Welcome to Sikkim.
Welcome to the concluding part of the “Cycling in the Mountains” adventure. In this part, I’ll take you around Gangtok and tell why I came to Sikkim.
I have shared a detailed travelogue of my three previous visits to Sikkim on the Let’s Travel blog. Click the link to read it: http://letstravel.barretomiranda.com/lets-travel-to-sikkim/
The first 20 kms from Ranpo – the entry to Sikkim was relatively flat terrain, but the final 20 kms were steep and exhausting, with an elevation gain of nearly 2000 metres.
The roads were dusty due to landslides and ongoing construction on roads, tunnels and railway lines.
I finally made it to Gangtok, kept my cycle at my friend’s Renault showroom, and headed by the waiting car to his home. Sikkim Renault is owned by my friend Sherap Lepcha and his brother Pema.
# NOV 10
With my friend’s cousins, I went on a tour of the monasteries around Gangtok.
It was established in 1966 as the Gyalwang Karmapa’s seat-in-exile.
The place is guarded by the Indian army due to sectarian conflicts within the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism due to the 17th Karmapa issue. To get in, you’ll need a valid ID.
Ray Mindu Monastery
It was founded in 1873 by Kagyupa followers and is located near the Rumtek.
View of Gangtok from the Ray Mindu monastery.
Ranka Monastery (also known as Lingdum Monastery)
The sprawling complex is around 20 kilometres from Gangtok, nestled among tranquil forested hills. The monastery is a Buddhist pilgrimage centre affiliated to the Zurmang Kagyu sect of the ancient school of Tibetan Buddhism. It is under the spiritual direction of H. E. Zurmang Gharwang Rinpoche, who is the 12th successive successor of the Kagyu sect.
# NOV 11
The next day, I visited the Do Drul Chorten.
Trulshik Rinpoche, the head of the Nyingma order of Tibetan Buddhism, constructed the stupa in 1945. A complete set of Dorjee Phurba, Kangyur (Holy Books), and other sacred objects may be found inside this stupa. 108 Mani Lhakor, or prayer wheels, surround the stupa.
A ride on the ropeway is a must-do as it offers a panoramic view of Sikkim from high in the sky.
And a visit to Gangtok isn’t complete without a stop at MG Marg and a selfie with Mahatma Gandhi.
And with the Red Panda – the official animal of Sikkim, installed at the other end of the street.
I came across this interesting ‘Free Book Library’ and hope to see something similar in Goa someday.
I cycled only on one day in Gangtok since the weather was too cold for my liking.
First stop Bakthang Waterfalls.
“Bak” means forest, whereas “thang” means meadow in the local language. The water slides down the rock face, eventually forming a little pool at the bottom. You can rappel down a zip line from one end to the other for Rs. 100.
Or, dress up in royal traditional attire and pose for photos in front of the falls.
Tashi View point
On a clear day, it provides a panoramic view of Kanchenjunga’s snow-capped peaks.
The sunrise view from here is spectacular, with the peaks dazzling with changing colours. But for that, you must reach the point before 5 am.
To get to the circular observation area from the road level, you must climb steep flights of stairs. Binoculars are suggested for viewing Kanchenjunga and the surrounding hills. You can also go to the top floor of the building for a better view by paying an entry fee of Rs. 10/-.
The conservatory is best visited in April and May, when the plants are in full bloom. Only a few plants were blooming when I went.
In Sikkim, prayer flags are a regular sight along the roads.
This Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Ganesh, which was built in 1953, provides visitors with magnificent views of Gangtok city.
Flower Exhibition Center
If you like orchids, visit the centre, it has a large collection.
All across Gangtok, only the Cherry Blossom trees were in full bloom with gorgeous pink flowers.
That’s the CM’s official residence on the left. I had to wait for 15 minutes at the roundabout as the area was cordoned off as he was leaving.
# NOV 15
The only reason I came to Gangtok was to celebrate Sherap’s birthday, who is my closest friends.
Coincidentally, the day Xaxti Riders were cycling with Leander Paes in Goa, I came across this photo of Sherap and Leander while browsing through his photo album. While playing for East Bengal in Kolkatta, Sherap and Bhaichung Bhutia stayed in the same building as Leander.
# NOV 21
After 13 days in Gangtok, it was time to say my goodbyes to my friends.
Start of a long 113 kms journey to Siliguri
River rafting is being organised by a number of people along the Teesta. The starting point is located half way between Gangtok and Siliguri. To get there, you can either rent a car or use a shared taxi. Rafting costs start at Rs. 4000/- per person.
That’s one of the rafts floating downstream.
Landmarks along the way.
One of the many dams that have been built across the Teesta River, causing environmental damage.
Lake formed by damming the river.
The bridge spans across the Teesta river and was named to commemorate the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937. On November 5, 1937, John Anderson, the then-Governor of Bengal, laid the foundation stone for the bridge, which was completed in 1941.
Locals, however, refer to the bridge as “Baghpool” meaning “tiger bridge” because placed at one of its portals are two colourful tiger statues.
Mahananda Wildlife Santuary
After descending nearly 1500 mts, the next 15 kilometres to Siliguri was flat terrain.
End of an amazing adventure, checking into the same hotel.
# NOV 23
Time to head home. Bagdogra airport.
Due to the clear sky over Delhi, I was able to see the Lotus Temple while landing.
Back in Goa after 29 days
Distance cycled: 486.64kms
Elevation gained: 9375mts
What prompted me to write and share this travelogue??
A hope that maybe, after reading this, someone will say “ah, why not” and put on their boots for the first time. It’s an attempt to convert a few “whys” into a “when?” or “where?”
Thank you for your time and interest, and I hope you enjoyed the travelogue.
If you need any more info, feel free to contact me at lynn(at)barretomiranda.com
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