14 December 2008
We were supposed to get on the 18h30 train to our next stop, New Jalpaiguri which was our transit point on the way to Darjeeling. The hotel got us a taxi to take us to Varanasi station in time. Everything went by smoothly this time around and we found our platform with no difficulty until we waited for the train to arrive. 18h30 came and no train in sight. We looked around and found the information board and what we saw was: Varanasi – delayed – 10. Having been in London the prior year, I naturally thought it was delayed by 10 minutes, the usual delay on the London Underground. But this was India and the 10 here was not in minutes but in hours. Our train would only arrive at 04h00 the next morning…
Yet again, Mansoor came to the rescue and organised for a pick up and a hotel booking for an extra night in Varanasi. Being nearly eaten alive by the biggest mosquitoes I had ever seen, we waited in the main concourse along with other travelers for our driver to take us to another hotel for the night. We were fortunate enough to have the option to go to a hotel to freshen up, relax and get some rest until 04h00 the next morning whilst most of the travelers had to camp out at the station. It seems they were used to this as most of them were unaffected by the news of the delay and had already started to make themselves comfortable, taking out their blankets, pillows and food, settling in for the night.
15 December 2008
The next morning, our taxi came to pick us up at 04h00 and we got to the station for round two. It was delayed yet again for another 2 hours. Eventually, the train arrived and we were back on track. The passengers on this train looked worse for wear. They must’ve been on it for what seemed an eternity, having their journey prolonged by 12 hours of delays. We got to New Jalpaiguri 16 hours later, disheveled and in need of a shower. It was an eventful train ride. I spotted 2 mice, some roaches and to top it off, being sprayed by loo water during one of the stops.
We arrived at New Jalpaiguri at 22h40 and again, our pick up was nowhere to be found – understandably so, being a day late. We eventually found a taxi willing to take us to Darjeeling at that time of night and thank goodness we decided to go with the jeep because the road was anything but a smooth or straight or level for that matter. Thinking the journey would take us a mere one and a half hours seeing that the distance from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling was only 100km, we couldn’t have been more wrong. Driving up the narrow mountain paths in the darkness with endless hairpin bends and potholes, we eventually arrived at our hotel at 02h30, three and a half hours later, in the cold.
16 December 2008
The next morning, we headed off to see the town and visited the zoo. Darjeeling was beautiful. It was quiet, the air was crisp and fresh and it was relaxing. Just what we needed after nearly two days of roughing it up. It was all worth it getting there. Afterall, this was what inspired us to go to India in the first place after having watched Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited and Hotel Chevalier. Amongst many things, we needed to get away and see if we could work out our issues and what a perfect setting it was. We had afternoon tea at Glenary’s with the Kachenjunga Mountain in the background. No one bothered us and I felt as though I was worlds away from everything that stressed me. And as I looked out at Kachenjunga in the distance, my problems seemed insignificant and I wondered, this time tomorrow, where will we be?