The Curse Of The Hill Station

For all I enjoyed Calcutta, I needed get out before I melted away and the sound of horns drove me beeping mad. We made the overnight train journey to New Jaipalguri, where we caught a jeep up to Darjeeling, the queen of the hill stations.

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Darjeeling train station

The history of Darjeeling was a bastardisation of Sikkimese, Nepali and Bengali cultures, until the British Raj rocked up and bribed the Chogyal of Silkkim to hand it over. The town’s cool climate led to its metamorphosis into a hill station, the development of the famous Himalayan Railway, and of course, the production of tea. At 2000 metres above sea level Darjeeling sits perfectly in the clouds, I felt like I had entered the sky level on SuperMario as on a misty day, you can’t see very far ahead. The people here look totally different to your typical Indian and are a little smaller, unless I had just captured a giant red and white mushroom and doubled in size…

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Token tea plantation shot

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Misty morning

Darjeeling Zoo is considered to be one of India’s best, which is true if you enjoy watching a few thoroughly depressed big cats walk around in circles, or consider a few dirty tanks of goldfish an aquarium. Thankfully the Himalyan Black Bear made an appearance at the end making it worthwhile…

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Himalayan Black Bear

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The ‘aquarium’

On our way here we met a friendly local named Lama, whom we bumped into again loitering around the main Chowrasta Mall. It seems that the people here love to eat, and love even more to see others eat. Lama invited us for an eating challenge – if we try local food and eat constantly for one hour he would pay. I’d been starving myself for the last 36 hours for the sake of my budget, so the offer couldn’t come soon enough…

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Darjeeling Market

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Woman making Tibetan food during the eating challenge

Most Westerners contract traveller’s diarrhoea within a fortnight of landing in India. Almost at the three week mark without any sign and things were looking good. Then it struck without a minutes notice and was shortly followed by the other nasty symptoms, clouding some of my time in Darjeeling. I realised that I’d now made it a hat-trick of illnesses in Indian hill stations, after my ear infection of Rishikesh 2009 and the projectile vomiting in Simla 2011…

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The Hindu God Shiva, is often referred to as ‘the Destroyer’. It seemed fitting that the incense bought to put in the toilet was named after him…

At least every cloud has a silver lining and the illness didn’t last long, so I was able to enjoy the rest of my time in Darjeeling knowing that NUFC had secured Premier League safely for another year, and possibly lifting my curse of the hill stations.

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