The Journey Within – Srinagar-Leh Highway #wanderlust

Some journeys often come with the respite of a long awaited vacation; some take you far and wide; some change your perspective of the world around you; and some end up in increasing your social circle. But then once in a long while there comes a journey, a road, and a destination so mystical that you start questioning yourself. You start questioning your beliefs, your surroundings, your dreams, and your purpose. You tend to ask so many questions that you get lost in that magical place. And when that happens, you finally end up finding a new yourself.

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Riding the Srinagar-Leh Highway is every biker’s ultimate dream. And the one thing I can guarantee you is that this road is in no way overrated. It offers all the challenges and curves needed to make the drive a mesmerising journey. Thousands of adrenaline junkies and routine travellers take this route every summer to reach the city in clouds, Leh. The journey starts from Srinagar, the summer capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India. One can rent bikes, Enfields, and SUVs from Srinagar itself.

The journey begins at the Lake City of Srinagar
The journey begins at the Lake City of Srinagar

We kicked off our journey in Srinagar with damp clothes and hopeful spirits. Rain accompanied us all the way to Sonmarg, a green little hill town which marks the end of the cheerfulness of Kashmir, and the start of the barrenness of Ladhak. The two hour journey was highlighted by a cattle caused traffic jam, which kept us waiting for about a half an hour. We called it a day at Sonmarg, as the road ahead was snowed, and our clothes still moist. Though we weren’t able to explore this shepherd country to its fullest, we sure did enjoy the magnificent views of the Himalayas.

The Shepard Country
The Shepherd Country

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This is where the interesting part begins. As you begin to leave Sonmarg, the surroundings change drastically. As eerily and nimbly as a teenager on seeing his mother. As we took the road to Leh, we were greeted by thick pale mist. It must have been around five minutes of zero visibility when poof! The lush green mountains had completely converted into huge chunks of black mass. It was as if an innocent child had been brainwashed into believing that his dreams were unattainable and taboo. Oh but little does the heart care about puny little things such as the brain; and there still were some patches of a little green here, and a little yellow there.

With absolute zero visibility, this is the most dangerous stretch of the road
With absolute zero visibility, this is the most dangerous stretch of the road

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The black, gloomy stretch of the highway is known as the Zojila Pass, also the ‘the worst road in the world’ or more musically, ‘the highway to hell’. For one thing, it lives up to its name honestly. It is one of those areas of the journey where you need find out why this road is not specifically for the faint hearted. At such high altitude, with immensely chilly winds gushing through your face, rendering the cheeks frozen and pink; with a cliff on one side and a hoard of cars following you like the little lamb following Mary. And don’t forget the part where you’re passing through a gate of unsteady snow, and the vendors stop you in between selling you overpriced tea, and artificial oxygen in the form of chips packets. Simply amazing.

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*Highway to Hell plays in the background*
*Highway to Hell plays in the background*

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Then it happens again. In just a poof, the black in covered in a white mist, and beyond that lay the brown, barren mountains of Ladhak. This whole journey is simply a treat to the eyes. I was just awed by this raw, sullen beauty. It’s as if the mountains are speaking to you; calling out for you. Oh and when the mountains call, you’d be a fool to not listen.

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The road then subtly leads to the Muslim-dominated city of Kargil, passing through some major landmarks such as the Drass Valley, and the Kargil War Memorial. We stopped for the night in Kargil. This yellow valley is always bustling with bikers and mechanics alike. This is the most popular stop over destination while travelling from Srinagar to Leh, and lives up to the name of a busy town.

The Drass Valley
The Drass Valley
Gryffindor muffler! I know right! :D
Gryffindor muffler! I know right! 😀
Kargil War Memorial
Kargil War Memorial

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Kargil City
Kargil City

Next morning we made the final run on the stretch to reach Leh, the capital of Ladhak district. The road follows the trail of the Indus River and the rocks often spot a mixture of various colours. You have mountains hued with red, green, blue, and brown. All of this just adds to the serenity and mystique of the place. Once you leave Kargil, the air becomes more and more calm. It’s as if Buddha Himself resides in this part of the country. The road passes through some of the oldest and some of the newest monasteries. It winds through villages where Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu kids go to school hand in hand. It curves through some of the most surreal and unfathomable landscapes.

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You won’t ever feel that the road is affecting you in any way. That’s the beauty of it. Everything just slowly creeps inside you. It crawls inside your skin, swims in your bloodstream, punctures your heart, and finds a place inside your soul. As the air gets thinner, the questions get deeper. And by the time you reach Leh, the tiny speck of white and green from the hill above, looks nothing short of an oasis in an everlasting desert. And it’s when you reach the city that you realise the essence of it all.

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Moonlike landscape
Moonlike landscape

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This highway is a journey into your heart. It begins with a bright lush green outer shell, ever-smiling; then it moves into black part, where all the dark stuff hides; and finally it breaks through the last layer, barren, cold, harsh, yet truthful and innocent to the very last drop.

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Some journeys take you outwards; some journeys take you upwards; some journeys take you downwards; but this one takes you inwards. And at the end of it I’m pretty sure you’d step out of the car doing either of the two things; believing in yourself, or questioning yourself.

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Pahalgam – Kashmir #Wanderlust

“There are two things in this world that can never be predicted; one is the Himalayan weather and the other, Bombay’s fashion” joked my taxi driver, Mohammed Rafiq, as the dark clouds suddenly gave way to let the warmth of the sun reach me yet again, only to last for a short spell of time. The journey from Srinagar to Pahalgam had consisted of unstoppable rains, a cattle-caused traffic jam and warm, saffron-rich Kashmiri-tea. The road that leads to Pahalgam is dotted with apple orchards, and after a while, it runs along with the local Lidder River. The scenery of the valley is impeccable with its dark pine trees and the snow-fed river.

Apple Orchards
Apple Orchards
The Lidder River
The Lidder River

Pahalgam

Pahalgam is made up of two words, ‘pahal’, meaning shepherd and ‘gam’, translating into village. And it so certainly is. Over the last few years, this quiet shepherd’s valley has turned into a bustling spot for tourists and hikers alike. Its lively market and trout-filled river are quite a popular attraction among the travellers; moreover, the valley offers some of the best trekking routes in India.

Pahalgam

One such trekking/pony-riding route leads to Mini Switzerland. Yes, a stunning meadow, with tall mysterious pines surrounding it, on the backdrop of the majestic Himalayas. This gem, locally known as Baisaran, is the perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. Though most people tend to use ponies to reach here, I chose to trek, along with my family. And the one thing that I can guarantee you is it was the best part of the whole trip.

Mini Switzerland
Mini Switzerland

I started at six I the morning, as the ponies start crowding the place ten onwards. I didn’t have any guide with me, when I started, so all I did was follow the footsteps of the ponies, literally. But after a while, nine year olds, Ali and Imtiaz, became the self-appointed guides of my group. Those cherry-cheeked kids most skillfully leaded the group to its destination, through the very dark and lovely path, guiding us through the short-cuts, rabbits and dogs disguised as bears. Even though Baisaran may have been the destination for us, the most gorgeous part was the journey. Oh those dark pines, and deep forests; those ever-joyous kids, and massively black horses; and certainly that pittery-patter of rain drops on my wind-cheater as I walked into that beautiful mass of green as it gave out some of the best breeze I’ve ever felt… just divine.

Pahalgam

Pahalgam
Ali and Imtiaz
Pahalgam
The dog, we misunderstood to be a bear, from a distance… :p

Pahalgam

Pahalgam

A few kilometers from Pahalgam, lays the Aru Valley, a summer home for the nomadic shepherds who are the heart of this valley. One can either hike or hire a taxi to Aru, but the hike is no less than a few hours. Prepaid taxis from the Taxi Union in the city, covers Aru along with Betaab Valley and Chandanwari in their package. We opted for that particular one, as mostly everyone was tired from the four hour hike from the morning. The ride to Aru is so scenic that I almost never got my hands off the camera. The Lidder River runs almost throughout the journey, as it cuts between two snow-tipped mountains. Aru itself is equally beautiful with the cold breeze and a perfect view of the Himalayas. A good book and Kashmiri-tea, is all you need if you’re travelling to Aru!

En-route to Aru
En-route to Aru

Pahalgam

Pahalgam

Pahalgam

The Betaab Valley is basically named after a Bollywood movie shot there but that doesn’t take away the beauty of that place (though it adds to the overflow of tourists there). Chandanwari, on the other hand, is a glacier and is packed with humans and mountain goats alike. If you’ve already had your fill with snow, then you can easily skip this point. (Although the Maggi there is to die for!)

Betaab Valley
Betaab Valley

Pahalgam

Chandanwari
Chandanwari
My first with the moon! :D
My first with the moon! 😀

Basically Pahalgam is the height of natural beauty in Kashmir, and an absolute feast for your eyes. It’s that cute kid who never lost his innocence and is still a star amongst his relatives. I felt the most relaxed, and rejuvenated here in Pahalgam. The slow churning of the trout filled Lidder, the zephyr caressing your face, and a nice little spot under a pine tree, over the soft cushion of dried pine leaves…oh tell me how can life get any better here?! 😀

Srinagar – Kashmir #Wanderlust

“When I was your age son, the water in the lake used to so clean that you could drink it” said an elderly Nishat Ahmed, who was sitting by the Dal Lake, teaching me the very basics of fishing. “And the lake was filled with fishes as huge as this.”

“This big?! Wow!”

“Yes dear. This big” he said, keeping his hands apart so that a baby dolphin could easily fit in them. And I listened to him for the whole evening, with an expression of awe on my face.

Though I failed to catch a fish that day, I pretty much learned a lot about Srinagar and its history. I learnt that once upon a time, the whole Srinagar valley was filled with water but slowly the water receded to what is the Dal Lake nowadays. I learnt about the remarkable cuisine and culture of Kashmir and how the locals sun-dry and store food for the winters. And also that fishing is a pretty addictive sport, once it grips you, there’s no turning back!

Srinagar

Srinagar, the summer capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, is a gorgeous valley city, bestowed with a gigantic water body. The Dal Lake, situated right in the heart of the city is rather the soul of the valley. The whole city is situated around the lake, and half of it even on the lake! Oh yes, the Dal Lake also homes the innumerable stationary houseboats, for the city is famous. These houseboats are basically floating hotels with 2-5 rooms each. Even some locals use them as their permanent homes. They come with a dining room, a sitting room, balcony, terrace and a kitchen. The one in which I stayed was anchored in the Nageen Lake, the west portion of the Dal Lake, and came with its own chef. And on the upside, it even had a mini library!

Nageen Lake
Nageen Lake
Srinagar

Srinagar

Srinagar

The Nageen Lake is much quieter and cleaner than the Dal Lake and the view offered, so much better.  The Hari Parbat fort overlooks the Nageen and turns into a beautiful spectacle in the night. Even the snow clad mountains of Gulmarg could be seen from the roof of my houseboat, being reflected in the deep blue waters of the lake. Now, one of the best benefits of living in a houseboat was that I didn’t need to go to the market; the shops always came to me! Right from six in the morning, shikaras (traditional boats) started lining up outside my balcony and shopkeepers started showing their wares. Florists and jewelers and local shawl sellers and what not! Though their rates were slightly higher than those of the shops in the market, I couldn’t resist making a deal with the florist.

Srinagar

Srinagar

Srinagar

Srinagar

Srinagar

It would not be entirely correct to give all the credit to Dal Lake for making Srinagar famous. The city’s other main attraction is the large number of incredibly crafted and designed gardens, most of which overlook the lake, giving a beautiful contrast between the green and the blue. And they are spread all over the city; in some of the most unheard and beautiful corners of Srinagar, I had found gardens blooming with some of the loveliest flowers and birdlife I had ever seen. Though I visited almost all the major gardens, I did not get the opportunity to go to the Tulip Garden, as it was off-season. Nevertheless, I was able to cherish the a walk in the Nishat Gardens, breathe in the cool air under a Chinar tree, enjoy the panoramic view of the city from Pari Mahal and dip in my feet in the ice cold water of Harwan Gardens.

Srinagar

Srinagar

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Srinagar

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Srinagar

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Srinagar

Srinagar

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Srinagar

If you’re in Srinagar then you can’t afford to miss two things: a shikara ride in the Dal Lake and a visit to the Shankaracharya Hill Temple. The temple is situated in one of the highest hills surrounding the lake and gives a mind-blowing 360 degree view of the valley. It’s only once I got to the top of the temple that I understood how vast the city actually was; the view offered shot back the massive expanse of the lake to the red-roofed houses that marked the end of the city and beginning of paddy fields. To reach the temple though, I had to climb a total of 275 steps and had to leave my camera and cell phone behind, as the temple is maintained by the army. But in the end, the mesmerizing view was worth all the pain.

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Tell me if this doesn't look like Rio! ;)
Tell me if this doesn’t look like Rio! 😉

The Shankaracharya Hill
The Shankaracharya Hill
Having safely left the temple at 17:30, its closing time, I went for a shikara ride in the Dal. And suddenly, as I descended the hill, it started to drizzle, which make boating in the Dal even more fun. Refreshing drops of water fell on my face as I waded through the now darkish waters of the Dal. With almost every floating shop targeting my shikara, I made it to a small café situated right in the middle of the Dal! Having taken a kahwa, traditional saffron tea, I took off again to complete a round around the Dal. My shikara rower said that much of the lake’s attractions had been damaged by the floods of 2014. The floating vegetable market had been destroyed, many fishes and flowers had been killed and even some wooden bridges over the Jhelum had vanished. He added that had I come to visit a few years back, I would have found the lake filled with lotuses, pink and white all over.

Srinagar

Srinagar

Srinagar

Srinagar

Srinagar

Srinagar

What followed was some shopping at the Boulevard and yet another round of it at the Residency Road. The best part of it were the cherries; sweet, juicy, wonderful deliciousness right in the middle of off season winter! Well, finally I reached my last destination, the Jamia Masjid, at nine in the evening. The mosque is famous for its architecture and history. As it goes, it had been burnt down thrice, and rebuilt every time with increased grandeur. It was last rebuilt by Aurangzeb in 1674, and still stands with its splendid construction and chinars.

Srinagar

Srinagar

Srinagar

The Hari Parbat Fort at night
The Hari Parbat Fort at night
The one thing that I realised from visiting Srinagar is that no matter where you go or whom you meet, people will treat you the way you treat them. Respect will give way to respect; and understanding to understanding. Though Kashmir has been an unstable and insecure for decades now, I don’t feel the people bare any hatred. And though there are areas in here where one should never go unprotected, I firmly believe that if you pass a stranger a smile, he will return it back. And I feel this is why Kashmir is known as paradise.

Gulmarg – Kashmir #Wanderlust

Lush green fields buzzing in the afternoon sun with people and ponies alike, on the backdrop of an animated panorama of the Himalayas, is what greeted me when I made my way through the deodar-rich forest into this skier’s paradise. Gulmarg is a hill-station about 50 kilometers East of Srinagar, the summer capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The only way to reach the town is by road with local taxis and buses available almost every day.

The road that winds into Gulmarg
The road that winds into Gulmarg

Kashmir has often been given the term ‘Paradise on Earth’. It has been even stated that Jahangir loved Kashmir so much that he visited this heaven thirteen times in his whole lifetime! But what I gathered from a first look was that this swarg had been commercialised way beyond imagination after Jahangir last saw it. The road which led to the rolling hills of Gulmarg was etched with shops boasting of all kinds of imported wares and modern entities. Halfway through the journey and it felt as though I had never stepped out of Srinagar, with her paddy fields and red-roofed houses following me all along. But just as I thought that the whole Kashmir was one enormous city, the surroundings changed so suddenly and dramatically that it took me a while to register the change. Everything seemed to have happened at once; the flat road gave way to hair-pin bends; the plains turned into beautifully symmetrical hills flooding with deodar, and the majestic mountains of Gulmarg became so vivid that it felt as though the Himalayas had taken off their Invisibility Cloak. Round and round the road winded into a lovely forest of deodar and pine trees, and within a few minutes the white-mountains stood straight ahead of where the rolling hills died out, kissing their almighty feet. It was truly a sight which produced much ‘Oohs’ and Ahhs’.

Gulmarg

Gulmarg

 

After checking into the hotel, the first thing that I did was to go for a walk in this dreamy environment. But as soon as I stepped out, a hoard of pony walas surrounded me and started pestering me to take an overpriced pony ride into the market. A word of advice, don’t fall for the sweet talk that they try to lure you with. There is this union in Gulmarg that does not allow your taxi to transport you within the city; it’s either the pony or your feet that will save you in this city and I highly vouch for the feet. The distances are so small that a walk to the local market will be rather energising than draining. A walk to the market will also cover the local points of interest, like the St Mary’s Church and Ziarat of Baba Reshi, though be careful of waste produced by all those ponies and mules.

A shepherd in Gulmarg
A shepherd in Gulmarg
Maggi with a view! :D
Maggi in the hills! 😀

Well, the walk was the best part of the day, except the fact that Gulmarg has been exploited way more than it can sustain. Pollution ruins the magic of the whole city, like blots of ink on a Picasso. The business minded people lure the tourists into buying overpriced and fake products while the pony-wallas poke around all the time. Well, Gulmarg is a really gorgeous place sans the evident damage that has been caused to it.

The effect of widespread commercialisation in Kashmir
The effect of widespread commercialisation in Kashmir

Gulmarg

The next day, I went for the most famous Gondola ride; and boy it was one hell of an experience. The morning was calm and sunny as ever before, but as I started to make my way towards the base station, it started to rain. Pour rather! It was the most ominous rain that I had ever witnessed; thunder and lightning struck as if Thor had just visited earth. Sheltering myself with my gloves, I managed it to the queue for the Gondola.

Now, the Gondola consists of two phases. The first one takes you to Kungdoor, and costs Rs 600. And the Phase 2 ride takes you to the Aparwath (13,500 ft) and costs Rs 800. Kungdoor, or Phase 1, is similar to the base level; lush green fields with deodar tress abruptly rising to increase the beauty tenfold. Perfect place for a trek into the wood. And to my surprise, the place was absolutely clean! But still, that isn’t what most people come for. The destination laid another gondola ride away.

Phase 1
Phase 1
The Gulmarg Gondola
The Gulmarg Gondola

After what felt like a lifetime of standing in the queue, I finally stepped into the world’s highest cable car. Oh the view was breathtaking! Deep green trees slowly being consumed by pure white snow; enveloped by the vastness of the white. And then there was the mist, which seemed to have given away the fact that it was actually snowing here! With every tower that the Gondola passed, the view became purer and purer still. It was about time when the cable car came to a halt, and I stepped out into a view that was unmistakably crowded. There were people and snow everywhere. As far as the eyes could see, dirty and slippery ice with fresh snow falling from the white above. After a satisfying glance, I ascended the mountain, covered in what felt like pearls which were spread all over my extremely overprotected winter clothing. After a small climb, I took a ski ride to a point from which you could see the country of Pakistan. From there I ascended the mountain again to a place where the snow was comparatively less dirty and less crowded. Honestly, it was here that the mountain was the harshest; my feet went numb, too frozen to feel, and the hands were barely kept alive by those clumsy over-sized gloves. But the face was the worst affected of all; chilly winds lashed the cheeks with much force that it felt prickly all over. Oh but it was beautiful. Plain lovely! The sight was well worth the cold and the experience worth spending the rest few hours trying to get your feet back from death. Snowball fights, endless array of photographs and a ski-race is how the Gondola trip ended for me. Well worth everything in the world.

Phase 2
Phase 2

As the cable car took me back to the base, the snowfall turned into a hailstorm. I took off my boots as I ran towards my car in the storm, only to reach all soaked up and white. Well, I left the city with enough rain and lightning to leave an impression, warm and peaceful enough, to last for a lifetime…

There was snow, there was snow; stretched for miles and more...
There was snow, there was snow; stretched for miles and more…

Things To Keep in Mind If You’re Travelling To Gulmarg

  • The Gondola is closed on 1st and 3rd Monday of the month for maintenance issues. And whenever the weather is stormy at Phase 2. If you’ve already booked your tickets, they’ll be refunded. Tickets can be booked here.
  • Don’t go for a pony ride. It’s a complete waste of time and money. If you want to have the experience for once, then go for a ride in Pahalgam but not here.
  • Bargain hard. Most of the stuff sold here is either fake or extremely overpriced, owing to the high influx of tourists. So it’s better to refrain from buying any type of clothing from here.
  • If you’re going to Phase 2 Gondola, then definitely remember to carry your own warm clothes, jackets, woolen caps and mufflers. Though there are shops which give such clothes and boots for hire, but they are generally overpriced. I struck a deal of Rs 200 for an overcoat and a pair of boots.
  • The best time to visit is the winter season when the whole town is covered in snow and it sports the ideal condition for skiing and ice hockey.
  • Please don’t pollute the area and do your bit by being responsible for your own waste.
  • Don’t forget to have loads of fun and whatever happens, go for the Phase 2 of Gondola! 😀

Sikkim #Wanderlust

Now, we all know that Kerala has been rightfully termed as the ‘God’s Own Country’. But after experiencing Sikkim I found out that, dude if Kerala is His own country then this has to be ‘His Own Planet!’ (I know the geography doesn’t make sense, but I can’t help it! 😛 ) Now I have been to many places but never have I came across something so beautiful, so enchanting, so mesmerizing and so alluring, that I was simply dumbstruck by the serenity of this place. Name it and you will find it here. Magical landscape – check, tranquil environment – check, lovely hill stations – check, divine monasteries in the middle of the forests – check, complete solace and peace of mind – check, Check, CHECK! Sikkim is one of those parts of India which has yet not been fully exploited or touched by any external force. It offers the same completely natural and peaceful environment along with a tinge of modernism to it. There are those uncanny forests living peacefully with that modern city of Gangtok, there are those Himalayan bears living side by side with the many tourists that flock here every now and then, and there are those soldiers living hand in hand with those devotional Buddhist monks residing in Sikkim. It’s a burst of cultures, people and nature that you will find here! (And don’t forget Football!) Buddhism Sikkim

The Monks on a Chilly Morning
The Monks on a Chilly Morning

I explored Sikkim with my Maa and Papa during the peak winter season this year. And the journey was truly beyond words. (Still I’ll try my best to express it in ‘words’) 🙂 Every journey begins with an airport (or maybe a train station or a bus stop or maybe a dock! Whatever!). 😛 The only airport that you will find anywhere near Sikkim (or for that matter, any North Eastern state of India) is in a place a bit west of it known as Bagdogra, in West Begal. From there you can easily get cabs or taxis to Gangtok (Sikkim’s capital city) or your hotel. For the first day, we spent our night in the valley region of Doar. Even though the weather was misty throughout, we could still see the endless acres of tea plantations following us along the road! Then again, the weather there was to die for!

A Misty Morning
A Misty Morning

Then we finally began our journey to a lesser known town of Baiguney in Sikkim. The place was truly worth all the pain of the bumpy ride (as I told you that this place is untouched beauty, and some roads are still under construction). The resort we were staying in had some secret passage which led to a river running nearby. The water was cold and the zephyr calm. A perfect place to de-stress and relax! (Which we did, of course 🙂 )

A Waterfall in Baiguney
A Waterfall, Baiguney

And then started the clichéd hovering of the tourist spots (though I will warn you that there are MANY gorgeous spots in Sikkim, and you simply can’t visit them all!) which ended in the setting of our second day in here. A Furnace

A Buddhist Lake
A Buddhist Lake

Pebbles

The Dark Knight.
The Dark Knight.
The White Knight.
The White Knight.

At a few hours journey from Baiguney is a hill station, Pelling, famous for its traditional food and the fascinating view of Mt. Kanchenjunga.  Almost every hotel offers a plethora of local food along with a breathtaking view of the mountain.

Mt. Kanchenjunga
Mt. Kanchenjunga
Our Car
Our Car

But here’s when the real adventure begins. Ever thought of taking your car to 14,000 feet just to experience the wind over there? Yeah! The Nathula Border is situated almost fourteen thousand feet above the sea level and divides India from China. It took us around five hours to reach the place from Gangtok (we started from Baiguney but Gangtok somehow crept in the middle!). And boy, it was freezing chilly out there! Inside the car everything feels normal, but as soon as you open the door, the wind sweeps it close! Forget the cold, the wind was even harsher and chiller than any other thing in the world! After a great struggle, a lot of courage and the ever adding layers of warm clothes, we managed to get inside a café (The only one actually). We drank cups of tea, coffee and courage and plates full of momos, chili sauce and guts! As more and more of it got in, our urge to get out got more and more unbearable.  And then like a warrior in a battlefield, like a sailor on rough seas and like James Bond on his mission, we stepped out into the chaos. (Chaos because there were many people moving here and there, trying to burn the heat) Walking, struggling, falling, tumbling, walking, again struggling, we made it to the border. The reward was to shake hands with a Chinese soldier and a photograph with the Indian Army at 14000 feet! Not bad actually! 🙂 My hat is off to all the Indian and Chinese soldiers who have to live in such a hostile climate and who, without a selfish motive, live and breathe to defend and fight for their country! Finally we made back for Gangtok.

Way To Go!
Way To Go!
The Trail to the Border
The Trail to the Border
Coffee to get us Going!
Coffee to get us Going!
The Indian Army
The Indian Army
The Photograph
The Photograph
A 'S' Bend, I Guess!
An ‘S’ Bend, I Guess!

And now that we were back again, bodies scrubbed with warm water, bellies filled with something Sikkimese, hopes high and engines roaring, we proceeded to explore the jolly city of Gangtok.

Now that was an amazing Cafe!
Now that was an amazing Cafe!
The M.G. Road
The M.G. Road
Be Realistic!
Drink It Up!

Gangtok has a lot to offer to everyone. Right from monasteries to theatres, from flower parks to the glamorous Mall Road and from street graffiti to extremely clean roads! But the best attraction was the Mall Road. It homes not only one of the best cafes in India but also the air of development and modernization. Taking a stroll down the road, in the evening, completely refreshed our wearied bodies. Moreover the street food there was DELICIOUS! Sluuurp! 😛

The Amazing Flora of Sikkim
The Amazing Flora of Sikkim
Out for a Stroll!
Out for a Stroll!
The Road
The Road
Now that's when Religion mixes with Science!
Now that’s when Religion mixes with Science!
Probably the BEST Bakery there!
Probably the BEST Bakery there!

Mall Road Gangtok also offers some pretty decent trekking routes. The trek that we went for lasted about an hour and included passing through a village, a couple of waterfalls and experiencing total serenity!

Mountain Goat
Mountain Goat in the Village
Freshly Prepared Curd. We drank one complete liter during the trek!
Freshly Prepared Curd. We drank one complete liter during the trek!
Into the Unknown
Into the Unknown

A far greater adventure that Gangtok offers is Paragliding. Here, there are three levels from which you can paraglide. The higher you get the more adrenaline is unleashed into your body. We tried out the medium level. And the experience was completely mind boggling! It was incredible and so much fun! The starting is the scariest when the instructors tell you to just keep running and even at the cliff, don’t stop! Woof! But as soon as you feel the wind in your face, you forget everything. It’s mesmerizing! After fifteen minutes of gliding, swaying and flying, the parachute rested for the first time as my legs felt the ground. Paragliding Paragliding

Pack Up!
Pack Up!

And with that our Sikkim trip also came to an adrenaline pumped end! The next day we left this beautiful country of peace loving monks, valor filled soldiers and football worshiping locals. This trip will stay with me forever…

New Friends!
New Friends 🙂