Myles Harrington

Darjeeling Unlimited

In India on June 4, 2010 at 10:51 am

I am once again donning Tom’s cardi, my stretched blue jumper, thick purple socks and the grey woolly hat that I have not worn since Manali. I am now in Darjeeling, which I think at the moment has weather that’s probably comparable to Siberia. The mist that clings to the steep hillside and drifts casually throughout the treacherous paths of the town reduces the visibility to anything between five and 20 metres. I arrived here two days ago and the fog has not lifted since.

The Hindu and Buddhist temple on top of the hill

I have met so many people on my tea stop wanders. Yesterday I met a gay couple who lived in a council house near Tower Bridge. Followed by a German girl from Hamburg who was here for six months studying Tibetan. A South Korean bloke who was travelling around the world trying to learn English before he will set up his lecture streaming business in India (once the internet speeds here make it viable).

Inspired by the gay couple I met over a tasty porridge breakfast I decided to walk to Ghoom, which is the nearest town to Darjeeling on the route here from Siliguri. It was an easy 8km stroll and I decided somewhere along the congested road that I would try and get the next train back on the infamous Toy Train with its 2ft wide tracks. I didn’t fancy going the whole way back to Siliguri by the unreliable locomotive because it takes anywhere between six to eight hours; when the shared jeep I took only took two and a half. I arrived in Ghoom or Ghum (no one seems to know the correct spelling) at 1pm and was informed by the station manager I had a four hour wait before the next normal train. They do ‘joy rides’ by steam on the Darjeeling-Ghoom route for a rip-off 240Rs.

So as the rain was closing in nicely and all my photos were being ruined by the misty glaze, I decided to have some lunch. I stumbled upon a one table shack restaurant overhanging the cliff and had the most delicious feast of double momo plate, thali and tea and I was sat with the owner’s children while they ate lunch too. I found out the eatery was a new venture and they’d only been open for two months. They didn’t even have a name yet, so I suggested as I was the first westerner to venture in, they should name it after me. They laughed but the boy seemed to think Restaurant Myles had a ring to it, so you never know. All of this for 52Rs (75p!), plus, when I left they handed me about 200g of Darjeeling’s finest, freshest tea tips. Amazing!

My luncheon buddies

Restaurant Myles, Cafe Myles or Myles Cafe? Harri's Hillside Hangout?

I still had two hours to wait at this point so it was on to a tea stall opposite the world’s second highest railway station where I had four brews and helped the delightfully happy husband and wife proprietors create the next batch of momos using the skills I picked up in McLeod Ganj.

Co-worker in the tea love shack

Once the train arrived, after skidding on the tracks for most of the journey up hill I discovered that the plump station manager had lied. All of the 2nd class seats were taken so I couldn’t travel. At that point I just hopped on in the guard’s compartment and told him I could only pay 20Rs and he had to find me a seat. For that I got a first class recliner for the 45 minute up hill slog. I’m so glad I didn’t go all the way on that thing, as the carriage door didn’t even shut.

Travelling in 1st class style, hanging out of the door that didn't shut

In the evening I bumped into yet more people. This time it was over a crappy veg burger dinner in one of the most lacklustre establishments in the whole of India and they were three Brits (brother, sister and cousin) and a German bloke they’d picked up earlier in the day. Being hardened drinkers as we all are from the west, straight after dinner beer was suggested as a matter of course, so we headed for the nearest bar.

The Brits head straight to the bar

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