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Posts Tagged ‘Darjeeling Zoo’

Kolkata

In India on May 19, 2009 at 9:49 am

View of the Victoria Memorial from The Midan, Kolkata

We arrived this morning at the Sealdah train station just after 7am and the first thing we saw leaving the station – hundreds of yellow ambassador taxis.  Even that early in the morning the city is moving; taxis, human rickshaws, beggars, fruit & vegetables sellers, and everything else.

We left Darjeeling at about 3pm yesterday for another hair-raising trip back down the mountain this time.  Views were spectacular and we could feel the temperature rising as we descended.  We stopped for about 15 minutes when we reached the plains and the most beautiful scents were coming out of the bamboo forest.  We had one slight traffic delay when the driver pulled over so we could look at the wild elephant in the forest.  Then all of a sudden all the jeeps behind us started backing up super fast, and we did the same.  Apparently the elephant was about to cross the road (no joke intended) and no one likes to be in the way in case it charges.  Two minutes later it was all clear and when we started moving again we could see it moving off on the other side of the road.  I think I might have a better understanding now of why the German tourists get all excited about black bears on the sides of the highways.

Ten hour train ride was uneventful if it rocked a little.  This morning I started talking to the gentleman on the bunk across from me and he turned out to be the director of the Darjeeling zoo, or “joo” as they say here since there is no sound for “z”.  At first I was wondering what he meant by “Did you visit the joo in Darjeeling?”  Ummmmm, yes?  Then Yes! when I figured out it was an honest question and not a semitic one.

Checked into the hotel, more like a prison block actually, complete with bars on the windows.  But it has a shower and you can’t ask for much more for $5/night.  After I showered I went for a longish walk through the Midan, a field inhabited by herds of goats, cricket players, horses, trees and green grass everywhere.  It’s one of the largest city parks in the world.  At the other end of it was the Victoria Memorial which was well worth the price of admission, 15 times the local price for foreign nationals.  And as it was hot hot hot and sunny sunny, my farmer’s tan is now gone and replaced with a purse strap across my back tan.  Tomorrow I’m off to the Kali temple since it sounds rather grotesque and interesting, and apparently they sacrifice goats in the morning so we may just try to catch that.  Don’t know what else I’ll do but there is tons to see and I think I love this city so there won’t be any boredom for the next three days.

My upper class accommodations at the Maria Hotel, Kolkata

Entrance to the Victoria Memorial, Kolkata

Lions & Tigers & Bears, Oh My!

In India on May 16, 2009 at 1:19 pm

So we didn’t see any lions, but at the Darjeeling zoo yesterday we did get face-to-face with Snow Leopards, Cloud Leopards, a Siberian Tiger, Red Pandas, Yaks, Tibetan Wolves, and the Himalayan Black Bear.  It’s a pretty decent zoo and they seem to have done a good job of protecting and repopulating some endangered species.  The walk to the zoo was a pleasant 20 minute stroll out of the main town centre.  The Himalayan Mountaineering mMseum was included in the entrance so we also managed to check out the salutes to the pioneers of the big climbs out this way.  Tenzing Norgay is buried a short way away and that is pretty cool.

Today I headed up to observatory hill in the morning to see if I could see Kanchenjunga from the lookout, I think I saw it but not sure as I have no idea what it looks like.  That used to be considered the tallest peak in the Himalayas until one day someone saw Everest peaking out from behind.  Afterwards I met up with the guys again and another British fellow we met a few days ago to go for an afternoon trek to the Happy Valley Tea Plantation for a tea demonstration.  I don’t drink tea and I find the cult following kind of weird, but the tea we got to sample was pretty impressive.  With the workers being paid about 50 rupees a day, about $1USD, it makes you appreciate what you’re drinking.  Another 30 minute walk after that to the Botanical Gardens where we saw a wisteria planted in 1878.  It’s aged well and I’m hoping the pictures I snapped do justice to the massiveness of this thing.

Just picked up my beautiful new sari, gorgeous handwork and embroidery all along, got the top tailored so I think once I’m cleaned up and actually find something to wear it to it’ll look pretty good.

Today was the counting of the election votes.  Darjeeling is a BJP stronghold since the BJP promised it could separate. Congress won by what I guess is a landslide but the BJP did win a seat here in Darjeeling.  There’s a big military presence here tonight, men in green patrolling the streets and there’s a chance things will get a little hairy before the night is out but at this point all is calm.  There were firecrackers being set off in the streets this afternoon but that seems to be the extent of it.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings.