Today the sky broke clear with a spectacular sunrise at 5 am. I was up to see the sunrise because, like some something out of a misty past, there is a siren that goes off at that hour to wake all the tea pickers up. It echoes around the mountain, across 8 villages and 5,000 or so people. It is followed at 8 by a second alarm letting them know the day's work must start. So odd. So weirdly counter to my modern sensibilities but it seems to be part of the pattern of life here.
For the last 24 hours we seem to have stepped back into time. Into an age where the Raj is still going strong, where all the work is done manually, and to get to the closest town, a mere 40 km away, takes a solid 2 hours of driving over barely there roads. I walked through villages of Gurkhas who have been pickers for 6 or more generations, still picking leaves in the same way and from the same bushes their great-great-great grandfathers were picking from.
Lunch was an "Out of Africa" affair sans Robert Redford, but with the camp chairs and the table cloth by a roaring Himalayan river. (Note to self: come back with a Robert Redford look alike). We ended the day with a walk to a pedestrian suspension bridge built by the British in 1902, and never really updated since. It crosses the Rungdeep river from West Bengal into Sikkim. Apparently one needs a stamp on your passport to get into Sikkim (and with that its just been added to the Bucket list of places to visit), but we waltzed across and meandered through a little 'border' village. Well, waltzed maybe not, it was pretty rickety, with holes and broken boards and therefore scary, though the villagers on both sides use it every day.
By the way, first flush Darjeeling tea, which is served here at Glenburn this time of year, is like sunshine and honey. I have never and will probably never again drink such delicious tea.