Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest peak, steals the show in this once royal Kingdom. For less travelled treks and empty spaces, head to Sikkim in the eastern Himalaya.
We had just spent the morning talking to his bouncing pupils, aged three to ten, and were ready for a break. So we strolled up the road, nodding to the disinterested border patrol guards, and jumped over a storm drain into Nepal. It hardly felt like moving into another country, but the frisson that goes with flouting the rules turned lunch into a small adventure.
Our friend volunteered with the Mondo Challenge Foundation, a UK charity set up to help communities around the world . In 2010 she taught at the Magno Vale Academy for six months and finished just before we visited Darjeeling. When the charity’s founder heard we were going to visit the area he press-ganged us into acting as ‘ambassadors’ for the charity while we were there. He’s a very charming man. And persuasive.
On a banner stretched across the main road we read “2600 years of the enlightenment of Lord Buddha”. By chance we had arrived just in time to join in the celebratory procession planned for the next day. At a mere 2100m Darjeeling is unlikely to strike you down with altitude sickness, but be prepared for an ear-popping drive from the Indian plains as you ascend two kilometres in four hours.