Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Politics at the Himalaya Mountain Institute

Another day relaxing in lovely Darjeeling. I wake up at dawn (5am perhaps), intending to try to get a look at Kantenjunga, but the hotel is shrouded in mist, so I go back to bed. Later Fenula bangs on our door and wakes us up! You can see Kantenjunga! Hurrah! We charge upstairs to the rooftop, but I have to say it’s a slightly disappointing view for anyone that’s stayed in Pokhara with the Annapurna vista. You can see Kantenjunga, but it’s quite far off, nothing like the postcards where it dominates the sky, clearly a photoshop job.

Peak just about visible

Anyway, I’m so tired and it’s so bright in the sunshine I can hardly open my eyes!

Heading back downstairs I notice they dry the towels on the fushia bushes in the garden, which would explain the slightly musty smell they all seem to have.

Later we walk with Darcy to the Zoo and Himalayan Mountain Institute. She wanted the former, myself the latter, but it turned out they have a combined ticket for entry, so that ended that debate! We pass the Hot Stimulating Café on the way, and pop in for momos.

Shakira is more than welco..

The chap running it is very friendly, and likes his conversation hot and stimulating, hence the name. The place has loads of character, so we were not best pleased when he cheerfully explained that he’s sold out to some investors from Cyprus who are going to tear it down, rebuild bigger and better, with loads of staff, laminated menus etc. That’s progress.

Nepali graffiti

Our batch

More on the way

After the café, we pass a small shop with a very small resident photographer. Yesterday when we passed here, this chap ran up to me, grabbed my camera off me and started taking photos of everything:

He does the same today. Very cute, but we can’t stay too long, as the Mountain Institute beckons!

The zoo is depressing, with big cats pacing up and down looking bored out of their minds.

It’s a bit cheeky combining entry tickets – I don’t want to support a place like this. Anyway, the mountain institute, founded by Tenzin Norgay Sherpa and the Indian Prime Minister of the time is clearly in the grip of a political crisis of their own – the place is covered in large posters telling the assistant director where to go! Not just one, but dozens! Clearly isn’t in office at his institute very often then – perhaps that’s part of the trouble.

The museum, which does not allow photography (grrr), have a small but interesting collection of mountain climbing exhibits – the British flag first raised on top of Everest, various ice picks etc, 3D profiles of the Himalayas and the mountains of the world, and biographies with photos of famous climbers.

Some good beards on this wall


No mention of the conquest of Rum Doodle anywhere though.

The actual Union Jack first raised on top of Everest

After we say bye to Darcy and walk round to the Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Centre.

This place was set up to help those fleeing the Chinese “liberation through mass-murder” of Tibet.

There are various workshops where people learn and carry on trades, making souvenirs etc, an orphanage, temple, then there’s the shop. Fixed price, no haggling, all profits going back into the centre, a damn good cause. They have orders for carpets enough to keep them busy till end of 2008 apparently.

We buy various bits and bobs – I’d buy lots more if we were flying straight back to the UK from here. I also pick up a Free Tibet t-shirt. One not to take to China perhaps.

We leave and walk down through tea bushes to the main road, where we wait for a shared jeep.

Eyed suspiciously

Jeep back to town, 10r each, which runs around past North Point, the impressive St. Joseph School, before depositing us near the old market. Shopping time – we buy some nibbles for the trek tomorrow, some water purification drops (chlorine, which I’ve never used before), as my bottle of iodine spilled itself all over my backpack in Calcutta, and sealing wax for Supi – she wants to send her wedding invites out with an old-style wax seal on the back, and where would you buy the special wax from? Simple! A country like India where they still seal parcels with wax on a regular basis. I’m impressed at how easy it is to buy everything.

Shopping mayhem

Faded capitalism

Ok we succumbed to Café Coffee Day

Dinner at the well-named Hasty Tasty, an Indian “fast food” place which is where all the Indian tourists go. It’s cheap, it’s fast and it’s tasty, perfect for those who are hasty, and we are feeling hungry. Most of what they serve is vegetarian South Indian food. I have a paneer dosa, and the chap suggests big puffy bread things with chickpeas. All yummy.

For a drink I have a strange sweet milk drink, flavoured with sugar and saffron, takes vaguely like banana nesquik milkshake. Yum!

No comments: