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Got my head in the clouds here in the Himalayas.

Sikkim Travel Blog

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Sikkim landscape.
We were rudely awakened at 4:00am by four men having a very loud conversation in the hall outside our door. It went on and on. I finally went out and made the international gesture for shut the *&#! up and they wrapped things up and retired to their rooms. Geez.

More rain. When we got up it was pouring buckets, in fact it had all night. The view from our room was like we had taken up residence in a cloud. While we waited for breakfast in the lobby, we studied a painting of the mountains that are supposedly visible from the hotel. It’s the only proof we have that they exist at this point!

Breakfast was almost an hour late…they haven’t been prompt about the serving time for any of the meals yet, but that’s the worst it has been.
Fog and clouds, fog and clouds.
It seems this place has real management issues (we spoke at length to the management -- an Indian woman and an English man -- who claimed that they had personnel issues. “Can’t get anyone to work.” We then learned that THREE ovens were out of service, causing the meal delay. Are the employees supposed to build a camp fire to cook our meals? I wouldn’t want to work there either!)

When we were finally eating, our driver came over with a brochure that showed the surrounding area’s sights. He pointed some out to me (me! I was flattered. I am continually ignored here, as everything is addressed to Steve. The driver even talking to me was kind of a big step, I think). The brochure showed several waterfalls, a lake, several monasteries, and a few temples.
Clearing the road.
I pointed to the waterfalls and the lake. “No temples! Nature! Hiking!” I said. This led to a 10 minute “conversation,” with him pointing to the waterfalls and me pointing to the waterfalls, but nothing really being clearly set. I can’t understand his thick Indian accent, and he doesn’t seem to understand a thing Steve or I say either. Oy.

We got in the car with the understanding that we were headed off to the Lake. Not just any lake…it is Khecheopalri, or the “Wish Fulfilling” Lake. For two hours we bounced around in the back of the Chevy SUV, which he had in low gear, 4WD the whole way. Not only was the road winding and narrow, but in some areas it had been washed away. In other areas, they was no pavement -- just rocks. It made for a bumpy ride.
Path to the Wish Fulfilling Lake.
Rock falls were common, and we passed a group of five men using a large stick to lever an enormous boulder off the road. We also came to a large truck stuck in the road. On the right, a precipitous drop off a cliff! On the left, a large boulder had shifted onto the road, causing it to narrow considerably. Some men and women were chipping away at it with totally inadequate tools. He backed up, and we barely squeezed by.

We finally arrived at a small parking area, surrounding by a few shacks selling chips and soda. Our driver, as he is wont to do every 30 seconds, gave several honks of his horn as we entered. (As we drive, he is constantly honking, just in case there is an oncoming car, I guess). The area was serene and quiet, and one man became very upset with us because of that honk.
Prayer flags at Khecheopalri Lake.
He was gesticulating and (I assume) cursing us out. As we headed up the trail, he was still going at it, having pulled in a passer-by to bitch at.

The rain had ceased, and our driver said “2-hour walk” so I was very happy about how the day was shaping up. The path was green and mossy -- beautiful. I was really looking forward to the next two hours. After 10 minutes or so we came to the lake, which was completely festooned with bedraggled prayer flags. It looked kind of cool, but trashy too. The small lake was very misty and calm, and surrounded by greenery (in addition to the prayer flags). Some people were at the end of a pier chanting and praying. Our driver indicated that we should go out there, but we didn’t want to interfere or disturb them. So he ran out with his shoes on (the sign said no shoes!) and talked to them, then came back and told us it was OK to go out.
Blessings at Khecheopalri Lake.
Completely missed our point. He wouldn’t let up, so I quickly went out to make him happy. The people were doing something with a water bottle in the lake, praying over it. I got a photo, then dashed back.

From there, I started off back down the path, ready to continue the two-hour walk. The driver (BTW, his name is really long so I just call him Doofus. Sorry, but it really fits) ran after me, “Stop!” he said. What? This is the path around the lake, right?  He said “it’s prohibited. Black bears. Impossible.” At least that’s what I think he said. So there was no two-hour walk. This was just the first of a long series of miscommunications that occurred over the course of the day.   
 
We set off again, and the next stop a huge waterfall.
This is what a really, really, bumpy road looks like!
Doofus seemed to try to talk us out of it. “Very long drive. Bad climate. Small road” is what I think he was saying. Hey, it’s not like we have anything else to do! Let’s go. So he went, and he kvetched.

The road to the waterfall was indeed even worse, if it’s possible. We had to cross some very scary bridges that seemed like they might fall away behind us. We met very few other cars, and we were the only ones at the waterfall -- which, by the way, was completely spectacular. There was a short walk to a viewing platform, and we could see the valley roll out below us. There were clouds above us and below us. The only thing that could have made it better is if there had been a hike of some sort, but no luck there.

The itinerary said there was a monastery to visit on the way home, which was also on his brochure.
Phamrong Falls.
We came to a fork in the road, and he said it was a “two-hour walk” to the monastery. My itinerary said 35 minutes. It was raining, and Steve and I debated what to do. I really wanted to make the walk despite the rain, and Steve didn’t. We finally decided to walk part way and see how it went. We got bundled up and started to get out of the car and the driver said, “No! We drive!” He had just said it was a two-hour WALK, now he was saying it was a 2-hour (each way) DRIVE. Another confusing exchange followed, which led to us just going home (with one quick stop at another waterfall..lots of tourists there nd we didn't stay long). So although this was supposed to be a full day trip, we got back to the hotel at 1:30.
Look out, coming through!
Just in time for lunch. And this time, it was ready when we arrived, although as usual we were the first ones there.

We had the afternoon to ourselves. Did some reading, then… Naps! When we woke up, there was a glimpse of some foothills outside our window...the clouds had cleared! Well, kind of. We excitedly went outside to the front yard, where some other guests (all Indian families) were standing and facing towards the mountains as well. They were talking in excited tones in high volume, but I am beginning to understand that every Indian conversation sounds excited and loud.

Although we saw bits of sky and shadows of foothills, the mountains themselves did not make an appearance. Steve and I feel very hopeful that tomorrow it would be completely clear and we will see these damn mountains at last.
Monastery near our hotel.


We then made the short but steep hike to the monastery just across the way. (We snuck past Doofus so he wouldn’t try to accompany us and ruin our walk.) A monk there said “Namaste” to us, which is a really nice sort of greeting. While we were exploring the grounds, the fog rolled in again, and we hurried back lest we be stuck in the dark and fog. A dog followed us back, and I scratched his ears.  Then I was paranoid about picking up fleas.

I could hardly eat dinner, I am so sick of damn cardamom and curry. And everything is so mushy! They had a “green salad” which was cucumbers, carrots, and unripe tomatoes. I filled my plate with the crunchy tomatoes and ate them all. The naan (puffy bread) was delicious though -- I love it. It needs something though…Steve and I both agreed we should have brought a jar of peanut butter with us to India.
stabber911 says:
I am working in Sri Lanka, I was amazed when one of my driver told me that he was unable to drive one of our company truck because the honk was not working!!!
Posted on: Dec 04, 2008
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Sikkim landscape.
Sikkim landscape.
Fog and clouds, fog and clouds.
Fog and clouds, fog and clouds.
Clearing the road.
Clearing the road.
Path to the Wish Fulfilling Lake.
Path to the Wish Fulfilling Lake.
Prayer flags at Khecheopalri Lake.
Prayer flags at Khecheopalri Lake.
Blessings at Khecheopalri Lake.
Blessings at Khecheopalri Lake.
This is what a really, really, bum…
This is what a really, really, bu…
Phamrong Falls.
Phamrong Falls.
Look out, coming through!
Look out, coming through!
Monastery near our hotel.
Monastery near our hotel.
School boy.
School boy.
Standard transportation in Sikkim.
Standard transportation in Sikkim.
Rough home.
Rough home.
Our road.
Our road.
Small hut.
Small hut.
Thatched roof home...looks like it…
Thatched roof home...looks like i…
The entry to the Wish Fulfilling L…
The entry to the Wish Fulfilling …
Khecheopalri Lake.
Khecheopalri Lake.
Khecheopalri Lake.
Khecheopalri Lake.
Prayer flags at Khecheopalri Lake.
Prayer flags at Khecheopalri Lake.
Pier and prayer wheels at Khecheop…
Pier and prayer wheels at Khecheo…
Khecheopalri Lake.
Khecheopalri Lake.
Prayer flags at Khecheopalri Lake.
Prayer flags at Khecheopalri Lake.
Traffic jam!
Traffic jam!
Oh, oh, detour!
Oh, oh, detour!
Another scary bridge.
Another scary bridge.
Phamrong Falls.
Phamrong Falls.
Bridge near Phamrong Falls.
Bridge near Phamrong Falls.
The climb to Phamrong Falls.
The climb to Phamrong Falls.
Our road.
Our road.
Another waterfall visit.
Another waterfall visit.
Tourists at the waterfall.
Tourists at the waterfall.
Daydreaming
Daydreaming
Vendors at the waterfall.
Vendors at the waterfall.