WHERE I HAVE BEEN

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

ROOF OF THE WORLD - HIMALAYAS


I've already been 15 days in the Himalaya range visiting villages, sacred lakes, stupas and countless monasteries...but because of a foggy rain that is following me since Nepal I was not able to see the "roof of the world" Mount Everest.

I was walking around Yuksom -one of many towns of Sikkim- and wandering if I would finally do some proper hiking when I meet Bernie again. At this point of the tour around Sikkim we are a bunch of people crossing each others ways almost every day.

Bernie is a Canadian guy and that has traveled a lot, and we met 3 towns ago. Along with Sandy - Germany- and Gary -England- decided to hike the Singalila Ridge until we reach the 4100 meters above see level, from there we could see 8.860-meters Mount Everest.

The expedition begins in Dajeeling where we take a jeep. Four hours later we are in the starting point at 1.800 meters in the Indian-Nepali border where we hired a guide.
It will be six days walking along the ridge that shapes the border between India and Nepal, a lot of ups and downs, until we hopefully get to a high peak to have a stunning view of the Himalayan range all coped with snow. On the way we should sleep and eat in cheap local´s home-stay.

Finally after days with no shower, very tired, at almost 4.100 meters and feeling like pushing our guide to the cliff we arrived to Phalut, the highest point of our hike...but it was cloudy and no view of the mountains. Weather is very changing on the mountains, but if in the morning is cloudy it is very unlikely that it will clear up later in the day.

Surprisingly, clouds opened like a window that perfectly framed Mt. Kangchenjunga. And after that the sky became all clear. We could see all the Himalayan range from Nepal to Bhutan peaks, including Mt. Everest. STUNNING, this show lasted one hour and then clouds came again just in time for our way back to lowlands. I felt like I had an eye wink from nature.

We all agreed it was the best hike we made, moreover with Diwali celebration that we had with a local familiy in the best place in the world: at high altitude in the Himalayas. We drank, laughed and had a lot of fun.

After that we came back to Darjeeling, had farewell diner and each of us took a different way. I am at Hong Kong now, still thinking in those amazing mountains while I see very different peaks: skyscrapers.

Don´t miss the video and I hope you enjoy the pics. I´m going to discover this jungle!
Namasteee!




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Our itinerary on the nepal-india border until we get to 4.100 meters at phalut (4)


the team: sandy, garry, me and bernie



our guide


still in lowlands with friendly temperature.


20 minutes later we were already tired! ;)





left india, right nepal






bernie, talking about one of his many travels



foggy and then clear, and then foggy, and then clear...but always colder


gary and sandy


trying to see the mountains


of the villages we stayed in, they were celebrating diwali


they were drinking this homemade beer that is like a bomb for your stomach (remember gary?)


looks like nazi, but it is actually a Hindi symbol, nazi party "borrowed" it


having dinner for diwali


on nepali side, with a hindi militar base on the background (we are almost arrested for taking the picture)








there we go!


a very tired sandy





at phalut, celebrating we arrived at 4.100 meters safe and sound.


no microwave here



no LED lighting


rice milling to make...


...cheese fried momo!


a friendly young yak



smoked yak cheese



mt kangchenjunga framed by clouds



finally the window was progressively opening











stupa on the top og phalut


checking our way back





having fotos and fun








sandy in joy








Saturday, 10 October 2009

HIGHER AND HIGHER - DARJEELING AND SIKKIM

Veinte horas de colectivo desde Kathmandú faldeando el Himalaya nepalí hacia el este, sellados de salida y entradas en el borde Nepal-India y 9 horas de tren de montaña bordeando un precipicio impresionante para finalmente llegar a Darjeeling, en el extremo nororiental de India.

A estas alturas ya tengo el cuello siempre girado pero no me canso de mirar las montañas. Cada vez me parece mas espectacular e hipnótica la inmensidad de esta cadena. Darjeeling es un poblado relativamente pequeño cuya mayor atracción son las hectáreas y hectáreas de plantaciones de té, junto a la proximidad a picos de mas de 8.000 metros. De este lugar sale el mejor té del mundo para los principales mercados. Me tocó sólo un día de sol y luego días de lluvia que los lugareños no entendían, se supone que es la época seca.

Como el clima no mejora me tomo un jeep –todos amontonados para variar- que me lleva más al norte aún al estado de Sikkim el cual era antiguamente un sultanado independiente y durante unas décadas perteneció al Tibet, ahora es una autonomía de la India pero aún conserva sus costumbres tibetanas y bhutanesas. Hace falta un permiso especial en el pasaporte que se tramita en 1 hora.

Pocas veces tomo conciencia de los lugares que estoy visitando, pero tan pronto me ponen el sello en el puesto de montaña de ingreso a Sikkim y sin quererlo me doy cuenta que estoy entrando en uno de los lugares mas remotos que haya visitado. Me viene a la memoria cuando meses atrás estudiaba los mapas para trazar la ruta y pensaba que Sikkim era algo tan exótico, lejano e imposible.

Diez minutos después dejo de hacerme el soñador y vuelvo a la realidad: las intensas lluvias provocaron desprendimiento de rocas y barro en la ruta, quedó bloqueada justo 5 minutos antes de nuestra llegada. Yo me lo tomo como algo mas del viaje y me pongo a conversar con el resto de la gente que estamos en la misma mientras esperamos. Le tomó 3 horas a dos máquinas para limpiar una mano del camino y seguir subiendo por el paisaje impresionante, pero siempre lloviendo.

Se supone que Sikkim iba a ser el lugar con menos acción del viaje excepto los increíbles trekings y visuales. Pero apenas llego a Pelling ,un pueblo de pocas casas y varios gompas –monasterios budistas- con las nubes a pocos metros de altura, me encuentro sin querer con dos sorpresas: estaban filmando una producción de Bollywood y lo mejor...hoy vino el segundo Lama –después del Dalai Lama- para participar y bendecir un buda en uno de los gompas del pueblo. Una suerte tremenda y experiencia única.

Los monjes vestidos con las mejores galas, ver toda la ceremonia y la procesión. La música, los colores, los inciensos, la amabilidad de esta gente y las miradas cálidas. Luego de la ceremonia un banquete donde participaba todo el pueblo y donde nos invitaron a comer a los pocos turistas presentes.  Estar aquí compartiendo con esta gente en lo alto de la montaña rodeado de los nevados picos del Himalaya...¿qué mas se puede pedir?

Namaste!!!




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toy steam train from siliguri to darjeeling


darjeeling: a station in the coulds


gompa and kanchenjunga peak

kanchenjunga at dusk


sikkim checkpoint





blocked road due to landslides





socializing with some workers of a new damn they are building


jeep breakdown...for a change


a very different backpack from mine


sangachoeling gompa touching the sky


prayer flags on poles, everything is set for the ceremony


the monastery and the landscape











they use pine branches as incence








women preparing the banquet





bollywood





the starring



all aligned to receiving the Lama





two generations








the procession














the lama


for this local, it was the first time he saw the lama in his life. he was so touched.