We were in Darjeeling now and we were 2134 meters higher than the sea. In Tibetan language, Darje means lightning and “ling” means land. So Darjeeling means the Land of Lightning.
The population of Darjeeling area is about 1.8 millions. Many Tibetans and Nepalis live here. These immigrants usually work in tea fields. 52% of the population works in tea business. Salaries of tea field workers are paid by the government. Half of the salaries are given in cash and the other half is given in the form of rent, health and education services and food. More than 60% of the tea workers are women.
In Darjeeling, 30% of the population makes a living by tourism. Because especially on the last years, number of tourists have increased because of mountain climbing and trekking. 10.000 tourists come to Darjeeling every year. It is a beautiful city with its nature and the temples. They were using here as a summer place in the British era.
In 1852, when Darjeeling was a British colony, they have planted 22 tea gardens. After independency in 1947, the British left this land.
Today there are 86 tea fields, completely owned by the government. Our guide says that, Darjeeling no longer gives tea to British.
The population in Darjeeling is pretty cosmopolite. About 60% are Hindus, 20% Buddhists and 20% Muslims.Even Christians, Catholics and Jains show up in the area as minorities.
Our hotel was the Darjeeling Gym Khama Resort on the hill. And we were looking at the city from the top. There is no A/C in the room but a fireplace is present. They burn it up for 3 dollars. The hotel was converted from an old mansion.
For dinner, we stuffed our bellies as much as we could and paid only 13 dollars for four people. (600 rupis). One of the most common foods in Darjeeling is lentil. They call it “Dal” in their own language. They use the thin bread called “Chapati” instead of knieves and forks. It is really delicious.
The lights went out after dinner in the hotel. Everywhere was pitch black. 5 minutes later, the generator kicked in but it was broken down after 10 minutes. Hotel management gave candles to every room. Because when electricity cuts out in Darjeeling, it takes a while to get back.
We were going to start exploring Darjeeling at 4.00 am. We woke up at 3.00 am. The lights were still out, not only the hotel, but the whole city was blackened out. This proved how long the blackouts took. We went to the hotel lobby at 3.30 am with candles in hour hands. We left at 4.00 to go to Tiger Hill with our driver.
Tiger Hill, which is 11 kms away from city center, is the highest hill of the city. It is 2590 meters high. The view is told to be magnificent. All the roads are completely dark because of the blackout. We went through this snaky and narrow road. The city is still crowded in that time of the day. People on 4x4 vechiles are moving to the hill to catch the sunrise.
But 1.5-2 kms before the hill, the traffic gets jammed. At the 4 in the morning, top of a mountain, what traffic jam? You might ask. We had our answer at the top. Almost ¼ of Darjeeling town was here to watch the sunrise. We found a parking spot 1 kms from the top and started walking up like many others did. Kids, parents, elderly, everyone was there. We started waiting the Himalayas to start lighten up with the sunrise. From this hill, the second highest point of the world after mount Everest, Kangchejunga is seen very clearly. You can see Everest from the other side.
We were at the top and waiting for the sun to rise like many other people there. We were very surprised about the thrill people had. The temperature was around -2,-3o C but nobody cared, the sunset was waiten in a festival mood. When the sun started to rise between the clouds, we heard voices like “Oooh, wow”. We could not see the sunrise because it was too cloudy. But even if we didn’t, this many people running for Tiger Hill before the day starts and their thrill was another great view.
Tiger Hill, took its name from the amount of tigers that lived here in the old days. But in time, when the woods were cut and houses started being built, tigers left this hill.
The most crowded time for Tiger Hill is the new year and Hindu festivals. When we were there, it was really crowded even if there was no festivals. I can’t imagine it in the festival time.
The day rised. We walked down for a while from the top, at right and left, we saw the connected Hindu Temples (Mahakaa/Mandir). It is really big and clean compared to many other Hindu temples.
After that we went back to the hotel for breakfast. We slept until 9.00 am after breakfast and hit the road again.