India’s Narnia

Monday, January 11, 2016

The place was like something you’d find in an old fairytale story.  I kind of expected to run into a Nepali “Belle” look-alike, carrying a book in her basket, singing about how little and quiet the town she lived in was, filled with little people. Maybe it was just me.

It was a quiet place, for sure, almost secluded and away from the real world. Outside you can actually hear nature calling. Birds chipped, the sun shone bright, and flowers danced to the wind’s whistle. Man-made inventions had no place there. What I found most beautiful about the area was the simplicity. The people were like little hippies. Where was I, you ask? Darjeeling.

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Though I failed to watch the sun rise the whole time I was there, I did spend time exploring the village. We stayed on the hillsides of the Makaibari Tea Estate in Darjeeling. I swear, a plethora of secret passages mapped out the village I stayed in. I was pretty sure I may have stepped into a “Narnian” summer. Thankfully, I had one of my friends with me. He had already familiarized himself with the “neighborhood” while my roommates and I slept.

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Amanda meeting our friendly, four-legged tour guide.

When I finally decided to wake up and explore the peaceful village, Josh, Kayla, and I walked around up and down grassy-hilled pastures. What was really cool about the houses we stayed in was the way they were designed. The land wasn’t “molded” to meet the standards of the building. Instead, it seemed as if the homes were designed with the changing landscapes in mind. Exploring was ten times better when you had a furry friend following along through the passage ways. My favorite four-legged friend was a female German Shepherd. The momma of four was curious of the new travelers that visited her home. Out of all the dogs that were in Darjeeling, she was the friendliest. I may be a little biased – German Shepherds are my favorite dog breed, haha.

By the time everyone was awake, we decided to go into town to buy some clothes and eat some food. One of our professors, Wally, had our transportation drop us off at a restaurant with an absolutely gorgeous view of the foothill. We ate there, (all roughly under 50 dollars too) and were provided with non-spicy entries and very good service. My stomach was quite thrilled. And even more so we got to try amazing Darjeeling tea.

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Here were some locals wearing full coats, while my roommate only wore a long-sleeved shirt.

After lunch, Wally had us journey on foot to a town called Kurseong, that housed a variety of markets. Vendors sold products from clothing wear like kurtas, to thick blanket like scarfs that one would drape over one’s shoulders. Though the weather was a chilly 65 degrees (this was cold for India) there were many people out. It was interesting to see how the weather affected everyone. The inhabitants who lived in the area thought 65 degrees was chilly. Many donned on think coats with faux fur, hoping it would shield them against the Darjeeling wind. And here were a group of Americans from Michigan, wearing crewneck sweaters and jeans, and  who would probably wear shorts in 65 degree weather if they were back home. I couldn’t imagine what the people of Darjeeling would look or think if the ever experienced a Michigan winter.

The people we met didn’t look a lot like Indians. They looked slightly more oriental, especially the farther up north we went. Wally did mention that on our way to Darjeeling. It was great to see a diverse mix of people in a nation that housed at least a billion.

Anyway, shopping was fun. I definitely had to do a little bit of bargaining, but it wasn’t as bad as it was in Mumbai. We walked around a lot, and I was exhausted by the day’s end. While we were waiting for our jeeps to come get us, I noticed a heavy presence of government police force. Darjeeling Police was written on a lot of the cars that passed through Kurseong. Apparently, a military base was stationed about an hour away from our home stays. It was a little odd to see an abundance of local LEOS, as opposed to places like Hyderabad and Mumbai, where the presence of police was basically non-existent.

Overall, the day in Darjeeling was well-spent. When we got back to our home stays, I was more than happy to curl up in my bed with a warm cup of Darjeeling tea.

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This picture was taken after we did yoga and watched the sunrise.

 

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