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Moving up to the Himalayas

12 November 2010 by Emma

Monastery in the hills

Bhutia Busty Monastery with Kanchendzonga in the background.

Following the mad panic that always ensues at the end of a bout of archive fever, I managed to complete a good chunk of my research in the Delhi archives and have now moved up to the Northeast of India and to the mountains of West Bengal and Sikkim.

The work here is a little different in that I’m now trying to find the descendants of some of the men I have been reading about in the archives and also get a feel for the area Charles Bell worked in. My first stop was Darjeeling, where I spent a couple of days visiting places where Bell and the 13th Dalai Lama had stayed and visiting a photography studio that had a number of interesting historical photograph taken at the time Bell was there. The area is surrounded and dominated by the Khangchendzonga range, this is the third highest mountain in the world and as the temperatures have dipped for winter, there is a good covering of snow on the mountain tops. This is the perfect time of year to visit as the day are warm, and the views, as you can see, are very clear out to the mountains. 

I then moved on to Kalimpong, a rough and ready, trading town on the frontiers between India and Tibet, it was here that long caravans of mules (and their muleteers) carrying loads of Tibetan wool came to after weeks spent crossing the dangerous passes over the Himalayas.  I’ve had great success in Kalimpong, where descendants of some of the town’s old families have put me in touch with the families of the men I hoped to trace. Kalimpong has been so productive and welcoming that I intend to make a detour back to the town to follow up some new leads.

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