At 4am this morning, Victoria and I got higher than we've ever been; 8497ft up Tiger Hill to gaze at the sun as it gradually illuminated the glorious distant peaks of the Himalayas including Khangchendzonga and Everest.
We went to bed early last night, fully clothed, covered in a dozen blankets, cuddling hot water bottles and eating Dairy Milk, which made us look like the old folks from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - hopefully with less stale piss smells. It's nice to think of Edmund Hillary and Norgay Tenzing snuggled up in the same way, watching episodes of Mr. Bean, before getting up to tackle the mountains. Even pots of some of the world's finest tea fail to keep out the biting cold of Darjeeling. The Queen of Hills is a curious but relatively peaceful place. Buildings spill down the hillsides, mist settles everywhere and we can walk the narrow streets and stepped alleyways without the constant whirlwind of horns, traffic and beggars. There are no also no cows loitering around town - which is, like a man who doesn't look at Victoria's breasts, pretty unique in India.
To climb the West Bengal Hills from Siliguri we elected to ride the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, also known as the 'Toy Train', a World Heritage listed route that winds it way to Darjeeling in 8 hours at the break-neak speed of 10km/h. The tiny blue train seems a bit of a joke to the locals; pensioners on foot overtake you, whilst other people giggle and point at you as if you're riding the Sunshine Bus down to the day centre. The journey takes in some gorgeous scenery and disects little towns such as Kurseong and the creepy Ghoom, where vampires and Bobby Davro live.
Throughout 'Darjy' and its surrounding towns, flags, signs, painted buildings and bunting in green, white and yellow combine to welcome you to 'Gorkhaland'. The Gurkha communities in the area have been fighting, often literally, for this northern part of Bengal to become its own state for decades now and seem to insist on calling it 'Gorkhaland' no matter what the Indian government says. Similar to Victoria calling me 'Arseworm'.
Bombproof travel tip:
Before travelling 700km to go on a 'Tea Pilgrimage' it would be beneficial to check that the tea plantations are actually open at the time of year you wish to visit them. Tetley's is not harvested in February and there is a distinct lack of Chocolate Digestives in the markets.