Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Day 06 - 17000 ft.

Day six we woke up in the hotel and Laching and drew the curtains and OH MY GOD! The view was breathtaking! Snow capped mountains and the early morning sunlight glinting off it making it look golden! And it was still 4.00 am. The sunrise is early in the east in Sikkim. Its so far up north too. Its the top of a mountain. Looking north!

And then we left.. To go see the snow and the place where the road goes into the mountains and stops. This is called Zero Point. At an altitude of 17,000 Feet above sea level. On the way we stopped at a place called Yama-sam-dong (did I get that right?) This is the place where there are a lot of wooden huts during the tourist season and serves as a base of trekking expeditions. We hired boots, had breakfast of stramed bread with butter and jam and moved on. It was still 7 in the morning and bitterly cold. But already the place was teeming with cars and people on their way to zero point.

This was the place where we saw the himalayan mountain yak. And we passed through a advanced army base camp. We were not allowed to photograph as we passed through the army camp but here are the pics of the yak and zero point where we played in the snow and had tea. the small stream had ice cold water and i didnt dip my hand in. so i took pictures. My father and brother put their hand in and were unable to move their fingers for 20 minutes..

The road was steep winding and desolate
This is where the road ends and you have to turn back - Zero Point. 17,000 Ft
And then we started back. We came back to Lachung, packed our bags and made our way back to Gangtok. the journey was again for the whole day and tiring. My brother tried to drive the Scorpio for some time and he almost went off the road! The driver was fast and rash as usual and were thankful he brought us back to Gangtok safely!

But These two days in North Sikkim were the best we had yet. We were sad that we didnt get permission to visit Changu Lake and Nathu-La, but this was fun too.. Tomorrow we will visit teagardens and markets, have visitors and visit a few temples. Then we will see camp in a farmhouse out-building and finally make our way back to West Bengal to catch the flight home three days later...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Day 05 - North Sikkim

Northern Sikkim is closer to China. And when we started that day, we had a Mahinda Scorpio with a young driver. And by god, he was fast and rash. I got a feeling I was in the Army and was on a army jeep on my way into China. It was a wonderful day and we headed north.

As we left the city, we stared to go into smaller roads that led higher up into the mauntains. The river Teesta is a river that flows into sikkim from china. We followed the river up the valley and saw landslides and boulders and small camps and army trucks. We passed through an army base and at one point left the normal road and took a road that is maintained by the army. It is built by the BRO - Border Roads Organisation.

The roads are so tough and used so much by the army that thay have to be maintained round the clock. And if there is a landslide they have to move in and clear it and repair it. We saw bulldozers, tractors, lorries and roadrollers that were there all the time, keeping the roads open and the army trucks moving all the time.

We got stuck in a landslide and had to wait two hours for the bulldozer to come and clear the boulders from the road. but we had some amazing sights and the views all round the valley was breathtaking. Here are some pictures..

The last two pictures are of the most amazing refuelling stop I have ever seen in my life! you see a cottage, stop. honk. out comes a man with a jerrycan of diesel for the vehicle. he has a funnel and a old piece of dirty cloth. he filters the diesel using the cloth and the funnel and fills your tank. pay him for the can of diesel and move on. Fun!

We finally reached a place called Lachung at about 7 in the evening. and just as we reached the hotel we saw the snow on the mountains in front of us. But we were tired and we had dinner in the room and went to bed early. It was a full day drive and a tiring one.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Day 04 - Around Gangtok

Gangtok is on a hill and is spread over two adjacent peaks. And there is lots to see, and we saw the following places. We later realized that we missed out on some of the more well known tourist places and saw the lesser places. I am not complaining. We didnt plan to be typical tourists and enjoyed the offbeat places.

First was the bhakthang falls just outside Gangtok where the river Ranipool falls into the gorge. here are two pictures. one of the water and the other of the gorge!

This is where my brother tried on some exotic local lepcha clothes.. He looks funny eh?

Then we went around seeing some temples and a monastery. a comparatively new one. It was a challenge for me because it is far below the road level and the only access is down a steep footpath. I made it down and up again in one piece..

Then we went to Tashi View Point. A high point in Gangtok from where you can get a 360 degree view of the hills..

Then it was afternoon. We had lunch and climbed on the ropeway between the two peaks of Gangtok..

Here is an amazing thing! You can see that clouds also throw shadows! Notice the sunlight is dappled on the hillside. The dark patches are actually the shadows of the clouds on the mountainside..

Last but not the least we went and saw the Do-Drul Chorten Monastery, and then headed back to dinner and bed.. It was a long day.. Tomorrow we will visit North Sikkim..

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day 03 - Gangtok

The next day started with a good omen. As soon as we got up, had a bath and went out to the dining room for breakfast, we saw Mount. Kanchenjunga. There it was in all its glory, right in front of the dining room door.. After clicking photos and eating breakfast, we left for Gangtok, the main destination of our trip.

Mount Kanchenjunga from The Swiss Hotel

See my picasa web album to find out where mount Kanchenjunga is..

The road goes down into the Teesta valley and crosses it into sikkim. Darjeeling is in West Bengal, There is some talk about a separate state called Gorkkhaland. And Sikkim and Gangtok are on the other bank of Teests. And the road only crosses into Sikkim at the bottom of the valley. And Gangtok is again on the hill. So you go all the way down and cross the river and climb all the way back up into Gangtok.

Tea Gardens on the way down from Darjeeling

The winding road down.

Then we reached Gangtok in the evening and were welcomed in the traditional way with silk khatas as a token of welcome and goodwill. The Hotel Delamere is a unique boutique hotel and we felt welcome and immediately relaxed. The drive from Darjeeling was a long and strenuous one with a mad driver. Then er went up to M G Marg for dinner, came back and to bed. Tomorrow we would see more of Gangtok and Sikkim. Two very interesting things about Gangtok.

1. No taxis from outside Gangtok are allowed in the city. We reached the outskirts of Gangtok and had to get out of the Tata Sumo. Then we got into a local Maruti Omni Taxi and reached the Hotel Delamere. That is to make sure that people in Gangtok get the best of the tourist traffic. otherwise People can hire a taxi somewhere outside and roam about Sikkim without sparing a pie for the people of Gangtok!

2. Traffic is banned in M G Marg. It is a walk only zone. What a pleasure to see such a place. I wish we had roads and places like that in Bangalore. Where you can walk without fear of being run over by some lunatic on a kinetic.. (The Walkway beside M G Road in Bangalore is gone to make way for the Metro.)

More coming up after the break, stay tuned to EOTM

Friday, June 10, 2011

Day 02 - Darjeeling

The night was cold and weary from travel, but the day dawned at 4.30 and we didnt feel it was early! We got a shock when we saw the clock and realised it was so early. Darjeeling is in the eastern part of India and so the sun rises earler. and to add to that it is a hill station and it is summer now. so sunlight is longer and comes earlier than usual!

We got up, got ready and left after breakfast. That was in the wooden floored dining room in the hotel which has a beautiful old fireplace. sadly it is no longer used. By the way the hotel had wooden flooring in all the rooms and the false ceiling is also of wood. the real ceiling on top is of shingles.

First was the Japanese Peace Pagoda and the meditation center.. A calm old place with a wooden staircase and paintings of bamboo in brush and ink, hanging on the walls in the upper rooms. Surprisingly there are no grills in the windows. If you lean out far enough, you can fall to your death. It was quite scary for my mom, who has a fear of heights (acrophobia)

The Japanese Inscription

Brush and Ink sketches in the typical Japanese style.

The entrance to the meditation center, with a picture and statue of the founder.

The pagoda itself.

Next we moved on to the waterfalls. down into the valley amidst the tea gardens and rocks, and had three cups of the most beautiful tea I have ever had in my life! Then we came back up again and we bought the same tea for friends and family, some three kilograms of it for about a thousand rupees. divided by five people paying, it didnt cost much..

My brother as usual got carried away and tried to so some stunts standing in the flowing water from the waterfalls and promptly fell into it. Came out dripping wet in ice cold water and downed some three cups of tea at the roadside shop.

Then we roamed around the Indira Gandhi zoo, which didnt have much, tried to see the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute which was closed and came back to the hotel. Then we went out walking into the market street in the late evening. My grandmother had locked her bag and lost the key. We broke the lock and went looking for a new one. We found that and also some warm woolen knitted caps, and a wonderful knife that is carried traditionally by the gorkhas.. It is called a kukri..

The way to the waterfalls where my brother fell into the water trying some stunts, standing in the ice cold water.

My brother dripping wet from head to toe and the driver of the jeep drinking tea

The mist-cloud shrouded tea gardens from the hut where they were selling the tea, which we got.

Then back to the hotel, dinner and bed.. We had to leave early next morning to Gangtok in Sikkim!