After our brief time in Delhi, we headed out the next morning to Siliguri (by plane). A delegation from the Glenburn Tea Estate met us at the airport. We felt like VIPs, being greeted with ice cold cloths and glasses of lemonade.
Ganesha on the dashboard
We assembled in two 4x4s, necessary for the mountain roads we'd be traversing. As we exited the airport, I spied my first Indian tea field. It's adjacent to the airport. Note: You'll see raindrops in many of these photos. We were in Darjeeling in mid September, the end of the monsoon season.
Tea field next to Siliguri airport
Where's my lane? Typical street scene
I snapped photos left and right, in between holding my breath as cars came at us head-on. Much like an elaborate game of chicken, the smaller vehicle has to maneuver out of the way. This task can involve much inching forward, back, and a little to the side of many cars until a only-big-enough hole is created to let someone through. The mirrors on all of our 4x4s pulled in, for close quarters.
Another street scene
Roadside Tea House
We passed colorful tea houses in small towns. This one seems to specialize in Coke, but look very carefully and you'll see boxes labeled "TEA" in the background. I bet I could buy some loose tea here and maybe get a cup of chai.
After a delicious lunch with local tea representatives, we headed onward for the adventurous ride up to Darjeeling. These mountainous, curvy, narrow roads require one's full attention, and I was so grateful for Sujit, our competent and courteous driver. On a good day, it takes about 3 hours. It took us longer because the night, fog and heavy rain traveled with us.
En route, we spied monkeys along the side of the road. As exciting as this was, and as cute as they are, I learned that their normal habitat is deep in the forest. They are lured out by people who feed them, and it's bad news for the monkeys. Shoo, shoo little ones - back into the forest!
My first cup of Glenburn Tea
About two hours into the ride, we stopped at an overlook. Though it was pitch black, my colleagues enjoyed stretching their legs and being revived with a cup of tea and amazing chocolate brownies. My legs were too shaky to leave the car (motion sickness), but that did not prevent me from the exquisite pleasure of inhaling the aroma and taking my first sip of Glenburn tea. What hospitality to offer us tea at a lovely natural area, and on gorgeous cobalt blue china!
We've arrived! In khaki, Sanjay greets us. He is the tea estate manager.
We're being offered sweet iced tea.
It took Dramamine, a front seat, deep breathing, and a skilled driver, but I made it up the windy mountainside to Darjeeling without requiring an emergency stop. :-) All of this was nothing compared to the amazing views along the way and the prize at the end, theGlenburn Tea Estate. Stay tuned - you'll want to see the Glenburn pictures! If you read TEA, A Magazine, check out the current issue which features the Glenburn Estate.