Lhasa to Kathmandu to Delhi
So now we say goodbye to the beautiful heartbreak that is tibet and fly back to Nepal. Flying out of Lhasa provided us with great views of everest and not to put a nail in a stereotypes' coffin but every Japanese tourist on the plane jumped up, ran to the side of the plane and snapped away at every white capped peak they could see, it was brilliant so I joined the snap snap fest. So we get back to Kath and we decided to go to Chitwan national park down south and then make our way to the eastern birder with India on our way to Bhutan. However an unfortunate encounter with eggplant lasagna left my poor Nicky with Kayhmandoody for about 5 days. So I got to know Kath fairly well as I passed some hours of the day walking the city.
Eventually nickys tummy got better and we decided to fly to the border of India and make our way via Darjeeling to join nicks friend Katy for the Bhutan leg of the journey. A quick flight a long border crossing and a twist-turny jeep ride later and we are in Darjeeling, green-valleyed Tea Mecca of the world. I wasn't sure what to expect from Darj and it surprised me on a couple of levels. First was the geography of the place. Super hilly with the city clinging right to the hillsides. I was expecting it to be situated in a lush valley but there it clung like a developed ivy grown into the hills, lots of stairs for us to negotiate. The second surprise was the Gurkaland movement afoot. Apparently there are a large number of tibetans settled in the area that want/expect autonomy for this region and they are very vocal about their cause. So much so that we awoke the next morning to find a strike had been called to the region! This meant that eveything was shut down. Shops, food, museums, roads the whole town. Needless to say we were caught off guard by this and found ourselves not only hungry but feeling unsypathetic to the cause. I'm not sure what they hoped to gain by shutting down all facilites but it seemed to affect the locals more than the few tourists that were there. Well we made our way by foot in search of some food and found salvation at the Elgin hotel. This period hotel from the days of British colonialism and Raj days was still serving food and good food at that. We had high tea. Finger sandwiches crumpets the whole shabang served with white glove service, classy. Having eaten we proceeded to the Happy Valley tea plantation, famed suppliers to Harrod's. We took a tour and got the low down on tea grades and on the way out were greeted by the 5 second lady. This proprietress of a small tea hut invited us in for a cup of her famous 5 second tea. First grade tea the likes of which are valued in the finer houses in London town. She explained that tea usually takes 2-3 minutes to steep, however due to the high quality of happy valley's tea only 5 seconds would be needed. She's got a great pitch and serves a mean cup of tea. On that note we decided to get out of dodge while we could. There were rumors of another strike taking place and if that was the case we risked not getting to Bhutan to meet Katie for our tour and we couldn't let that happed. So we bid adieu to Darjeeling In The back of a pickup jam packed with fools that had he same idea as us.