We arrived into Darjeeling yesterday morning, after a 17 hour train journey (3 hrs delay- what a surprise!). The train journey was probably the worst we've had so far, which is typical when it was the longest journey we have so far had to endure. When we boarded the train there was lots of fuss and commotion, and there were already a group of men sitting in our berths. They made space for us (rightly so- they were sitting in OUR seats!) and it turned out that the previous train had been cancelled so they had reaccommdated (a term I'm all too familiar with) all the pasengers from the cancelled train on to ours. We had reserved an upper and lower berth as it was an overnighter, so whilst they all sat on the lower berth I went and had a quick snooze on the top berth. Thankfully they got off the train about an hour later- not sure who they were but one of them seemed to have some kind of 'high ranking' as was being pampered by minions and also had a member of the army (gun and all) with him at all times. When he got off the train he was greeted by a massive crowd and more army officers. So it was probably best that we didn't demand that he vacated our seats when we boarded- he probably would have had us shot.
When we finally reached our stop we then had to take a taxi up the mountain to Darjeeling. The road was a bit dodgy at times, but we were in a 4x4 and it seemed well-equipped for the bumpy roads. All in all it took about 3 hours to get there and I was relieved when we finally got to the hotel. After not having a great deal of sleep in the last 24 hours, I was knackered! We were also starving so we went for some lunch and then came back to the hotel for a much needed sleep! The hotel itself is really nice- we are on the top floor and have a good view of the Himalayas out of the window (when the fog has cleared anyway!)
Today we have explored Darjeeling on foot- we went to the zoo and the mountaineering institute (it was included in the price of the zoo ticket!) We walked round all the markets, had 'free' tea and biscuits in a fancy hotel (in return we had to look round the hotel and admire their rooms- nothing is free in India!) and just generally enjoyed the mountain views and clean air! After spending the last two weeks in polluted, fume-filled cities it is nice to breathe in some fresh air. Darjeeling is still typial India- dirty, run-down and in drastic need of a good tidy-up, but it's definitely my favourite place so far as everyone is much more relaxed and it's easy to walk around without the risk of being run down by a rickshaw/bike/car/cow.
Tomorrow, amongst other things, we plan to visit a tea plantation. Then the day after we are taking the Toy Train back down the mountain (it's steam powered and takes 7 hours!) before heading back to Delhi for our flight to Kathmandu.
I hope you're all well- thanks for all your messages!