Bangladesh Adventures

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Stout Family Trip to Darjeeling, India

Monday, 23 Oct 06: We left Lamonirhat at 8:30 a.m. It took 2 hours to get to the Indian border in Northwest Bangladesh. This is a very remote border so not many people but lots of paper work. BD side: stopped at Bank to pay the border tax of 300 taka each (Bank Staff had to fill out a form in quadruplicate for each person- 7 of us. Next stop Police station to fill out immigration forms which after I fill out they write out into a record book that nobody will ever see. From there 10 mins to stop at the border security (military) for them to fill out another record book with all of our information i.e., Name, Nationality, DOB Passbook information, and Visa information both BD and India. That was only the BD side after 100 yard walk we had to go through it all again on the Indian Side. The whole process took 2 hours!!

We arrived in Siliguri about 3 p.m. We stayed at the Church of God Guesthouse. The friends we stayed at in Lalmonirhat have relatives at this church. They took us for a 30 km ride up into the Mts beside the beautiful Teesta river gorge. CJ and Chase couldn’t believe the crisp cool fresh air. It is definitely cooler and the deep green forest provides lots of fresh oxygen- something we don’t have in Dhaka. The gorge was at least 100 yards deep from the bridge we walked across. The boys and I walked 155 steps to the bottom by the cold Teesta River. The bridge is an old concrete arch. The arch was at least 80 yards high cover 80 yards with a 20 foot width. The concrete arch and the water were wonderful for echos. The boys, of course, yelled and whistled to echo the dead back to life. Charles said the gorge, bridge, and echo was worth the trip and we are not even tour destination in Darjeeling.

Tuesday, 24 Oct 06: Cutback roads, fresh air, deep forest, and many Mts on the 3 hour drive from Siliguri to Darjeeling. We stayed at the Classic Guest House. The guesthouse was nice and only had five rooms; and we had two of them. Charles, Chase, and Aunt Prova in one; and Nita, Chad, CJ and I in the other. We had a nice view of the Mts, balcony, and hot water. We took afternoon stroll around the town to get our bearings. We visited Observatory Hill, saw the Monkeys, stopped by a Buddhist monastery, and watched the sunset over the Himalayan Mts- BEAUTIFUL! It is cold- we have all are clothing on, plus bought felt hats for the boys.

Darjeeling: In 1828, two British officers came to the area and appreciated Darjeeling’s value as a site for a relaxing, cool hill station and as the key to a pass into Nepal and Tibet. Darjeeling straddles a ridge at 2,134m and surrounded by tea plantations. Indians and foreigners come her ein droves to excape the heat, humidity and hassle of the lower part of India. Darjeeling sprawls over a wet-facing ridge, spillin down the hillside in a complicated series of interconnecting roads and flights of steps.

Observatory Hill: Is sacred to Hindus, who revere Mahakala Mandir temple locate din a small cave down stairs- the boys and I enter the cave very small with Hindu idols inside; and Buddhists because the hill was once the site of the Dorje Ling Monastery. There are hundreds of multicoloured prayer flags that double as trapezes for monkeys which where aggressive towards Nita. They wouldn’t let go to the end of her shawl until I scared them away. It takes a bigger monkey to take care of littler monkeys!

Wednesday, 25 Oct 06: Breakfast of bread and biscuits, with Peanut Butter and Chocolate spread at a park bench looking at the Himalayan range filled with snowy peaks- Again Beautiful!! Best view for breakfast I ever had. We spent the day at the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, and Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI). This was a lot of walking up and down steep paths and roads by the end of the day everybody was sore except CJ who rode on my shoulders.

ZOO: This zoo was established in 1958 to study, conserve an d preserve Himalayan fauna. It houses India’s only collection of massive Siberian tiger- wonderful; the rare species of Himalayan black bears; red pandas- Charles favorite; and Tibetan wolves. In addition, in the zoo is the successful snow Leopard breeding centre.

HMI: Is India’s most prestigious mountaineering institute founded in 1954. We really liked the Everest Museum that traces the history of attempts on the higest peak. Tenzing Norgay, who conquered Everest with Edmund Hillary in 1953, lived in Darjeeling and was the director of the HMI.

For supper we found a small Tibetan restaurant they served spicy fried chicken with rice for the boys, good chowmien for the girls, and spicy fried pork with rice for I. Since the boys liked it we ended up eating here three times.

Thursday, 26 Oct 06: Up very early to see the sunrise over the Himalayan Mts. We were up by 3:30 a.m. to catch a jeep to Tiger Hill (highest point in Darjeeling). After Tiger Hill we visited Bastasia Loop, another Buddhist Monastery, two wonderful mountain stream natural parks- that the boys played and played in the freezing cold water, Nita even put her feet in; and ended the day at the Tibetan RefugeeSelf-Help Centre.

Tiger Hill: Tiger Hill is 11km from Darjeeling. It has a magnificent dawn views over eastern Himalayan peaks- it was a very clear morning when we where there. From the Hill top you can see 3 of the 4 highest Mts in the world- Everest 8848m; Kanchenjunga 8598m; and Lhotse 8501m. The only one that is out of sight is K-2 in Pakistan. In addition, you can see 7 more peaks all over 7000m- it is very impressive- everybody was glad they got up early to see the mts. Kanchenjunga is the world’s third-highest mountain, and the biggest in India and it towers over Darjeeling.

Tebetan Refugee Self-Help Centre:
Established in 1959, this centre now comprises a home for the aged, orphanage, school, clinic, gompa and craft workshops. It was started when China invaded Tibet by refuges to Darjeeling. I met one old Tibetan woman that made the walk for Tibet in 1959 when she was a teenager.

Friday, 27 Oct 06: We left Darjeeling at 9 a.m. and arrived back in Dhaka at 3 a.m. Saturday morning. We drove straight thru because of political unrest in Bangladesh and we felt we should get home before it became worst, which it did on Sat and Sun. If you counting that’s 20 hours in a vehicle of some sorts with four boys- never a dull minute!

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