Monday, November 28, 2005

Pelling -> Yuksom -> Kathmandu

Namaste. To get to Pelling from Gangtok it is essential to get down the jeep stand at about 6:30am - but amazingly the pair managed to drag themselves out of bed in time. We met up with our new Swiss friends, Philipp and Sarah and jumped in (with about 12 other people) into our jeep. A friendly American traveller (whose name I forget... i am terrible sometimes) was also in our jeep - who had been travelling for 4 years - and had a beard that was much more impressive than Ollies 2 week effort (though Fowler later recognised his beard would probably be just as ropey.... and ginger). Major topic of conversation was cricket and the english tried to explain every rule and caveat - and had some limited success after the second hour of the journey. During a loo break Fowler jumped onto the jeep footplate athletically and sheered off the rusty step much to the amusement of the driver and passengers - (Fowler really does need to loose some weight but is eating too much curry). American chap jumped out at Geyzing and the pair plus Philipp and Sarah got another jeep to Pelling - a trekking and view point hub. Pelling has great views but as usual when we pulled up to our hotel (The Garuda) the peaks were shrouded in mist.. We still had time to walk up to the Pemayangtse (The sublime perfect lotus) Gompa - which is one of the most highly regarded in Sikkim and contains an incredible wooden shrine that took a single monk 7 years to omplete. Next the quartet made their way (through dense forest) to the ancient ruins of the old second Sikkimese capital Rabdenste. The evening was spent with Philipp and Sarah at the hotel restaurant - great company and great food. It turns out Philipp used to play top flight football for FC Wangen at centre mid, and is now an IT consultant (How many Premiership Players become IT professionals I wonder ?!? ). Amazingly - Philipp was nicknamed The Gazelle during his playing days (against such teams as Barcelona and Man Ure) though I suspect that Gazelle has far more ability than this Gazelle. Unfortunately Sarah couldn't persuade Ollie to drink the local 'Hit' beer, an incredibly powerful ale that Ollie took a major disliking to - at the first attempt. It was decided we'd all go up to Khecheopalri lake the next day and that Ollie and Des would walk back (a 5- 6 hour trek).

In the morning Ollie hit his head on the incredibly low door frame as usual and staggered outside while Des was his usual shambles when getting up early. And then they saw it....

Ollie was the first to look up and see Mount Kanchendzongaand and the rest of the range towering over us through the clouds - he shouted to Des (not using any bad language at all I might add) - at last the weather was breaking!

Khecheopalri - a quiet and peaceful holy lake was very serene on the warm and sunny day. Philipp and Sarah were getting the jeep back but the pair decided to give the walk a go. It took in some great scenery and a dodgey bridge but it was the final asent that was the tricky bit. An almost verticle gradient faced the trekkers at the end which seemed to go on for hours but they managed it in the end - and were assisted in navigation by the locals. The pair realised if they were to trek in Nepal they'd have to wise up and toughen up a bit! Though a few 'Hits' and some more excellent food meant a relaxing evening to the day.

Des was woekn up the next morning by Philipp knocking on the door. It was about 6:30am but the most brilliant sunrise had come up with not a cloud in the sky - and all the mountains were visible in their towering glory. Phillip and Sarah then left for Darjeeling but the English decided to head for Yuksom. Yuksom had a little sight seeing and the pair stayed at a nice hotel with some good views of the mountains once again.

The following day the pair had made plans to travel to Kakarbhitta - which went somethingn like this:

1) Get up at 5:30am. Get shared jeep to Jorethang at 6:30am. Jeep wasn't too crowded and a very comfortable 2 hours elapsed before arriving.

2) Get shared jeep to Kakarbhitta. This was an absolute nightmare - the jeep had 13 passengers - a driver that could would do well in Formula 1 - and no semblance of leg room at all. 3 and a half hours of holdinhg on for dear life ensued - but at least we made it quickly.... and the scenery was fantastic. Little did we know this was just the warm up.

3) Get our Nepal visas stamped and get on bus to Kathmandhu at 3pm. A quoted travel duration of 13 hours turned into 22 hours as a new dimension of suffering introduced itself to the London lads. The 22 hours passed in a blur of military checkpoints, very loud music, bone shaking bumps, intermitent sleeping, several near misses, 2 serious accidents with lorries and occasional vomitting by some of the less battle hardened passengers. The pair retrieved their back packs from the bus to find then literally coated in thick dust.. Well at least they'd saved a fortune rather than getting a flight! (he says trying to be positive).

But who cares, they made it in one piece, the Bus was a life experience and Kathmandu is great - and at time of writting Ollie has come up with a splendid plan of going to the local bar for a nice cup of chai and a bite to eat.

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