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Darjeeling First Flush - May 2015



The Darjeeling First Flush photography and wildlife tour will take you to some of the most famous tea plantations in the world. This tour will also take us to the wonderful Sikkim area in North Bengal, home of the Bengal Tiger.

We will get to Darjeeling right around the end of the first flush harvest and the beginning of the second flush harvest. Find out how tea is being processed, learn to taste some of the finest teas and meet and photograph the people who pick and process it.

You will encounter a rich and colorful culture, and visit gems like the Sangacholing Monastery, which was built in 1697.

Optional Extension: Nepal Heritage and Wildlife Safari Tour (6 days)

While we are in the North Bengal area, the Kingdom of Nepal is only a small hop away. At the end of the India leg of the tour, you have the choice to continue on with us to Kathmandu, Nepal for a six-day adventure. We will spend time to explore Chitwan National Park, photographing in the jungle with elephants and other wildlife and of course we will see Kathmandu and its rich culture and religion.


Kurseong - Cochrane Place, Darjeeling - Cedar Inn, Pelling. - Mt Pandim, Gangtok - Norkhill Hotel, Kalimpong - Silver Oaks, Gorumara - Sinclairs Retreat, Kathmandu - Hotel Yak and Yeti/Shangri la, Chitwan - Jungle Villa


India (13 days): EUR 3499 per person (based on double room) - for single room add EUR 229
Nepal (6 days, optional): EUR 2399 per person (based on double room) - for single room add EUR 399




please note that some details might change


Duration 12 Nights 13 days

Day 1: Arrival and Reception - 18 May 2015

We receive you on arrival at Bagdogra Airport (We would wait for you at the Main Exit of the Airport with your Name Placard) and help you to board the car.

Siliguri to Kurseong via Hill Cart Road, 45kms in 2hrs

Drive to Kurseong - a sublime tea town in the lower Darjeeling hills at 1,458 m. Our road goes through the plains till Sukna - the gateway of Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary. >From here the road climbs up on the hills and passes through the dense forests of Mahananda Valley. The famous narrow-gauge railway runs along the road and you can see the narrow-gauge train chugging up on the serpentine track. Stop at some of the scenic spots to take photographs and proceed to Kurseong.

Kurseong is famous for its scenic landscape and great climate. The fabulous view of snow ranges over the rolling slopes covered with tea gardens and the peaceful environment give you a desired break from the routine life. Kurseong is also marked by some historical buildings and churches made during the British period.

Check in at Cochran's Place - a recreated heritage style hotel on a ridge with splendid views of the Kanchenjunga mountain range and the tea valley on either side. It was a former residence of stately British Colonial resident, Percy John Cochran.

After a warm reception with the wafting aromas of the finest Darjeeling tea and a light refreshment at the resort we go for a leisure walk in the serene country road towards the Eagle Crag for a awesome view of sunset beyond the vast plains of North Bengal.

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Day 2: Kurseong full day excursion - 19 May 2015

After breakfast have an excursion to the Makaibari and Ambhootia Tea Estate. Both gardens produce some of the finest quality of bio organic tea. The fabulous locations of the tea gardens are also worth visiting. Visit the tea factory and observe the tea plucking and processing (seasonal).

Go for a picnic at Kettle Valley Picnic Spot at Dilaram Tea Estate. The scenic place on the Banks of the river Rinchengtong offers you a rare opportunity to play in its crystal clear waters in the backdrop of snow-clad mountains. Back to resort for a leisure evening at the beautiful garden of the resort watching at the mighty Himalayas.

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Day 3: Kurseong excursion and Ride in the Narrow-Gauge Train to Darjeeling in 3hrs - 20 May 2015

Today visit the Churches in Kurseong – St Mary Church. The tranquil and beautiful hilly forests of St. Mary s Hill amidst which is the Church and the Grotto evoke a deep sense of piousness and reverence. It s a place visited by Christians as well as people of other faiths who visit to pay respects or to worship in Church.

St. Mary s Grotto is a stone-cave which houses the statue of Mother Mary where devotees and visitors light candles in honour of Lord Jesus Christ and Mother Mary.

Also visit Chimney Meadow and Bagora Hill to get a view of the plains far below stretching to the horizon like a great carpet lay out at the feet of the mountains. During the season just before the monsoon, it is a pleasure to watch rain clouds cling to the blue-green slopes and accumulate at the top the mountain ranges. From there, meandering through the evergreen forests, the sixteen kilometres long Old Military Road leads to charming high altitude settlements like Chimney and Bagora.

Back to Hotel for lunch and then go to Kurseong station to take a romantic ride in the heritage steam train. Leaving Kurseong the train passes through Kurseong bazaar and goes on in its journey. The sight of Tibetan prayer flags as the train passes over Hussel (whistle) khola (stream) makes the traveller feel that he is now truly in the mountains. The train passes through small forests of pine, maple, chestnut, pear, cherry, and cardamom fields. On its journey the train passes through many small station and beautiful country side – Toong, Sonada, Jorebungalow and then Ghoom – the highest station in India at 7500ft.

Leaving Ghoom the train descends towards Darjeeling. On the way the train passes through Batasia Loop with its memorial to the Gorkha soldiers. From the Batasia Loop you can get a spectacular view of Darjeeling town with the Kanchenjunga and other snowy mountains in the back-drop. From now onwards up till Darjeeling, the snowy peaks are in full view for the travellers' eyes. Finally the train enters the Darjeeling Station in twilight, the destination of the journey.

We help you to check in at your hotel. Freshen up and have a lovely Indian dinner at the hotel.

Darjeeling is one of the oldest hill stations in India, and has plenty of options, both for those seeking a lazy getaway from the hot plains, as well as nature enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies.

This heavenly retreat is bathed in hues of every shade. Flaming red rhododendrons, sparkling white magnolias, miles of undulating hillsides covered with emerald green tea bushes, the exotic forests of silver fir - all under the blanket of a brilliant azure sky dappled with specks of clouds, compellingly confounds Darjeeling as the QUEEN OF HILL STATIONS. The crest of Kanchenjunga shining in the first dawn light truly supports the title.

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Day 4: Tiger Hill Excursion - 21 May 2015

Early morning visit to TIGER HILL at 8442ft above sea level to experience the unforgettable sight of Sunrise over the snow peaks of Kunchenjungha Mountains. The summit at Tiger Hill also commands a fine view of the vast plains of North Bengal, the mountain ridges slowly descending to the plains, several courses of major rivers of North Bengal like Tista, Mahananda and Balasan along with dense forest covers of Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary. Visit GHOOM MONASTERY - one of the oldest Monasteries in Darjeeling and also BATASIA LOOP - the picturesque garden and War Memorial with the backdrop of snow ranges - on your way back to hotel.

City tour in Darjeeling

Today after breakfast we will go for a guided heritage walk in Darjeeling for 2 to 3 hrs

The heritage walk is a rare offering in Darjeeling that very few know about. The regular tours do not cover such guided walking tours that can let you explore the rich heritage and history of Darjeeling Hills. There are centuries old buildings and houses in Darjeeling that still reflect the traditional British architecture. Added to this, the churches, monasteries, monuments, the people & culture, unique flora & fauna, majestic mountains & valleys, narrow-gauge train, tea garden, old shopping places and food joints, and many other great old & modern attractions constitute the rich heritage of Darjeeling. Our guided walk will attempt to give you a glimpse of all this

After that we take you to the TEA GARDEN on the undulating valleys for viewing the scenic landscape with tea plucking and processing (SEASONAL). Now we take you to the TIBETAN REFUGEE CENTER (CLOSED ON SUNDAY) and BHUTIA BASTI to procure the traditional handicraft items made by the local people. Visit AVA ART GALLERY that houses the unique art and embroidery works of Mrs. Ava Devi. Back to Hotel.

Recommended: Free afternoon for roaming around the local market for shopping and a leisure evening at the Mall.

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Day 5: Darjeeling to Pelling Via - Melli - Jorthang - 130kms in 4.5hrs - 22 May 2015

Drive to Pelling in West Sikkim. The exciting journey runs through the winding road cutting across the valleys, hills and villages and follows the course of Tista River and then beautiful Rangit River till Legship. Take a refreshing break at the view point near Melli and watch the magnificent bird eye view of the confluence of both the rivers. From Legship the road takes a steep turn through Geyzing. The view of the entire surrounding widens as you proceed towards Pelling through the clouds and forests. Stop a while on the way to enjoy the scenic beauty and take some photographs.

Pelling - a small tourist hub in the West Sikkim hills known for serene holy lakes, old Monasteries and pristine landscape. Pelling sprawled at 6100ft (1830M) offers one of the most amazing views of Kunchenjungha Range.. We assist you to check in at hotel. Free afternoon for a leisure walk along the misty track through pine forest.

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Day 6: Tour in Pelling - 23 May 2015

After breakfast we take you to the famous and one of the most important monasteries in Sikkim- the PEMAYANGTSE MONASTERY- the seat of the Nyingma Order of Tibetan Buddhism was originally a small Lhakhang built by Lhatsun Chempo in the 17th Century. The monastery contains numerous antique idols and objects of worship and is filled with wall paintings and sculptures. The most astounding feature is a painted wooden structure of Zantho Pelri - the Heavenly Palace of Guru Rinpoche.

Sangacholing Monastery Hike

Walk to Sangacholing Monastery, built in the year 1697. This is considered as one of the oldest monastery in Sikkim. The trek takes about 30min to reach to Monastery which offers a panoramic view of the valley and Pelling town.

Rabduntse Palace Walk

We take you to Rubduntse Ruins - the ruins of the second capital of Sikkim of 1814AD. Lying at a walking distance from Pemayangtse, the place also offers scenic view of the surrounding valleys and mountains.

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Day 7: Pelling to Gangtok Via Ravangla and Samdruptse 180kms in 6hrs - 24 May 2015

Today we leave Pelling and drive to Gangtok. This journey to Gangtok will pass through some magical landscape of South Sikkim as you ride up to Ravangla a small scenic town situated on the ridge at an altitude of 7100ft (2100M) between the Meanam and Tendong hills. From Ravangla we take an uncommon route via Damtam and go to Samdruptse, where a 135ft high statue of Guru Padma Sambhava, the tallest in the world, was built recently for the Buddhist pilgrims. We continue driving via Namchi to Gangtok - the capital town of Sikkim and the earlier Himalayan Kingdom welcomes you with its typical traditional Hospitality.

We assist you to check in at hotel. Get refreshed and have free leisure evening. We recommend a relaxed evening with short walk around The Mall to enjoy the typical hill city life of Gangtok in the twilights.

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Day 8: Gangtok City tour - 25 May 2015

Today after breakfast we take you to a full day city tour in and around Gangtok. Visit GOVERNMENT INSTITUTE OF COTTAGE INDUSTRY (Closed on Sunday, 2nd Saturday) where beautiful souvenirs like carpets, hand carved tables (choktses), traditional handicrafts, furniture, hand looms carpets and other products are produced & exhibited for sale. VISIT ORCHID HOUSE to see or buy some rare orchids and ornamental plants. We also take you to SIKKIM RESEARCH INSTITUTE OF TIBETOLOGY, which holds world's largest collection of books and rare manuscripts on the subject of Mahayana Buddhism plus many religious works of art and incredibly finely executed silk embroidered Thangkas (paintings). Just beside the institute is the DODURL CHORTEN encircled by 108 prayer wheels built by late Trulsi Rimpoche in 1945-46. This is one of the most important and biggest stupas found in Sikkim.

Now we take you to the most important religious place of Sikkim - THE RUMTEK DHARMA CHAKRA CENTER, 24kms from Gangtok. Built in 1960 by His Holiness the late 16th Gyalwa Karmapa it is a replica of the original Kagyurpa Monastery in Tsurphu, Tibet, the seat of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa Rinpoche, head of the Karmapa sub sect of Kargyudpa order of Tibetan Buddhism. It now functions as the headquarters of the Dharma Chakra Religious Centre. Walk to the Shri Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies just adjacent to the Monastery Building.

While coming back from Rumtek visit JAWAHARLAL NEHRU BOTANICAL GARDEN to see the collection of well tended tropical and temperate plants and orchids. Stop for a while at the SHANTI VIEW POINT to enjoy the panoramic view of the Gangtok valley.

Recommended afternoon activities: Leisure evening walk along the quiet ridge park road and enjoy the beauty of the hills.

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Day 9: Gangtok to Kalimpong Via Rongpo - 95kms in 3hrs - 26 May 2015

Today we drive to Kalimpong. The beautiful journey runs all along the emerald green Tista River snaking its way through the valleys. Cross Rongpo - the border of Sikkim and Bengal and spend some time on the way to enjoy the natural landscape. Proceed to Chitrey. Form here the road takes sharp left turn widening the view of the valleys as you climb further up towards Kalimpong.

Kalimpong - a little town and sub divisional head quarter at an altitude of 4100ft (1250M) in the lower Himalayas, is famous for its mild climate, scenic landscape doted with old colonial buildings, magnificent view of Kunchenjungha and rare orchids. Check in at Hotel.

Delo and Graham's Home visit

After light refreshment we take you to famous DELO VIEW POINT at 5500ft (1650M), the highest point of Kalimpong town having a very picturesque view of the high snow mountains and the Tista River Valley. On our way back we take you to the Historical Dr. GRAHAM'S HOMES, the house of Dr. J A Graham, one of the earliest Scottish Missionaries, who established an orphanage and a farm house in 1900. The Chapel at the house is a glorious example of old European Architecture. Back to Hotel and after a short tea break walk down to the KALIMPONG BAZAAR - popular place for shopping traditional handicraft items like hand woven woolen garments, wooden masks, Tibetan paintings and many other attractive souvenirs.

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Day 10: Local tour in Kalimpong - 27 May 2015

Today after breakfast we take you to ZANG DHOK PALRI PHODANG MONASTERY, the largest and most beautiful Monastery in Kalimpong established in 1976 by His Holiness Dalai Lama. The monastery belongs to the Yellow Hat Sect of Buddhism. Also visit DURPIN DARA VIEW POINT close to the monastery. Situated at a height of 4500ft (1380M) the place commands a beautiful panoramic view of Kunchenjungha peak and other prominent peaks of Himalayas along with the River valleys flowing below through hills and forests. Now we take you to RISHI BANKIM CHANDRA PARK, a small park with full of flowers and birds. A perfect place for relaxing. Also visit ORCHID NURSERIES in the down town to have glimpse and purchase of rare orchids.

In the afternoon walk down to the KALIMPONG BAZAAR - popular place for shopping traditional handicraft items like hand woven woolen garments, wooden masks, Tibetan paintings and many other attractive souvenirs.

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Day 11: Kalimpong to Gorumara National park – 110kms in 4hrs - 28 May 2015

We reach Murti in Gorumara National Park a fascinating picnic spot on the bank of the Murti River guarded by high Sal and mixed riverine forest on one side. Check in at the beautifully located forest resort on the bank of Murti River.. We have a free evening to enjoy the quiet environment on the bank of river.

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Day 12: Gorumara Jungle Safari - 29 May 2015

We would take you to an exclusive car safari to Gorumara National Park from Lataguri. The journey passes through the deep natural grasslands of Gorumara - the natural habitat for Rhinoceros, Elephants, Leopard, bison and many other species of birds and reptiles. Watch out a leopard licking its paw leisurely on the tree brunch or a heard of spotted deer suddenly disappeared into the thick forests at the sound of your vehicle. Now we take you Rhino point - a Watch Tower in the core area of the national park. From here you can get a vast panoramic view of the Gorumara grassland. There is a salt pit just at the base of the tower, where the animals regularly come to taste the salt. We also take you to the Jatraprasad Watch tower few kilometers further to Rhino Point. The forest here is deeper and the watch tower provides an excellent view of the Grassland with the Murti and Jaldhaka River flowing through it. This is an ideal place for seeing the wild elephant and Indian bison. After a thrilling excitement we come back to Resort.

Afternoon Forest Safari

We also take you to Chuckchuki Watch Tower on the other side of the National Park. The watch tower is a recent addition for wildlife viewing and strategically built by the side of a water body covered by dense forests from all side. This is an ideal place for watching wild animals as they would surely come to the pond to drink water. The place is also known for migratory birds especially during the winter. We spend some time at the watch tower and enjoy the jungle atmosphere and then proceed to Kalamati - a typical remote tribal village on the fringe of the national park. The main community is Santhals and Oraon. We spend some time in the village and see the ethnic lifestyle of the villagers. Cultural show is also performed here on request. We return to the resort.

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Day 13: Gorumara to Bhadrapur - 140kms in 4hrs and fly to Kathmandu in 30min. - 30 May 2015

Today we check out from Murti and drive to Bhadrapur airport crossing the Indian Border to Nepal to take a small flight to Kathmandu.

Your tour in Indian part concludes with your transfer to Bhadrapur Airport. We help you to board your flight to Kathmandu.

OPTIONAL: 6 Days In Nepal

Duration: 5 Nights/ 6 Days

DAY 01: Arrival in Kathmandu

Am: Upon arrival in Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport, you will be greeted by our representative who will assist you with the transfer to the hotel. At the hotel’s lobby welcome refreshments will be served and room check in assistance is provided. Shortly afterwards there will be a tour briefing at the hotel’s lobby.

Evening: Welcome dinner at a Nepali restaurant featuring a cultural program.

Overnight at hotel in Kathmandu.

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DAY 02: Drive to Chitwan National Park. - 31 May 2015

AM: After breakfast, then 5 hour (196 km) scenic drive to Chitwan National Park via Prithwi Highway.

Upon arrival you will meet the naturalists and representatives of the jungle lodge followed by a tour briefing and lunch.

In the evening, the well stocked bar caters to the needs of the thirsty and a hearty meal of continental or Nepalese cuisine will be served around a campfire.

Dinner and Overnight at jungle lodge in Chitwan.

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DAY 03: Full-day jungle activities - 01 Jun 2015

AM: Early wakeup call and proceed for an elephant ride or a jungle walk, to view the wildlife in their early repose. This is the best time of the day to see the animals as we silently brush through dewy tall elephant grass (18-20 ft. tall), a habitat for rhinos, tigers and other wild animals. Spend 2-3 hrs. in the jungle, then return to the camp for breakfast.

Shortly afterwards, visit the elephant stables to get a firsthand knowledge on elephants from senior naturalists. Here one can witness the rare scene of elephants at bath.

PM: After a hearty lunch at camp, the afternoon is free for the much-deserved mid-afternoon siesta or a visit to the library for general in formations on the National park.

In the late afternoon, there is a choice to participate in the programs offered at the camp, which includes jungle drives in Land Rovers visiting different lakes inside the National Park, Canoe rides/ floats or an escorted Nature walk and bird watching excursion.

Dinner and Overnight at jungle lodge in Chitwan.

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DAY 04: Drive back to Kathmandu. - 02 Jun 2015

AM: After breakfast, get transferred to the park exit point, whereupon get in to a waiting vehicle and start 5 hours scenic drive to Kathmandu via Mungling Highway.

Upon arrival in Kathmandu, check in hotel for refreshments.

PM: Free afternoon for optional activities.

Overnight at hotel in Kathmandu.

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DAY 05: Sightseeing tour of Kathmandu City. - 03 Jun 2015

AM: After breakfast, proceed for a sightseeing tour of Kathmandu City.

It includes visit to the Hanuman Dhoka (Kathmandu Durbar Square) - an ancient durbar (palace) with its numerous old palaces, temples and pagodas, the Temple of Living Goddess “Kumari”, and the Kasthamandap Temple, which is believed to be constructed from the wood of a single tree from which Kathmandu derives its name.

In addition also visit the Boudhanath Stupa - an ancient colossal stupa and the center of Tibetan Buddhism in the world and the Pashupatinath Temple- the Temple of Lord Shiva situated on the bank of the holy Bagmati River.

PM: After lunch drive up to the Swayambhunath Stupa situated atop a hill from where you could get a bird’s eye view of Kathmandu Valley. The Swayambhunath Stupa is also known as the “Monkey Temple”!!

Evening: Farewell dinner.

Overnight at hotel in Kathmandu.

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DAY 06: Final Departure. - 04 Jun 2015

Free until final departure transfer to the Tribhuvan International Airport.

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Title: Darjeeling First Flush - May 2015
Start: May 18 2015
Duration: 13 days + 6 optional days
Location: India, North Bengal, Nepal
Language(s): English, German
Host(s): Chris Marquardt, Tim Vollmer
Min Participants: 6
Experience required: minimal
This workshop/tour is completed.

Photos from this tour/workshop:

» Photography by Chris Marquardt

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  • Twin share/ double room (for a single room add EUR 229 to the total cost)
  • full board (breakfast, lunch and dinner)
  • two professional photo instructors
  • English speaking tour escort for the entire duration
  • private car with A/C (3 people in one vehicle) for all days with tours and transfer
  • narrow-gauge train ride, activity charge with 2 forest safari, entrance and tax

Nepal (optional extension):

  • Twin share/ double room (for a single room add EUR 399 to the total cost)
  • all arrival and departure transfers in deluxe A/C vehicle (Car type based on group size)
  • 3 nights at hotel in Kathmandu, full board (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and 2 nights in Chitwan, full board, including all applicable taxes and jungle activities
  • all entrance fees as applicable in Kathmandu and Chitwan
  • sightseeing tour of Kathmandu accompanied by one English speaking professional tour guide in deluxe A/C vehicle for transportation
  • two professional photo instructors
  • English speaking tour escort during the tours
  • welcome and farewell dinners in Kathmandu

Not Included


  • airfare to/from India
  • tips
  • drinks
  • anything not explicitly mentioned above
  • items of personal nature such as bar bills, telephone calls, laundry, extra mileage and any extra cost incurred due to natural calamities, flight delays etc.
  • personal insurance, evacuation and medical expenses
  • additional nights

Nepal (optional):

  • flight from Bhadrapur (India) to Kathmandu (EUR 149 per person one way)
  • international airfares to/from Kathmandu (e.g. your flight home)
  • lunch and dinners while in Kathmandu (except welcome and farewell dinner and meals in Chitwan)
  • items of personal nature such as bar bills, telephone calls, laundry, extra mileage and any extra cost incurred due to natural calamities, flight delays etc.
  • personal insurance, evacuation and medical expenses
  • additional nights

Getting there

You will organize your own travel to Bagdogra Airport, India and from Bhadrapur Airport, India, or if you opt for the six day Nepal extension, to India and back from Kathmandu Tribuvan Airport.


You will stay in deluxe hotels, accommodation in India and (optionally) in Nepal is included in the respective package prices. Additional nights outside the dates listed on this page are not included, but if required, we're happy to arrange additional nights for you and handle payments.

Registration and Payment

On registration, you will be asked to pay a deposit of EUR 1000 to secure your spot on the tour. The remaining fee will be billed in two installments of half the remaining cost on Aug 01 2014 and December 01 2014.

Payments can be made using major credit cards or PayPal.


Author: Chris Marquardt

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Shoe pictograms 1 and 2 by Alex Podolsky under a CC BY 3.0 US license