Golden valleys, towering mountains and a love affair with Kanchenjungha: Sikkim

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#1 Nov 11th, 2011, 19:41
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#1
Prologue:

Before I write anything, let me take the privilege of appreciating the works of the wonderful travelogue writers in IM, who have adorned IM with their heart warming trip reports and have taken the site to a different level. Amitda and Kaushikda, the Sachin Sehwag of trip reports started showing the way. The baton has aptly been passed on to members like Mithun and Ruchira, who have come up with amazing reports of-late, and continues to be in good hands of newer members like Ranada, aditiban and trisha pitching in. Although I have been privileged to be associated with this forum for quite some time now, I never wrote any reports due to 2 reasons – my laziness and my lack of writing skills. I will try to share my experiences and feelings about this trip in the best way possible under my limitations, however, please pardon me if my emotions start taking the upper hand….as many of you know, I have blind love for the state Mt. K always makes me emotional.

The plan to revisit Sikkim was on since the time I was returning back from there, 5 years ago. The plan, however, missed to see the light of the day owing to a host of different reasons. In between my intermittent visits to other places (which by default means the Himalayas  ), I had always let my mind travel to the beautiful state. There was no second option this time around though. Sikkim was my top and only priority, and maybe due to the restless yearn, I had started planning much before in advance, to keep the ‘feel good’ hormone release in a sustained and steady for a long time. To me, like many others, planning has always been an integral and a very interesting part of my trips, and planning a trip to Sikkim, that too after such a long hibernation, was indeed very very special. Infact, I went all the way to start a new thread in IM to share every minute things during the planning process, such was the insane excitement of the upcoming prospect. The thread can be seen here: Sikkim, here I come!. One of the best things that happened this time around, which was different than any of my previous trips, was the number of friends I gained during the planning process. Many IMers graduated from being an acquaintance to being a friend who shared a common interest – travel. If you ask me to choose one thing I will always cherish from this trip, my vote will go the number of wonderful people I was blessed to be associated with, courtesy this tour. I have really been honoured to be showered with so many good luck wishes before my trip and anticipatory notes for a trip report after I have returned. Thanks a lot everyone, it was due to your wishes that I had a wonderful tour, and saw my lady love – Mt. Kanchenjungha, from different angles for 2 days at a stretch. The team was nuclear –me and my wife, and initially we were set to travel to North Sikkim and Dzongu, two of the most sceninic areas of Sikkim. Destiny seemed to have other plans though….barely a month before our scheduled date, disaster struck. A 6.9 magnitude earthquake rocked Sikkim, and to make matters worse Mangan, a place that connects both Dzongu and North Sikkim was the epicenter of the devastating quake. It took a lot of lives, left many homeless and gave a serious blow to the plans of many like me who were planning our trip. A fortnight passed in apprehensions, re-planning and even thoughts of cancelling the trip all together. However, being bitten by the bug strongly enough, the mind suddenly seemed to clear up and streaks of positive rays started tickling the grey matter. We decided to head towards South and West Sikkim, the two areas which were least affected by the quake. So, the bags were packed, all other arrangements were made and we finally set for our trip on pleasant Autumn afternoon – 15th October.

Day 0 and 1 (15th and 16th October): Leaving Delhi, and reaching Sikkim – A perfect start

We had our journey tickets in Dibrugarh Rajdhani, which leaves New Delhi at 2 p.m. The fact that we got an auto rickshaw right at the moment we reached the stand ensured the old proverb ‘Morning shows the day’ held true. The train left right on time and it was an usual Rajdhani ride…food and more food. The journey itself was uneventful…other than me living upto the reputation of being a modern Kumbhakarna, and dedicating my life on only 2 worldly activities – sleeping and eating.

As the train reached Kishangunj the next day, I could feel a tweak in my adrenaline levels as I chewed a dry butter toast. To me the excitement of ‘finally reaching the hills’ starts from Kishangunj itself, which is roughly an hour away from NJP. I got a call from Rinchen, our driver for Njp-Ravangla, that he had reached NJP and was waiting for us. What could be better news than that? Finally, after vanquishing all criticisms against Indian Rialways, the train reached NJP right on time, setting up even better mood. Guess even the Gods took pity on my anticipation. After a quick ‘post-breakfast/ pre-lunch’ at NJP and withdrawing money from SBI ATM at the station premise, we set out for our journey in a silk smooth Toyota Qualis. We reached the Mahananda wildlife sanctuary in no time, and the road seemed to be more beautiful than ever. The trees seemed greener, the road looked better tarred, the air smelled more fresh……everything around seemed to re-decorate itself to welcome me back. Guess my inner glee was translating into such visual delights. As we plied through, and was busy setting up my camera, I was distracted by my wife’s voice ‘Look…there in front’. A flash of the eyelids, and I could see the inviting blue mountains standing erect at a distance, wrapping themselves in a smoky haze. I had discussed innumerable times with my wife about the excitement I feel while getting the first view of the hills from the road, and hence she was well aware and pointed right on time. The Teesta was starting to show in the meantime, and as usual I again felt a desire to spend a full moon night sitting on a rock on the sandy bed. We gradually hit the hills and crossed Sevoke temple and took a quick photo break near Coronation bridge. A feature of this road is the innumerable and animated monkeys that frequent this road. There were only a few to be seen this time, and we spent the rest of time in analyzing the reasons behind their disappearance….my wife seemed to have the strongest reason, and opined that it was because it was a Sunday!!! She also seemed to interested in keenly analyzing which (of the few that were seen) one’s face, and more importantly attitude resembled mine, and again came up with a gem – all of them. I normally develop a ‘Sab maya hai’ type attitude during such drone attacks, and kept a smile that was somewhere between stupid and meaningless, however more inclined towards the former…..poor life!!

After some negotations with rugged and dusty roads, we finally reached Teesta Bazar and stopped to have lunch. (to be continued) Next post



Editing this post, on behalf of Sagarneel, to add links to facilitate the easy browsing through this thread:

umbrella post
the post with contact details



(TD)
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid Albert Einstein


Trip reports:

Syalsaur/ Deoria taal/ Chopta trip report, West and South Sikkim trip report , Puri/ Konark trip report
Last edited by theyyamdancer; Jan 31st, 2012 at 15:44..
#2 Nov 11th, 2011, 20:10
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#2
Good start mate.... Waiting for the rest........
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#3 Nov 12th, 2011, 13:17
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#3

Thumbs up Hats off brother

Classic start Courtney (I think it will be a good nickname of yours...though a bit westernized)....All the Eden stands up to applause for such a nice start...We will love to see your emotions pouring out and your excellent sense of humour make the travelogue more close to our heart....Keep going brother....waiting eagerly for master strokes from your bat....
If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun
#4 Nov 12th, 2011, 16:26
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#4
Engrossing start Sagarda...if this is bad writing skill then I dont have anything to say (and maybe stop writing my reports..)
#5 Nov 12th, 2011, 19:45
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#5
Thanks a lot Ajith, Amitda and Trisha.
#6 Nov 12th, 2011, 19:48
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Day 0 ans 1 continued: Beyond Teesta bazar and reaching Ravangla

…..(continued) Our gut had made merry of the breakfast and the post bf/ pre-lunch long back, and courtesy the rugged road and the jerks, our appetite was soaring. The otherwise bland chicken-rice (not to mention about the straw colored water they sold as ‘dal’ )seemed to taste better than Arsalan’s Biryani (for those who don’t know what Arsalan is, with heartfelt sympathy for your your ignorance, it’s a Biryani joint in Kolkata, known for its Biryani, which is straight out of God’s kitchen). There can be no better way to prove the theory of relativity than this, and we at the end of lunch, felt almost like anacondas which had just feasted on large tapirs. It was travel time again, which meant more encounter with the disastrous road that testified the damage caused by the quake and a long, recently concluded monsoon. A drive of mere 5 kilometres was enough to sublimate the tapir off the stomach, and yearn for a capybara shortly.

Rinchen, our driver was a man of few words and a voracious smoker. Only almighty knew what bug bit him, as he suddenly turned on a strange song, which was a strong antagonist to the tympanic membrane. My wife, who preferred to sleep all this time, suddenly woke up and murmured ‘Even you sing better than this’ and somehow fell asleep again (only she knows how!). I asked Rinchen if he had any other album to play, and he immediately obliged by tuning on an el classico, Himesh Reshamiya!! I donned the ‘sab maya hai’ hat once again, and philosophically watched the vibrant Teesta making its way towards the plains. If there was any agony that the combo of dust, jerk and Himesh Reshamiya had caused, it was instantly wiped by the view of the beautiful emerald river, flowing like a playful kid.

After a couple of hours or so of driving, we reached Namchi, the district headquarters of South Sikkim. Namchi is a beautiful little town, with a busy market area marking its heart, and quaint hills bordering its periphery. India’s answer to ‘Christ the redeemer’ (okay I am joking!!), a 135 feet tall statue of Guru Padmasambhava is located at Samdruptse, 8 k.m off Namchi. We stopped at Namchi for a tea break, and more importantly to put our bones in place. The violent road, one on which even the great Rajnikanth would hate to drive (ohh..I forgot…why the heck would he drive? he’d have a foot at NJP and put another at Ravangla….effortless. Rajni fans, please don’t take offence, he is irresistible), seemed to have re-aligned my patella somewhere between my ribs. The way I stood resembled the lightning sign (remember the Rin ad??) and I had to put in quite an effort to get back in human shape (those who have seen the post camel ride scene featuring Santosh Dutta in Shonar Kella might be able to appreciate the kind of effort I am referring to). Like every other good thing, the tea break came to an end too, and we headed for a non-stop journey towards Ravangla.

The road was much better now, and was a dream to drive on. To me, the most fascinating part of Ravangla lies in the 5 k.m stretch of road that leads to the town. The road passes through dense wood on one side and the mountains at the other, and more often than not, is covered with fog. The road takes a sharp bend, and one can see smoky clouds gradually elevating upwards and engulfing the woods. It’s the play of the clouds among the trees, a view that creates a surreal and mystic experience, which is the most scenic thing about Ravangla. The fog renders the trees hazy and grayish and appears to paint a white curtain on a translucent screen. The view of the road coming out of and leading into this mysterious tunnel of cloud is a view to die for. Rinchen stopped the car on my request and I took a few quick photos, beathing the clouds in the process. It was the freshest of air one could imagine. There was an evident smell of purity in it, something which I could not even dream of, even in the greenest area in Delhi. The photo shoot was over and I wondered why no one had come up with a hotel or a resort on this stretch of road.

We finally reached Ravangla, our night halt destination of the day, and checked into a pre-booked hotel, ‘Hotel Twin Dragon’. The hotel was nothing special, and can be at the best rated as average, although it was clean enough. The so called view rooms probably overlooked the wide valley and the snow peaks at some indefinite time in the past, but gives only the view of another hotel at present. It was late evening and light had started to fade, while Ravangla wrapped itself in a blanket of mist of various shades of blue. After a refreshing shower we went out for a brief stroll and making arrangements for our next day’s journey to Borong.

My previous 2 visits of Ravangla were at different phases of my life. The first was one was with my parents while I was on school, and the second (although we didn’t halt for the night in that occasion) was on the way to Borong, with my friends. During my first visit, Ravangla was a pristine little hamlet, with only a couple of hotels and a few local houses. It was a completely different picture this time; scores of new hotels ranging from luxurious to basic have come up and the clutter was a bit of a heartbreak. Its never a wise idea to compare past and present and crib about either, and development is an apparently unavoidable process. My mind however tended to travel down the memory lane, and visualize the tranquil Ravangla of the past.

The hotel where we stayed was roughly a kilometer away from the main jeep stand. The weather was perfect, it wasn’t very cold and made the stroll enjoyable. On reaching the jeep stand we inquired about shared jeeps to Borong, and the answers ranged from ‘there are no shared jeeps’ to ‘there are lot of them’. Confused, we decided to move ahead and inquire further. Closely watching the copious shops (most of them selling liquor) that had come up on the road that used to be pitch dark during my first visit, we located a board in front of a grocery. The board had the details of the shared jeeps available for various places from Ravangla. On asking, the owner, humble like every other Sikkimese, informed that the jeeps are available for Borong in the morning and we could collect our tickets the next day. Relieved, we decided to satisfy our next agenda of the evening stroll – chicken momo. Destiny had other plans though, and the entire Ravangla seemed to have turned vegetarian. We retraced our steps back to our hotel and had a quick dinner. The train journey and that deadly road journey had sapped off of every bit of energy, and we decided to retire to bed at 9.30, a time when I normally remain at office in Delhi. (…to be continued)

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#7 Nov 12th, 2011, 21:43
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Brilliant!! Thanks for the navigation link, now I can comment my heart out!! Brilliant start Sagar, soaking into the log and waiting for few snaps to come along with the post too.
#8 Nov 12th, 2011, 21:54
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Thanks for the help with the link Kaushikda. I will upload the Ravangla photos by tomorrow.
#9 Nov 12th, 2011, 23:07
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This is incredible Sagar...can't wait for the next; please carry on..
#10 Nov 13th, 2011, 09:57
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Going great guns ....man...you simply rock...you are the Chetan Bhagat of Sikkim forum... your comparisons are absolutely brilliant and the descriptions of the cloudy hills are really mindblowing.......please post the rest asap...can't wait long...
#11 Nov 14th, 2011, 10:27
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Great Start Sagar... waiting for the next part..along with the photographs too.
And miles to go before I sleep........
#12 Nov 14th, 2011, 12:06
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Hi sagarneel,

Thanks for accepting me in Face Book.

Day by day our expectations from you are increasing.

Good start, enjoying a lot from the beginning.
#13 Nov 14th, 2011, 12:27
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#13

Thumbs up

Sikkim Forum of IM will receive only a few travelogues in future. If this is the standard of not that good (bad ) writing skill then only a few masters will dare to post travelogues in this forum.
#14 Nov 14th, 2011, 13:17
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#14
Sagarneel sir,

It took a lot of time to read your post for 5 consecutive time, hence the delay in commenting the start of one more fabulous trip-log. I am enjoying every word of it. As I told you the other day - I had a few request to you.

1) I want to have a classroom training on writing skills from you. I am sure you wont mind , if I ask you to set up the class somewhere in Sikkim(Probably north Sikkim).

2) I want to take a few photography sessions from both you and Kaushik-da, which will help me taking better photography in future.

3) And pour on as much details as possible in your travelogue - so that I could also learn a few new English words (Specially adjective) - which in turn will help me enriching my poor vocab. It will also offer me the opportunity to feel Sikkim with your eyes.

Fabulous start, eagerly waiting for the next instalment.
#15 Nov 14th, 2011, 14:27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hazra_amit View Post Going great guns ....man...you simply rock...you are the Chetan Bhagat of Sikkim forum... your comparisons are absolutely brilliant and the descriptions of the cloudy hills are really mindblowing.......please post the rest asap...can't wait long...
That was a trmendous complement, Amitda!! Thanks a lot.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cutiepie View Post Great Start Sagar... waiting for the next part..along with the photographs too.
Thanks. I'll post the first part of the photos soon. Some PP work left, which I should complete by tonight.

Quote:
Originally Posted by soumiksett View Post Hi sagarneel,

Thanks for accepting me in Face Book.

Day by day our expectations from you are increasing.

Good start, enjoying a lot from the beginning.
Thanks and its my pleasure to have you as a friend.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ghosh.ruchira View Post Sikkim Forum of IM will receive only a few travelogues in future. If this is the standard of not that good (bad ) writing skill then only a few masters will dare to post travelogues in this forum.
Thanks a lot, Ruchira! Infact if this travelogue inspires anyone one to write another, I'll be a happy person.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mithun123 View Post Sagarneel sir,

It took a lot of time to read your post for 5 consecutive time, hence the delay in commenting the start of one more fabulous trip-log. I am enjoying every word of it. As I told you the other day - I had a few request to you.

1) I want to have a classroom training on writing skills from you. I am sure you wont mind , if I ask you to set up the class somewhere in Sikkim(Probably north Sikkim).

2) I want to take a few photography sessions from both you and Kaushik-da, which will help me taking better photography in future.

3) And pour on as much details as possible in your travelogue - so that I could also learn a few new English words (Specially adjective) - which in turn will help me enriching my poor vocab. It will also offer me the opportunity to feel Sikkim with your eyes.

Fabulous start, eagerly waiting for the next instalment.

I am highly interested in opening up such a centre if North Sikkim is fixed as the venue.
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