15th March 2016, Tuesday…Day (25) Gangtok 20 km
After a nice sleep inside the car parked in front of Manoj’s shop opposite Vajra Cinema Complex, got up to a nice morning in Gangtok. Had a nice cup of tea from a tea shop nearby run by a Nepali boy Roshan and his family. When I tried to pay, Roshan told me that the taxi driver who was chatting with me had already paid for me before leaving.
Even though I was far away from my home and was meeting all these people for the first time, the city of Gangtok and its people had already made me feel at home. Before leaving the previous night, Karma Tenzing had introduced me to all these people, the shopkeeper, the parking boy and the security guard at his office.
After freshening up, I drove on a road going towards North Sikkim and found a calm, serene and beautiful spot, Bakthang Waterfall. Although the fall was not very huge but its setting was beautiful. It had a cafeteria, a snack bar, a shop renting local costume and dress for photography and a rope for rappelling.
Drove little further and turned left on a country road. Weather was fine, mellow sun was out and the views of snow clad mountains looked beautiful. Parked the car on a side, cleaned the car and got everything out of the car in order to let everything dry under the hot Sun.
The people passing by gave me a quirky glance especially after noticing a PB number car and the stuff spread all over it.
The plan for the day was to get the permits for visiting North Sikkim. Karma Tenzing had promised to help me get out. The plan was to meet at 10am outside Karma’s office and then visit home department of Govt of Sikkim. Received call from Karma at 10am. He told me to drive directly to home department and meet him.
I drove back, parked the car at Vajra Cinema parking and walked down to home department. Karma was already waiting for me. We visited the concerned department, they told us that permits for motorbikes can be issued but not for private car. No private vehicle is allowed in North Sikkim and I need to travel by an authorised taxi.
We then walked down to MG Road and got a seat booked on a shared taxi to Yumthang and Gurudongmar Lake, 2 nights/3 days @Rs.3200- inclusive of food and stay from 16th to 18th. Karma left for his office and I went walking through the beautiful MG Road.
Rang up Mr Shashindra Kumar from Lucknow, a retired railwayman and an avid traveller. He has been to Sikkim a number of times and knew a lot about Sikkim. He gave me lot of information, vital tips and advice for travelling in Sikkim.
Situated at around 5000 ft ASL, Gangtok is the capital and the largest city of Sikkim, the least populated and 2nd smallest state, integrated with India in 1975. The state is largely a mountain state comprising mainly of people of Nepalese, Lepcha and Bhutia ethnicity. The largest religion in the state is Hinduism followed by Buddhism.
The state is bordered by three countries China, Nepal and Bhutan and shares its southern boundary with the state of West Bengal.
The World’s 3rd and India’s highest peak Mt Kanchenjunga lies in Sikkim, on its border with Nepal. It is the largest producer of cardamom in India and 2nd largest in the World. It is also the most environment conscious state and is the first fully organic state in India.
Walked back to Vajra Cinema complex where my car was parked. Had a nice hot cup of tea and chat with Roshan and Manoj. Roshan offered to accompany me to a flower show. The flower exhibition centre was near the ridge park, flanked by CM’s bungalow and white memorial hall.
We drove to ridge park, parked the car inside white memorial hall parking, paid entry fee of Rs.10- and went inside the flower exhibition centre.
Flower exhibition centre was not very large but it had amazing collections of flowers of many different types, since it was March the Orchids were in full bloom.
It started raining heavily thereafter. We drove back to Vajra Cinema parking. Karma and Manoj met me in the evening and told me to keep the car parked in the Vajra Cinema Complex parking and go without tension for 2 nights and 3 days trip to North Sikkim, they would keep an eye on Lalpari for three days in my absence.
And like the previous two evenings, walked down to MG Road, had nice time walking and chatting with fellow travellers. Took meals, walked back to Vajra Cinema Parking in light drizzle, pulled the covers over, slipped inside and slept for the 3rd night in a row in Gangtok……………..!!!