Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pelling

With Yuksom (India) behind us, we continued riding the rocky roads much of which clung to the palisades like vines. We stopped for a breather at a remote village lost in time perched high on a sharp ridge. I doubt there was a house without a shangri-la view. A couple of village ladies ambled by, displaying the customary nose jewellery and the old one the textured skin of many years.

Nose bling

And...more waterfalls and bridges. Khangchendozonga Waterfalls of West Sikkim is next to a sharp curve in the road and flows year round. But it is hidden behind a smaller set of falls and wasn't noticed until the 1990s! We were guided to the stairs leading up and behind for a view of Khangchendzonga crashing on the rocks below.

Smaller falls in front of Kanchendzonga Waterfalls

Hidden Khangchendzonga Waterfalls

It had been suggested that we visit the serene setting of the footprint-shaped "Holy Lake" called Khecheopalri not far from the falls. (This complicated name is pronounced ketchup-perry.) Both Buddhists and Hindus consider this Lake, formed from an ancient glacier and over 3,500 years old, to be sacred. Visitors are not allowed to wear shoes on the bamboo jetty - lined with small, easily spun Prayer Wheels - leading out to the Lake.

No swimming is allowed and no animals can enter the water (remember, it's "holy"). Fish of course were an exception and many were swimming close, hoping to be fed, which amused the children present. Interestingly, no leaves ever float on the lake as the birds assiduously pick them off as soon as they drop!

Children were laughing and playing, adults talking. No notice was paid to the sign requesting Silence please.

Fluttering Prayer Flags were evident everywhere, and a monk inside a small one-roomed temple was chanting the words from his sacred manuscript while beating a drum. Outside was what looked like a smoking brick oven but no doubt was really only used for certain rituals.

Hmmm, pizza?

Occasionally we would pass some workers, both young and old alike, on the other side of nowhere, working along the side of the road tediously breaking rocks into small pieces, We assumed these were the poorest of the poor with this work being the last resort. But we later learned that they were happily sundering the slag for a whopping equivalent to $3.00 a day compared to other labourers who make only about $2.00 a day.

A family production

The roads could be really atrocious, leaving us going only 10 to 20 km per hour. Some days, we would rarely get out of first and second gear!

At times, we would also negotiate water along with the large boulders, and at other times, we struggled through deep mud tracks. Jordan would stop, contemplate the tricky area directly ahead of us like a lion sizing up its prey, and then he would go for it! He was an amazing driver with no major upsets and no injuries.

Actual road near Pelling (copied from internet)

We manoeuvered on many roads just like the previous photo! Approaching curves, there was always a lot of horn blowing by drivers to warn other drivers of approachment.

Waiting our turn

We stopped for the night in Pelling, another town perched high on a ridge with alpine vegetation, where we breathed air at 2,150 metres. The food was local and good and we found a very basic motel but with a million rupee view of Mount Kanchenjunga.

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