Sikkim Part 3

            Sikkim is on my top three places to visit – other two are Karnataka and Kerala. It was amazing. There’s nothing in Pelling, as in, it’s Gangtok’s opposite. What made it worth it, first and foremost, the half an hour that I spent starting at the third largest mountain in the world, Kanchenjunga, at 5:30am. It was breathtaking. I couldn’t stop staring at the massive beauty of the snow capped mountains and just expansive range of mountains. There isn’t much more to say than it was beyond incredible.

The second thing that is there is a peaceful and nice monastery, the Pemayangtse. Liam went there the day before and said it was a really nice monastery so we joined him in the morning. The rain subsided for a bit, and we walked up to the monastery and ended up spending 4 hours there. We meditated, froze, listened to the chanting, and absorbed everything we could. It was beautiful. There’s something really peaceful about monks chanting and being able to just sit and listen.

            We went there pretty early, and without breakfast so we made it to a small bakery down the road. As it turns out the bakery proceeds go to the neighboring school, from where many of the people who work at the bakery have graduated. The lama runs the school/orphanage. It’s a pretty interesting set up. The Lama wants to preserve Tibetan culture and he sees it fading. He makes sure they learn Tibetan and learn about Buddhism. I think it’s pretty great. We spent some time there, where we met Ben, an English guy who is cyclcing through India. It’s pretty incredible considering the mountains! He had been stuck at the monastery for 10 days because after meeting the Lama, he asked Ben what the purpose of his traveling was, what service was it doing for human kind. Ben didn’t really have a good response for that, so he ended up creating a working manual for the café. This is now his purpose. After a long talk with him, and momos and hot soup we parted ways, Liam to the monastery again, Ben to working on the manual, and Vladimir and I to the town to figure out what to do next.

After getting some tourist info I decided to go back to the monastery myself to do some relaxing. On the way, I checked out the school. It seemed like a typical school that was not in session. Most of the kids were playing and super enthusiastic to see a foreigner walking through. Ben was upstairs in the library working on the manual. We spoke for some time and I headed back to the monastery where I caught the ending chants for the day. There was a huge group from Maharashtra who were also there and made it a bit difficult to just sit in the silence. They also closed the doors of the temple at exactly 5:00. While is wasn’t raining I sat outside and began to write in my notebook. Several people, Monks, people who worked at the monastery, drivers, and the Maharashtrans came to peer over my shoulder. I remembered the first time I was writing in public and how strange it felt, and invasive, that someone should peer over my shoulder. It didn’t bother me. I spoke with some of them and then decided to take leave back down the hill.

Pelling was good for me. It made me stop. I think everyone needs to be in a place where you can’t really do much of anything. I also decided I wanted quality not quantity. There are so many places I’m not going, but the places where I am, those are pretty amazing.

On the way down from the monastery, back in town I ran into Ben again and we ended up having a tea at one place he had been a few times. The owner came and discussed Ben’s bike trip, the rest of my trip, and about Pelling for at least 45 minutes. There was a man sitting at the table across from us and we tried to involve him in the conversation. When he turned to say his English wasn’t so good, I asked what language he spoke, and when he said Italian, and I said I speak Italian and that was the end of it. We didn’t stop talking for hours. He hadn’t been around any Italians in a long time and, as I can totally relate to, it’s tiring speaking another language all the time.

The night went on for a while, I met the rest of the crew he ended up traveling with; like me with Vladimir, he had met them in the jeep. Around 10:00 I headed back to the room.

The next day was big, I was going to trek to Kachuperry Lake. Right before I left Vladimir, who was going to take a jeep, runs after me to join because there were no jeeps going because no one else was there. It was a long trek, 26kilometers. The first hour and a half was straight down. Within the first 15 minutes I had a near death experience where I slipped and had I rolled another foot I would have just rolled down the entire hill. Within the first two hours I got a leech. In the third hour I had another fall that left me with a nice bruise on my bum. The trek was awesome though. We went through little villages and everyone always greeted us with big Namastes. We stopped at a woman’s house who was making something from milk and we laughed together because she spoke in Nepali and kept laughing and I just smiled back. Her son came and laughed because she was making me say that I understood Nepali. We made our way along. The forest was beautiful. After going all the way down, we had to go all the way up and then continue on the road. The road part wasn’t so much fun, but we finally made it. We found the first chai place and sat.

The lake was beautiful. It’s a holy place. Supposedly nothing touches it, not even a leaf. It was absolutely spotless. However beautiful it was, I was getting quite hungry (a piece of bread and a chai before a 26km hike and one chai after doesn’t really filly a belly). I wanted to find the place that Simone (the Italian) and hotel owner were speaking about. This involved another 20 min hike up a forest by the lake. I think Vladimir had it at that point too. Once we found the place he decided to take refuge back down the hill. I stayed.

It was my best day in Sikkim. The trek was awesome and the location was even better. There was one Irish guy staying there. We spoke a lot, but the rest was just being in nature, and being peaceful. It had to be that I finally found the best of Sikkim and I had to leave. I can’t describe how great that homestay experience was, so I wont except to say that it was the most peaceful and perfect way to end Sikkim.

In the morning I got up at 5:30 – as seems to be the trend – had tea and walked (and slid a bit) down the mountain to catch a jeep. The jeep would take me to Geyzing – passing through Pelling to pick up my bag which I left at the hostel – from there I would take a jeep to Jhorthang, and from there another jeep to Darjeeling, where I am now. Unfortunately I didn’t see much of Darjeeling. It was cloudy and rainy the entire time. And, the only reason I came here was to avoid Siliguri, where there is nothing, and it’s hot. I’m going back to Pune where it’s hot. And, if given the choice, I’d love to say that I’ve come to Darjeeling. At least I got some tea.

So there, it’s done, except for getting back to Pune. I’ve been to three corners of India. It’s been beyond awesome and given me a whole new perspective on India as a whole, which is pretty cool – in terms of places, but also in terms of being here as a traveler and just seeing new places. I am excited about going back home to Pune tomorrow though. I miss my friends. I leave you with the shot of Kanchenjunga.Image

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