Darjeeling – a hill top haven

Posted: January 30, 2012 in 2011 Winter - India, India

Darjeeling –  a Himalayan town – is in the Indian state of West Bengal, prior to the British ‘discovering’ the area it was known as Dhor-je Ling by Buddhists who had built many temples there and practiced the mystic system of Vajrayana (tantric) Buddhism. The British influence dates back to the mid-19th century established by the British and it was originally developed as a sanatorium and a military base.

Later, to challenge China’s dominance of tea production and trade, Darjeeling – with help from tea growers further east in Assam – soon became Indians centre of tea farming. Today Darjeeling tea is internationally recognised and ranks among the most popular of the black teas, many of which I have sampled. The record price paid for premium tea was $220 US dollars for 1kg!!

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was built between 1879 and 1881 and is about 53 miles long and takes climbs from 100 metres above sea level at New Jalpaiguri to about 2,200 metres at Darjeeling. I have wanted to ride the toy train for many years now and was really disappointed to find out that due to recent heavy rain and a subsequent massive landslide the track is currently closed along a section from Kurseong to New Jalpaiguri. However the train does still run from Darjeeling up to the final station at Ghum which i was fortunate enough to get a ticket for!

   

There are diesels that ply the windy, narrow track along the mountain route but I specifically wanted to ride the vintage British-built B Class steam locomotives which are now over a 100 years old.

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