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Really high.

Sikkim Travel Blog

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Nor-Khill Hotel lobby.
Things really started looking up today. First off, when we woke up there was some sun and a bit of a small mountain visible out our window! OK, it disappeared almost immediately behind fog, never to be seen again, but still: a good omen I think.

Then we were introduced to our TWO new drivers, Nepalese-looking young men wearing American-style fashions and huge friendly grins. The driver didn’t seem to speak English, but the other guy, Suriz (?), spoke English very well and did all the talking. They were easy-going guys with a sense of humor and … Suriz actually spoke to ME as well as Steve (he even shook my hand). This was a definite upgrade from our angst-ridden driver of the past few days, who fretted the whole way and spoke to us in incomprehensible English.
Permit check.


We made a long drive to high-altitude Tsomgo Lake (12,400 ft), stopping at three military check points along the way (they inspected our passports and permit at each stop). At the first checkpoint, Suriz left a bottle of booze on his seat while he went into the office. Shortly after, an older soldier guy came out, kind of casually stretched and looked around, then quickly reached in and took the bottle. He  put it in his pocket and sauntered off. Very funny! I asked Suriz if he had brought a “gift” for the guard and he said “yeah, right, it was a gift” and we all got a good laugh.

Along the way we stopped at a waterfall, remarkably only for the “restrooms” found there, which basically was three pieces of tin around a hole in the ground! Really.
The "ladies' room" at Kyongnosla Waterfall.
See the photos.

The lake itself was near a busy military camp. There was a shopping area selling warm cloths, and some men led their decorated yaks around the parking area. I could have ridden one, but I really didn’t want to smell like yak. Everything was shrouded in mist and if it hadn’t been for the loud heavy machinery going at full tilt all around, it would have been a rather romantic spot.

Steve and I headed off, thinking we would walk around the lake. “Walk around a lake” sounds pretty easy, but when the surrounding mountains rise right up from that lake, it can actually become pretty challenging! After a while, the rocky path became quite narrow, then we had to traverse a small stream and walk through a boggy area. It became progressively more steep and rocky, then we lost the trail altogether.
Brother can you spare a dime, er, rupee?
Our path was blocked by a huge chunk of flat rock… I guess it was a piece of mountain blocking our way. We thought we might be able to get over it, so we climbed part way up an almost  dry waterfall, hoping to pick up some sort of trail again. My adidas were totally unsuited to this task, so Steve went up without me to scout. No luck. We were both feeling a little weird due to the altitude (dizzy, kind of tired) so we accepted defeat, and headed back on the same trail. When we got back our guide assured us that there was NO path that goes all the way around the lake. It sounds like we went a little further than the typical tourist (such overachievers). I felt exhilarated and very happy to have finally gotten out in the fresh (albeit THIN) air for a nice hike.
I bet he's really embarrassed to be wearing that.
Exhilarated, then…very, very sleepy.

On the way home, Steve and I both kind of dozed. That’s saying a lot, since we periodically would hit bumps in the road that launched us off the car seat.

We learned our new drivers would not be with us again tomorrow, so we reluctantly said goodbye and gave them nice tips which made their big smiles even bigger.

At the hotel, we wearily sat done for lunch again, dreading more Indian food. The waiter whisked away the regular buffet menu and gave us a “special menu.” They had prepared a special menu of “Western” food for us! The menu listed about nine things (spaghetti, Russian salad, fried fish, mixed vegetables, vegetable pie, etc) and it was clear they intended to serve ALL of them to us! We were so tired and not very hungry, but we needed to be gracious about this, and finally ended up with the vegetables, spaghetti, and salad.
Steve and Tsomgo Lake.
I was in heaven, as the vegetables were absolutely perfect! The whole thing was a very nice experience, and it brought my opinion of the hotel and especially its staff up about three notches.
   
In the room, Steve took a super long nap, but I couldn’t sleep. I needed to do some work in the business center, but had to wait because the power was off. Once it was restored, I completely monopolized the computer, spending several hours doing research and trying to update my blog. Soon enough, it was time for dinner! We had more of those plain vegetables and some of the Indian food too (it’s really not bad at all, it’s just hard to eat for every meal…)

Again, it is pouring out. Steve read something that details the path of the monsoon, and I guess we are right under it. There are no signs that it will let up any time soon, so it appears we are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even so, the area is beautiful, and I am not sorry we came. It would just be such a treat to actually see a mountain or two while we are here in the Himalayas.



 
 
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Nor-Khill Hotel lobby.
Nor-Khill Hotel lobby.
Permit check.
Permit check.
The ladies room at Kyongnosla W…
The "ladies' room" at Kyongnosla …
Brother can you spare a dime, er, …
Brother can you spare a dime, er,…
I bet hes really embarrassed to b…
I bet he's really embarrassed to …
Steve and Tsomgo Lake.
Steve and Tsomgo Lake.
Mountain climbing goat.
Mountain climbing goat.
Traffic jam!
Traffic jam!
He reports it was just as bad as i…
He reports it was just as bad as …
Kyongnosla Waterfall.
Kyongnosla Waterfall.
Our ride.
Our ride.
Freezing my butt off!
Freezing my butt off!
Mountain lodge.
Mountain "lodge."
Tsomgo Lake.
Tsomgo Lake.
A boy and his yak.
A boy and his yak.
Military camp (background) and gar…
Military camp (background) and ga…
Rocky path around Tsomgo Lake.
Rocky path around Tsomgo Lake.
Me and Tsomgo Lake.
Me and Tsomgo Lake.
Steve at Tsomgo Lake.
Steve at Tsomgo Lake.
Clouds across Tsomgo Lake.
Clouds across Tsomgo Lake.
A small river crossing. Tsomgo Lak…
A small river crossing. Tsomgo La…
The path narrows...Tsomgo Lake.
The path narrows...Tsomgo Lake.
High alt vegetation.
High alt vegetation.
Oh, man, dont take my photo! I lo…
Oh, man, don't take my photo! I l…
Shopping area at Tsomgo Lake.
Shopping area at Tsomgo Lake.
Yak looking down at me.
Yak looking down at me.