Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

Bhutan and India: Day 13

by Kathy 11. March 2011 09:18

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<< Day 12: West Bengal Backroads to Kalimpong | Day 14 & 15: Darjeeling to Bagdogra, and Home! >>

Kalimpong to Darjeeling

I could not imagine a more beautiful day—curving narrow roads, the freedom of a motorcycle, a brilliant blue sky, and the backdrop of the Himalayan Mountains.

In the morning light, the chimney of our hotel pointed toward the fading moon:

On the rooftop patio, we joined two of our group members, Glynn and Marian, basking in the view of the snowy peaks of Kangchenjunga:

The Kalimpong Park Hotel had been a wonderful place to spend the night.  We were very touched by the generosity of the staff who had surprised Ben with a birthday cake late last night.  At breakfast, we had shared that cake with the other members of our group.  As we prepared to depart, some of the staff came out to look at our bikes and watch us make our final preparations:

Relaxing in the hotel courtyard: Larry, Fred, and Ben:

Today we would be riding from Kalimpong to the city of Darjeeling.  It would be a short ride, only about 30 miles. I would have liked to have had a longer ride.  A lot longer, in fact.  But, as the saying goes, it is the quality that counts, not the quantity. And today’s miles were definitely high quality, with lots of steep switchbacks and some of the most amazing scenery ever.

We started out by climbing on roads with such severe inclines that the throttle power of our bikes was tested to the max. At one point, the road actually made a spiral loop on the mountainside—incredible!

Every so often, we would pass a painted roadsign with a proverb or quotation. I liked this one:

We pulled over to take a peek at the famous “Triveni Viewpoint.”

We parked the bikes by the side of the road, with overhanging trees all around:

(Note: The photos Ben took today were with his cell phone, and the images were low-resolution; you may recall that his “nice” camera had been stolen in Bhutan  during a sacred fire ceremony at the Jambay Festival.)

The Triveni viewpoint had a small platform from which we could see the junction of two rivers. The large river running from top to bottom was the Teesta River, and the smaller river intersecting from the left was the Rangeet:

Here are Ben and I at the viewpoint:

Across the river, we noticed some terracing and a couple of houses on the side of the steep mountain:

A close-up view:

On the way back to our motorcycles, Ann and I were approached by a young Indian couple on vacation from Mumbai.

The man asked if he could take our photo, and we said, “Of course!” After snapping a shot of us, he came over and showed us the digital image on his camera. Ann and I burst out laughing as this "snap and show" action was exactly what we had been doing with people whose photos we had taken throughout Bhutan and India! The tables were now turned, and we didn’t mind a bit!

More photo-taking ensued. First, the woman wanted to stand between Ann and me:

Then it was her husband’s turn:

Then her husband posed with Ben and Dave:

After riding along more twisty, fun roads, our next stop was a tea house nestled on a hillside:

Here is a photo of the front of the teahouse; Dale and Larry are next to their bikes, and Dave and Ann are just arriving (riding two up) with Gyan close behind:

Across from the teahouse was a jaw-dropping view of the distant Himalayan peaks.  At first glance, the snow-covered crags appeared to be white clouds floating above the nearby hilltop. But then a sense of wonder descended as I realized those "clouds" were mountains so massive that they towered above everything else. The lower portion was almost the same color as the sky, making the tops appear to be floating in air.

Even with the intrusive power lines, it was a stupendous sight!

Moreover, the thin zig-zag lines on the mountain across the valley had me wishing that I was on a dirt bike, with some time to do a little exploring!

With so much beauty around me, I was a photo-taking fool!

The slopes all around us were covered in tea bushes:

Some women emerged from around the bend, carrying baskets of tea leaves on their backs:

The basket “handle” was looped across their foreheads, a carrying technique that isn’t common in the U.S.:

I asked this woman if I could take a photo (motioning to my camera), and she nodded her head:

Then this man appeared and motioned for me to take a photo of him, so I did:

When I went to show him the digital image, however, he rubbed his thumb and forefinger together—sign language for “give me some money”! I was caught off guard, as this was the first time in our trip that anyone had requested money for a photo, and the man hadn’t mentioned money before motioning for me to take a picture. I didn't mind giving him a little something, but when I reached into the pockets on my motorcycle leathers, I realized that I didn’t have any money on me. Larry (another rider) witnessed my predicament and appeared at my elbow with 40 rupees (about twenty cents in U.S. money) to give to the man. (Thank you, Larry!)

After having a cup of delicious milk tea, we continued riding toward Darjeeling. Our road snaked along the contour of the mountain, without any more significant climbs or drops.

Rounding one corner, we could see the backside of Darjeeling ahead, with the snowy mountains looming above it:

Darjeeling straddles a mountain ridge, and we would be staying in the portion that flowed down the other side of the mountain.

A closer view of the backside of the city and those beautiful peaks:

We could see our road ahead, slicing straight across the terraced mountainside (about 1/3 of the way down in the photo below):

Our hotel in Darjeeling was up a small hill, near the heart of the city:

As we were parking the bikes, this man walked by carrying a heavy load:

Our cozy and clean room:

The hotel patio provided a wonderful place to relax and soak up the sunshine:

A panoramic view from the hotel, moving left to right:

Mount Kangchenjunga rose up in the distant range:

The peaks did not seem to be attached to the earth.

Surely they must be a piece of heaven, dangling down, to entice us all with their beauty.

My eyes sought those peaks out again and again, as if to confirm that they were real . . . that they hadn’t suddenly disappeared. Looking at them gave me a sense of lightness, as if my spirit was being drawn upwards to that same glorious level.

The city of Darjeeling had the feel of a real working town. We walked down the hill to the clock tower, located in the central business area:

Then we strolled through the winding streets.

Whoever designed the electrical wiring system definitely didn’t follow the “less is more” philosophy:

Ann had wanted to visit a place that offered high-quality pashmina shawls, and I tagged along “just to look.” (I will inject a big “ha!” here). Our beautiful, gracious, and very knowledgeable salesperson spent time showing us many shawls and educating us regarding the different qualities involved in the weaving and embroidery.

Her father owned the shop:

During the shawl presentation, he asked if we would like some tea. I wasn’t particularly thirsty, and I didn’t want him to go to any trouble, so I politely said, “No, thank you.” (So did Ann.) From my cultural background, it is perfectly acceptable to refuse offers of food or drink, especially if you aren’t hungry/thirsty or if you think that a “yes” answer might inconvenience or impose a burden on the person who offers; sometimes people even wait for a second or third offer before feeling that it is polite to finally accept. Well, that is not the case in India. The offering of tea is much more than a gesture intended to quench a guest's thirst. It has social significance.  And we apparently had offended the store owner by refusing his tea. After a brief pause, the father very gently said, “You should never refuse the offer of tea.”  With much chagrin (which I still feel whenever I think of that moment), I filed that valuable tidbit of advice away for future reference.

Darjeeling is famous for its variety and quality of teas. Here is Ann (with her bag of shawls) getting ready to search for some leafy treasure:

Inside the tea shop:

Back on the street, we wandered past the old municipal building, which indicated that the city of Darjeeling had been established in 1850:


These street musicians were quite talented:

We browsed through the Oxford Book Store, which had an extensive offering of English books (but we left empty-handed).

For dinner tonight, our itinerary had called for a “white glove” dinner. At the last minute, the meal was changed to a less formal affair.  However, Larry had bought white gloves as a joke for the three women in our group. Here are Marian and Ann with their gloves.



After dinner, we slowly climbed the sharp incline back to our hotel.  I felt like Darjeeling had cast a spell over me.  Surely a place that has "floating" peaks in the distance must be magical.

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<< Day 12: West Bengal Backroads to Kalimpong | Day 14 & 15: Darjeeling to Bagdogra, and Home! >>


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Map of Our Journeys

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Our travel map

Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin