It was raining when I arrived in Darjeeling six days ago, and yesterday it stopped for a while. After wandering around in the clouds, suddenly there was hillside and verdant green valleys. Last night there were even stars, both above and below. The ones below were lights dotting various
hillsides where houses are glued precariously to the steep terrain. Quite enchanting! The rain, although not exactly 100% persistent, was in evidence in various forms, mist and drizzle to torrential downpour, pretty much constantly. Fortunately, it wasn’t cold so life was manageable; it wasn’t until yesterday when the streets and alleys almost dried, and everything became so much more pleasant that I realised what an effect the dampness had had.
I had thought that the wetness was due to the elevation but it looks like there is a huge late monsoon cloud stalled over northern India. So there seems little point in rushing back down to the plain just to cycle through a warmer rain. It is a perfect time to get caught up on some work for an online course on content management systems that I’m am enrolled in.
Apart from on official no-parking signs, there is very little reference to the state of West Bengal. Instead, roadside stalls, restaurants and stores proudly proclaim ‘Gorkhaland.’ A large proportion of the population is descended from Gurkha labourers, from Nepal, who came to work on the tea plantations. Since the ’80s, the Gurkhas have pushed for secession from West Bengal and the creation of a state of Gorkhaland.
The Gurkha influence gives Darjeeling a very different ambience from that of the Bengali cities down on the plain. The people are pretty relaxed and there is good Tibetan food to be had. And the packs of dogs roaming the streets, and barking outside my hotel room at midnight, seem (relatively) healthy.
There are photos of Darjeeling here.