Gaze

Of the 3 days that we spent in Sikkim, we managed to pack in quite a bit of action after the initial hiccups of getting the right permits and the right transport.

Our homestay in Gangtok was the charming Bookman’s B&B. The cafe and bookstore attached to the homestay were wonderful too, especially with all the lovely baking smells on our floor. Before exploring Gangtok however, we had to find our way to Zuluk one way and back another. After the sunrise spectacle from the peak at Zuluk, the plan was to pack up and drive to Changu Lake, stopping at sights along the way. The driver promised us that we would see Kanchenjunga again, but the off-season clouds chose to pick that day to cover up the mountain and deny us the sight.

Still, there was so much to admire. Longthu and Nathang Valley:

Baba Harbajan Mandir (the old one):

Elephant Lake and Cafe 13000, with long distance views of the Chinese border:

We couldn’t visit Nathu La pass as it was a day of trade/exchange, when the gates would be closed for visitors. We did spot the odd trucks carrying Chinese goods for sale in India, and hopefully going back with some Indian merchandise.

By the time we arrived at Changu (Tsomgo) Lake, it was shrouded in mist. The “blue lake” was a vast expanse of grey. With some yak fashions. And dress-up photo ops:

 

Advertisements

The Hills Are Alive!

The day after my Lago Titicaca exploration, we were scheduled to fly out from Puno back to Lima. Woke up at an unearthly hour 4th day in a row to find that the clear skies of the morning before had transformed into gloomy and overcast. I’d been following weather reports that were so off the mark until that point – cloudy in Cusco, rain in Machu Picchu, rain at Titicaca,  all in reality ending up being warm and sunny days and cold nights – that I sniggered at another rainy day forecast. There was a little icy drizzle as we bundled up into the car, but nothing had prepared us for this sight from the airport after security check:

Juliaca to Arequipa

SNOW????? Oooh, we didn’t see THAT coming! Never a cause for complaint, especially when a camera is handy to click away. Except, soon there were announcements that the flight was cancelled, and we would have to queue up to reschedule. As the announcement was made first in Spanish, we were the last to figure it out, and ended up in the tail end of that queue with little hopes of getting out that day.

With plenty of time on hand waiting for our turn, we made a Plan B, and a Plan C. The brightest idea we had was to drive to Arequipa, 5 hours away (sunny forecast), and fly out of there. The lady from the airline had heard that the road might be dangerous or blocked, but if we could make it to Arequipa, she would have our flight changed at no extra cost. Nice!

I must admit I was excited at the prospect of a road trip. We rushed through a late morning breakfast, and soon, were on the road. Predictably, the landscape was gorgeous. A light sprinkling of snow on brown mountains gave it a cake-dusted-with-icing sugar look. We marvelled more than once about the sudden snowfall. And I couldn’t resist all those moving vehicle photos that I warn people about.

Juliaca to ArequipaJuliaca to Arequipa

Juliaca to Arequipa

Juliaca to Arequipa

The sun made an appearance at midday, skies turned blue, and all was well on the road.

Juliaca to Arequipa

Juliaca to Arequipa

Juliaca to Arequipa

Juliaca to Arequipa

And then, this:

Juliaca to Arequipa

Juliaca to Arequipa

Juliaca to Arequipa

Hey, all those photos with a greenish colour cast are through the tinted windows, thanks to Souvik’s strange reluctance to open windows. Maybe it was the cold? I didn’t notice 😉

I requested Señor Jimmy, who was driving the car, and taking photos on his own camera at the same time, to stop if we spotted any grazing llamas. He obliged.

Juliaca to ArequipaJuliaca to Arequipa

Juliaca to Arequipa

Juliaca to Arequipa

Llamas, alpacas, does it matter? I was pretty much on top of the world, whooping with joy, no other people for miles around!

Juliaca to Arequipa Juliaca to Arequipa Juliaca to Arequipa

There was only one roadblock on the way. A long lineup of vehicles, because a bus had broken down. No movement for almost an hour, then some aggressive moves by some cars, and good old-fashioned road rage. I’ve added to my limited Spanish vocabulary “El Burro” and even contributed “estúpido”, coz one must learn the ways of the locals, right?

Soon after that traffic cleared, the landscape had a drastic transformation too.

Juliaca to Arequipa

No more snow. Only desert. And the hint of canyons.

Juliaca to ArequipaJuliaca to ArequipaJuliaca to Arequipa Juliaca to Arequipa Juliaca to Arequipa

Juliaca to Arequipa

Juliaca to Arequipa

Arequipa itself is one of the major cities of Peru, and has a long and interesting history and culture. I would have loved to visit, especially the Colca Cańon nearby, but time’s too short, and Lima is calling. Saving Arequipa for another trip!

After an eventful 5 hours, one of those rare drives where I stayed awake throughout the way, we arrived at the airport. The LAN airways staff were super helpful, and we had our flight changes without any trouble.

I like to think that this was a bonus adventure thrown in at the tail end of my stay in Peru, and I left with a lingering image of awesomeness:

Juliaca to Arequipa

Day 3: On Top of the World

I woke up this morning from a dream that it was snowing on Whistler. And that dream came true!
We, Piali, Souvik & I, hiked to the village through the very picturesque trail, and hopped on to the gondola that would take us to the peak.

20120604-234602.jpg

Up that way I had my first ever glimpse of snow, and couldn’t help the tears of joy at that sight.

20120604-231803.jpg

Up up above it was 0 degrees C, and I was blessed with the lightest, most delicate sprinkling of fresh snow. For all those living in cooler regions, this must seem like much ado about a bit of ice, but coming from 30 deg ++ all my life, I was THRILLED to be freezing and prancing in the cold. Souvik was excited too, but did a much better job of containing it. For that, he was rewarded with some well aimed snowballs.

20120604-232815.jpg

We did the peak-2-peak ride from Whistler to Blackcomb, admiring the stunning landscape:

20120604-233145.jpg

20120604-233205.jpg

20120604-233229.jpg

20120604-233315.jpg

We were warmed by hearty soup, jackets on sale and hot chocolate, ever ready to pose in the cold.

20120604-233552.jpg

20120604-233608.jpg

20120604-233638.jpg

20120604-233655.jpg

With a heavy heart we had to leave Whistler, but the ride back was no less of a treat, with Piali obligingly stopping at every viewpoint for those awesome landscapes:

20120604-233948.jpg

20120604-234004.jpg

20120604-234056.jpg

20120604-234108.jpg

20120604-234151.jpg