Finally summer’s here and as it’s hotting up (really hotting up – I’ve had lot’s of concerned friends and family writing in about the heat wave that’s made news back home) we bolted north.
In the early hours of the morn, after a night of graduation celebrations (sorry for the terrible quality of the photos – but they were too cute not to include!), Kate, Gaby, and I scooted our way to Mumbai airport where I saw them off at the airport before wandering around the city. It made me realise how little I had seen of one of India’s most happening cities that is (conceptually) only 4 hours away (in practice it usually turns into 6). After walking around the streets in 40˚ heat I was a little worse for wear when I turned up to Sanjana’s house, who had generously allowed me and my travelmates to crash there. I was too embarrassed after walking into the lobby of her apartment building, that I changed my clothes in the lift before knocking on her door.
Lærke (Denmark), Sofia (also Denmark), and Maren (Norway) and I flew to Kolkata at 8:30 and found a only very slightly dodgy place to stay. We did also find a rather nice bookshop with a wide assortment of tea. Under the guise of “this is definitely only research for my theatre studies director’s notebook” I bought a compilation of Agatha Christie plays; I am so good at lying to myself. We also, after a tad of confusion, found Sikkim House, who told us we would have to return the next day to get permits. So we ate lots of steamed momos (dim sum) and went to bed.
The next morning we checked out the final residence of the esteemed Bengali poet, Ramanujan Tagore. Once we got out, the wind started picking up the leaves, dirt, and rubbish as we walked down the street; everything started swirling and bricks started falling from rooftops.
We quickly hailed a taxi and not one minute later it started to fully storm, completely breaking the oppressive heated humidity that had dominated the past two days.
Maren and I volunteered to do the momo run that night, it had seemed easy enough with the responsible Sofia and Lærke. We got so so horribly lost. It was dark, everything seemed so unfamiliar, and we wandered around quickly (even quicker after an old man lent out from his rickshaw to grope our shoulders).We finally ducked in to a very swanky hotel and awkwardly asked the concierge to point us in the direction of our decidedly very un-swanky hostel. We were one minute away. When we got back we realised that, from the gate of Hotel Modern Lodge, we had immediately turned left down the bike lane and not right towards the open public urinals like we were suppose to. We flung open the door to our room, momos in hand, and greeted enthusiastically our terrified friends who vowed never to let us alone again.
We visited a state library, china town, and did a fair bit of walking and discovered the Kolkata metro and received our permits to enter Sikkim (I did have to return mine initially because, by looking at my passport (?) he had written my age as 29), before boarding our bus to Siliguri. In a, perhaps too prideful, attempt to retain our dignity after the taxi drivers refused not to rip us off, we were almost late for our bus. We made it, with pizza, all set for our promised 12 hour trip.
It was 26 hours.
So that was fun. I did give me the opportunity to try and learn the Marquis de Lafayette’s rap in ‘Gun and Ships’ from the fantastically amazing musical Hamilton (yes I can very whitely rap about the American Revolution and the formation of the US Financial plan).
I can honestly say Siliguri is the worst town I have ever been to. It is really only a transit stop but I hated it so much. We got in around 6pm and started hotel hunting. We must’ve visited 15 places before we found “Conclave Lodge”. It looked like something out of a horror movie as we approached it. We walked down an dark ally inhabited only by the shadows of stray dogs and torn plastic bags towards a yellowed, flashing neon sign. There was really no question as to why it was the only place with empty beds. The next morning we found a shared taxi to Gangtok, chai, and chapatis. We played word games all the way to the state border and I now proudly have a Sikkim stamp in my passport.
Sikkim is so incredibly beautiful. The landscape was so dramatically different to what we had stared at for 26 hours. The air was cool, we climbed through cloud (something I hadn’t realised I had missed), and the mountains were just…ah…I really don’t know how to say. I wish I could have captured it better through photographs but it does not do anything justice.
Gangtok was seething with people. As in Siliguri we visited probably 25 places before finding one dark, slightly smoky hostel. We asked the owner what was up and he told us that, due to the early monsoon, a bridge up north had collapsed, effectively trapping all the potential northern travellers south.
We had chowmien, momos, thumpka, and the local brew at “Taste of Tibet”, recommended highly by my housemate Ula (Poland). We also headed to “Live & Loud” for some promised live and loud music. There was one pretty rocking dj? Not quite what we were promised but we made do. When were returned the following day to sponge off their internet, we were assured by the bartender that our dance moves were pretty great.
Our shared jeep to Namchi was incredibly beautiful. We also stopped at the most gorgeous tiny roadside cafe and had chai and momos (yes, again) while looked over a sweeping valley. Namchi is tiny but we found a spacious room, for the first time, that looked on to the main street/plaza. The guide book said the town does host a piranha filled aquarium but we must’ve missed it. Next time.
We went and saw some of the ginormous statues that loom about Namchi. We walked up Samdruptse hill, to view a 36m statue of Guru Rinpoche, the patron saint of Sikkim. Behind the statue was a track that led to a hill covered in prayer flags. The cloud had totally moved in by the afternoon yet the breeze kept it constantly swirling around us. It was magical.
We also walked along the Tarey Bhir ridge – incredibly spectacular as we could see the green valley below as the mist cleared away. We stopped for (wait for it…) chai and momos on the middle of the ridge before continuing to Char Dham, a “huge pilgrimage cum cultural complex”.
It had really interesting vibe – almost like a religious theme park. There was a huge statue of Lord Shiva in the centre and around where monuments in the different styles of various parts of India.
But finally, our frolicking had to end and so began our series of goodbyes . Maren and I waved farewell to Lærke and Sofia as we headed back to Siliguri and back to Kolkata. Our bus to Kolkata, thankfully, was a fair bit shorter than our previous experience and I made friends with the girls across the way, who coincidentally live in Pune. Maren and I had to separate tearfully as gates 20 and 25 were on opposite sides of the Kolkata airport. Armed with coffee, a croissant, and an incredibly grimy hiking pack I set off solo for Bengaluru.
Another time, perhaps.
all my love,
3 thoughts on “Misty Mountain Hop”
I miss you! Can’t wait to see you soon! Sounds like you’re having the most incredible time xxx
Great story Anna, god you’re brave! Looking forward to catching up over the coming weeks.
Can’t wait for the next inslalment and just love that last photo. Tracey x