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The Other End of India

Last day in India: Sikkim - where India ends and Himalaya start. Namaste and Om.

EXACTLY two months ago, I was staring at the “End of India” in tropical Kanyakumari, where Indian subcontinent eternally sinks into the Indian Ocean. Today, 17.3.2013 I was staring at the Other End of India – freezing Himalaya Mountains. I’m in Sikkim, former independent Himalayan kingdom (like Nepal and Bhutan), which joined India only in 1975 and for foreigners still it’s necessary to obtain a permit to visit it (although it’s only pure formality). During the jeep journey from Darjeeling I was wondering who had even cared to build here a road? 70-80km by road from Darjeeling to here took around 4 hours (net driving time), so you get the picture. Sikkim is collection of extremely steep, cliff-like hills that eventually metamorphose into Kangchendzonga range. It is here, that the pressure of Indian subcontinent rising from Kanyakumari hits its head onto Euroasian tectonic plateau (or whatever the name of the plateau is) in full force to form world’s highest mountain range, documented by majestic Kangchendzonga, world’s number 3. By the way, during the last 14 days I have seen at least 20 different spelling of the mountain and 5 different heights of it.

During 4 hours in the jeep on that insanely built road, the view was over one isolated house or at best hamlet after another, separated by hardly walkable steep sections of the hills. I guess that people don’t really visit their neighbors too often here… On the other hand, liquor stores are everywhere (real rarity in India) and as it turned out the booze is cheaper than anywhere else in India, so I think I know what everybody does in the evening.

Pelling, the “village” where I am, is not village at all, it’s just megalomaniac collection of hotels. I can’t imagine how their capacity can ever be filled. The main draw was supposed to be “jaw-dropping” views over Kangchendzonga. Due to omnipresent fog and haze, just like in Darjeeling, there was no view at all, until on second day, when after heavy rain the sky cleared up a little bit and haze settled down for few minutes and the mountain revealed itself. When I spotted it, all I could say was “OH, SHIT!” and ran for my camera. The view was so much better than I had expected! By crow-line this place is only 20-30km closer than Darjeeling, but the difference in the visual feast is massive. Today morning I woke up to see the sunrise, hoping and praying that the mountain will be visible (the visibility is usually best right after dawn, but in Darjeeling it still meant that the mountain was visible on 2 out of 12 mornings that I spent there) and all I can say, that my last full day in India could not have started with more beautiful view. The photos just cannot transmit the magic of the view.

So here I am, at the other end of India. This is literally where road ends (there is one more village closer to the mountain, maybe 5km from here by straight line, but 38km by road) and then the Indian roads really end and impenetrable Himalaya rise. On the other side of the mountain is Tibet.
(Funny enough, when I wrote down these lines I went for a dinner and found out that near the small hotel library the hotel owners had a tiny old picture of Kanyakumari, so I was obviously not the only one contemplating about two ends of India here.)

I took a few hour walk and when I reached a local village, I lit myself a beedee, sat down soaking up the view over Sikkim’s steep hills, and after 30 minutes of so I turned around and left the last and furthermost place of my trip in India.

So long India! Tomorrow I leave to Nepal.

In the evening I had a local mullet beer with group of other travelers in Pelling. Muller beer is Himalayan homemade “beer”: fermented grain soaked over and over in hot water. It’s very mildly intoxicating and tastes exactly like glue, Chemopren to be precise. It’s not very tasty, but it’s truly interesting and this weird alcoholic stuff was my final goodbye to India.

It’s tempting to write down some thank-you-India and what-I learned-here-and-how-it-changed-my-life sentences and paragraphs or make some top-3-experiences-top-3-sights-top-3-dishes chart, but I will spare you from such pathetic bullshit and useless statistics.
All I will say, that India did exactly what I hoped it would do to me: reset my brain, yet again broadened my perspective, got me started with meditation and enabled me to spend 3 months by contemplating and thinking. Rather than saying that I found here answers to my questions I realized that many of those questions didn’t make sense. And above all, my personal Enlightenment from Mamallapuram (which I still need to write down and post) has not left me since then.


May love and peace prevail on Earth. May you happy, may you be well. :-)

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     MARCEL STRBAK | www.strbak.com | www.facebook.com/marcel.strbak