Sikkim Travel Blog› entry 94 of 251 › view all entries
June 5th, 2008 – by: cmgervais
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.
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 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.
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.
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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