Prays

Buddhist prayer flags are to be seen all over Sikkim, but no visit is complete without a trip to a monastery. We went to Rumtek – serene, intricate and intriguing.

I’d been hankering for some local ‘organic’ food and beer throughout the journey (Sikkim is supposedly the organic farming capital of India). We did our fair share of momos, but it was at the foothills of the monastery that my beer wish got fulfilled. Local beer and a serving of thukpa, momos and fried rice.

And all those clouds that had been obscuring our views finally burst into rain, catching us on our dinner run to M.G.Road.

Bookman’s bookshop got a well-deserved browse for gifts for my nieces and nephew, and I came away with a recent book on the history of Sikkim for myself.

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And what did I learn? Beyond the breathtaking landscapes, Sikkim has a murky history, with most of the action set between the 1940’s until the 1970’s.

Too soon, it was time to say goodbye to the Himalayan state and head back to Bagdogra. The Teesta river accompanied us all along the way, even beckoned us to stop a few times.

My last photo just before we entered West Bengal, after which I spent all my time looking at the phone and trying to resolve a transportation dispute!

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I end my Sikkim travel diary with some words of wisdom:

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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:

 

Rays

Sikkim. Viewing the peaks in the non-peak season. Therefore, none of the clichéd photos of either the summer blooms or the wintry snowy landscapes. Mostly barren mountains, with the promise of colour. Expecting clear blue skies and getting clouds. Making us look harder and deeper. Winter may be coming, but we got there first.

As always, I began my holiday planning from the homestay search. Gangtok, Lachung, Lachen, Rumtek, Pelling … all beckoned, but when Airbnb lobbed ‘Zuluk’ at me, there was no other place I wanted to see. Mum and Usha Aunty, my travel companions, had little choice but to go along with my plans.

It took a fair bit of my hard headed determination to get us to Zuluk, and what a delightful experience that journey was. Living with the locals, partying with strangers, and the private theatre of the sun’s romance with Kanchenjunga at dawn to cap it off!

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Our hosts’ kitchen at Zuluk

 

 

 

Getting to the viewing site was an adventure itself. A series of misunderstandings and an overcast sky the night before all threatened to put a dampener on our excursion. We left late, and hoped and prayed with all our might that it was not too late. That wish was granted:

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Kanchenjunga waited alone until we got here

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The sky turned fiery

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The clouds made way

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And the sun came out in a blaze of glory

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While Kanchenjunga blushed

We woke and dressed up at 2.30 am to get to this spot in time, and were blessed to be the only ones at this spot. More of the scene unfolded as the day got brighter.

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Paused our chattering teeth just enough for a sunrise selfie

After we had thawed a little in the sunshine ourselves, we looked beyond the obvious landscape, and found this:

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A bit of frost that couldn’t decide whether to stay icy at the freezing temperature, or to thaw with the gentle persuasion of the sun’s warmth.

And the reason I picked Zuluk? The ‘roadscape’:

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