Recently, I had received an official invitation from the Bhutan Tourism Authority, which would have meant starting in Tashigang for me. Unfortunately, this option has now been cancelled, as well as the planned raid through Arunachal Pradesh – which would have meant another 4-6 weeks waiting time due to the Indian bureaucracy.
In order not to endanger the whole project I have now without further ado moved the start to Gangtok/Sikkim. The journey to the capital of this former kingdom between Nepal and Bhutan has been underway since Monday 2.4. and will take about 3 days. If all goes well I can start walking on Thursday or Friday of this week.
@Update from 5.4.2012 – am in Gangtok since yesterday evening
The journey from Graz to Gangtok was made via a stopover in Dehli and took almost exactly 50 hours. From the airport Badgora (Siliguri) in the north of West Bengal we continued by jeep in the direction of Gangtok.
These jeeps are inexpensive shared taxis and only leave when all seats are sold. After I was the first one, I had to wait for my fellow travellers – with high humidity and more than 30 degrees Celsius, not a lot of honey if you just came from Austria. Company is immediately present, because as the only European with a bald head and a stately corpulence you are immediately surrounded by good friends (Hello my friend…) and begging children – at least as long as you have enough change.
The 5h rumbles on 115km over extremely bad roads in a car with 12 men on the borderline immediately brought back memories why I had avoided public transport on my last trip to India and bought a motorcycle as one of my first activities. Noise, dust and smoke, overtaking manoeuvres in much too narrow places and the resulting congested roads with the following honking concerts wear on the nerves in the long run. The hotel search at night with 35kg luggage in the rainy Gangtok was a real relief afterwards.
Unfortunately it has also poured again and again today in short showers and as it looks like this unstable weather will hardly change in the next 7 days.
The short visit to the monastery Enchey high above the city I could complete in the dry as well as the extension of my residence permit for Sikkim.
But I am more worried about the next days, because in 10 days I want to be on the Gocha La – pass with a free view to the Kanchenjunga – a sea level of more than 5000m. If it rains here in Gangtok it will snow in the mountains – I had to turn back 5 years ago shortly before the Gocha La because of the snow conditions, would be a real pity if it would not be possible again.
Anyway, I can prepare myself for frosty times relatively early – actually an ideal start to my project, so to speak the test of a lifetime, right?
Tomorrow, on April 6th, I will finally start in the morning on foot – first via Rumtek (a well-known Buddhist monastery) to Yuksom and from there to the higher mountains. It is planned that I will be in Darjeeling in about 14 days and thus have access to a working internet connection again.
I am looking forward to every comment – all the best!