Posts Tagged ‘Sikkim

19
Feb
14

himalayan roadsigns part3- the Sikkim section

Welcome to BRO project Swastik

Here´s another load of that famous yellow signs, this part features the Project Swastik, which is operating and responsible for the Sikkim roads.

Their effort to keep the traffic flowing might affect the success for the new project, so lets pay some tribute for the awesome work they do:

05
Mar
12

Sikkim part3

My prayers got heard as the rain stopped but the damp left. Had some problems to get up, but somehow I forced myself out of the warm sleeping bag packed up and searched for some breakfast in the very few restaurants squatted around the taxi stand. No one still served something only one guy offered me some fried rice, not exactly what I wanted to have in that early hours but better than nothing. Had to get the same road back which I came the day before and the descent was done quickly. Passing by many locals on their way to work or into the next liqueur shop. What I recognized the days before and today was more than apparently that golden colored rubber boots must be some kind of fashion here as almost everyone were wearing such boots, maybe I have to get one pair for me too if it still will rain as before. I arrived in Pelling and stayed there for the night. To find a room was not that difficult there, the main road, nor to say the only road, is flanked with dozens of hotels. I desperately was looking for a hot shower which warmed me a little bit. Strolled around town but the architecture was not that spectacular, hotels everywhere, the town is neither and in the afternoon it started to rain again, why not. I really choose the wrong time for a cycle trip in this part of the Himalaya, actually I expected cold weather only and not rain but fortunately the temperatures were not that cold, still above freezing point. The clouds are trapped in the close and deep valleys which might be the reason for day long rain. I called Sikkim sometimes the Vertical limit, as the roads are in sections impossible steep and flat terrain is nearly not present and if it is already occupied for some purpose. Don´t know who and how got the idea to built roads in that difficult terrain. While good views it must be more than demoralizing that the destination is only a stone throw away on the opposite ridge but the way results in a long detour down along the river crossing a bridge in a distant corner of the valley only to go the way up back on the other side. Next morning there was a festive atmosphere and the tables in the hotel owned restaurant were nicely decorated. I remember that it was Losar today, the Tibetan New Year. I got a Khattag (a white silk scarf for good luck, mostly given for a safe journey) and a butter tea in order to that celebration. Around 9am I was ready to leave and was optimistic with a huge downhill (that was what I´ve been told) all the way to Jorethang. Anyway the downhill wasn´t that long only 20km to Legship and from there it was an up and down further to Jorethang. Jorethang wasn´t appealing to me and Melli Bazaar the next town were accommodation was available was only 27km further. But somehow I missed the main part of Melli and found myself out of Sikkim with an exit stamp in my passport. I asked the official if it will be possible to reenter Sikkim in Rangpo again on the same permit, which might be no problem at all. So I rushed further to Rangpo another 19km as it was still early and I didn´t had the feeling to stop. At Rangpo the guy at the check post was quiet irritated about my exit stamp, talked to his boss, I explained the situation and they let me go. I ended up back in Singtam, same hotel, same room where I stayed before. This was a very long day with nearly 110km, never expected such a long day in the morning. Actually I thought about skipping Gangtok and go directly to Darjeeling but sometimes things are like that and I faced the huge climb up to Gangtok although my knee made some problems. The road from Singtam to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, only 28km was insane in many terms. Insane traffic according to that insane narrow road and all over insane steepness! And an insane amount of exhaust direct into my lung. By no means that was the steepest part all over, damned, if I had known that before, sure I had skipped it. Especially the last 10km from Ranipool was incredible steep such incredible and allover urbanized. Got crazy about cycling all the way along a township and still many km in front. More than one time I wanted to turn around and roll back the same way I came, but there is some thing I think is called ego… Finally I reached the real Gangtok and was looking for a rest as my knee was still paining as hell. I had the feeling to stop the trip here, decided not to go to Darjeeling instead going back to Nepal direct by bus, my mind was searching for more than one excuse to do so but there was no reason, to whom to excuse? To nobody expect me! I gave up, had no more enthusiasm to cycle, as to Darjeeling might be the same, I had to go back down and climb a steep and busy road again only to another hill station as many as I already visited in India. So at one morning jumped into a bus to Siliguri, from there cycled the 30km to the border, faced Immigrations and got a night bus back to Pokhara. 24Hours after I left Gangtok I reached home sweet home Pokhara. Ironically at Sikkim I saw the mighty snow capped mountains of the Himalaya only for a very short time and only very small in the distance and while the bus was approaching Pokhara at dawn the full Annapurna could be seen in its full glory…

03
Mar
12

Sikkim part2

In Ravangla I woke up in a chilly morning as the place was covered with clouds and the air was filled with moisture. Progress at the beginning was fast, all way down passing numerous villages, from the turnoff to Tashiding it was more downhill till a bridge crosses the river in that cramped valley. The treasured ascent from the day before was destroyed in less than 2 hours only to discover that the last 13km to Tashiding was all uphill again. The dogs were quiet aggressive in this area, many attacks which were defended due to the fast speed down the hill, but one bastard chased me for more than one kilometer till he finally recognized that I am to fast for him and gave up. And sudden the ascent started again some schoolchildren appeared and had their fun with me while they tear and pull at everything that dangled on my bike which made me quiet furious but that didn´t help at all only to give them cheeky rascals loud laughter at me. The climb went incredible steep, somehow it reminded to Laos, where the ascents were also long and steep and the descents short and fast (but at least here in Sikkim they know switchbacks which are in Laos almost unknown). The road followed forests releasing a sweet smell of the flora and the lovely songs of birds could be heard too. This must be a paradise for botanist and bird watchers, but I am neither of that two so I concentrated on that piece of tarmac in front of my nose and enjoyed the scenery around me. The villages along the way got more and more rugged and still had to deal with the dogs which seemed to take their task to defend their territory very seriously but shouts and stones are working well to keep them in distance. I arrived in Tashiding early around noon, found a cheap room in a very basic nice and cozy guesthouse and called it a day, being lazy for the rest of the day. Tashiding is home to the oldest monastery in Sikkim, but even to visit this place I felt to exhausted to climb up the mountain were it is placed. While I was sitting downstairs at my guesthouse, smoked a Bidi (Indian kind of cigarette rolled in some sort of leaf) one guy stepped out of that restaurant which also operated as a bar as he was obviously drunk for ten and walked like being on a ship in a storm. As he stepped down on the road he couldn´t keep his balance turned around 360degrees feel down and hit his head loudly on the floor. It seemed he is used to things like that and he was gone faster than I could react to help him. Poor guy, sure he wont remember which caused his headache (hope he will give the booze the blame and thinks about his drinking habit). Full drunk people sadly are common in Sikkim, it has one of the highest rate of alcoholism in all of India, as they have loose restrictions about selling whiskey and beer. Late at night rain started again and I hoped for a bright and sunny day. But one cannot be lucky at all of the time and in the morning it was still pouring dogs and cats. Thought about a rest day but went on after breakfast while the rain got less. The road climbed up for the first km and my mind was preparing for another hard day but it came out that this day I enjoyed much despite the limited view through the fog and deep hanging clouds. I felt very cold especially during the downhill parts additional I felt I´m getting a common cold which worried me a little bit. I bypassed Yuksom and wanted to go to Khecheoparli Lake straight. There were many signs leading up to that holy lake but only on trekking routes which are not suitable for bicycles. After a while I thought I missed the turn off up to the lake but suddenly it appeared and a long 10km ascent with some more brutal steep sections were waiting. At the lake, or better to say at the taxi driver stand in front of the lake it was not so easy to find the responsible person for that only lodge there but somehow someone opened the door and rent me a room which I was desperately looking for. The rain only stopped partly and I was wet all over with is not a pleasant feeling with the really cold and humid air. In a nearby tea shop I tried to warm myself with lots of teas and soups and also met some other tourists there including an American who told me the same things over and over.I checked out the lake hidden in a nearby forest (the lake holds the legend that birds collecting all leaves fallen on it to keep it clean and sacred, for real I didn´t spot a single one on it). I lit some butter-lamps in the prayer-hall in front of the lake for my beloved ones and enjoyed the scenery or at least that was visible through the thick fog. I climbed up to the view point but by no question there was no view today. I really had a big issue with the humidity as all my cloth were wet either from the rain or from the massive sweat I produced. I changed into my spare ones and tried to get that other stuff dry, but simply had no idea how as the air was filled with moisture too (till morning most was reasonable dry as I put all that wet things between the mattress and the blanket using my Therm a Rest and sleeping bag on top). Still I prayed for a clear sky next morning as it cannot be raining the whole time.

to be continued…

01
Mar
12

Sikkim part1


I took an overnight bus from Pokhara to the border, quite a routine affair, practice Buddhist patience squeezed in a seat designed for Asian shortness and not for legs like mine (actually I am not that tall but in comparison to the locals I am). Arrived in Karkabhitta early in the morning surprisingly fast, despite the puncture we had along the way (safety first, one tire had a whole as big as a human fist in it and they changed it wisely). Quickly made it to the border post for check out of Nepal. The Immigration officer was obviously very unhappy about my overstay and demand very rudely an excuse, I told him some alibis (punctures, strike, unreliable public transport blablabla) which satisfied him or he was simply to lazy to do all the paperwork which is necessary for cases like that, even he didn´t fine me for that (which I was expecting and also prepared for, as it is an offense against the law without question). Lucky bastard I am. Nearly missed the well hidden Indian immigration, which was a very quick affair done by the most friendly Indian official I have ever met. Later followed the only road leading away from the border and into the state of Westbengal. I wasn´t exactly sure what to do, going direct to Darjeeling or have a rest day to recover from the bus trip. Decision was made after I missed the turnoff to Mirik, along a minor road up to Darjeeling. So I ended up in Siliguri, a typical dusty, crowded, chaotic town in India. Got a room for a good rate and enjoyed Hollywood propaganda on HBO (watched some movies in a row, some CIA commercial, another about genderism and one about the importance about having a mobile phone which can track you down wherever you are) . The night was ok but got fast remembered that India is a country of inconsideration while other guests made noise like a wildgone school class on vacation. Wanted to leave the plains as fast a possible but decided to go to Sikkim first instead of Darjeeling just to avoid that I´ll get stuck there as it happened many times to me, wasting time in a convenient place. So I ended up on the Highway for the first part of the day and reached the first mountains soon. It was a steady up and down and the Teesta bridge was reached fast, actually I wanted to stay here the night but it was still early and I went further to Rangpo, the gateway into the small Himalayan state Sikkim. In Rangpo itself the first thing to do was to get an Inner Line Permit (ILP), Sikkim is a sensitive area caused to the closeness to chinese occupied Tibet. To get the ILP it’s rather a routine thing and issued very quickly and actually wanted to check for a hotel there. Somehow I found myself out-of-town and to Singtam the next town was only 10km away so I went on. Suddenly strong wind appeared and big branches of trees fallen down next to me gave me a kick to pedal much faster to get out of danger, before the heavy rain began I was in Singtam bazaar road confronted to find a place for the night. Why all bars and restaurants call themselves hotels is a big myth to me and it was not so easy to find a real hotel suited for accommodation. A conversation I had while looking for a room:

Me: Hello, do you have a room?

Girl: no we don´t have rooms at all.

Me: Ok, but you have a sign that says here is a hotel.

Girl: Oh, yes we are a restaurant.

Still didn’t get it…

Finally got one in a real hotel, a nice one and HBO was already there…

My hopes from the afternoon became true as rain in the mountains mostly cleans the hazy sky and a blue one greeted me in the morning. The view was nice and lifted my mood a little bit, as the first feeling of Sikkim was not a pleasant one for me. Also it was time to gain some altitude. The road went high and higher following countless of hairpins and the views down the valley were nice if one can ignore all that constructions which are going on there: Waterpowerplants and distilleries for the nation seems to be the parole here. In the distance my planned destination could be seen already but it was still a long and sweaty day, all uphill while the road winds into every hidden corner of the mountain range. Two boys accompanied me on their way home from school for some 5km or so and they had not big trouble to walk next to me the whole time and after all it was a funny conversation as they didn´t ask the tons of same questions which every Indian has in store whenever meeting a foreigner and they also kept the barking dogs at distance. The climb went long and longer and I  drown myself in endless litres of any kind of soft drinks in so-called fair price shops. The last 10k´s was such a mess and I was more than happy to reach Ravangla (aka Rabongla) in the afternoon. This day was an ascent of more than 1800m in less than 40km, if this will be every day maybe suicide will be a better way to life. Ravangla is a small town which not much to do, I searched a telephone shop got sent from one shop to another and ended in an Internetplace where I sent some mails instead of doing phone calls. No telephone but internet, strange, but what to do.

to be continued…




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