Upon arrival in Darjeeling, checked into the chintz decorated Windamere, perched high above “main street”. This British colonial era hotel has been here for close to a hundred and fifty years …. the pictures, artwork, framed letters, some dating back to 1845, period piece furniture, all scattered throughout the hotel is like a walk through history. It is far from a typical hotel …. more of a series of rooms in a very large cottage …. very charming and very British, right down to afternoon tea served precisely at 4 pm! Tea, yes, that would be Darjeeling tea ….. delicious.
May 29, 1953 is probably not a date that automatically stands out to most of us from North America. It seems my first full day in Darjeeling coincides with “Tenzing Norgay Day”!! Still stumped?? He is rather a local hero in these parts! Sanjay my guide and I walked to the Himalayan Mountain Institute, where there was a celebration just breaking up beside the museum dedicated to Tenzing … Yes, that famous Sherpa who scaled Mount Everest with Sir Edmund!! ….. Although there is still doubt even within the climbing community here, that perhaps Mallory did indeed make it there first! Unless the infamous letter to his wife is found at the top, which is highly unlikely, the record will stand …….. Norgay and Hillary it is! A large statue of Tenzing Norgay stands proudly in front of the museum …. A monument at the foot, bears some of his ashes. The museum was fascinating … what a change from gear used 60 years ago to the plush supplies and insulated clothing, tents, sleeping bags, climbing supplies and boots of today!
Tenzing was born into the Sherpa community in Nepal, but eventually made his home in Darjeeling, hence the national hero status he enjoys here … Rightfully so ……. He became the head of Darjeeling’s Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, contributing much to Himalayan expeditions his whole life. Most of my pictures below are of his extended family, friends and many friends living here, dressed up for the day, celebrating all over town!I In the late afternoon, I walked over to a concert held in his honor … the festivities continued into the evening … thousands milling around …. the younger generation enjoyed posing in their celebratory clothing.
Darjeeling’s historical Raj splendor is still somewhat in evidence here, but it is the Tibetan, Nepali and Bengali character that makes up the ambiance of this area for the most part. Looking around at the population, I feel more like I could be in Tibet or Nepal, or what I imagine them to be 🙂
How cool to end up here for Tenzing Norgay Day …….