I went for a walk today: to Ghum along the quiet road, to check it out for my cycling debut cum exit from Darjeeling, and then back along the main road, National Highway 55, beside the tracks.
Most good days start with a good breakfast. You can’t go wrong at Sonam’s Kitchen. (And yes, Darjeeling is not just about tea.)
After eggs, toast and coffee, I set off along Tensing Norgay Road, past the butcher, sharing the road with the friendly people of Darjeeling going about their day’s business.
Outside of town, the road is surrounded by forest and was quiet apart from a few local pedestrians, a handful of motor bikes and the occasional car. There are some roadside shrines.
At the village of Aloobari (which I understand means “potato field” in Hindi) there was a football game about to start on a small pitch carved out of the hillside. Whilst I waited for the game to start, I was given a tour of the monastery which had been damaged in an earthquake last year. This is the second oldest monastery in the Darjeeling area, built in 1914.
Then it was time for the soccer game; a fiercely contested match played 4-on-4 with a high degree of skill, especially considering the state of the ‘pitch.’ There was a good turn out to watch the game, too.
Elsewhere in the village, construction was in progress with a roof being added to a new house and a time-tested method being used to sieve gravel.
After a very pleasant hour spent in Aloobari, I continued along the road toward Ghum, stopping to watch a carpenter at work.
And then, before I was ready to leave the peace and quiet of the country lane, I saw the train tracks and was back on the main NH55. Turn right and Ghum is about one kilometre.
After the station it is downhill to Darjeeling, a distance of about seven kilometres. It is a windy road, shared with the narrow-gauge tracks, busy with jeeps in both directions, horns blaring (of course) and squeezing past each other in the rush to be first.
A water carrier advertises the Hasty Tasty vegetarian restaurant. I can vouch for the food, certainly tasty and inexpensive but hasty is a bit optimistic. Well worth a visit, though.
This is not my bike! But it is an Indian classic.
More views from the road…
A relatively rare break in the traffic on this busy stretch of road…
Roads in Darjeeling, or any hilly place for that matter, tend to follow the contours of the hillside so that the roads are as level as possible. Roads are often fairly parallel (with steep flights of steps between adjacent roads), which can result in narrow high houses where roads join. This one is slotted in between NH55 and Gandhi Road.
The walk down from Ghum was nice but riding it in the opposite direction would not be. Every few minutes there is stream of traffic, tightly packed and close to the edge where I would have to cycle. The quiet route out Tensing Norgay Road is definitely the route to take.
But when? A few days yet, for sure, since I should catch up as much as possible on my course work since I’m not exactly sure where my next rest place, with convenient Internet access, will be.
The weather is clearing: lighter clouds, less rain. The monsoon is coming to an end.