Join me as I embark on an adventure to Darjeeling, India to participate in the Himilayan Mountaineering Institutes basic course
I arrived in Darjeeling late on a cold February night. My flight from Delhi took me to Bagdogra where I was helped by a local business owner who guided me to a shared jeep bound for Siliguri, a ride that only took about 20 minutes. Once there, he showed me where I could commission a second jeep to take me to Darjeeling. To my surprise both rides cost 100 Indian rupees, the equivalent of about 2 American dollars.
The ride to Darjeeling wasn’t quite as quick as that from Bagdogra to Siliguri. Crammed into the back seat of the jeep which held 12 people, the three-hour drive snaked upwards with death-defying twists and turns.Often the narrow road was too thin for more than one vehicle and with a quick honk and flash of the headlights we were signaled to stop dozens of times on our journey.
For most of the trip I felt safe, although when the fog rolled in limiting visibility to less than three feet and the jeep didn’t slow down, I shut my eyes (out of sight, out of mind, as the saying goes).
These shared jeeps are the main mode of transportation between the mountain cities, and are an economical way to get around the area. Unfortunately, they aren’t the most comfortable and most of the time you will find yourself crammed into a seat with four other people and no seat belt. But it’s actually pretty safe: there seems to be a system in place for the drivers to communicate and most of them are very experienced, driving the roads several times a day.
After travelling in the late winter heat of South East Asia, my body was shocked by the drastic change in temperature that accompanies high altitudes. In West Bengal it was still winter, and when I arrived in Darjeeling after the lengthy trip all I wanted was a comfortable room and a warm shower.
At around 10pm in the dark, cold February night, options for places to spend the night were limited and I didn’t feel like searching for a deal, so I overpaid for a room but received a clean place to sleep with television and a hot shower, it was enough Comfortable in my bed after a long day of travel I closed my eyes and slept until the morning; my first day at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute.
This was the beginning of one of the most physically and mentally demanding courses I’ve ever taken. It got me out of my comfort zone, challenged me in way’s I never thought possible and taught me that the world is a special place.
If you’re heading to Darjeeling before starting a course, plan to arrive one or two days in advance and at a decent hour. You’ll save yourself a lot of headache by allowing yourself time to book a decent place for around 300 rupees and to familiarize yourself with the beautiful mountainside city.