Ah… what a glory it is to be in Darjeeling an epic sprawl of a place that clings to the hills like the houses of Sheffield & Rome. Unlike those cities, however, beneath them the hills keep on dropping. Then you have wonderful hills rising across the valleys in splendid majesty, & on one side, the snow peaks of Kangchendzonga & its attendant mountains reminding me of the glory of nature. Its India’s highest peak & only a few hundred meters shy of Everest – I think its number 3 in the world. Ive been admiring it, sipping the celestial golden nectar of umilked, unsugared Oolong tea, slowly wandering the narrow streets & sharp steps of Darjeeling. Through the main road runs the tracks of the train that heaves itself up from the plains on a narrow gauge. The Indian sun is hot, but the skin is cooled by the mountain air, a perfect sensorary experience. I’m here with with Andy, a Mancunian. He’s just had a successful mission buying two ghorka WW2 war medals from a cool curio shop, to replace the one’s his grandfather got stolen a few years ago in Britain, a sentimental gift for his auntie & mum. They’re both from the same Ghurka, so theres a poignant romanticism about it all.
I’d met them back in Calcutta – I was wandering around with these two intellectual, cute fraulines – just as he & his girlfriend, Tereza, arrived simultaneously with us at the Morther Teresa house. It was closed, but we wandered about together & hit it off. Keeping in touch we agreed to meet at Mirik, I place I ‘d read about & thought soundednice & mellow & picturesque. So My Himalayan oddyssey began, a few days ago, with a jeep-taxi from Siliguri, the further most city of the Gangeatic plains. At one point there were 16 people in it & on it, but it was all good fun, & as we rose up among deliciously wooded hills, the rush of India faded away like the hairs on a moulting Cat. En route our taxi driver mentioned his family had a guest house, & after him dropping packages & people around Mirk for an hour, we were on the drive to his pad, when lo & behold & Andy & Tereza were chugging through the town with their backpacks. “Jump in,’ I said, & soon, picking up another English guy called Pete en route, we’d set up home in this proper buzzing guest house, with immaculate rooftop views of the lakes, a stunning, gold-gilded Buddhist monastery right next to us, the surrounding giant tumuli-tea estates & Kangchendzonga in all its glory.
Mirik is yet another India, with the asiatic faces of the Nepalese – & their language – everywhere…. & theres not a sari or a wobble of the head to be seen. It is part of West Bengal, but there are massive efforts to give the area state status – it makes proper sense really. This was highlighted by us joining in a cricket match with some young lads & I declared it an India – england woorld vup match – WE ARE GHOKARLAND – They insisted, & went on to stuff us. It’s a cool pitch, with a six coming from a hit into the lake. The next day went back for more, & getting a few locals on our side, we went down to the last couple of bowls – we’re gonna win I can tell. After the matches we’ve been having drinking sessions, filled out with the delicious home cooking of our hosts – with salads & veg fresh from their garden. This food has been rivalled in town, however, by the best puri in India, & the white lumps of lard that are the momos. You get these great large dumpling types full of veg, or these mini ones with pure, unadulterated beef. There’s also these noodles in beef soup I get from a shacky cafe in town.
It was there, papers & books spread before me, with several pairs of narrow Gorkha eyes staring at me, that I finish’d my Indiad. Its been nine years since I wrote the first sonnet, & I reckon those nine years have made it my best creation. Lots of fallow periods. Composing it almost killed me – several times – but I can now say, with some satisfaction, IT IS DONE! But anyways, lets get down to the nitty gritty. I went on awalk teh other morning & got chatting to this this beautiful guy, who suddenly points out a hill about two hundred meters away, wityh a wee village on it, was Nepal! I could touch it & could have gone there there & then, but I thought I’d research it first.
Now, the Indian government has introduced this new rule that says if you leave th country, you cannot come back for two months. However, if you do a Colditz style move over the border (with a joints worth in the pocket of course) – what can they do. Indian rupees are valid over there – in fact there is no restrictions for Indians crossing the border at all. So I thought to myself, its been a long time I’d gone on a memorable adventure – & its about time I saw another country, so Im off in a few days on a wee madcap. Kathmandus 20 hours away by bus, but I reckon I’ll just fanny about the east of the country. Besides, I dont think I’ll get that far up Everest in mi flip-flops! Here’s what my mates Phil & Steve – regular Nepal visitors – had to say on the matter:
nepal is havin free entry get the tourists back year .. free one month visa .. otherwise its a porous border
a paraglider i know flew across the border and back after 6 months .. you can walk through if you can do a minor invisibility thing at sinauli (have some one take yer pack)
and the same out as long as yr indian visas in order ,, also the 2 months out thingb was a reaction to a someone on a british passport going in and out of pakistan on the 6 month thing
an so theyre trying to check people more , this i is as of last year , and then you could do it legaly into nepal , and then go to indian embassy an show ‘em your ticket out of india and get
a new indian visa for a month or 2 week transit .. so its negotiable sort of thing , but sure you can slip through and back
sneaking into nepal, hhmmmm, its actually quite easy to do at the border crossings, when stuck on india border for the night its easy to just walk across the border and get a nice nepali beer. the majority of hotels do check your visa, especially in the small towns, and if you did get caught it would be big trouble in a sub; continent sort of way, probably end up a few days at least in prison cell, with lots of flapping and accusations of spying. and worst of heap big fine, or donation to local police christmas fund. but my advice is stay longer and by a ticket back from nepal with air arabia(arab ryan air) to istanbul, was about 100 quid couple of years ago.
But all that’s another story….