Sunday, May 4, 2014

India Part III Kolkata to Darjeeling

Trains in India fill up quite quickly, often weeks in advance.  I tried to make reservations from home but the Indian train website would never load properly on my computer.  Making reservations after arrival in Kolkata for 3 days later I found the 2nd class option was already filled and 3rd class sleeper was all that was available.  In 3rd class there are 3 tiers of bunks without curtains, so you are staring at the person sleeping directly across from you.  Linens and a blanket is available, but you have to fight a crowd and pay 25 additional rupees.  The train cost somewhere near $20 and left Kolkata at 9:30 PM for arrival in Jalpaiguri (late) at about 9 AM.  With the medicinal wonders of  Xanax I slept the whole way.

From this point one must take a shared jeep either all the way to Darjeeling (about 4 hours) or half-way to Kurseong to catch the "Toy Train" the rest of the way to Darjeeling.  I wanted to experience this historic and UNESCO designated narrow gauge railroad just for the fun of riding.  It follows the road up to Darjeeling, but passes within inches of businesses and shops and crisscrosses the road often bringing the road traffic to a standstill.

Of course before the train could leave, maintenance had to be performed on the engine.  As far as I could see they were pumping grease into a reservoir in the undercarriage.

Officially the name of this train is the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and the construction of the line was finished in 1881 and was the first public transportation in and out of the region.  Tracks are a mere 2 feet wide.  It felt a little like a Disneyland train ride looking at artificial snow capped mountains, but this one was real.

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