick lunch break, then we were off on a walking tour of Darjeeling Mountaineering Institute, Museum and Zoological Park.

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The Mountaineering Museum was very interesting with all the Himalayan peaks shown along with equipment, letters, journals and photos from all the most famous expeditions. There were also displays of the evolution of climbing equipment. Unfortunately no photos are allowed in the museum. I did get one shot outdoors of the memorial to Tenzing Norgay (from Darjeeling) the first man to summit Everest with Edmund Hillary. The featured photo, courtesy of Suzanne, is of the third highest mountain in the world, Kanchenjunga (elevation of 28,169′). It lies partly in Nepal and partly in Sikkim in the central part of the Himalayan range. This shot was taken a short distance from our hotel.

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As you can probably imagine from the photos, the Zoological Park is on the side of a hill, so you are looking down or up and the animal enclosures. I was thrilled to see a Snow leopard, Black bear and a Red Panda, plus a plethora of others animals. The park has a very successful breeding program for the endangered Snow leopards and Red pandas. The Red panda below was especially hard to get a picture of, because he never held still. I’m not sure if the photo below is mine or Suzanne’s, we were both taking multiple pictures trying to get a visible shot of him in focus.

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We have been doing better than I expected with the Darjeeling elevation of 7000′. There is some puffing while we walk the steep streets and stairs of Darjeeling. My iPhone claims we walked about 3 miles today and did the equivalent of 22 flights of stairs. I’m amazed we managed with the thin air.

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Thought you might like a see a bit of our mountain station room at night with the coal fire going. One thing I neglected to mention in the description of our abode in yesterday’s blog is that the toilet that is 14″ off the floor, an excellent exercise program using the loo….

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