The security at the Kolkata airport is vaguely similar to most airports in the world. There are a few differences. First, checked baggage gets x-rayed before going to the check-in counter and each of the airlines has an x-ray machine of their own. All of the equipment is randomly spaced throughout the concourse and makes for a not to orderly experience. The bags get tagged and then they can be checked. The other weird thing is that the boys and the girls go through security in different lines. I mentioned before that this still seems to matter in India.
The flight from Kolkata to Bagdogra is uneventful and is spent mostly……SLEEPING!
Bagdogra. OK Debbie “it’s showtime.” We are all prepared for an on-slot of over exuberant taxi drivers and lo and behold there is a pre-paid taxi booth. 1295 Rs for an entire cab to Darjeeling. $30. It is 90 km and will take 3 hrs says the man. Even though we can do it cheaper with a shared jeep, we go for it. The share jeep option incorporates 12 people on 3 bench seats in a normal wide jeep and that does not sound like it is to be too comfortable.
We hit the road. Two minutes into the trip and we know this is India. It is so real. There are cars and trucks bumper to bumper, bicycles, pedestrians, cows, and assorted other obstacles all on a road 1/2 as wide as a Canadian residential street, just like the pictures you have seen. The vehicles are not necessarily moving on the side of the street that they are suppose to but everything works. It is a ballet. Very organic driving. Everything flows and it works quite well. No matter how well it works, I still do not think I would ride my bike on the road here.
The other thing that is so distinctive about India is the odor. I have read that before and wondered what it meant. As soon as we landed there was this dank smell of decaying matter with sort of a smoky overtones.
The condition of the road is questionable in some spots. The road looks like it used to be just like our roads – not too many potholes. Now there are whole sections of the paving gone and we are driving on the rocks laid below the paving. BUMPITY BUMP! We were told it was bad and bad it was, I cannot remember ever being on a road that bad, anywhere.
We drive on flat terrain for awhile and then we spot hills. And up we go. Some of the grades are very steep and I wonder whether our little Mitsubishi van (Happy Bus size for those in the know) will make it up. We climb forever, at times our speed is slower than a snail’s crawl. The scenery is gorgeous and Mur is taking pictures through the window like mad. At one point we headed into the clouds and it felt like we were heading to Shangri-la.
Three and a half hours after we started, we arrived in Darjeeling in one piece and got out of the taxi in one of the central squares. One of the hotels that made our short list, The Dekeling, was right there so we went in. They had a room available for 3 nights and we took it.
The Dekeling is owned by Tibetans. There are many Tibetans and Nepalese working here. The staff are super friendly and have even lent us an adapter so we can actually charge our computer. These people just confirm what we learned last year in Tibet….that Tibetans are the most friendly people!
The room is a little worse for wear, but it is clean and no bugs. It has a slight musty smell from not enough dry air blowing through. It’s also a little dark as a couple of the lights do not work. But how long do you stay in your room anyway!
Dinner that night was at the restaurant below the hotel, called the Dekevas. A Tibetan/Chinese/American restaurant. We had a tasty meal of rice, veggie momos, veggie soup and Chilly Chicken Boneless Dry. The food hit the spot.
As in Bonaire, we went back to the room, Debbie fell asleep and Murray wrote a post.