Monday, October 27, 2014

On to Gangtok

As dawn was about to break in Kalimpong (India), Jordan rushed out bright and early in the clear cool air to catch the day's first golden rays igniting the highest snowy peaks.

Dawn's delight

We had been instructed to have the bike chain adjusted soon, so we found a little shop that specialized in Royal Enfield repairs. The young man spent about 20 minutes doing the task which cost us the equivalent of $1.50.

Royal Enfield getting some attention

We then travelled towards the border of the Indian state of Sikkim. Recent history (1975) has had Sikkim join India and today it still retains at least some semblance of autonomy, which we observed by having to get a special visitor's permit to enter. Even though it is the least populous Indian state, it has a motley array of cultures and 11 languages can be heard!

With due paperwork all in order, we fuelled up (the bike and us) and continued to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim.

Old sign

As we snaked our way along the mountains and through the towns and villages, we constantly came across many colourful Prayer Flags of the primary colours. We saw both types, either tall and vertical rectangles hung on several individual poles, or smaller horizontal rectangles or squares strung together. They are always hung in a specific order: blue (sky and space), white (air and wind), red (fire), green (water), and finally yellow (earth).

Good wishes going out

Prayer Flags are not worship to gods, but rather good wishes sent out to everyone through the blowing wind on the flags.

The public transportation of choice from town to town is jeeps that cram in about a dozen passengers and it's not unusual to see a few passengers extra on top riding along with the baggage. But we were surprised to see an older man literally hanging onto the back of a van with his fingers as he perched precariously on the spare tire.

Are we there yet??

Arriving late in the afternoon in Gangtok, we had a hard time finding a hotel vacancy. We were travelling in peak season. But we finally found a nice one, and after booking, we walked to the MG Marg Market. The broad main street of the Market is pedestrian only and a very popular hangout among the locals and a great place for tourists to stroll and shop.

Heading down steep stairs of MG Marg

Sikkimese carrying large heavy loads hang onto them using a broad loop around their foreheads and then leaning slightly forward. We have seen some extremely heavy loads being carried in this manner.

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