|I've heard a few stories about the journey from Kathmandu to Darjeeling, none of them good. I've taken advice and gone for the day journey and not the gruelling night bus, a decision which every Nepali whose in the know about these things tells me is a good move. The bus sets out at a bad time though, 4.30 in the morning.
My journey to the border had a scheduled time of 12 hours but thanks to the strikes which currently abound in this country these are not normal times in Nepal, thus my journey lasted 18 hours. Our journey started well enough and we made good progress until lunchtime, then the demonstrations started. They seemed to follow a set pattern, a mob would set fire to a rubber tyre or two in the middle of the road, stare at it then start some shouting and wave a few banners. The traffic would stop in fear as apparently the police presence was just for show, then once the tyres were burnt out some sort of agreement would be made with the mob to let the traffic pass and onwards we would go until the next town's demonstration.
We arrived at the border at 11.00 p.m. so a night was spent in Kakarvitta before dealing with the border formalities the next morning and catching a local bus to hot and sweaty Siliguri in India and changing for another to cooler Kurseong in the hills, half way to Darjeeling.
Kurseong is a small town whose existence is based on its tea plantations which are marketed as Darjeeling tea and not its own. The locals are a militant lot, they call themselves Gorkhas and there is occasional graffiti on the journey up claiming 'Gorkhaland for the Gorkhas'. Apparenly the cause of their grief is that most of the money in their state, West Bengal, is earnt in Dajeeling and its surrounding areas and sent to the states capital, Calcutta, never to be seen again. I walked into a cafe for lunch and the owner introduced himself as a Gorkha and proudly said "we serve Gorkha food here", which is very similar to Nepalese dhal bhat, in others words it was OK and filling but not particularly interesting. The owner put on some music all in the local lingo apart from the corus which was 'Gorkha land for the Gorkha's, Gorkha land for the Gorkha's". They're a militant lot here.
To be honest there isn't a lot to do in Kurseong and the monsoon clouds didn't help with the views, so after a day I caught the very slow toy train for the 3 1/2 hour ride to Darjeeling.