If I had to choose some words to describe Sikkim, as if i take a blank canvas, a brush and start drawing lines that make appear the figure; I would probably use…
Harmony, peace, delicate beauty, flowers, tranquillity, nature… ah!! something more: monks and slopes.
Sikkim, is small bite that India took to thismountainous area between Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet and which proclaimed as its. The Sikkimeses tell us that in the absence of army to defend themselves, they surrendered peacefully.
The first inhabitants of this area were people from tibet, monks. Later the Nepalese were appearing, and today are the descendants of these two groups that form the 3 ethnic groups that inhabit these beautiful lands.
Sikkim, few could put it on the map, few heard before about it, but to us long ago we were attracted a lot by the idea of traveling this corner of the planet. Our finger had toured on the map the roads that run through the Northeast as we were planing it, dreaming awaken. High and remote territories and always arriving at a lake located there almost on the border with Tibet, which seemed to be calling us with a soft and deep voice, like the sirens to the sailors that hypnotized go to their hamrs without thinking it twice. Laws and bureaucracy broke the dream again.
Being located on the border with Tibet occupied by Chinese, makes this area to be under high surveillance and restricted to tourists. It is only allowed to visit the North with guide, in group and with a special permission granted only for a few days.
Rafa, a friend from Madrid, reached Delhi just when Aitor´s family went back home after 15 days that we were making tourism in Rajasthan. After a farewell to the family, we welcomed our friend who, aside from the bike, he brought his guitar and all he needed to join the trip for a while, full of will, enthusiasm and joy.
Together, we did the looooooooooooong train journey from Delhi to Darjeling where we left our bikes. When we arrived we replaced all the spare parts that he had brought from Madrid, where the three kings from the East (our Papa Noel in Spain) had left this year a package for us with all the necessary to restore all the gear sistem that, it was in such a limit that the only way to be able to move forward would be… downhill.
And so, with a new adventurer friend and the bikes almost new, we returned to the road willing to venture into the West of Sikkim, a pure mountain area where the plains are scarce and breathtaking slopes.
The tea plantations of Darjeeling where leaving behind us; after a really steep descent of 20kms and crossing a rushing river we arrived at the checkpoint in which police officers assured us that everything changed from there, that people were more honest, that it was more safe, that we would be quiet and, I can assure: that so it was.
Sikkim, tranquility and calm it permeate everything.
Simple and friendly people of delicate beauty who made more bearable with their smiles and greetings, the suffering that supposed to face the long slopes, steep uphills that has been characteristic of almost every cycling day.
Rafa has responded wonderfully to the hard exam that supposed to ride every day, carrying the loaded bike and above all, in this land. Being paved for the most part, facilitates but, we have suffered and panted, as much as we have gone downhill scared squeezing the brakes until the end(and teeth also).
Of course, all we have suffered has been worthy.
The days of pedaling have been short 30 something 40 KMS a day and it was enough in those hills. The profile of the road could seemlike the drawing that draws a scanner’s heart after running 300 m.
Small towns dotting the green color which cover everything. We are in the spring but here is something very curious that a young student explained us while we drank a tasty milk tea sitting inside a small wooden bar, on the side of the road: “Here the spring and autumn happen at the same time. They are happening now, together, flowers appear and the leaves become yellow, red and fall.”
This was something that we had realized and had confused us: on the trees, we saw the leaves yellow, reddish, brown and many already covered the ground, but also we have been continually finding a multitude of colorful flowers, orchids and bright Rodadendro (flower tipical from Sikkim) are in every corner, between the green areas and the water of the forests, exploding at the time…. the trees leaves fall. Spring and autumn at the same time… seeing is believing.
The monks and temples have been another of our routines. They are predominantly Buddhist (Tibetan Buddhism) and there are temples and monasteries everywhere. There have been many of our resting days that we have been awakened by the monks´s trumpets who very early in the morning start the prayers and rituals. Sitting inside of a temple surrounded by monks who recited at pace, with voices that go to the depths to the soul, and continously keep going with the sound of the drums and bells, cymbals and trumpets, all this makes oneself enters in a state of semitrance that seems to move you to another worlds. Colors and figures, paintings and incense, prayers and energy that vibrates and makes you travel, this time without pedals.
And again… the world and you… and that wonderful taste of freedom by feeling that with this silent companion you can travel the world little by little, this big world… just pedaling.
To look up, and to be aware that loaded as we are, we have to climb to the top of the mountain we had in front of us… seemed impossible!! but little by little, without hurrying, without almost realizing… you look back and down there, to the bridge that you crossed when you was thinking so.
Climbing is silent, is hard, makes your soul grow, and become mature in a way, and in the struggle of the ascent, you learn.