The next morning we woke up early and caught a shared jeep to Geyzing. From there we got another shared jeep to Pelling. By the time we arrived in Pelling we were ready to find a place to stay and a restaurant to eat at. We found a nice guesthouse called Garuda. The manager worked so hard to make all of the guests comfortable and was extremely helpful with any questions or needs that we had. After settling into our room, referring to our Lonely Planet book and talking to the manager for a bit, we decided to find a place to eat. We walked a ways down a road and found a cute restaurant called Melting Point that had great food and awesome views of the Himalayas. We couldn’t see the Himalayas that first day because it was so foggy, but came back to this restaurant a couple more times during our stay in Pelling. The rest of the afternoon and evening we spent playing two-handed sheepshead (a card game), drinking tea and staying warm. On the evening of our first night in Pelling we experienced our first blackout in India.
The next morning, I woke up to Luke yelling my name. I was confused as to what was going on, but then put on my glasses and looked out the window…the Himalayas! They were so much closer and higher than what we had thought. We couldn’t believe how beautiful they were. We were staring at the 3rd highest peak in the world…only about 100 meters shorter than Everest. What an amazingly beautiful breath-taking sight…
While we were in Gavangla we met a couple from the Netherlands who were near the end of their trip in India. The man, Cees, was writing a travel book, while his wife, Maria, was just along for the adventure. We met up with them again in Pelling and got to talking at breakfast one morning. We ended up deciding to split the cost of a tour around the area.
Our first stop on the tour was at the Rimbi Rock Garden. It wasn’t much, but it was fun to meet a few Indian’s who lived on the rock garden property. It was also in a valley along a beautiful river.
Our next stop was Khechuperi Wishing Lake. The lake is supposed to be the footprint of the god Tara. An interesting story we heard about the lake was that the birds don’t allow anything to float on the lake – not even leaves. On our way to the lake, we met a 50-year-old nun who was by a giant prayer wheel. She was eating maize and corn flour for breakfast, and gave us some to try. We were amazed at how young she looked – we attribute it to her diet. After venturing down the path to the lake, we took a 10-minute walk up to the viewpoint. It was interesting to see that the lake truly did look like a large footprint.
After hiking down from the viewpoint we went to Kanchanzonga Waterfalls. These were a series of smaller waterfalls with a larger one at the top. There were several people looking at the falls and wading in the water. An Indian family asked me if I could take a photo with their son and daughter – this was the first of many photos taken with Indians on our trip.
Yuksam was next on our tour. On the way to the restaurant we ate at for lunch we saw a school where children were playing badminton outside and using folders instead of rackets. We ate lunch at a place called Gupta Restaurant and then headed to the Coronation Throne and Karthok Lake in Yuksam. The Coronation Throne was so cool! There was a 400+-year-old tree in the middle of the property surrounded by thousands of prayer flags. It was a very peaceful place where we were able to just relax for a bit.
The trees and mountains were reflected in the water of the lake. There were also tons of tadpoles swimming around the edge of the water. At the lake we met a group of six students who were studying to become tour guides. We took advantage of this and asked them to give us a tour around the lake. They ended up being late for their next class, but Cees gave them a note saying that they should be excused for being tardy because they were practicing their skills. They thought this was great and thanked us for the opportunity to give us a tour.
Next on the tour was Duboli Monastery. This monastery is the oldest monastery in Sikkim. To get to it we ended up hiking 2.5 kilometers round trip up stone steps. It was pretty steep and by the time we got to the top we were exhausted! The monks who live there were very kind and let us sit and take part in one of their ceremonies. We sat and listened to them sing for quite some time. Then, they brought around some wine, which they poured in our hands, and we drank it together. We believe the wine was some kind of rice wine because it tasted very similar to makoli (a Korean rice wine). This whole experience was very relaxing. The rhythm of the music was calming and methodical. I could have stayed there listening to them sing for hours.
Our last stop on the tour was Tashiding Monastery. The most impressive thing about this monastery was the views. It sat near the top of a mountain from which we could see the Himalayas and even the massive Buddha statue in Gavangla that we had seen a few days before. We got there in time to watch the sun set.
The ride home from our tour I felt was one of the scariest experiences of our trip. By the end of our tour a couple that was staying at the same hotel as us had caught up with us. Our drivers knew each other and decided to follow one another back to Pelling. We didn’t know this at the time, but they had decided to take a “shortcut” back to our hotel. We were cruising along just fine until we came to a road where a boulder had fallen down onto it. Before venturing any further, our drivers got out of the vehicles to discuss the situation. We thought there as no way we were going to be able to make it past the boulder on the road, but our drivers thought otherwise. Our car was first. We slowly inched our way around the boulder. Luke was sitting in the front passengers seat and had to pull in the mirror, so it wouldn’t hit the boulder. Our car was literally 1-inch away from the rock as we passed it. We finally made it past the boulder, but stopped to watch the next jeep come through. While we watched the other jeep pass the boulder, we actually realized how close we were to the edge of the cliff. These roads wind along the side of the mountains and are only wide enough for about 1.5-1.75 cars. The boulder took over more than its far share of the road and only left a little space between itself and the cliff. While the other jeep passed the boulder I watched its wheels that were next to the cliff. I couldn’t believe it, but there was literally only about 1-2 inches between the wheel and the drop-off point. Did I mention it was dark out, too! If I would have seen how close we were to falling off the edge, I definitely would have gotten out of the car and walked past the boulder instead of riding in the jeep.
To end this post, I will leave you with a few words of advice…