Day 126: The Driving Tour That Wasn't

Trip Start Feb 12, 2011
Trip End Nov 19, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hotel Tashi Gang

Flag of India  , Sikkim,
Friday, June 17, 2011

It was sad to say goodbye to our mischievous little waiter/hotelier/chef extraordinaire but we were off to Yuksom and he was off to school in his spruced up uniform. After a previous full day of walking approximately 15km, we were happy to just relax in the car ride over to Yuksom.  We enjoyed our last breakfast at Hotel Kabur with an Australian father/son duo. 

The son was around 30 and had been traveling for over 5 years and hadn't a clue what he was going to do with his life as he was finally heading back to Australia.  With no work experience to fall back on, he was hoping his love for yoga would bring him eternal peace and happiness, or some BS like that.  He was full of endless chatter and was a nice enough guy; just like a leaf blowing in the wind, as John described.  His father, on the other hand, barely said two words.  But those few words were profound: "I’m retiring and I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life."  I couldn’t help but feel sorry for this quiet, reserved man of 65.  There is so much to see and do in the world that I have the hardest time imaging what life would be like if you just didn’t have anything to look forward to.  Do people really get that caught up in their jobs/careers that they lose their identity and what makes them happy outside of those hours?  Yes...sadly they do.

We had the car to ourselves on the way to Yuksom and our driver conveniently had a USB port on his stereo so we were able to hook up our iPod.  As we wound around the steep mountain cliffs shrouded by the fog, listening to our favorite music, we were in a state of contentment.  We drove by several waterfalls as some tourists looked to be brave enough to step into the icy looking glacier runoffs. 

 Halfway through our journey we came upon Khecheopalri Lake, the sacred lake Sikkimese natives come to make wishes on.  Ancient legend has it that there is never a single leaf floating on the surface, despite being surrounded by trees, because the Gods do not allow the wish-making lake to be interrupted.   It was fascinating to see such a peaceful place over-run with so many Indian tourists that we barely had a chance to get close to the water.

The 'tour’ ended at the even tinier town of Yuksom, the first capital in Sikkim as well as home to the oldest monastery in the state.  And I thought Pelling was small!  As LP describes; charming, loveable little Yuksom is not yet overrun with backpackers and does not attract the local tourists because it lacks a view of the Kangchenjunga mountain range.   With the timing of our arrival at the start of monsoon season, I doubted there was another tourist in town besides John and me.

We pulled up to the nicest hotel in Yuksom, Tashi Gang, and were given a great rate of $20/night due to the fact that we were the only guests in the hotel.  It was by far the nicest place we have stayed in India, with plenty of space to spread out, dark wood flooring, and an idyllic balcony overlooking the mountains to enjoy our afternoon tea on.  The charm was not lost on us as we listened to the distant afternoon chants from the monks at a local monastery.  The only thing missing was a fireplace.

We walked the whole town, and 5 minutes later we were at the only place with internet; another hotel at the end of the ‘strip’, as I liked to call it.  There was a room tucked away in the hotel with an ancient looking computer surrounded by knock off North Face gear for sale.  The front desk person hooked up his iPhone to the computer and told us it was a very slow connection.  He wasn’t kidding as I was on for 30 minutes and only had time to check on the details of our upcoming couch surfing experience in Mumbai.

Back at our room, we relaxed into what was to become our daily ritual of reading, writing, drinking tea and watching the monsoon slowly take hold of this beautiful region of the country.  It felt as if we were a million miles away from the real hustle and bustle of India.  We had a decent and awkwardly quiet dinner in our hotel dining room…did I mention we were the only guests?  And off to bed we went, the first time I can remember not needing earplugs or my iPod to get me to sleep thanks to the lull of the rain.
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