Stuck in a student protest!!!

Trip Start Aug 27, 2011
Trip End Jun 01, 2012

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Flag of India  , Sikkim,
Friday, May 18, 2012

Gangtok, Sikkim, India - From leaving Varanasi, I had to wake up a lady who was sleeping on my bed. They were making their way to Nepal via the border crossing near Sikkim. But, it was my bed and after some discussion, she finally moved. I did sit and chat with the family next morning, I think they found it amusing that I slept from 6pm till 8am next day. Well, there really isn't much else to do, well, except for buying Chai tea every 5 minutes.

I arrived into New Jalpaiguri train station and took a cycle rickshaw to Siliguri. The man cycling was very old and a few times had to get off the bike to push. We eventually arrived to the Sikkim permit office in Siliguri which is near the Siliguri train station. I was able to pick up my free ten day permit within a few minutes, but because of the long journey, decided to spend a day and night in Siliguri to unwind, relax and prepare for some potential hiking in Sikkim. I also hadn't eaten much over the last couple of weeks, so felt I needed to gain some strength.

There is very little to see or do in Siliguri, it is mainly a transport hub for you to connect to Bangladesh, Nepal, or Sikkim in northern India.

It is a dusty, hot and industrious city, with very little internet cafes and lots of honking car horns!!

Next day I caught a four hour bus ride to Gangtok in East Sikkim. I would spend a couple of days in Gangtok while researching a potential hike.

After three hours of driving, we reach a border crossing where my permit is reviewed and stamped. I was within 30 minutes of arriving into Gangtok and having my lunch when something happened. The bus stopped! It stopped moving. Hours went by. We were parked on a steep hill and the bus driver was sat on a bench on the road??? What was going on? I had only half a bottle of water and zero food, thinking I would make it to Gangtok for lunch time! After about 5 hours, someone eventually told me that at the top of this hill was a university and today, the students were blocking the road for a political protest!! Hours and hours went by! I continued reading American Psycho trying to ignore the frustrating situation I was in.

It did feel like a 'LOST' scenario. Eventually, you realised who was in charge, who would gossip, who walked off to gain some information. About 8pm, a few guys ran up the hill, saw what was going on, reported back, and we slowly drove further up the hill. This continued for another hour till we locked the doors, closed the windows and drove through the protest. The students allowed a gap for us to pass but punched and kicked the bus and rocked it a little. Crazy scenes!!

I eventually got to Gangtok 9 hours after my scheduled arrival time. Nevermind. I walked through the city, heavily dominated by large hotels for Indian tourists. I found the only hostel in the city, walked up 6 flights of stairs to my shared room then ran all the way back down to order a curry, rice and some nan bread. Boy, was I hungry!! I felt very unsocial and tired so took an early night.

Gangtok is a very hilly capital city of the state of Sikkim. It has a Tibetan laid back feel to the area. Young women dress down, compared to the rest of India and as a tourist, I was infrequently hassled. The majority of tourists that visit the area are Indian as they do not require a permit and also the climate is a little cooler compared the the hot centre of India.

The city is also high in altitude and walking around you can certainly feel the strain on your lungs and your legs.

I was lucky to meet a tall Canadian guy called Thomas and a very friendly guy from Hong Kong called Alex. We arranged a six day tour in West Sikkim and before long, I was leaving Gangtok for a long long taxi ride to west Sikkim. To get to west Sikkim, you need to drive south almost back to Siliguri to then drive west to Yuksom. The taxi was so weak that at times we had to leave the car so it could drive up hill!!

Eventually we made it to Yuksom late one evening and prepared for our 6 day hike.

Next stop, Yuksom and the six day hike to the third highest mountain in the world, Khangchendzonga.
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