Have you ever been to Sikkim, in December?
What a beautiful place! Beautiful, amazing, wonderful, awe-inspiring. These are words which keep popping into my mind when I think about Gangtok and Lachung.
Day 1: The journey from Bagdogra to Gangtok- The roads were long and hard. They wound their way around the mountains like an endless rope, tying humanity to the divine.
Everywhere we went we saw coloured flags blowing in the wind. “What are they?” we asked the driver.
“Those? Those are wishes, prayers. The more the wind blows at them, the more likely they are to catch, to come true.”
“And the white ones?” we asked.
“Those are for the dead, so they find peace. To wish them a happy journey, wherever they may go.”
Day 2 : Rumtek Monastery, prayer wheels, a shrouded golden Buddha and children being monks, playing, laughing, jumping, sitting still. We turned the wheels and sat and watched. We watched the mountains as they stood, never changing and we watched the clouds as they skimmed the tops of the peaks and we wondered at the vastness of it all.
A stray dog, well fed and clean came and sat at our feet in the sun, as we dined on Maggi noodles on the roadside. A small child with a cat strolled past us as we waved.
“The cat’s name is Victor!” he called, when asked. And the child and Victor seemed the best of friends. All was well with the world and all the world was at peace.
Day 3 was Tsongmo Lake, at 12400 ft or so. The mirror of ice and water, the popcorn and the yaks. The snow balls and the blue, blue sky, made us catch our breath. Sure footed and gentle, our bovine friends carried us up and down along icy paths and snowy climbs. Oh, how I love the yaks!
Day 4 was the journey to Lachung. What a journey, “Kangchen Dzonga”, loomed larger than ever, like a prince he stood with his five peaks watching us as we watched him.
Day 5 : And so it went on, our journey. The Teesta River, a rich turquoise ribbon below us, leading us higher and lower, around and around until we met it finally, at the famed Yumthang Valley. It babbled and frothed and sang, whilst men worked on the bridge and with nets of metal mesh to hold the banks in place.
The skies were blue and the yellow sun was hot. Although it was cold, it mattered not a jot, for the heat of the sun, like a healing palm on my cheeks and my neck, kept the chill at bay. It was only at night, when the cold stars appeared like pinpricks in the black, did we feel the need for extra blankets, the heaters turned up to full blast and socks in bed.
And then it was time to make our way home. Reluctant relief? No more winding roads. But no more Kangchenjunga, no more blue and white and the reflection of our very selves in the waters so clear and pure.
And all the while the wishes were still blowing in the wind, silent whispers reminding us of where we were…and where we are all eventually going.