07 June 2013

Aloobari Monastery: Escaping Darjeeling to See Some Nature. And Losing a Shoe.

Day Three

Our host at Dekeling Resort finally understood that we wanted to take a nice walk rather than sit in the car. He suggested we take the Toy Train up the mountain to Ghum, then hike to Aloobari Monastery. We'd stopped by the train station the day before and the train was already sold out so we decided to take part in one of the Darjeeling travel traditions -- the taxi-share. We packed up Muffin, some snacks, and some dry clothes (because it was raining) in the backpacks and walked into town. We took a wrong turn, then ended up at the wrong taxi stand. A driver pointed us in the right direction. We passed another taxi stand and then another one. And a driver there pointed us back toward the last stand we'd passed. A driver there pointed across the street. It seemed like we'd been walking for nearly an hour and we'd finally found the right taxi. We decided to pay for four seats so we could have the large back seat to ourselves and have room for the backpack. We then had to wait for the taxi to fill up. Three more guys climbed into the front and a man and two women climbed into the wayback, and we were on our way up the mountain in a taxi-share!

The driver stopped a couple times to let off other passengers. No words were spoken; we were hoping we'd either see a sign or the driver would indicate to us when it was time to get out. We wanted to get out just after Ghum. We passed the Ghum train station and then saw a sign for the next town. And then we got stopped in pooja traffic again. More people celebrating the lunar holiday by parading through town with Buddhist texts on their heads. They were also tapping the heads of people on the sidelines so while we were stopped, Muffin stuck her head out the window and got herself blessed with a Buddhist text.

We inched along in traffic until a T-intersection came into view. The driver pointed to it and said "Aloobari," so we got out and walked from there.

Taking a left at the intersection
The walk was great.

Every fifteen minutes or so we'd see someone and ask them if we were still going in the right direction. There had been a couple intersections; also, we had no idea how long the walk was going to be and if someone told us "short distance" or "long distance" it was completely irrelevant. We knew we were on the right path and we decided that if we were out there for six hours and still hadn't found the monastery or our way back to town, we'd flag down a car and pay any price they asked for a ride back to our hotel.

Luckily it didn't come to that. After maybe an hour of walking, some of it at Muffin's pace, we glimpsed this through the fog:

Aloobari was under renovation but the caretakers let us come in to take some photos.

From the monastery we could continue along the same road to return to Darjeeling. We were told "long distance," but we hoped that the man who told us that meant "long distance for tourists," which actually wouldn't be as long for us as it is for other people because we are hearty walkers. We were getting hungry and the weather was turning cool and rainy so we were ready for lunch.

Somewhere between this photo:
 and this photo:
Muffin fell asleep and when her foot relaxed one of her Crocs fell off and we never saw it. By the time I noticed it was gone, it was out of sight and none of the locals had seen it and picked it up for us (which often happens when one of her shoes fall off). We were too tired and hungry to back-track more than a couple meters so we wrote it off and figured we could find some fake Crocs in town.

The road brought us to Chowrasta, a pedestrian plaza in Darjeeling about two kilometers from our hotel. We stopped at a restaurant and ate some of the worst Indian food we've ever had. Muffin didn't even eat her dosa, and she loves dosa.


One of the roads off Chowrasta was a Cheap Chinese Plastic Mela so we browsed there for a new pair of shoes. Only one guy had fake Crocs and he didn't have a pair small enough for Muffin. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at every shop that looked promising but couldn't find anything appropriate. This meant a trip to the Western mall, as opposed to the Mall, a pedestrian walkway lined with shops and restaurants. So we went to the mall and not a single store sold children's shoes. We'd heard about a Thai restaurant and on the way we found a children's shoe store. The Crocs were all too big for Muffin and most of the sneakers were too but we finally found one pair that fit and, even though I thought they were ugly, Muffin thought they were cool so we bought them. (Two days later she announced they were too small and has refused to put them on since.)

We had an early dinner of terrible Thai food and took a taxi back to the hotel. We needed to get an early start the next day for our drive to Bhutan.

Day Four Coming Soon

Day One: 8 Days on the Road from Darjeeling to Bhutan. With a Preschooler
Day Two: Some Enforced Site-Seeing in Darjeeling

1 comment:

Victoria Mason said...

Ugh. Bad shoes and bad thai? A horrible combination.