Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Sikkim - Part Two


Will I ever be a traveler like him? Jacket, bike, shades, food and my country's flag for company traversing through a foreign landscape, absorbing the sights and smells. 
Found this bike parked near the Hot Spring. Imagine travelling like this through the rocky mountains! We, of course, traveled in a Tavera. Five of us - we three girls plus the elderly couple from Delhi with us. Thank God, they were a friendly couple and quite accommodating too. Otherwise, imagine the deadly combination of bad roads and bad company on a week long journey!
This was how bad the roads were! Horrible! Drive on these not-there-roads five hours at a stretch just to be able to see one sight-seeing point and you will wish the viewpoints could come to you. 
Broken bridges and roads in disarray at many places. The Chief Minister, Pawan Chamling, of the SDF (Sikkim Democratic Front) has been in power since 1994!!! The party has won 1999, 2004,2009 and 2014 elections. Or rather, the people have voted him to power. Wonder what they saw in him or maybe they didn't have a choice at all. Such an important state for tourism and yet so badly neglected. When I asked this to our driver, he said that yes, they had made a mistake by re-electing him every single time and that it was time to let him "rest" the next time around. 
Sikkim is India's smallest state by population and second only to Goa by area. On the map, it is just a small speck of red! But as they say, small is beautiful. The landscape of Sikkim is breathtaking. 
The S shaped roads and the flowing water at twelve thousand feet, Yumthung Valley, famous for the flowers that bloom in April.

The roads that look like someone drew the curves on paper.  
The  glistening snow

I love these Buddhist prayer flags. They are so thin and light that they flutter constantly. Even the slightest movement of the wind is enough to set them in motion. The belief is that the mantras written on them are carried by the wind, spreading compassion and goodness into the world and purifying the air. 

The people continuously mount new flags as old ones fade. It is a reminder that life changes and we are all part of this eternal cycle of change, as new replaces the old.

These tiny shops, along the road to the Hot Spring, a tourist spot, sell tea, liquor and other knick-knacks. I sat in one of them and chatted with the lady of the shop while my friends explored the hot spring. She told me they have to pay a rent of Rs 70,000 a year. They travel more than an hour from their homes in Lachung to the hot spring. Since there is no government transport, they hitch rides on tourist cabs that ply on these roads. 

Sikkim has 11 official languages and interestingly, Hindi is not one of them. But most people speak Hindi as that is the only language that connects the tourists with the locals. I couldn't have conversed with the tea-shop lady if it weren't for Hindi. 

That's me all wobbly from that glass of brandy. Damn! I wish I had been sober and had played in the snow and stayed back till i carved out my own personal snowman. 

This was not my first time in snow. In Manali, Tanvi and I had played in the snow. But it was only for a few hours. And there were so many people and a handful of snow. The snow was brown and hard. We had been there end of August, the last of the snow on the mountains. But this, here in Zero Point, half an hour from Yumthung Valley, it was real snow, snow as I had dreamed all my life. It was soft and cold and pure white, glistening in the afternoon sun. 

In Manali, we had been to Rohtang Pass and had been covered in the appropriate snow gear, top to bottom, all rented - boots, suit, gloves, all hired locally. At one point, it was so hot inside that Tan and I took off our overcoats. But in Lachung and near Zero Point, it was sub-zero temperatures, freezing cold and I was in my Jockey thermals - not at all enough to ward off the biting cold. The brandy saved my life or this poor not-used-to-snow-South Indian would have died.  
That's the sparkling, freshly melted ice. There was soft snow even on the water. The water could chill a South Indian like me, who is new to snow-capped mountains, to death.  The locals themselves, for that matter, were tightly covered in the warmest sweaters and caps.
Please note that Zero Point (ZP) is not in the tour itinerary of most operators. The package trips include the drive up to Yumthung valley only. So you have to pay the driver extra to take you to ZP. No vehicles are allowed beyond ZP. Only army jeeps go beyond this point. You can see the Indo-Chinese border from around here but only if there are no clouds. Foreign nationals are not allowed as it is a border area. Security reasons, I believe.
We were in Sikkim when this landmark celestial event happened and the moon looked magnificent from between the mountains. 

You can't help but leave Sikkim with a persistent thought ki kaash inn Wadiyon mei apna bhi ek ghar ho (I wish I had a house in the valley) 

24 comments:

  1. One of Beautiful set of pictures from SIkkim.... It reminded me of my travel to Sikkim back in 2012 !! Awesome place !!

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    1. Yes, Sikkim is stunning. Wonder if much has changed in Sikkim since your last trip there

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  2. Lovely pics....with such natural beauty as u rightly pointed out tourism industry needs more focus and work

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    1. Yes, it's a pity the tiny state has been neglected for long but then it is so with most of the north eastern states

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  3. Awesome scenes. How wonderful the place would become if the state chooses to makes tourist-centric development.

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    1. Seriously! That too when that is the main or only source of income for Most people

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  4. Thanks for sharing these beautiful photos. I always wanted to visit Sikkim and Bhutan.

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    1. That's a good travel plan actually. most foreigners go to bhutan by road from sikkim

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  5. cool travelogue! The Buddhist flags look so lovely and those winding hill road are just so tempting!

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    1. Thank you
      Yes, those were a beautiful sight

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  6. Magnificent photos. I've never seen flags like that!

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    1. thank you Sandi :)
      yeah these are Buddhist prayer flags. very common in India especially the Northern states

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  7. Stunning pictures... And I want to be like that biker too!

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  8. What you have pointed out about poor infrastructure, especially roads, is something I too have felt during my trips to tourist locations. Wonder why we can't fix these things. Imagine how many more tourists would have come if the infrastructure was good.

    Buddhist traditions are quite captivating. I like them too. Have you been to Bylakuppe near Mysore?

    Sikkim has 11 official languages? Many places in the rest of India can't manage two or three!

    Good pics.

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  9. oh yes i have been to Bylakuppe. many times. it is a regular haunt :) So near to Bangalore

    haha yeah we are trying hard with 2-3 official languages in our states.
    i realized only after talking to the locals that there are so many tribes that each has a distinct dialect.

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  10. Enthralling beauty and your camera has not failed to absorb the fullest of it.Description also I liked.

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  11. comment from Ankita:

    Ankita April 10, 2017 at 1:37 AM
    Nice pic and it suggests that Sikkim is really very lovely!

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    1. Thank you . Yes it is incredibly lovely

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