Despite disappearing off the face of the planet for a week in Sikkim, we are alive and well in Kolkata (Calcutta).
We spent about 4 days in Pelling, which is a remote hill town at about 2100m. Most of our days involved a combination hanging out, eating momos (Tibetan Dumplings – David has a mild addiction) and taking in the mountain scenery. The ride from Gangtok to Pelling was an interesting one indeed. It was raining pretty hard (not surprising in Monsoon season) which caused tons of landslides, some of which wiped out portions of the road. We are starting to understand their affinity for jeeps. Luckily it wasn’t nearly as bad as what is going on in neighbouring Bangladesh where monsoon is hitting a LOT harder.
Although it was a bit foggy/rainy, we managed to go on a great jeep tour of the area which included a few waterfalls, a mystic Buddhist lake, one of the oldest gomaps in Sikkim, ancient ruins of Sikkim’s former capital city and rides through the bamboo and banana tree forests. Needless to say, it was well worth the time spent getting (way) off the beaten track.
On our stop at Khecheoparli Lake, which is a sacred Buddhist lake, we managed to help out a dog that had been in a fight and gotten one of his paws really badly cut. The locals don’t seem to take care of the animals very well, especially dogs, but a Finnish traveler we had met a few times happened to be there and patched it up with a wool mitt. Despite the fact that a dog with a wool mitt on its paws looks a little odd, he did seem to appreciate it.
From Pelling we took the Jeep down to Siliguiri where we caught the night train to Kolkata. The difference in temperature is almost unbearable. It got up to 35 degrees today, and after spending all that time in the hills its going to take some getting used to, especially because today was a cloudy and relatively cool day.
We caved to the heat and ended up splurging on a place with air conditioning, and also includes afternoon tea. It’s run by the same British woman who has owned it since colonial times and is very nice.
Kolkata is not the type of place that it has gained the reputation of being. While it is true, it is not the nicest city in the world, we have actually found it to be cleaner than Delhi. There is a huge park in the center of the city (much larger than New York’s central park) and many of the sights are lovely.
We spent today checking out the Victoria Memorial, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and just wandering around the city. We may or may not have caved to the cries of a Pizza Hut, but after more than a month and a half away, who can really blame us.
We are spending another two days here before hopping on the night train to Varanasi. Most trains here are night trains, because the system is slightly…aged, but it ends up working out pretty well in the end.
Regretfully we are in our final two weeks away, but are looking forward to coming home. (Mr Ruta: I hope you are prepared to make a stop at Apache on the way home from the airport. Pizza Hut is nice, but nothing beats onion rings and a milkshake.)