Wheel of Life at Pemayangtze Monastery
We woke up to more rain this morning and had breakfast talking with Karma. Karma started talking about wine (one of our more favorite subjects) and how he didn’t know very much about it but he liked it. He said that he didn’t think that Indian wine was all that good but guests had brought him foreign wine that he had liked. He was asking about how expensive wine is in America and how you tell good wine from bad. We were telling him about the vast range in prices and qualities and mentioned the infamous "Two Buck Chuck" from Trader Joes to which he replied, "if it is that cheap, it must come from China!" which was pretty funny. Eventually we headed out with Thupten and a new, non-teenage, non-psychotic driver for the ride to Yuksom, supposedly about a three hour drive.
The plan was to stop by Tashiding Monastery on the way, then on to Yuksom to spend the night before the trek. The weather and roads did not cooperate. Our new driver was a nice guy and even had Astroturf floor mats in our four wheel drive vehicle but when we attempted to navigate up a steep, muddy incline, he couldn’t make it. Thupten explained that sometimes when it is wet and muddy, even the jeeps slide backwards and then it is "difficult to control - sometimes people go over the edge." We had no trouble with going the longer, back route to avoid ending up in the chasm below so we turned around and headed towards Pelling.
Doorway at Pemayangtze Monastery
Since we couldn’t visit Tashiding, Thupten said we could go to Pemayangtze Monastery which is one of the most important monasteries in Sikkim and seat of the Nyingma sect, the same as the Bhutanese Buddhists.
The monastery was nice with some incredible paintings inside but, as usual, no pictures allowed. The picture of the Wheel of Life outside was kind of cool and typical of Buddhist Tanka paintings showing the levels of life from Hell to Heaven. If you zoom in on the center, there is a picture of a Pig, a Snake and a Cock (the rooster kind you pervs…) representing three of the human vices of Laziness, Anger and Lust. The picture of the door gives you and idea of how richly and ornately painted and decorated the temples are. Inside on the top floor was an incredible wood carving called Sang Tak Palri (something like Paradise Wood Carving) about fifteen feet tall that a local monk spent years carving. It depicts the heavenly abode of Guru Rimpoche and again the various levels of life ranging from Hell to Heaven and has an amazing amount of detail in the brightly painted wood carvings.
The Hotel Tashi Gang in Yuksom
After Pemayangtze, we sloshed and bounced our way to Yuksom, a tiny little one-road village, wondering what our hotel would be like.
As we slowly drove through the village, we saw some homestay places and small hotels that didn’t look so stellar, but then wound around the corner and pulled into the really nice Hotel Tashi Gang. The room wasn’t bad (twin beds of course) and relatively clean so we were happy. We spent the late afternoon packing for the trek and working on finishing the Bhutan blog (which hopefully you have already read…)
Chorten in Yuksom
We ended up talking with a large English group of trekkers, most of them in their 50’s and 60’s who had just done the Goeche La trek. They said it was pretty difficult and they didn’t have spectacular weather. When Cindy asked if they had any advice, they said "Go slow. Be patient. Watch out for leeches." This did not put a smile on her face. They shared their celebratory cake with us over beers and then we headed off to bed, excited to start our trek tomorrow. Everything we read says that the first day is pretty difficult but hopefully it won’t be too bad!