I left hot Calcutta to make it to the much cooler hill station of Darjeeling in the Himalayan foothills.
Here I am a very early morning at a viewpoint called Tiger Hill. Behind me you can see Kanchenjunga, the world's third highest peak, bathed in the very first rays of the sun. The city on the hillside in front of Kanchenjunga is Darjeeling. From the Tiger Hill, you can see 4 of the 5 highest peaks in the world, including Mount Everest. Of the top 5 only K2 (in Kashmir) is missing.
A bit disappointingly, Darjeeling is almost as dirty, gritty and filled with ugly, charmless, concrete buildings as most Indian cities. According to photographs from the early 1900s, it was back then an astonishingly beautiful city. Those times are gone but there are still many things to come for. There are still some remaining colonial buildings, which greatly increase the charm of the city and the scenery is of course unbeatable. And then there are the blooming Rhododendrons as the one you see above! In Europe Rhododendrons never grow to be bigger than bushes, but in the Himalayas they become huge trees.
The British Raj made a railway connection to Darjeeling and a few surrounding towns and it is claimed that one of these nearby stations is situated at a higher altitude than any other railway station in the world - I don't know if this is true. The old trains still run, but these days it is more for the sake of tourists. It is much quicker to go by car nowadays.
During my stay in Darjeeling I had the pleasure of a close encounter with this big, beautiful animal. As it was trapped by a large fence I managed to get within a few metres distance of it to take this picture. Some have suggested it might be a mongoose, but I am not sure. If anyone knows what this animal is, please leave a comment or write me at eagersnap gmail (I write it this way to avoid getting spam,add the @ and .com yourself).
I end my first post from Darjeeling with a close up (taken from a distance of 20 km. with a very limited zoom lens) of the amazing Kanchenjunga. It stands at a height of 8.564 metres.