Tuesday, April 16, 2013

West Sikkim - Rendezvous with Rhododendrons #2 – Picturesque Pelling

The first episode of this travelogue ended with us, a small group of ladies setting off to scale the Sikkimese hills. The car journey was fun, frolic and fantastic all the way. Of course, what else could it possibly be when three like-minded lady travellers get together? The birds of the same feather naturally flocked together; chattered about food and destinations and experiences. In no time, no no, actually after a long time, which seemed like little time due to all the chit-chatting, we reached Pelling, a small touristy town in West Sikkim.

The sun goes down quite early in this part of India, hence though we reached the place at a point in time when it would be twilight back in Bangalore, it was pretty dark there.  The hotel (Sikkim Aurora) was located at the highest point in Pelling, opposite the helipad. Disappointed at not being able to view the helipad right away, we retired for the day.

The next morning, I woke my alarm up. Yes, I woke up at 4 45 and shut my alarm set for 5 am. Why? To do in Pelling as Pellingites do. Experience the Kanchenjunga in the morning.  Parcelled in warm clothing, I headed to the terrace.  I stood staring as the sky and the mountains changed hues – from black to dark blue to orange.  It was only after Kanchenjunga reflected the first rays of light that I turned around to look in the other direction. And what did I see? The helipad in all its glory and the orange ball escalating in the horizon beyond.  A man meditating on the helipad and a sleepy dog added to the serenity of the scene ( picture below). By this time, my friends had come up too. This was when the owner of the property, the very well-informed, local trekker Mr. Raja, volunteered to explain the significance of the place and the mountain ranges around us.  He even chalked out an offbeat sight-seeing itinerary for us around Pelling.

A sleepy dog, a meditating man, an orange ball and a helipad. Oh yeah, some red prayer flags too.



Our first destination in Pelling was Pemayangtse monastery. Just google it and am sure you will find a lot of touristy information about the same.  In brief, it was a very spiritual experience.  But what I wish to share with you is the one unusual thing that we spotted there – There were several prayer flags put up there too but for very different reasons. The list is below. Can you now see what is so unusual?



The second destination was Darap village, about 8 kilometres away from Pelling. Darap, with its resplendent fields and welcoming natives is an emerging ecotourism destination. The inhabitants of this little hamlet redefine hospitality. What we did was just drive into the village, walk along the fields and trespass into one of the villager’s compounds to take a closer look at the orchids. To our surprise, the whole family came out to welcome us. After exchanging pleasantries, the head of the family, a local farmer began enlightening us about life in Darap. Little did he realize that he would soon be bombarded by questions. I really appreciate his patience to relentlessly answer all our questions. Here’s what he said in a nutshell. Darap is a self-sufficient village. Unemployed youth here have aligned themselves into self-help groups and are involved in promoting eco tourism.  The government provides free education till 8th standard. It also provides training and supplies to farmers. For a change, this seemed to be one place in India where the people seemed to be actually happy with the local government. Good for them.

A cute girl in Darap
Exotic orchids in full bloom

After a brief stop-over at Changay falls, we headed to Singshore bridge near Uttarey. This is touted to be the second highest suspension bridge in Asia. Our driver divulged another enthralling fact which threw some light on how high the bridge was. If a coin is dropped from the top of the bridge, it would take 15 seconds for it to touch the ground. Fascinating, isn’t it? But for the fluttering of the prayer flags and the whistles of the wind, there was hardly any other noise. Calling it the abode of tranquility wouldn’t be an exaggeration.

Singshore bridge span
Singshore bridge perspective

Our last destination for the day was something truly offbeat. It was a cheese factory! Amul's Gouda cheese is made here, at the Alpine cheese factory. Tasting some freshly curdled, divine tasting cheese and buying cheese right from the factory was a 'once-in-a-lifetime' experience.
Fresh cheese!!! Yumm!!



Soon, we were on our way to Okhrey, a sleepy little village located in a remote part of West Sikkim. That was where we were scheduled to spend that night. With all the bumpy and jumpy rides, we were looking forward to getting there soon.

‘So, how was Okhrey?’ You may ask me.  I’m not going to tell you anything about that, at least for now. Do come back for the next one. 

10 comments:

  1. The sunrise is beautiful! The story behind the red flag is heart warming.

    I am very happy to know that the govt. is doing its job well here. Others can follow this in the North eastern countries too!

    Orchids look so beautiful. I have seen lavender coloured orchids, which bloomed in our house for sometime. But these are more beautiful...unpolluted surroundings must be the reason.

    The bridge is so beautiful in the natural surroundings.

    Hmmm...I love cheeeeese!

    Lovely travelogue, Malini! Enjoyed reading it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you very much for your detailed comment Sandhya! I appreciate your patience and interest!

      Delete
  2. What a beautiful Travelogue . It seems like dream . I have to get trained by you for travel to some really mind blowing places sincerely . The first picture was simply blissful .

    Travel India

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha come on Vishal! You are my senior when it comes to travel and blogging!

      Delete
  3. Beautiful!
    Nice. I've visited it many times. Kindly give your feedback to my latest post.

    Technology News

    ReplyDelete
  4. Beautiful, would love to visit this place sometime.

    ReplyDelete
  5. It’s very Informative Thanks for sharing With Us. Good job keep it up
    Urban Aero Systems as an Aviation Infrastructure company that aims to introduce cutting-edge aerospace support technologies into India and provides Helipads in India, Helipads in Bangalore and Flight Simulators in India

    ReplyDelete