first day riding

Today’s the day – time to get riding.

7:00 am. Hi Bev, Getting going. Will text during the day.

Up at a fairly leisurely 7:00 for the final packing of the panniers. Then loaded the bike and pushed it through the pedestrian-only streets to Sonam’s Kitchen for a good-bye breakfast. Too much stuff – the bike is heavy to push – but what to get rid of? Five shirts may be more than necessary but they don’t weigh much. I left behind my Lonely Planet (but I do have a copy on my Kindle). I am carrying no books – the Kindle, a last minute idea, was a good one. My heaviest stuff is the bike tools and I’ll need those.

A new bike, with a large load, made for a wobbly start but I soon got used to it although I don’t feel very manouverable. I pushed up the first few hills until I began to feel more comfortable as I took Tenzing Norgay Road out towards Ghum. Google maps doesn’t understand this route; it has Tenzing Norgay Road but it isn’t connected to Darjeeling.

Lumber yard, ripping trunk by hand

Ripping wooden boards by hand; the person below spends the day eating sawdust!

on the road outside darjeeling

The beginning of a trip four years in the making.

10:00 am. Breakfasted. On the road for half-an-hour. Can hardly push the bike up the hills. Heart pounding. Must be the altitude ;-) KBO, as Churchill would say.

The Ghum-Kurseong road came quickly enough and the ride up the gentle hill to Ghum was no problem; then, downhill on State Highway 12, out of Ghum. Full-on brakes and hair-pin bends.

Map of route

I’m here. I think…

Into the trees and clouds. Pretty, peaceful surroundings without too much traffic – a jeep share-taxi or motorcycle every ten minutes or so, an occasional private car. The road surface is surprisingly good, smooth asphalt with few potholes.

13:00. Just gone through Sukya. Surprisingly busy main street but mainly pedestrians. Bell came in handy. Just stopped in the forest for a piece of cheese pie.

More trees and cloud. More up and down. Still wonderfully peaceful. Fun to be riding in these surroundings. Too bad about the line of garbage – snack wrappers mainly – along the side of the road.

Clouds rolling in…

15:15. Lots more forest in the clouds. Good road. Up and down, some of the up I can pedal, some not. Just passed the Nepali border crossing. Heading down towards Mirik now. Mainly down but I can see some pushing ahead. Looks like I might make it, jelly legs and all.

According to the map, the road wanders in and out of Nepal a few times but there is nothing to indicate this, apart from a few Indian army outposts and checkstops. I was not stopped or checked for anything, though. Passed a few viewpoints, where I had some tea; presumably, on a clear day, you can see the Himalayas, even Everest, from here. Not today though, in the swirling clouds. Too bad about the views but I don’t mind the relative cool for cycling.

Hairpin bends winding down to Mirik

That says Mirik – I’m sure of it!

Tea plantations near Mirik, West Bengal

Tea country

As the road dropped down, forest gave way to tea plantations. The last few kilometres were a bit of a struggle: weary legs and failing daylight. But Mirik, eventually. Rode through Mirik to Krishna Nagar, a little settlement at a large man-made lake, where I found a room. Painted bright yellow but comfortable. Made it!

Tired, sweaty and disreputable. Would you let him stay in your hotel?

44.6 km, or thereabouts. My cycle computer may need some calibrating for actual wheel circumference but it seems about right.


  1. Love your site–been going thru lots of it and will cover more –love the photos–what kind of a camera do you use? It can’t be a heavy one what with having to carry your stuff on a bike.
    Never made it to Darjeeling….been to Nepal twice, once in 1978 with 12 students on a fall semester abroad.
    My first study was in a hospital in Punjab, 1965-66. Ten years later I was in Rajshahi, Bangladesh, at the Uni. for a year….after that many return trips to Bangladesh to work on ricksha arts.
    I made it to Udaipur, Ranakpur, and Jodhpur in 1998–was shocked at the econ. development around Jodhpur, compared to when I first saw it in 1978.
    Please take a look at my website…….thanks for this colorful and interesting tour journal. I’m not a biker but my son is. He’s going to love it. (He was with me in India at age 9. It was a boy’s paradise then.)

    • Hi Jo,
      I’m using a Panasonic Lumix G3. It’s a micro four-thirds camera that takes interchangeable lenses but is not a true DSLR since it doesn’t have the traditional mirror mechanism that single lens reflexes have. I’m very happy with this system. I have a 24-84 mm (35mm equivalent) and a 90-350 mm (ditto). I am carrying quite a lot for cycling but the photography is an important part of it for me. I also have a laptop so I can process the images and get them online whenever possible. A tablet would have been nice but I couldn’t find an app that would let me process raw files, and I’m taking a course while I travel which requires that I have something a little more sophisticated (the assignments give me legitimate excuses for rest days!).
      My last trip to India was in 1991, just before my first child was born. Now they’re both grown and I have the opportunity to see how things have changed. Surprisingly little, on the superficial level I can assess.
      I like your site; gives me ideas for a purely photographic trip!
      Glad you found the site, and that you like it!

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