Seeing dawn rise over the Himalayas from Tiger Hill is one of the things tourists do when in Darjeeling but of course, sometimes you cannot see anything because of rain / snow / fog / etc.
Dawn is at 605 am in late February and therefore we are told to get up at 4 am to leave by 4.30 in order to get to the top of Tiger Hill by 4WD jeep in time to see sunrise.
The ride up the hill is over the usual unmaintained narrow track and this picture (taken after dawn) shows the road winding its way up the hill.
Eventually you get near to the top but such is its popularity and the number of jeeps which have driven up there that a final walk is certain unless you have arrived very early.
The car park at the top will be more than full and it is amazing that the jeeps manage to get out again (this picture was taken just before we left).
At the top of the hill is an observation platform
and we found it worth paying the extra to go into it because then we were out of the biting
wind. If the sky is clear, then you will see a pre dawn glow to the east and in a northerly direction, the Himalayas will gradually appear in the growing light of the dawn.
Once the sun rises (to cheers from those waiting)
the snow on the Himalayas reflects the light
If the weather is particularly clear, then it is possible to spot Everest 107 miles away. In this photograph, Everest is the middle peak and appears smaller than Makalu (27,799 ft) on its right because Makalu is closer to the camera.
To see a better image of Everest than the one I took, click here.
Seeing dawn rise over Everest does indeed make getting up at such an absurd time worthwhile. We were very lucky to get a perfectly clear morning.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR)
If you come to Darjeeling then you have to ride the DHR. I can remember when I was very young, owning a book which had a map of the DHR in it and included a detailed description of how the trains were able to get from New Japai Guri at the bottom of the hill to Darjeeling at the top.
Since I read that book, there have been a number of landslides and it is not now possible to travel the whole route (despite the railway being a Unesco Heritage Site) but I am sure that I never then thought I would have the opportunity to ride any part of it.
The attractions of the railway to ex “boy train spotters” include:
- it is a 2ft (610mm) narrow gauge railway (there are four different track gauges in use in India)
- the train runs either down the high street or along / across the road
- although these days, Diesel is mainly used to haul the trains
- original steam trains are put on as “tourist specials”
- it is very cheap
So we are riding the 0840 special from
Darjeeling at 6812 ft to the highest station on
the route which is Ghum at 7407 ft and whilst
doing so we will be pulled by a steam train.
This section includes the famous Batasia loopwhere the track spirals around over itself (this picture was taken at the Batasia bridge (on the map above) as we went over the track below and in doing so, it rises a considerable height.
The train pauses for 10 minutes at the loop to
give you the chance to see the monument
have a look at the train
(this one has been in service for about 80 years)
and also to see back to Darjeeling across the valley.
At Ghum station
there is a museum which is
probably only of interest to the dedicated,
the train does a reverse in order to get to the front for pulling the train back to Darjeeling,
As we travel between the two towns, we do
indeed steam down, across and along the
street and cars have to follow behind whilst
getting covered with soot and ash. The noise, smoke. steam and constant train whistling are better than any other train I have been on.
Most people living along the track however ignore the train because they have seen it all before.
It was a great experience and brought my book memories back to life.
There are numerous online references about the DHR available including: