Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Queen Of The Mountains

Waving goodbye to Delhi's epic Red Fort, the Bahai temple (lotus shaped and almost a la Sydney Opera House style)... as well as the incessant requests for photoshoots with 'Britishers' (looks as if we are perfect fodder here for a freak show!?)... we set off to Darjeeling - affectionately known as Queen Of The Mountains as well as Gorkhaland for the Nepalese. It just isn't possible to be prepared for all the different faces of India; the contrasts are just too defined.

Perched in the hilltops our daily experiences are now leafy gardens, lush green tea plantations, a slower pace of life (unless you get caught in the fabric of the markets) and a mind-blowing backdrop of the snow peaked Himalayas. Kanchenjunga stands proudly as India's largest mountain - the third largest in the world - and yes it does look like Shiva! Sorry, guys, you are gonna have to Google all of that...

So, what have we been up to??? Recovering from sleepless nights (jet-lag and disorientation), everywhere are friendly faces, fantastic dishes (have succumbed already... eating fish at the Major's house) and glorious sunshine. At the zoo we saw some of the most exquisite and endangered Himalayan animals such as the Royal Bengal tiger, snow leopards, Tibetan wolves, large varieties of deer and birds - plus of course the cutest red pandas. We visited the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre which is simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting, I even helped to teach art this morning at one of the most deprived schools in town and visited the girls' orphanage. It now makes even more sense for me to give time to the Darjeeling Children's Trust back in the UK. There is hope - even in a small way and it is tangible.

I knew India would move me to my core but didn't know how. Still don't. The journey is only just unfolding ....

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