Sunday, June 17, 2007

Episode 2 : Why Hillstations Rock

If you say you are my good friend, or if I have even just known you for a long time now (long time being anything more than 3 hours), at one point or another in our vivid, all-encompassing conversations sometime, you have asked me to shut up already for heaven's sake. Or practised throwing used chewing gum, or paperballs, or matchsticks, or anything of suitable dimension in past my rapidly expanding and contracting jaw muscles. Well, something of that order atleast. Its a natural truth. There is no going around it. I like to ramble. Just the way I see I'm doing right now.
I have long, flowery descriptions lined up to garland this place Gangtok with. I would throw hymns of honour at its every step, drape it with a coat of tribute, encase its beautiful feet with shoes made of paeans and odes, hire local models, dress them up as angels to play lovely escorts and generally sprinkle the air around it with poetry and praise. But I wont this time. I shall instead liberally scatter pictures (each worth approx. one thousand words according to trusted sources). Being unstoppable means I shall put in a few words, and share a few thoughts here and there, so keep that in mind.

We went to see a flower show first up. The entrance, and the nice guard sort of guy.


Another flower. (dont tell me you expect biological names)

little kids herded goats and random cattle as we stopped for lunch while sightseeing

the monastery of the golden stupa

unidentified rotating things you see at monasteries

These things I have a question about. What and why are they? Now once we had climbed upto this particular monastery and I'd seen these things surrounding the whole stupa enclosure in a square grid, was when I first asked myself this question. It has to be some sort of practical joke. In their infinite wisdom and close to nirvana consciousness level, why would Buddhist monks make round rotating things along monastery walls. My theory: to get their kicks by laughing at wonderstruck tourists. Any normal sightseeing tourist would become curious at the sight of strange things such as these near a monastery. What would he do, seeing the axis and the cylinder? Obviously he'd give it a twirl. A fun thing to do in the otherwise quiet and serene atmosphere of a monastery, the rage caught on. And thus, the monks got their laughs. Good luck it brings you if all rotate without the first stopping, they say. So what does that do? You dont calmly twirl one and end it there. Instead you run around trying to get 'em all as fast as you can. I want good luck and a happy peaceful life! More laughs they have. I noticed some of the littler monk-trainees smiling as my father enthusiastically brisk-walked about twirling them all, and I understood. I eyed them keenly, my eyes narrowed like an eagle's, and moved away from the things. They didnt fool me.

distant lands and gathering grey clouds (not entirely clear) seen from our cable-car ride over gangtok

i stand atop the boulder i so valiantly conquered. persistent sidekick brother alongside in red.

thousands of feet below us, the teesta river. we rafted over it the next morning.

post-rafting the next morning. alas, cameras arent safe aboard rafts. the teesta we traversed, here.

Rafting was definitely the best time I had at Gangtok. It was enroute to Darjeeling the next morning, and knowing we covered part of the journey by river feels serious-traveller-ish. We took the "safer" raft route, for unknown reasons. It had its share of ups and downs but was relatively moderate as compared to the route they didnt take us on. No sooner had we strapped on the life-jackets and settled ourselves on the raft, than it started to rain heavily. We went along a wide turbulent river, with grey clouds above, the river spraying water up on us, the grey clouds spraying rain down on us; Nature has never so comprehensibly soaked me before. But what an experience! We rafted along the Teesta, surrounded by huge mountains on either side, and a blending of blue water and green water ahead of us, as we reached the Teesta-Rangeet confluence midway. The rougher parts were perilously adventurous as our raft climbed and fell with the waves attacking us incessantly. Towards the end, our local raft guy allowed us to jump into the water and swim ashore if we so wanted. My brother and I, we're idiots. We jumped. Straight into water only slightly above ice level in temperature. Trying to swim in the life-jacket, to the shore only 20 feet away, I felt ridiculous. But never mind! It was fun! And I'm trying the rougher part next time I go.

through rain and through billowing wind, we reach darjeeling and the sterling resort (below)

Darjeeling has changed. The mall looks different, and a lot more organized. There are two developed tourist areas around waterfalls too, which we visited. Both were so infernally stuffed with tourists, however, that the fun of it wore off a bit. I didnt take too many more snaps.

me, the fun of it having worn off a bit

gangamaya falls tourist place. im not showing much of it because there are far too many tourists loitering about

It was in early childhood that I had last holidayed at a hill station. And so I didnt see all that I could see this time on, with adult eyes. Its a most wonderful place. Sikkim is too beautiful for words. It wasnt too heavily crowded with tourists, the weather was most pleasing, and the natural beauty of the hillside was breathtaking. Happiness is what you feel when you go there. And it comes from all sources. Wherever I looked and saw locals, they were smiling. I saw no anger, I saw no resentment, or frustration. I saw a happy and hardworking lot of people, managing meagre lives in a way quite extraordinary to an ordinary metropolitan resident (my mother was repeatedly amazed at how the people carried on daily activities having to ascend and descend the mountainside for every little thing they needed).

Its a fantastic vacation spot. A wonderful journey. I just hope there are fewer tourists next time I go. I cannot stand the crying, drooling, wrapped up and rapidly vibrating little children. Or most of their mothers. I cannot stand other tourists. Period. Oh, and go to Sikkim please. For your sake really. Dont miss. Now period.


Dhruv said...


ami said...

Pikchaaaaaaaaaaaars !!!!!! YAY !!

ami said...

*happily shakes her head and rubs hands in glee*
I want to go rafting too now ! And learn how to swim !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Confused & Baffled said...

@dhruv: i know. coupled with the beautiful weather, you can imagine being there as a hundred times more magical than the pix.

@ami: we all want to go rafting! and the lifejackets should keep you afloat even if you cant swim. they kept repeating that over and over in case we had blind faith in our own dooms. so no worries! go go go!