We have found a calmer and more relaxed environment since we arrived back in Siliguri for the first time in five and a half years. This was the starting point of our Bhutan trip in February 2009 and the beginning of our motorcycling travel adventures with a group to Darjeeling and Bhutan on Royal Enfields. We made good friends on the 2009 trip and have since undertaken short motorcycle holidays in Morocco, the South West USA and Spain/Portugal, but those are other stories.
We met Dan and Garth, who will be two of our travelling companions in Myanmar and were in town. We had dinner together which was a great opportunity to get to know them and hear about their experiences en route through Pakistan and India. We will enjoy travelling with them. As you will have seen, much of the following day was taken up with blog activities. Even after a few days, it takes time to sort out the jumble of new experiences we have had over the preceding period and craft a coherent blog entry, with appropriately annotated pictures by Anne for your viewing pleasure and our long term memories when we finally get home.
A quick word about Kristján, who was last in Katmandu. We have noted that we now have a couple of blog followers from Iceland. Sadly this means both his friends have switched to our blog and no one looks at Kristján’s blog. As the director, cameraman, editor and producer of ‘Happy Delhi Days’, he deserves better, so from time to time, please go to the blog entry and play the video. This will help him think he still has some friends interested in him. Sorry Kristján, I could not resist putting this in.
As Anne commented in her last post, we have finally started to meet people we have connected with in the last few days. I can only assume that our cry for help in understanding India and it’s people was heard and we were guided to those wonderful people with whom we met between Varanasi and Siliguri. While we still have lots to learn, it was a relief for us to know that the type of people we had met in other countries exist in abundance in India. We are also connecting via Facebook and LinkedIn with those we meet, communication mediums we would not normally associate with rural India but are in fact quite common. Anne has now increased traffic on Facebook and keeps busy with new local and international friends.
Our second day here was spent going over the motorbikes to fix a few minor issues that had arisen over the last few days: this included a wiring fault to one of Anne’s spotlights, extra superglue onto Anne’s brake fluid container to stop a small leak and removing and plugging another nail in Anne’s front tyre, although this one was short and in the tread, so no holes in the tyre wall. Phew! We are packed and ready to move on.
Rolfe and Joe both from Munich, who, like Kristján, Garth and Dan will be travelling with us through Myanmar, have now arrived back in Siliguri, and we have had to put back all the spare parts we had pillaged from their BMW 1200GS motorbikes believing they were abandoned, damn! We had dinner with them and they spoke of their fantastic trip across Western China and Tibet. It would have been too high for us, with Anne’s predication to altitude sickness being a risk, we were not willing to take on this trip with overnight stays at above 4,000 meters. We were able to discuss with Rolfe and Joe our thoughts on the challenges that we had faced in India and found they had had similar experiences to us.
We are well rested after our best hotel stay in India thus far. The hotel is located on quiet side street in its own lush green grounds with the most attentive staff we have found.
We decided on an early start, left Siliguri northwards, for a smaller road that does not have the heavy traffic and deep potholes of the main highway. We quickly made progress to the foothills that lie just to the north of Siliguri and then suddenly we are transported back to our first trip here in 2009. The road now winds it’s way along the Tista river, left and right hand turns follow each other and speeds drop to less than 25km per hour. Just like old times.
We stop along side a beautiful tea plantation. Ever since the first time I saw a tea plantation, I have enjoyed seeing the tea bushes interspersed with tall trees and dirt paths – there is something peaceful and calming about it in my mind. Maybe it’s the patterns that you can follow in all directions made by the plants and paths. We see signs that indicate that elephants have right of way on the roads, I just hope that they do not step out in front of me from the thick green undergrowth, like the small monkey that I just avoided turning into a pancake.
With the festival of Duvali, ‘Festival of Lights’ starting tomorrow in India, I will leave Anne to provide descriptive prose and excellent photographs on that subject in the next post.