Mountains of Tea

We drove first through the flatlands of West Bengal, which are beautiful, at least the little we saw. They, like the mountains of Darjeeling, are full of tea plantations (the substandard stuff according to the driver), betel nut trees (like tall skinny palm trees), and villages of brightly painted shacks. It's poor, that's clear, but its way more fertile than the area around Udiapur. The animals looked fatter and no one seemed to lack water.

The drive from Pheuntsholing (pronounced Pits-huling) to Glenburn Tea Estate takes about 5 hours. 3.5 of those hours are because you are mostly driving on unpaved or very poorly paved one lane roads. It's a fine in the flatlands, just bumpy. It's hair-raising going up and up on the side of a steep mountain at 60 mph, dodging and passing cars going that speed too. Honking here is the auditory equivalent of letting people know you are doing any number of the following things: passing, trying to pass, warning them that you are passing, that you have passed them, that they are in the way and better move over, that they shouldn't pull out because you are clearly driving by, telling them to hurry and just announcing Iyar presence sometimes. Only one driver so far actually used his rearview mirror. I guess why use it in a country where every car announces its arrival behind and around you?

We finally turned off to the estate and I got a bit worried we had a made a terrible decision. The road was optionally paved, less than a car's width wide, and wove between small villages of what must be tea-pickets and the tea plants they pick. It was rainy and intermittently foggy. Had we signed up for some sort of lost faulty towers type adventure and where we going to be trapped in a damp, isolated hell for 3 days? I could probably manage, but my mother? (Sorry Mum)

Fear not! We arrived as the clouds parted (actually parted) to a turn of the century English bungalow. Welcomed by an iced tea and a friendly face and shown into a fantastic and adorable room. I feel like I'm in a tropical version of England, which is want the Brits who worked this plantation must have felt they lived in when they were hear. This place is Raj-ostalgia to the highest degree and its fabulous.

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