Cindy trekking out of Tsokha
New Video uploaded - if you scroll down to the pictures and click on the last one, there is a video of sunrise over Mt. Khangchendzonga which is the third highest mountain in the world from Dzongri
05/15/07 - There are more pictures than text here so if you want to see them all, click on a picture and click on Next Photo to see them all or scroll all the way to the bottom...
We woke up at dawn, actually before dawn since we went to bed so early and the beds weren’t exactly "heavenly". The fog was hanging over Tsokha but started to clear as we headed out on the steep, rocky path leading out of the village. You can see how small the place is in the one picture of the village from above yet, small as it is, they have still built a little temple (the red roofed building on the right above the "lake").
It was a steep two and a half hour hike to Phedang for a lunch break. The sun poked it’s head through as we slowly worked our way up through the Rhododendron forests, walking on dirt paths often lined with trees or rocks. Luckily it hadn’t rained too hard so the path wasn’t overly muddy. On the path, we met a happy, portly guy who greeted us with a hearty Bhutanese greeting and ended up being from Bhutan. He had married one of the few local girls in Tsokha and now spends part of the year in Kalimpong and part of the year in Bhutan. He told us that the Indian government wants to remove Tsokha and make it more pristine for trekking. Apparently they are going to give everybody a small house and some land in Yuksom and then just leave the trekker’s huts, removing the rest of the village.
Horses at Phedang - the lunch place between Tsokha and Dsongri
Thupten said that this was true and no one is particularly happy since the government doesn’t tend to be fair in these types of situations.
Horse at Dzongri
Lunch ended up being at 10:30am in Phedang and consisted of popcorn, noodle soup, eggplant, warm cheese and tomato sandwiches with no crusts and sardines in tomato sauce (which we neglected to eat. All of this served smilingly by Bebe which is short for something we can’t pronounce in halting English. All three of the guys cooking/helping seem really nice but we aren‘t exactly expecting gourmet food. We also ended up talking with a couple from California, Karin who is American and on sabbatical and Carl who is Canadian and a chef in the summer and a ski-patroller at Homewood in Lake Tahoe during the winter.
They seem very nice and are on pretty much the same itinerary as us to the pass.
Dso on the trail to Dzongri
As you can see by the shots of the Dzo, the fog started rolling in again after lunch as we headed up the steep and windy path to Dzongri at an altitude of 4,200 meters (13,800 feet). I was talking with the Bhutanese man and was wondering if he was going to make it as he was sweating and breathing very hard. At one point the mentioned something about the Minister of Tourism visiting Sikkim and doing the hike to the Goeche La pass recently, this time actually walking instead of riding a pony. The Bhutanese guy said "He was a big, fat man like me! More than 100 kilos but now he is following a guru and doing yoga and lost enough weight to walk." I guess the minister made a bunch of recommendations to fix the path with logs and rocks as well as some of the huts and provided the finances for the work to be done recently.
Larry and Dzo on the way to Dzongri
We hiked another two hours, mostly straight up thru creepy, mossy rhododendron Forests enshrouded with milky, white mist. It was like we were waiting for the Wicked Witch of the West (ok, of Western Sikkim) and her evil flying monkeys to come attack us - that is how eerie it was. Thupten was becoming more talkative and pointing out flora and fauna which he seems to know pretty well. Like I said earlier, we are going to put all the picture flowers on one page of the hike blog later.
We eventually arrived in the small camp at Dzongri, still enshrouded in clouds where we struck up another conversation with Karin and Carl while they guys set up our tent. We decided to take a rest once the tent was set up and try to get things organized for warmth.
We crawled in our sleeping bags and listened to our audio book for a while (have to conserve batteries). Cindy is already counting the remaining nights of camping and hoping to not freeze her ass off. At 4:00, Bebe came by tapping on the tent and saying "Hallo" with a pot of tea which seems to be a daily ritual.
Trekker's hut at Dzongri
Sunset was really pretty looking out over the foggy valley towards Darjeeling and we sat around in the damp, mist snapping pictures and talking. Carl and Karin are into bird watching and pointed out some cool birds that were flitting around the camp. There was a large American group from Birmingham, Alabama at the camp too - they are heading to Goeche La tomorrow. We are supposed to "acclimatize" here in Dzongri for another day but don’t really feel the need.
Cindy is angling for cutting a day off of the trek and getting back to Yuksom early. When we found out that Karin and Carl are heading to Thangsing (the next camp below the pass) tomorrow, we brought it up with Thupten. He was somewhat reluctant but eventually agreed that, if the weather is good in the morning when we are getting up really early to hike to the Dzongri viewpoint, then we can push on toe Thangsing tomorrow instead. This seems like a good idea to me, saving the extra day for any weather issues at Goeche La which is apparently often clouded in or rainy and seems like a great idea to Cindy who is hoping to camp one night less (but I told her not to get her hopes up…)
Clouds over Darjeeling at Sunset from Dzongri
A huge dinner (similar to the Bhutanese, the Sikkimese have big appetites and we could only finish probably 40% of what they prepared) and a "touch" of our Special Coronation Whiskey and it was off to bed early with our audio book.
Cindy put on everything warm she had and prepared for the worst. Tomorrow we are getting up at 4:00am to do the 45 minute hike up to the viewpoint in Dzongri for some hopefully spectacular views of Mt. Pandim and Khangchendzonga.
Dzo in the fog in Dzongri
Well I never woke up to Cindy’s teeth chattering away so all in all, the night wasn’t too cold or uncomfortable. Bebe woke us up at 4:00am with some hot tea and we pulled on our boots and headed out up a very steep path to the viewpoint with Thupten and the Bhutanese guy. Sunrise was really pretty with the light creeping over the silhouette of Khangchendzonga and Kabru and Pandim slowly.
Typical of Himalayan viewpoints, the top of the mountain is shrouded with colorful Tibetan Prayer Flags that you see in some of the pictures. We hung out watching the ever-changing colors as the sun rose and spread light across the peaks and valleys. Clouds still covered Darjeeling but it looked like it might be a nice day. We headed back down to the Dzongri camp and had breakfast before packing up and starting the hike to Thangsing.
Karin and Carl at Dzongri Sunrise