Meet the Traffic!
Traffic intensifies as we come closer to the border. The actual border is almost invisible as Nepalese and Indians do not need a passport to travel between the two countries. It would be very easy to miss the border controls / immigrations altogether. To visit the offices you actually need to take a side road, not like what I am used to. Offices are clearly signposted but the signs compete with a million other signs! The formalities are simple an quick. There are really no other tourists at this land crossing. Just a million locals. This time we are on a taxi, since I had to leave my bike in Nepal. The simplicity of the crossing may be misleading and the queue of trucks on the Indian side of the border, waiting to get into Nepal, is long. India is very loud and colourful from the first moment on. The traffic is unbelievably chaotic. The hotel was not too hard to find and my Bhutanese guide Karma delivered my new bike, a virtually new Royal Enfield Classic 350cc with only 2000 km on the clock. My Nepalese bike was a 500cc classic but I do not expect the 350 to fall much short in performance (not possible). A few small fixes – powering the gps, etc and the bike is ready to go. So am I.
Jungle and Tea Plantations
Once out of the city of Siliguri in the morning, the ride through the tea fields is almost a serene experince. Jungle and tea fieds alternating. Jungle with monkies and bendy hillside roads and tea fields with long straight stretches of road.
Once in Madarihat we go straight to the pre-booked hotel, Jaldapara Tourist Lodge, only to find out that they had no booking and were full. The fact that I had their email thanking for the booking, did not mean it was confirmed!! This was explained by a very loud and unpleasant guy who clearly wanted to be seen and heard. Eventually we managed to find a room at Jaldapara Inn near by and a beer was well deserved. Here service was impeccable. One guy actually took a bicycle and rode to town to get me a beer! One slightly confusing thing is the time difference between the three countries. India is 15 minutes behind Nepal and Bhutan is half an hour ahead of India and 15 min ahead of Nepal. Explains why I was 15 minutes early this morning and my 9 o’clock meeting tomorrow is actually 8.30. Hope I got that right!
This is only my first India sector, another one follows when I return from Bhutan to Assam and ride back to Darjeeling. Tomorrow I am meeting my guides at the Bhutan border at 8.30 AM, which means that I need to be on the bike 7.30 AM for the Bhutan section of the trip. Exciting!