I'm Sikkim in the rain ...April 22, 2019 in India ⋅ 🌧 22 °C
Of course you might not notice it from the pictures because I could not take any in the rain... But I can assure that this day was very wet. It was also long and full of unexpected adventures.
First, the itinerary : instead of going down directly to the city I was aiming at (Jorethang), 26 km from Darjeeling, I had to ride 70 km, with lots of slopes, to go through Melli : as a foreigner, i have to register at this checkpoint when entering or leaving Sikkim.
So I started early in the morning. The small road indicated by Dawa was first barred to me by the military. As a foreigner, still, I find out that I'm not allowed to use this road... Since I did not want to turn back - I had already cycle up half an hour on a steep slope - I stood there with my bicycle. This sit-in strategy was a winner : at some point a sergeant - plump and proud Rajesh Gurung - got interested in my case and decided to escort me along a side road that turned around the military premises. It was very steep but in the right direction (downhill !) and it led me to a nice stupa and to a monastery, where I was kindly offered some cakes and tea and invited to attend a ceremony. 3 monks were leading it, to the pious attendance of 9 old ladies. One of the monks in particular was indistinctly chanting and mumbling, with a pace that could easily challenge Snoop Dog's best beat. Also lots of bending, strange gestures - the young monk moving his hands very quickly in successive symbolic postures while chanting, another pouring water into my hands and asking me to splash it over my face (!?)- the old ladies constantly mumbling while turning their praying wheels... Like the ceremony we attended to at Namobudha with Marie, it put me in a day-dream state that I found both soothing and inspiring.
These were probably the last easy moments of the day, before getting back on my bike and soon being soaked with heavy rain and hail. I had to stop at times, and sometimes got offered more cups of tea...
At the Melli checkpoint, I would discover later that the officers forgot to give me a permit that is essential for any activity in Sikkim (sleeping in hotels, visiting, trekking, etc.). They probably got distracted by the fact that I was riding a bicycle and in these weather conditions ! So I received all kind of recommendations and the usual questions (where are you from, where are you going, are you travelling alone, why are you travelling alone, you should not cycle in the rain, etc.) But... not the precious permit !
I finally reached Jorethang at 6:30, where Rohit (one of Dawa's friends) was waiting for me. He nicely invited me to his family house. But... It is only after having had a warm shower, hanged out all my wet clothes in the room and put on some dry ones, around 9 pm, that he tells me that I cannot stay anymore : some relatives are coming and they will sleep in "my" room.... Well, I took all my things and went to a hotel instead ! At the hotel they first did not want to take me in nor to serve me food, because I did not have the "permit"... Negotiations again. It was a long day ! But well.. Even in the rain and without having the right to be here, Sikkim is incredibly beautiful ...Read more