The Last Shangri La

Trip Start May 03, 2011
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Trip End May 24, 2011


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Flag of India  , Sikkim,
Sunday, May 8, 2011

17-20 million people travel on trains EVERY day in India. Two days ago Karin and I were amongst them. Rushing trough the gigantic train station with sweat running down our backs trying to figure out the right way to go and what train to catch while listening to Hindi on crackling loudspeakers was a challenge, but we made it on to our train cabin and
got starred down by four pot-bellied middle aged Indian men asking if we
were SURE that this was our seats, wobbling their heads. The 12 hour
train ride didn't get me much sleep due to snoring, other loud
passengers, passing trains and a neverending flickering evil light bulb
just in the corner of my eye. Frequent wiffs of urine swooped trough the
train and I remembered I swore never to travel in 3rd class sleeper
again. The stunning landscape that we passed in the morning did make up
for it tough!

After an hour of haggeling to
get a jeep up to Gangtok (and gotten kicked out of one!) we finally
took off for the mountains. Squeezed in with 11 other passengers into a
jeep seating eight... we were cramped and held on for deer life as we
drove in bone-rattling speed on a five hour journey that seemed to never
end. My bottom cheeks alternating on the small sliver on the seat and
the other on top of Karin. We passed every car on our way accompanied to
a loud honking serenade. Somehow we actually reached our destination
even tough the transmission lost a gear along the way. Surreal is all I
have to say.

Gangtok, meaning
"hillside"certainly lives up to it's name.Clinging on to a hillside with
it's colorful concrete  boxes with streets heading uphill both ways.
After our sardine-packed jeep ride we decided to hike up to our guest
house and 15 min turned in to a 45 butt-kicking climb with all our gear
on our back. The reward was the stunning landscape around us: green lush
bamboo, rice terraces and flowering rhododendron flowers, and prayer
flags covering the hillsides. Birds singing and fresh air. Friendly
Tibetan-looking faces and children in preppy school uniforms smiling at
us. An independent Kingdom until 1975, Sikkim has been considered the last Shangri La. What an amazing place!!

A man that introduced himself as Buddha helped us with our travel arrangements for
our Khangchendzonga trek. Sikkims pride the majestic Khanchendzonga
(8598m) is the worlds third highest mountain. It's ten last meters is
off-limits to climbers as a sign of respect to local Buddhists. And no,
we will not attempt to climbe to the top, BUT we are heading on a eight
day trek to Goecha La, a 4949 meter pass (just a few meters shy of the
Mt Everest base camp!) PS, I did not realize that minor detail until
that very moment.

The Universe delivered our second half of our trek: two yuong
Swedes named Gustav and Markus. They just finished high school and are
on a trip on a life time trough India and Nepal. They just happend to
walk in while we were ironing out the last details of the trek and
voila'

So a little trek grew into a full expedition of four
trekkers, two porters, a cook and four horses that will carry our
supplies. I feel like such an adventurer!!!! I slept good that night, dreaming of stunning vistas and possible blisters.

The following day I woke up early and headed out for a
morning walk to take some pictures and stumbled upon a group of moks.
They invited me to come along and participate in their morning prayer.
Next thing I know it, I'm sitting among all these monks listening to the
beat of their drums and the sound of the horns, the chanting.... It was
A-mazing and it was magical. I could feel tears of joy running down my
face as I chanted along with them Om mani pande om (hail to the jewel in
the Lotus) . I closed my eyes thinking how lucky I was to be there in
that moment, sharing this incredible experience together with these
monks in Gangtok India. I chanted and sent Love to all my friends and
family. It was a moment I will never forget.


Today our journey to Yuksom begins and another five hour jeep
ride awaits us. Tomorrow is the first day of our expidition and I am so
incredible excited (and yes, a little nervous) but just a little. I
will be out of reach from any communication but will be happy to share
our adventure as soon as we get back on Mon May 16th.

'till then,

Lots of Love from Incredible India
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