Darjeeling: Getting high in the hills

As we were driven from the Bengal plains into the mountains above Siliguri in our aircon 4WD by a happy Gorkha, I was thinking of how strenuous this journey must have been in the early 1830's, when Arthur Campbell, Surgeon, British East India Company Forces went in search of a Hill Station.

The British created hill stations all over the empire to enable the British high command to continue ruling from a healthy air condition office during summer months.

Judging by the strain on our poor 4WD it must have been one hell of a trip even in peace with the support of an army of servants. British, Nepali, and Sikkim armies that had recently fought up and down these steep hills for this disputed corner of the planet.

The only reason that Arthur Campbell did not stop at the first hill that satisfied the altitude and land contour requirements for a hill station, was the desire to have a northern view of the Himalayas.

Darjeeling was not the first, the only or the highest hill and I can't find any explanation of why he picked it.

He worked hard to develop and promote the station as a sanatorium.

Darjeeling may have stayed small and inconsequential if not for British industrial espionage.

The East India Company revenues from export of Indian finished textiles had been dropping for a century as the British industrial revolution enabled fine textiles to be made at home. The company was diversifying as fast as possible.

Bengal was the major source of the hard drug opium that the company was pumping into China.
Millions were being made, but armies and wars cost money, so why not compete with China in the soft drug trade as well ?

Some choice tea plants were stolen from the Chinese and all the tea in China was soon less valuable.

Darjeeling produces about 25% of the worlds Darjeeling tea! As I start to understand India, I imagine the tea truck leaving Darjeeling and magically getting heavier and heavier with more tea on the way to Kolkata !!

Our Hotel Dekeling serves the best Darjeeling tea I have tasted in town so far. For internal safety, I am learning to love black tea!

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