Thursday, November 27, 2008

a world away, for now

We called Hotel Broadway in Kolkata to see if we could arrive a day early. They remembered us as "the people on the motorcycles" and said that we could have our same spacious room again. Our current plan is to fly from Kolkata to Bangkok on 2 December, but after learning of the anti-government protests at the Bangkok international airport we will see what happens to our itinerary. We're also hoping that we aren't affected by the foreigner-targeted violence that recently shook Mumbai, but our primary concern for the next 2 days is safely dodging trucks, cars, SUVs, livestock, people, and potholes on our ~700 km journey back to Kolkata. All of this seems a world away in peaceful Darjeeling.

We awoke to another amazing view of Kachendzonga and surrounding peaks and spent our last full day in Darjeeling visiting the Bhutia Basti Monastery. As with the Enchey Monastery in Gangtok the main temple area of Bhutia is currently under construction. Unlike Enchey, however, the walls of Bhutia were covered with elaborate colorful murals. As far as we could tell there weren't any monks onsite other than perhaps the temple caretaker.

In the main town plaza local students from St. Robert's High School were participating in a relay hunger strike in support of a constitutional amendment to endorse the separation of "Gorkhaland" from the state of West Bengal. The movement has widespread support among the town, with shopkeepers placing signs with Gorkhaland over the "W Bengal" text in their addresses. The justification for the secession is the cultural and financial disparity between the regions, the southern region of W Bengal having a much higher percentage of ethnic Indians and being significantly more destitute. I wish them luck.

Jascha adjusted my clutch lever to help keep my tendonitis in check, cleaned our air filters, and ran our engines for a while in hopes of an easier start in the chilly morning air.

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