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Back to Yuksom - Goeche La Trek Day Eight

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Farm House in Yuksom

5/20/07
We woke up early and eager to finish the hike down to Yuksom. Even though it rained hard last night, the trail was muddy and slippery but wasn’t as bad as we thought. Thupten was on high speed mode, unusual for him, but he was probably anxious to get back too. All in all, it was about five hours of walking, mostly downhill, crossing bridges and winding through the jungle/forest. This was the same path that we initially walked up the first day and we were impressed with ourselves after the fact for making it all the way to Tsokha the first day. Amazingly, my knees were fine, even with donating one of my two precious trekking poles to Cindy. I guess those “deer shit” pills from Bhutan must have helped (although we later found out from Thupten that I was supposed to be taking three at a time, not one.

The famous Sikkimese Anti Leech Dance which proved uneffective for me....No leeches were harmed in the filming of this documentary
Not sure how Kemcho missed that…)

We stopped along the way for our last lunch prepared by Lapa and the boys. They prepared the food on a rock overlooking a little covered picnic area with tree stumps for seats while we figured out their tips. Contrary to popular belief, the picture of me with my pants tucked into my socks is not a fashion statement, au contraire, it is the infamous (and non-successful) “Anti Leach Posture”. This is a little known form of Sikkimese Tantric Yoga that fends off leeches requiring great dexterity and two bamboo sticks with salt bags on the end. If you look closely, you can see how completely ineffective it was by the large blood stain on my left ankle. Sitting down for a rest before lunch, I actually saw the little bastard who was so gorged with my blood that he just dropped off.

Cindy crossing a rock bridge back to Yuksom
The damn bite still itches (ten days later) but no harm, no foul I suppose.

After lunch we gave Lapa, Bebe and Mundar their tips which they shyly crammed in their pockets and hopefully later whooped and hollered about (ok it wasn’t that much but we think generous enough to make them happy). They enthusiastically shook our hands good-bye and we headed off for the last bit of the hike to Yuksom.

As we were getting closer to the village, there was more and more trash on the path (actually, most of the trail was very clean but this part wasn’t) so I decided to pick up any not-to-disgusting trash like the abundant candy wrappers until we were back. I ended up with a pocket full and finally gave up as we wound our way back down to the trekking station.

White Rhododendron Flowers
Thupten went off to do something pointing the way back to the Tashiding Hotel and said that he or the pony man would bring our bag by in a bit. We walked the twenty minutes along a dirt road back to the hotel, past the orange farmhouse you see in the picture, by a small lake and chorten. I asked Cindy if she wanted to wander up a few hundred yards to the stone throne used for the coronation of the king back in 1643 (see the first entry on Sikkim for a brief history of the three Tibetan Lamas who came here and started the Choygal dynasty) and she said “No way. I want a hot shower!” Guess we will have to see that some other time…

We checked into our same room from before and took a hot shower and washed our grimy hair for the first time in eight days which felt great.

Pink Rhododendron Flowers
Luckily, we had left some laundry to be done at the hotel during the trek as the bag didn’t show up for a while. Eventually, there was a knock on the door and our bag was delivered. Cindy gave the guy the tip for the pony man and then wondered if it was indeed him who had dropped off the bag. I asked her if she was sure and she said “I think so…” The pony man on the trek wore the same t-shirt the entire time, a beat up, yellow and green shirt that read “Chica Latina” . We found this amusing and told Thupten that the pony man’s shirt translated in English means Latin Woman which he found humorous too - we aren’t sure whether or not he told him. I asked if the guy she tipped was wearing that shirt and she said no but thought he had changed. We hope there is not one mighty happy bellman who got the pony guy’s generous tip and one pissed off, tipless pony man!

After the laborious process of repacking our travel packs, trying to bury the trekked out clothes far from the clean ones, we decided to have a teatime snack of beers and French fries while recharging everything electronic (no more careful doling out of the audio books, yeah!).

Red Rhododendron Flowers
We spent the rest of the afternoon dumping photos from the trek onto Brenda’s laptop and adding captions before we forget the names of everything…

We had dinner later in the restaurant and, in the midst of the meal, another earthquake rumbled through Yuksom and knocked out all of the electricity. They seemed used to it as the waiters had candles and matches ready. We ended up having a nice dinner by candlelight and the electricity did come back after thirty minutes or so (good thing since the hot water heater is electric..) There were several Indian families with a boat load of kids running up and down the halls all night which was somewhat annoying but the beds were comfy, especially compared to the “Evil Dead Trekker’s Hut” in Kokchurong. The phone rang just before we were going to sleep and the guy at the front desk told us that Thupten had called and wanted to leave at 7:30 tomorrow.

Pink and White Rhododendrons
We told him to call him back and tell him 8:30 was better J . Tomorrow we are off to Darjeeling which should no doubt be a long, windy, exciting drive. It is good to be back in civilization but we had a fantastic time on the trek. We need to start thinking about what is next as we have only planned things as far as Darjeeling. Cindy is talking about Cochin and Kerala in Southern India where there is a beautiful Hilton with a beautiful beach but we are also thinking about Nepal which is very close to Darjeeling. We will figure it out there I suppose…

Flora and Fauna of Sikkim
Ok, well earlier in the blog I said we would consolidate a bunch of pictures of plants and animals from the trek so here they are.

Yellow Flowering Tree
This is by no means comprehensive as Sikkim is one of the most bio-diverse places in India and there is a huge amount of flora and fauna here. Along the entire trek there was a huge variety of Rhododendrons (over 300 species in Sikkim), ranging in size from tiny flowered bushes to gigantic trees and ranging in color from white to red to yellow to pink. The close-up shot of the white flowers gives an idea of how big they get. You can also see the deep red ones in the distant trees of Dzongri and a few shots of light and dark pink ones too. The same tree or bush can have multiple colored hybrids too.

Most of the other flowers that you see are high altitude flowers found above the tree line. The tree with the little hairy yellow flowers that look sort of like a caterpillar are really pretty and we saw them in Dzongri, Thangsing and Lamunie.

Yellow tree and purple flowers in Thangsing
The deep purple, five petal flowers are called Primula and we saw them all over once at altitude. There are over forty types in a range of shades from blue to mauve to purples. There were a bunch of tiny little mountain flowers up by the pass like the weird shaped, magenta ones surrounded by tiny, green fronds and the tiny, dusty blue/purple ones with little clumps of green mosses. All of them were really pretty and all over the place.

The pretty little white flowers are actually strawberries (tiny and not that flavorful). There are also wild raspberries (which did taste good) growing down towards Yuksom as well. The pretty pink flowers hanging down from the tree were right outside our hut in Tsokha. There are also over 600 species of orchids, one of which we included a picture of. They grow all over high up in the trees and come in every shape, size and color imaginable.

Purple Primulas
There are two pictures of the Aresima pitcher plant, one is a close-up of the purple and green pitcher shaped leaf that eats bugs and in the other you can see the “tongue” that the plant uses to attract tasty bugs to eat. Gene Simmons has nothing on this plant…

As far as fauna, ok we didn’t see tons other than yaks, Dzo, and lots of birds but have included pictures of each here or earlier in the blog. The brilliant blue bird is way up on the way to Goeche La pass and we saw quite a few of them. The two red ones we saw a lot, really cute as they bounce their tails up and down. That shot is from our “base camp” at Lamunie. The one with the blue head and red body in the tree with the yellow flowers was in Kokchurong flitting around the trees chasing flies while we listened to tunes by the river.

Magenta Mountain Flowers
Unfortunately for you, our eyes are better than our camera skills and equipment so you can’t really tell how beautiful they all are. If you want the names, you will have to meet Karin and Carl from Tahoe who are somewhat avid bird watchers and way more knowledgeable than us. Also, the forest is known for the Sikkimese Red Panda that you see here. Unfortunately, they mostly hide way up in trees and sleep during the day so he is actually an inhabitant of the Darjeeling Zoo…

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Farm House in Yuksom
Farm House in Yuksom
The famous Sikkimese Anti Leech Da…
The famous Sikkimese Anti Leech D…
Cindy crossing a rock bridge back …
Cindy crossing a rock bridge back…
White Rhododendron Flowers
White Rhododendron Flowers
Pink Rhododendron Flowers
Pink Rhododendron Flowers
Red Rhododendron Flowers
Red Rhododendron Flowers
Pink and White Rhododendrons
Pink and White Rhododendrons
Yellow Flowering Tree
Yellow Flowering Tree
Yellow tree and purple flowers in …
Yellow tree and purple flowers in…
Purple Primulas
Purple Primulas
Magenta Mountain Flowers
Magenta Mountain Flowers
Tiny Purple Mountain Flowers
Tiny Purple Mountain Flowers
Tiny Purple Flowers by the river i…
Tiny Purple Flowers by the river …
Strawberry Flowers
Strawberry Flowers
Pretty White and Red Flowers
Pretty White and Red Flowers
Pretty Pink flowers outside our hu…
Pretty Pink flowers outside our h…
White Orchids in Yuksom Jungle
White Orchids in Yuksom Jungle
Aresima Pitcher Plant
Aresima Pitcher Plant
Aresima Pitcher Plants long tongue
Aresima Pitcher Plant's long tongue
The cute Red Panda
The cute Red Panda
Yak in Lamunie
Yak in Lamunie
Brilliant Blue Bird by Samiti Lake
Brilliant Blue Bird by Samiti Lake
Pretty red birds on Prayer Stones …
Pretty red birds on Prayer Stones…
Brilliant Red Flycatcher bird in K…
Brilliant Red Flycatcher bird in …
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photo by: lrecht