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NE-GQ Tour: Day 3– Rafting at Teesta and the drive to kalimpong

Day 3 of our tour started with a drive to kalimpong. The driver who had come to pick us up told us that rafting was being conducted on the Teesta river and we were free to do it if we were interested. I didnt want to miss this chance of doing rafting at a new place, though I had done it back in karnataka. This also gave me an oppurtunity to introduce my wife to a little bit of adventure. I asked her if she was interested in rafting for which she agreed. Told the driver to stop at the rafting place which he did.

The guy was quoting 4.5k for a 12kms which I felt was a little costly. However we were told there was another couple who were interested in joining, we decided to split the cost evenly. After paying the required amount, we were taken to the place where the rafts were being kept. Training was given to new people who were interested in conducted rafting. We had a talk with the other couple while waiting for the rafts to arrive. The instructor gave us the life jackets and asked us to get into the rafts. It was the first time my wife was doing this and she was excited and a bit scared as well.

Instructions were given and we were began rowing, while the girls were sitting at the back. We came across the place where the rivers theesta and rangit join together (sangam), and we saw rafting lessons being held in the current. We bid farewell to the people and continued on our way.

The instructor asked the girls to come forward when we approached the rapids, so that they could enjoy the raft going against the rapids. The fun continued for another hour or so and we reached the end of the rafting route. With the water being too cold, everyone was soaking wet. We were ferried back to the place where our vechiles were parked. After settling the amount, we went our separate ways after saying adieu to our new friends.

A short break for a late lunch and we were in kalimpong by sundown. Evening was spent shopping for some souvenirs for friends and family at the local market.

A couple of snaps of the moon as it was lunar eclipse that night and it was nap time.

Moon as seen from the hotel

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NE-GQ Tour: Day 4 — Day out in kalimpong

Day 4 of our trip was meant to be leisure outing covering a local sightseeing places in kalimpong and we were supposed to drive back to the gangtok the same day. A delayed start saw us first head to the cactus and orchid nursery which was located close to the hotel.

The nursery has thousands of varieties of cactus’s and roses from all over the world. The caretaker at the nursery told us the roses come as far from Austraila, Germany and South America. The cactuses which are grown internally are designed in various shapes and sizes which are put on display. We couldnt get the names of the roses as the caretaker told us about the biological names of the roses. After spending some time at the nursery we headed back to the car.

Roses and Cactuses at nursery

Our next stop was the  durbin dara monastery which was built by His Holiness The Dalai Lama. The monastery is one of the oldest monasteries in kalimpong.

Durbin Dara Monastery

As with all monsateries in sikkim the walls of the monastery  contain the paintings of teachings of Buddha and various stories depicting good over evil. A statute of buddha in a different avatar along with his followers is present at the center.

Paintings inside the monastery

Buddha and his disciples

The monks at the monastery were preparing for prayer and I wanted to see how they would do it.

The prayer ritual

The monks take their respective seats and tea is poured to all monks before they start their prayers. The prayers are started by the head monk after having the Tea which is being served. Daily offering of bread are being served to the monks before they being their chants

Monks being served Tea

The monks start with their prayers while the devotees and the general public are allowed to come and offer their prayers while the prayer is in progress

Monks chanting prayers

Devotees offering their prayers to Buddha

The devotees then offer their prayers to the head monk and bow to all the monks asking for blessings. The head monk blesses each person and whispers into their ears. They bow to him and continue to the other monks seated. Once they seek blessings from all the monks, they leave the monastery.

The head monk

Devotees seeking blessings

We too left the prayer area, and went around the monastery. The upper level of the monastery has prayer wheels and another idol present in the buddhism

Prayer Wheels and Idols

    

A couple of rounds of the monastery and we headed back to the car and to deolo hill which contains a park and a couple of view points.  Our stomach’s were rumbling by the time we reached the places. A couple of momos and noodles and we headed to the park .A couple of snaps in the park and we were of to the science museum which was open recently.

Deolo hill park

The view Point

The science museum which had opened only recently contains many scientific instruments. The museum also has large hoardings containing the evolution of all technologies that we use everyday. From the hoardings one can really see how the various revolutions began which has shaped our everyday lives. The place is a must visit for all geeks and for those who are interested in science.

Kalimpong Science Museum

The entrance contains figures of some of the pre-emiment scientists from india and around the world

Scientists from around the world

Scientific Instruments

Cutouts of key technologies

There was a mini park, which contained some scientific games and a map of the kanchendonza range. We roamed around the park before heading back to the car

The park


A couple of hours of driving and we reached the gangtok by sundown. Resting for some time in our room, we headed to the restaurant. The resort had organized a Celebration Sikkim for the week, where the local artists were given an oppurtunity to showcase their skills.

Celebrating Sikkim

The show started of with a traditional nepali song and dance by one of the male artist. The dance was a tribute to the firegod, as explained by the artist who was using a couple of fireplates to perform the dance

Artist performing nepali dance

The audience enjoyed the dance and soon it was time for the second artist to perform was a female who peformed another traditional tibetian dance. This was followed by a lively song and dance routine by another guy.

The show continues

The final act for the evening was a war dance which was the most liked by everyone. Dinner was served after the show. It was time to hit the couch as we had a long drive to pelling the next day

War Dance

NE-GQ Tour: Sikkim – Day2 : Icy Tongso Lake

It was an early morning start as we had to drive to Tongso lake. Tongso Lake in west sikkim is a sacred lake set admist icy mountains. The lake remains frozen during winter season. The lake is considered to be sacred to the local people.  This can be done as a day trip along with Nathula Pass and Baba Harbhajan Singh memorial. Before leaving bangalore I had inquired about visiting nathula pass however I was told the pass would be closed at this time of the year. When I inquired with the driver about nathula, he told us it was open, however since its china’s border, one cant go without permits and cant stay there for too long.

I had checked with the receptionist about the possibility of viewing an early sunrise and I was told, one can view it just outside our rooms. Woke up early to catch the sunrise, however cloud cover meant there was little chance of seeing the sunrise

Early morning in Gangtok

I was told that the sun would come up, between 6.30 and 7, however I wasnt lucky as the peaks in front of the balcony and the cloud cover meant there was no sunrise

Early morning view from the resort

Soon it as time to get ready as the driver had told us he would be picking us up at 8 and drive to  Tongso lake and Baba Harbhajan memorial.

Facts about Tsongo Lake

Name of the Lake: Tongso Lake

Location: West Sikkim

Altitude at which it is located: 3780 mts

Importance of lake: This ia a holy lake for the local people. Boating and other activities are not allowed in the lake

Time taken to reach the lake: 3 Hrs

We set out for the lake at 8.30 and reached the gangtok bazaar after a few minutes. Since there is a huge army presence in the area, permits are required to visit the lake. One needs to be submit a photo and personal details, which is used for making the permit. The driver went to make the permit while me and my wife waited in the car.

Permit

Once the permit was received we continued towards the lake. One needs to show the permit at the checkpost and purchase tickets before proceeding further. With the sun shining brightly the distant mountains provided a good landscape which I took a few snaps. The driver in the meantime had completed the formalities in the meantime.

Sun kissed mountains

BRO was doing some road widening work here also, and the roads were muddy and minor traffic jams were encountered here also.

Road widening work

Negotiating the treacherous roads we continued on our way. We could see lot of army personnel stationed in the area, as the area borders china. Photography is not allowed where army personnel are present. We continued for another hour and we could see icy mountains. The lake was just round the corner n we could see it from the huge no of people present there. I asked the driver to stop so that I can take a few photos. He told me we would get a better view from the top and also  we had to get to the baba harbhajan singh memorial soon and if delayed would not be allowed inside.

We climbed a little higher and the driver stopped at a place from where we could see the lake and mountains more clearly. I got busy with a small photoshoot, as I was planning to take more photos when coming back

Icy mountains and Tsongso Lake

It was time to get back in the car and the next stop was baba harbhajan memorial.There was a huge amount of cars parked by the time we reached. Wife went to see the shrine while I headed to the nearby coffee shop for a cup of cofee

Baba harbhajan Shrine

We spent some time at the shrine before going back to the lake. On the way back we saw another small water body which the driver said is an artificial lake. The mountains surrounding the lake made for a good landscape. The clear weather meant it was time for another photoshoot. Took a few snaps and then headed straight for the lake

Artificial Lake amongst mountains

Mist had began to engulf the place by the time I reached the lake. This meant I had to miss an opportunity to take photos of the lake from a close range.

Whiteout at Tongso Lake

There were a few yaks around and my wife wanted a photo sitting on of them. The yak owner told us he could take us for a walk in the snow and make the yak slide around for a small fee. This was the first time my wife was seeing snow and ice and she was enjoying it. The yak excursion took an hour or so. We asked the guy to drop us back to car. There are signboards put up asking tourists to vacate the lake and shrine by 2.30. By the time we left the lake after having Tea it was close to 2. We reached the checkpost in couple of hours where the driver submitted the permit. With the sun behind the clouds the place looked amazing and I couldnt resist taking a few snaps before we headed back to the resort thus concluding an amazing day

Evening

Evening was spent relaxing at the resort. We had an early dinner and it was time to hit the bed as we had a drive to kalimpong the next day

NE-GQ Tour: Sikkim – Day1 : Traffic Jams and the drive to Gangtok

Sikkim was a place which was long overdue for a visit. With my marriage getting over in Nov, I was thinking of a nice place to visit for my honeymoon. Various places within India and abroad were considered. As my wife didnt have a passport, going out of the country was ruled out. I zeroed in on sikkim, as this was in the pipeline for a long time. With the place finialized, I booked a tour through ‘FLY AIR Travels’. Since I had enough time with me, I also decided to cover darjeeling along with the golden quadrilateral.

With the trip finalized, the tickets were booked, and with last minute shopping complete, it was time to head to Bagdogra. The flight from Bangalore to Bagdogra took around 4 hrs with a stopover in kolkata. We were greeted at the airport by the travel representative and we headed off to gangtok. After negotiating the traffic in siliguri we headed towards the hills of gangtok. It was a pleasant drive till we met with our first block, a small traffic jam, which took some time to clear. The drive continued until a we saw a huge convoy of vehicles standing. Upon inquiry I came to know the BRO (Border Roads Organization) which is responsible for maintenance of roads were doing some road widening work, due to which there was a huge jam.

Traffic Jam in the mountains

The driver told us this was quite common here as road widening work was going on in various places in sikkim and delays are to be expected. He also told it would take another couple of hours for the traffic to move. With nothing much to do for the next couple of hours, I clicked a few snaps of the distant mountains just to while away the time and got chatting with a few drivers.The recent earthquake in sikkim and surrounding places had caused some serious landslides and many places especially in north sikkim are still under repair. I was told things are slowly getting back to normal, which is a good thing for the people.

The traffic jams reminded me of the jams we have back home, and nothing could be done except wait. Slowly after an hour or so we could see some movement and vechiles from one side were being allowed to pass.

Vehicles being let from other side

Soon it was our turn to go and it was slow crawl through the heavy machinery as we inched our way through the oncoming traffic.

Heavy Machinery used for road widening

With no more interruptions we proceeded towards gangtok with a stopover for lunch and a cuppa. It was evening by the time we reached the resort. Checking into the resort, we bid adeiu to the driver. Soon it was time to hit the sack as we had a early morning start to Tongso lake the next day.

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