Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The HMI and Everest Museum

Posted by Picasa After sampling the delights of the Hotel restaurant - (curry and Nepali bread - which is like fluffy pitta bread - and is great with peanut butter) - the lads could relax for abit and plan their next moves. It was very cold in the hotel - probably colder than outside - but this was deemed to be all part of the toughening up process. Power cuts are also prevlent in Darjeeling as Des found out to his cost. As Fowler showered the lights went and he had to stumble through to find his torchwith shampoo dripping into his eyes in very cold tempratures. A handy candle was brought up by the girl at reception also - so a candle lit shower was taken in the end - withe the last of the alotted hot water. This turned out to be not that bad as other nights only cold showers were available which certainly stirred the soul with ice cold himalayan water..

The main thing in Darjeeling is the train and the tea trade. Tea bushes grow all over the mountains below Darjeeling and there are some great views. The pair managed to get round the mountaineering institute, everest museum, zoo, tibetan refugee self help centre (how Ollie found the Tibetan Centre was a mystery to Des, but Ollie had got his directions completely mixed up a few days before - so Fowler put it down as a fluke) and had a joy ride on the Toy train which is greeted by all the local children living next to the tracks each time it runs. The steam train splutters up the track and almost stops every time a sharp incline is reached - but the railway was built in 1881 (and it looks that old) ! From its destination in Ghoom, there was a good walk back to Darjeeling in time for tea at the Windamere hotel. While on an especially long walk Fowler commented that despite eating everything shoved in front of us our stomachs had been behaving fine, within seconds Burdett felt a forceful movement and his pace quickened to a jog, much to the amusement of Fowler once more.

Furthermore, Ollie and Des also had their first competitive pool match which Ollie won despite Des plying Ollie with 'Haywards 5000' beer, a brew so strong it makes you dizzy from just opening the bottle. (a couple of days later Des was able to pull back the series to 1-1 luckily) Darjeeling is also a good place to meet other travellers (and the friendly locals - one of whom told of his pleasure at registering the domain name - which he uses for his tea trading business) and get opinions of places - we thought Gangtok in Sikkim should be the next stop - for some fine views, temples and trecks, which is a 4 hour shared jeep ride, and we had to get permits on the border at Rangpo. The jeep ride was squashed to say the least - we had 11 passengers and a baby in something no bigger than a range rover!!

In Gangtok a walk up to the Enchey Gompa was the order of the morning - an attractive Buddhist monastery and a very spiritual place - which offers great views over the town and himalayan ranges. After, Fowler and BUrdett hit the twn and sampled the local brews 'Hit' and ' Dansberg' while plotting their trecking plans, 'Hit' was especially volatile and Burdett was once more not impressed (Dansberg is nice though). Our hotel was very cheap - but as Des the biologist pointed out, was a false economy due to the fact that there was a very high chance we would contract the Black Death in its dark, damp, stinking confines, even though there are very few cases these days.. So the pair went slightly up market the next night (well, a couple of quid more) and were able to relax in comfort.

After chatting to more travelling chums an excursion to Chongdu lake was organised taking the the english, a swiss couple and a korean girl upto 3750 metres. Yaks take tourists for a walk round the lake while the Yak owners pull the beasts along in freezing temperatures with a rather painful looking nose leash (note to oneself - dont get reincarnated as a Yak). After opting out of the Yaks we took a guided hike up to a good view point at 4200 metres. Our guide almost sprinted up there in 50 minutes leaving us in his wake - and the Swiss girl with an asthma attack. Views at the top were good but not great due to the cloud and we couldn't quite make out Khangchendzonga (the 3rd highest peak in the world). Still well worth it and glimpses of the Tibet which was close.

After coming back down from the snowy peak we settled into a hut - for a fantastic chai - and warmed ourselves by the stove which our host was generously pouring diesel onto. The journey back down was ok though at points the lads did wonder that the 3000ft drops next to the road were getting close as we entered sections of 3 metre visibility. Right, time for more Sikkimese food - belter!

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