It took us a couple of days to travel up to the ancient Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim, sandwiched between Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and West Bengal.
The capital Gangtok was our first destination where we were lucky enough to arrive just before the Tibetan New Year festival of ‘Losar’, for which there was some special dances on at the monastery in nearby Rumtek.
We then headed out west to Pelling, which provided a base for several days of trekking through the mountains visiting a number of remote monasteries and stopping off overnight at various small villages along the way. We sampled some of the local millet beer called Chang, which is essentially whole fermented millet grain in a large tankard that gets continuously topped up with hot water throughout the night and drunk through a straw, basically, a never ending beer
We discovered maps in Sikkim are of a very basic nature. In fact, the best ones we had were hand drawn by various people we encountered along the way. We supported these by constantly asking for directions to successfully navigate our way round the myriad of mountain paths.
Passing back through Gangtok, we then headed up to North Sikkim armed with additional special permits and by necessity were accompanied by a guide. The north turned out to be a much more wild and rugged environment than the west and was bitterly cold in comparison, going to bed in a hat, gloves and 2 jumpers was not uncommon! The scenery was spectacular and worthy of another visit a little later in the year to see the Rhododendron forests and the famous valley of flowers in full bloom.
So now it’s time to head back to the old stomping ground of Delhi to catch up with old friends and the familiar places which were our home for over 4 years.