First time in months, mass tourism! And it’s an odd feeling. A comfort of sorts with plenty of comfort foods, like the “authentic”, and I’ll admit, quite delicious, after months of rice and dhal, Tibetan Burger. More than that, a reflective, nostalgic, realization that perhaps a certain chapter of this journey is already behind me… and I almost want to turn back. But such is life… it only ever moves in one direction.
The Unlikely Baby
Europe, meet Tibet. Tibet, meet Europe. Now go mate. Your baby shall be named Gangtok. And he’ll settle in this odd corner of India, just for kicks.
No, really. This place is great. Clean, quiet, organized, culturally distinct. And they even stamped my passport at the border, and, yup, such silly things do make me smile.
I’m staying with a wonderful Tibetan family. And if I could only have one wish, it’d be to finally, after two continually cloudy months in the Himalayas, get to at least once see the snowy peaks.
The one annoyance in Sikkim is that aside from entry permits, I need permits within permits within permits to really access anywhere worthwhile. And requests for those are widely refused.
But I’ve found that Indians tend to make a huge fuss and dramatically over-exaggerate every problem, so they’ll spend hours thinking of every reason why something is not possible, then they’ll suggest grand, completely unfeasible solutions. Then, once they finally get tired, something magical happens; within 30 seconds they’ll solve whatever the ‘problem’ was, and it takes them no effort at all.
So, a bit of persistence on my end, and I manage to receive the permit to visit this “absolutely inaccessible” Tsango Lake near India’s supposedly only open border with Tibet.
Nice ride, nice lake, yaks with colourful horn-warmers roaming around. A bit rainy, but peaceful.
Indian “Pooja” in North Sikkim
There’s a large parking garage outside my guesthouse window. Inside, there’s a brightly lit shrine of a feminine-looking god with a big moustache. The shrine is surrounded by a circle of cars decorated with ribbons and balloons. Plenty of other kitsch and flashing lights all around. It’s a tea party for cars! Or, in more proper terms, the holiday for the Hindu god of Machines (I forget the name). I bet local cars wait all year long for this day.
I’m a day’s drive away from Nepal, very broke and it’s decision time. But I’m not quite yet ready to end this journey of mine… I’m not yet ready inside. And on the outside, apart from this north-east “other India”, I also long for the “India India”; the Bollywood, the bright colours.
I genuinely don’t know how I’ll pull it off but it feels I already know my answer. I’m heading to Kashmir, at the far other end, maybe 3,000km away, before looping back to Nepal. And I’d better hurry, only a month left on the visa. Wasn’t that thing valid for six months? When did it pass?
Pelling, West Sikkim. My last day here and I urgently wake up way earlier than I usually do. And ahead of me, clear against blue sky, Mt. Kanchenjunga and the Himalayan snowy peaks. Absolutely breathtaking. And I know that all of it up to now, the good and the challenging, was all leading exactly to here.
For more on Matt’s films and travels, check out the Etherium Sky Production Blog at EtheriumSky.com/ProdBlog