India Trip 11 April to 15 May 2010

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Gothenburg, Sweden Saturday, April 10 

The real vacation started today, a sunny day and the final preparations for the trip to India. The last of  obligations concerning work completed. Taken leave of friends I am sitting by the window and looking out over the harbor in Gothenburg. The water is deep blue, light blue skies, deep shadows that only the chilly early spring morning can create. Life springs everywhere, and now is wonderful time. Something is keeping me back home to explore the landscape of spring, something pulls me far away to forget all the confrontations and conflicts, consuming and burdensome tasks. Itīs no escape, only a quiet place to be, to see the day.

The ferry to Denmark differs from the quay over there, seeking out the mainstream of the river to the sea. Someone who leans against the railing of the upper deck is aware of that departure, the present tension, the constant  feeling, to weigh anchor and drift, a relief but also uncertainty.

Helsinki Sunday, April 11

Finland still looks a bit out of the wintry from the airplane window. The airport has a considerable amount of Japanese people who change planes. You start to believe Tokyo - Helsinki - Paris is on the same great circle, shortest route to Europe.

My flight is in about 5 hours. In this amazing transit lobby I kill time by surfing on the airport's free wireless internet, while watching  people "live" from all corners of the world. The commercial tax-free zones, all rigid bars and restaurants, all lined up seats, signs that crystal clear showing exactly where you are and where the toilet is. Actually, airports purely social stone dead places. The question is whether one could create a cozy, friendly airport terminal. I think most people wish to go around, undisturbed in their thoughts, find their way to the next gate and check-in. Itīs comforting to hear the announcer inform in Japanese about flight delays and boarding times.


Delhi, Monday, April 12

Just outside the entrance to the Indira Gandhi International Airport begins the India I remember. The heat that strikes the face, dust and mess in general. From the airports well lit halls to the inscrutable crowd squeezed  together. Everywhere there is  people who engage themselves in all sorts of things. The construction of a five times larger airport facility, cutting-edge, next door. I promise that within a few years, the situation is the same, it is there,  the inside and out phenomena. All India travelers recognize it. You do not pay for a place in the sun but for a place behind the glass doors. As this one next to a seemingly chaotic Pahar Ganj I'm at a bit expensive place eating and surfing free with my own computer on the local Wifi. Outside the glass door (and the glass wall), is beggars, vendors and sacred cows. The houses collapses here, you have to repair before the Commonwealth Games in early October. Here is messier than usual. At the station they try to hide the rake behind cheerfully painted facades glued on to the old. The incredibly neglected and run down Connaught Place  is finally being renovated. Something that should been undertaken for many, many years ago, at least for architecture's sake. Itīs giant colonial design that perfectly suits the climate with its cool amazing arcade where all the upscale shops and eateries are well guarded behind glass doors. Within a few years the street vendors are there again, beggars, mangy dogs and men with confidence tricks. (See renovation pictures here)

Pahar Ganj retains its wonderful shops and cheap hotels. It is the Westerners favorite spot but also a popular base for the lower middle class. Right now you may watch out for falling bricks and concrete blocks in the renovation frenzy going on till late at night where you can see lightning from welders trying to put together the skeleton iron facade.

I would prefer continuous improvement and change in attitude of people in common. This feels really imposed from above, creating jobs which is good, but what happens then?

Pahar Ganj

Connaught Place, photo from

View from Devdas Woods Guesthouse

Mussorie at dusk

Mussoorie April 13 to 14

There are number of reasons at any time to go to India. The heat, the smells, food, architecture and so Himalayas. The last is my refuge and where I get to spend the holidays this time. Nostalgia for me is to embark the night train to Dehradun and early morning ride up to Mussoorie, where I spent most of my childhood. Now the train was full of pilgrims to  the Kumbha Mela in Haridwar. It was almost completely empty on the train when we crossed Haridwar and I could sit at the window and see the mountains fade into the haze. It is dry season and visibility is not the best. Fires are common in May and June before the rainy season. At the railway station in Dehra Doon  the traditional breakfast of toast, fried eggs and tea was to be abandoned, the restaurang was unfortunately closed. I then shared a taxi with an Indian couple and we started to Mussoorie on a winding road up to 2000 m altitude. Eventually I ended up in Landour on Devdas Woods Guest House, a base station for almost 11 days. Spring is lovely and somehow itīs here I have come to ground. 

Rishikesh April 15 to 16

I had the opportunity  traveling  light to Rishikesh in order to study public life there in the backwaters of  Kumbha Mela in Haridwar. The trip there went well with switches between  taxi, rickshaw and bus. Well there half the city was closed to vehicles and I had to like all other pilgrims walk up the river Ganges to the holy sites. There was a steady stream of people who would cross the Ganges on a pontoon bridge and two narrow suspension bridges. The sacred temples were on both sides so there was this stream of pilgrims who never ended like the Ganges itself. Old and young, small children, more wealthy and extremely poor who had saved long for this yatra, usually carrying on there head a woolen bag containing all necessities. We saw them in crowds under the big dense crowns of the trees cooling themselves in its shade. Tightly packed in accommodations, large Dharamsalas, a kind of shelters for pilgrims. Patient, meek, waiting for their turn to the temple priest, constantly praying to various gods of the roadside, one four armed horse god, a blue god perched in a tree, a fearsome god with flaming eyes and red stretched tongue mounted on a grinning tiger.

At least one million pilgrims here, there were over 15 million in Haridwar.


Mussoorie April 17

What is sweeter than the sight of deep red Rhododendrons in the blue mountains? It is a short time when they adorn the slopes. The red petals already cover the soil under the trees.

Slopes are covered in daisies, there are millions of them! See a set of more flowers here. Can you name them so please get in touch to

Mussoorie April 18

The monkeys rooming around in flocks. The red-brown "Bandar" is replaced by the gray 'Langurs ". Their newborn babies clutching at chest and stomach of the female. With great elegance and agility they move between the houses, trees and rock walls. They walk effortless on tight ropes. They turn the garbage cans upside down on  in search for  food. Maybe they have flourished so incredible here because of this  food supply, or has it become too warm in the valleys and plains. They migrate down to lower altitudes in winter. At the temples they are fed by the visitors who see them as descendants of the monkey god Hanuma. The red "Bandar" is specialized in stealing fruit from people, first try to frighten by angry outburst and then grabbing the fruit parcel from the perplexed victim.


Some birds and butterflies

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Mussoorie April 19 to 24

The tourist season is underway. It's hot in the plains and tourists come in a constant stream. It is the Indian middle-class favorite place, and it is especially popular to celebrate honeymoon here. Here is everything for everybody on a wide price range. Antique shops with very much colonial goods. Fabric shops dominates, everything from luxury boutiques to market stalls. Souvenir boutiques are second in number and it is an incredible mix of tinkers. Along the way are stalls selling popcorn, cotton candy and grilled corncobs. Then you might eat in restaurants of all classes. There are plenty of activities , the cable car ride, dress up in colorful countryside clothes and be photographed, ride horses, ride carousel, roller skating rink with disco, playing countless data games. There are excursions to the waterfall Kempty Falls, Sir George Everest house, Nag Tibba, a sacred mountain peak devoted to the holy snake, or a trip to Dhanoulti a scenic mountain town. The municipality has "embellished" The Mall, the main thoroughfare in the city, with sculptures of animals, relief of giant lions and wild horses. Some local politicians have taken the opportunity to put his photograph in front of the "animal farms". However, there is a real aquarium with a variety of beautiful fishes. Tourist track is from Kulri, through  the Mall to Gandhi Chowk. Here  its completely unbearable when the tourist season is at its peak according to those who have survived it.

Click on any image.

Mussoorie April 19 to 24

The most interesting about a city like Mussorie on a ridge 2000-2500 m up is the settlements and how it evolved through the ages, changed, rebuilt and destroyed. Most of it is being built on concrete foundations atop of high concrete columns. You do not have to excavate and  remove large pieces of rock and easily connect business and residentials directly to the main street. British officers built their settlements in the mined-out mountain plateaus reinforced with stone walls. The houses were mostly a copy of the bungalow from the plains but in stone and wood with corrugated tin roofs. Slate roofs are the traditional way in the mountains. Slate roofs in Kulu valley and Chamba valley can be incredibly beautiful. Now here concrete and metal are the only means.

I have 45 years' perspective on Mussoorie and the wealth have increased markedly. There are currently no beggars, all children attend school and the majority look well fed. The settlements in Landour were regarded as pure slum at one time but is now fairly well organized, relatively speaking.

However, as in all Indian cities, a growing mountains of rubbish. Sewers, water supply and electricity distribution needs to be improved. Mobile phone network is incredibly extensive and every  man and woman with any income carries a cell phone.

Drawings in pencil, 15 x 21 cm

An unlikely abode (I've drawn as truthfully as possible.)


Thas was all from Mussorie. Traveling April 25 to Delhi and then to Darjeeling.

Settlements in Landour Basses


Settlements beyond the Gandhi Chowk


Train ready for departure at Darjeeling station. It was a turning plate for the engine but it was not used.

Steam locomotive model in its entirety. Behind the chimney is water. Above the driver is the carbon stock.

Pistons and connecting rods. The water tank on top

Pressure gauges, valves, controls and levers. Door to fire chamber hem. 

On the way, one can say. The track takes a turn at the asphalt road.

Darjeeling Express

April 26 to 27

From New Delhi the Rajdhani Express train continue far  into Assam after passing Siliguri which is the place you switch for Darjeeling. The remaining stretch you travel by a Lilliputian train that questionable can be called express when it takes nine hours to cover the 90 km long route to Darjeeling, high up in the mountains. There is a narrow corridor between Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and Nepal that India has with the tiny state of Sikkim in the north. To the east  widens the fertile Assam with the great river Brahmaputra in the center surrounded by the states of Arunachal, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura and Meghalaya Mizoram. Large areas of concern for India with rebellion, strife between different population groups in ethnic, religious and economic conflicts. China has claims to Arunachal. The frontier of Burma is very hilly jungle. Nagaland was known for its headhunters adorned in colorful feathers, but they are rare now. The region is undergoing rapid development and tourism is steadily increasing. There is said to be very beautiful.

Rajdhani Express is one of these fantastic intercity trains with full catering on board just like on an airplane, at least if you have purchased a 2nd class sleeper ticket with AC. Costs 35 US$ for 24 hours journey (1800 Km) The whole car is like a coupe, so there is not much privacy. First, it is delivered mineral water. Lunch starts with a good soup, crackers and butter. Then veg or nonveg Indian meal with rice, dal, vegetable curry (or chicken curry), fresh vegetables, pickles (strong) and two bread (chapati). Lunch ends with a curd and finally an ice cream as dessert. Very good considering the distasteful airlines are performing. The curd comes in a small clay pot the size of a coffee cup well cooled. At 5 o'clock, it is tea with snacks. With warm water in a small thermos you mix your tea according to taste. The supper  is a repeat of lunch with some variations. Breakfast consists of tea, omelets, toast, butter and marmalade. Dishes are removed carefully and  the cart is vigorously cleaned on a regular basis. Sheets, pillows and blankets are provided and you are quite satisfied and pleased when you go to bed. Then you have to get used to all cackle from  passengers, screaming and wild discussions. The use of headphones when listening to music is not Indian way of life. It can be a pure cacophony of sounds through the compartment where all plays music in their mobiles. Forward at late hours itīs quiet, lights are shut of and you are lulled to sleep by the train rushing through the endless flat Ganges plain.

Something like Darjeeling Express in the movie with the same name this is not. I feel that the film mixes styles from current and former colonial carriages. But the adventure was able to develop itself as in the movie. The train went constantly in one direction when falling asleep, but had reversed direction in the morning. Thats the feeling you get when the landscape is rushing in the opposite direction. Somewhere on a station in Bengal the train stops because of a railroad strike that lasted nine hours. Many became impatient and jumped off the train to continue with shared taxi or bus to Nepal. The trolley was at times almost devoid of people who have to inquire, look at the strike or visit the village. Once we started again train was slow and I reached Siliguri 10 hours behind schedule.

The next morning after night hotel in Siliguri, I was full of hope to have a ride with the Lilliputian train, or "Toy Train" as they call it, to Darjeeling at 2134 meters altitude. It was unfortunately canceled due to a landslide in the mountains so I had to take a shared taxi up instead. However, I was a bit disappointed that the narrow-gauge track mostly ran along the road, inside or outside. It was poorly maintained and ran straight through the center of village roads where it was insanely tight for the cars . We were standing still for long periods of pure traffic jams because of roadwork's. How the train basted through all of this is a mystery. I thought the train puffed in solitary majesty, winding among the green hills and tea plantations with the blue mountains in the background for occasionally stops at small stations made of stones decorated with flower pots. There is a little sightseeing tours out from Darjeeling by train which is perhaps more rewarding. It was fun to study the steam engines at the railway station in Darjeeling. There is also pinned to the wall the plaque  declaring the railroad as a world culture heritage. I hope they use the money to fix up the tracks and locomotives.

Work on the railway started in 1879, came into use in 1881 and was completed in 1920 when the last "descent" to Darjeeling was built. The railroad passing  thus its highest point before Darjeeling. No tunnels were made because they wanted the view over the beautiful landscape not to be obscured. (Prior to 1881 a voyage from Calcutta to Darjeeling, a distance of 670 Km, took six days by train, ferry, ox-carts, horses and porters.) Track width is approximately 60 cm and the steam engine brand is a Garret from 1909 with a mass of 28 tons. This thing with Lilliputian is relative.

Darjeeling, April 29

Tibetan: "Dorji" = thunder, "Ling" = place

Here is a beautiful panorama, when you look north and to the valley below with all the tea plantations  Himalayan range would be seen beyond the blue mountains but it was foggy and cloudy today. Central city has a labyrinth of winding streets, stairways and passageways. The original colonial character soon was lost in all new construction. Everywhere shops are selling "Pure Darjeeling Tea" and its no doubts so. Darjeeling is surrounded by tea plantations. But there is also a zoo, a botanical garden, a military school, police, schools, boarding schools, Tibetan Center and Tenzings house and mountain climbing school. Sherpa Tenzing Norkey was the  first man on the top of Everest 1953.

Darjeeling is said to have the world's finest teas. The city's name is synonymous with tea. To make a good tea is an art and I am speaking not only about brewing. British smuggled a Chinese tea which thrived very well in the mountains and the climate was perfect with a high humidity and heavy rain. It takes 8-10 years for the bush to be ripe for harvest. Picked by hand the fresh leaves have 70-80% humidity. They are lightly dried so humidity is reduced to approximately 40%. Then special rolling of the leaves is undertaken so that they release their  life giving juices and flavors. Step three is something called fermentation. The leaves are on beds a few cm high in high humidity. Here all aromatic substances develops  and the process must be stopped at any given time before  the final drying process, so that humidity reaches about 2% . This is the old traditional method and the rolling, fermentation and sorting is required fingertip sensitivity and nose. Fermentation can not be stopped too early or too late. The sorting takes place in different degrees. Whole leaf prices high and broken leafs are cheaper. Tea dust are cheapest and come in our tea bags. The upper fresh leaf  is used to make the most expensive tea. It should then be something like "Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe. Fine tea is Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe or GFOP and then the leaves are whole. Then comes the broken tea leafs of various sorts. Golden Broken Orange Pekoe GBOP etc. 

Happy Valley tea plantation and factory from 1857. Machinery has about the same age but very well kept and well maintained. 


Tomorrow it's off to Sikkim and some mountain hiking. Maybe I have time with a first impression once there, since I'm in the wilderness thereafter for 8 days .


North. Kangchenjunga, the world third highest peak behind the clouds

East parts of the city of Darjeeling

Down to a tea plantation



Pelling April 2 to 4

Well, this is Sikkim in a nutshell. Kangchenjunga rising to 8585 m altitude, the world third highest peak, it is the pointed tip on  the right side of the picture. Old Buddhist monastery of Bhutanese ancestry. Here one of the oldest, Pemayangste whose name means' Perfect Sublime Lotus ". The walls inside are covered with paintings, both delightful depictions of nature, animals and plants but also terrifying bloodthirsty gods and goddesses with many arms and heads. At the front of the aisle one sculpture of Buddha seated in meditation. There are ritual drums, seats for the monks and the library upstairs with all the holy scriptures. At the top of the third floor is the whole world mountain sculpted with just about everything that the paintings depict, hermit in the caves, thunderbolts, from nature down there to the gods at the top in countless formations. The entrance to the temple area has a small temple with a giant prayer wheel in brass. It went around by himself with an electric motor and sent the prayers to higher spheres like the prayer flags everywhere who flutters in the wind. The prayers that are written on them are brought away over the mountains. All around the monastery are "Chortens", grave monuments of  important Buddhists.

The image of Sikkim can be supplemented by the desolate expanses of cold valleys in the north. Rhododendrons in 36 different species, orchids in and at least 450 and at last, the lovely red panda, the symbol of Sikkim.





Image albums and Links



Fangorn Forest between Tzoka and Dzongri



Red Panda

Drawings from India

Slideshow  Darjeeling & Sikkim