First Glimpse of the Himalayas

After spending one beautiful afternoon in Darjeeling, including our breathtaking first look at the Himalayas, we carefully assembled our heavy non-essentials and left them at our small guest house then headed off by jeep ride to Sikkim province, whose border sits only 20km from Darjeeling itself. We had planned this trip on a whim, after deciding that some cool weather would be a lovely alternative to the heat that had pounded us in Cambodia and Thailand. To get into Sikkim we had to enter at a security checkpoint, but we were armed with our permits that we had obtained in Kolkata. We easily bought two seats in a jeep heading to the nearest border crossing, Jorethang. The jeep had 5 foreign passengers and 5 Bengali, all of us tourists. Only foreigners need permits. Ten minutes into the ride, I got Yann to make sure that he still had the permit in his wallet. He of course did, and we read the details. We had a permit to enter from either of the Eastern Sikkim entry points. Unfortunately, we had requested (and carelessly assumed we had received) a permit for the Western Sikkim entry point, and thats where we were headed. We had two options, get out of the jeep and forfeit our 140 rupees fare, then we could walk back to Darjeeling and hire a jeep for the 150km east to Gangtok, or we could play dumb, and hope that the border guards didn't notice the discrepancy in our permit or, if they did, hope that they would have pity on us.

When we arrived at the Jorethang border crossing two hours later, we fidgeted nervously as the guard scrutinized our permits and our passports and wrote our names in his log book without taking note of our limited entry points. We eagerly hopped back into the jeep and crossed into Sikkim, happy to have made the decision not to turn back. We had another two hours to get to Pelling, our first Sikkimese destination, and I discovered on the way that riding in the back of a jeep is a rather nauseating experience. I had my first case of carsickness since we began traveling and I desperately kept my lips sealed for the duration of the trip.
Pelling has a spectacular view of the Himalayas, but is nothing special itself. Its main draw, other than the mountain view are its old Buddhist monasteries perched on hilltops on either side of town. Permayangtse Monastery is the most famous and the one we visited first, when we arrived the monks were in prayer so we quietly walked around the grounds and listed to their singing.
Later in the afternoon our 3km walk uphill was rewarded with the Sangnagak Choling Monastery housing only a few monks. The damp grounds were quiet and engulfed in fog. A young boy gave us a tour around the monastery then went back to the communal kitchen that seemed to be the only centre of activity at the monastery. We lingered until darkness had almost fallen, how lucky we were to be the only tourists.


2par4 said...

Really enjoying your India blog and photos which are superb. The recent high altitude shots are so vibrant. Must be the thin air...makes the photographer more creative and the light more pure?


YandE said...

Big city skies are terrible most of the time, smoggy, hazy grey. We have fallen in love with the mountains, something about being near them makes people more relaxed...

YandE said...

Oui, dans un sens les Indiens nous ressemblent, plus que dans les autres pays. Mais en terme d'ouverture d'esprit, je crois que les autres pays sont en avance, qui m'a beaucoup surprit.

mom said...

Your border crossing was well reasoned. Sometimes "let the chips fMomall as they may" is the best choice.

mom said...

"let the chips fall as they may" Mom

Anonymous said...

coucou mes amours,

Je ne vous ai pas oubliée, car comme vous le savez nous sommes en vacances à la FLORIDA, j'en profite pour vous souhaitez de JOYEUSES PAQUES, beaucoup de chocolat pour toi ma chère Emilie et Yann aussi, bien sur,
Je ne crois pas que cela soit feté aux Indes.

On vous aime et on vous embrasse tres fort. Encore une fois, courage la vie est belle.

On vous aime beaucoup beaucoup beaucoup.

Super Raymond et la plus gentille des matante, bien évidemment