Unfortunately, my final vacation is over. I used the three weeks I had left for a trip to the northeast of India. From Delhi I want to Bagdogra / Siliguri by airplane. Then headed on to Darjeeling and Gangtok. There I arranged for a trek to Goecha La, from where I saw the Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. Last but not least I went to Kolkata. It is unbelievable that these three weeks are already over. At the beginning of the trip I felt a little alone, because I was not used to travel alone. This changed very soon, because I met really cool people on the trip.
A new Side of Delhi
Starting my vacation, I went back to Delhi with a couple of other trainees. Thanks to Rafael, my recent Brazilian roommate, we did a lot of sightseeing in Delhi. It was good to have somebody new, because he wanted to see so much, I had not seen so far. He knew what he wanted to see. Thus, we took a driver for the whole day. This was a good decision, because we would not have been able to do all the sightseeing by public transport. Since I have been to this metropolis several times already, I find my way around quite well and know more or less how long it takes to get from one end to the other. It is amazing how much I like this chaotic and noisy city.
Delhi has a lot to offer
We started at Humayun’s tomb, which looks a like a small copy of the Taj Mahal in Agra. Afterwards, we passed the Red Fort. This time we actually took the time to get in. Something I had not done before. Later we continued to the Lotus temple. This is an impressive temple, which is open for all religions. Inside there are six corners – one for each of the big religions in the world. I admire this concept of openness. We continued to Jama Masjid, Delhi’s largest mosque. Not far from Jama Masjid I saw a butcher shop. Inside was dead meat hanging with living goats sitting exactly below it. That looked somehow bizarre. At last we went to Qutb Minar, a stunning and huge tower. After all this sightseeing we met with the other trainees and spent a relaxing evening at a rooftop restaurant close to our hostel.
Arriving in the Northeast of India
My friends went back to Chandigarh Sunday afternoon. I stayed back in Delhi, because Monday morning I flew to Bagdogra in the northeast of India. Thanks to my resident permit, I can buy airplane tickets at local prices. That is awesome, because it actually allowed me, to do such an air trip. The service with Jet Airways was excellent. From Bagdogra airport I took a taxi to Siliguri, which is a traveler hub. Siliguri is an ugly city and as soon as I got there I knew, I have to leave. Thus, I bought tickets for the toy train to Darjeeling the next day. I spent a night in a cheap hostel in Siliguri waiting for the day to pass. The next day my train was delayed by one hour, but the scenery along the trip was worth the waiting.
‘You have to reach higher’
Darjeeling is a calm city at 2.500m altitude. It reminded me of Shimla. However, the mountains, especially the really high mountains, are much closer. I stayed in a hostel with a nice roof view. When I checked in I talked to the owner to wake me up in case the Kangchenjunga and its surrounding mountains can be seen in the morning. He woke me up at six the next day. Very excited I went up to the roof. When I arrived there, I was very disappointed, because I saw nothing but clouds. Hence, I went down to the reception to complain. It must have happened to him many times, because he smiled and walked up with me. When we stood on the roof, he told me ‘you have to reach higher’. First, I did not get what he meant, but once I looked much higher, I could see the mountains above the clouds.
Getting an Entry Permit for Sikkim
I guess it is difficult to imagine, how I could have missed that. Believe me, these mountains are 8.000m and higher. I knew the number, but I simply could not imagine how high that is in reality. Apart from being amazed by the mountain scenery, I visited a tea plantation and bought original Darjeeling tea. Last but not least I arranged for my entry permit to Sikkim. Sikkim is a special state in India and foreigners are not allowed to enter without an entry permit. It was not difficult to get the permit and soon I was on my way to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim.
Preparing for the real Himalaya
The city Gangtok is even smaller and calme than Darjeeling. Nonetheless, there were many travelers in Gangtok. Gangtok has dozens of travel agencies. All of them offer different treks to the close by Himalaya region. When I checked some of the travel agencies, I met a Canadian. He told me about a trek to Goecha La, that he and some other travelers would start the next day. He asked me to join in. More than happy I accepted instantly. That was the trek I wanted to do! After everything was set up for the next day, I visited a beautiful orchid exhibition and two Buddhist monasteries in the afternoon. The trek to Goecha La was definitely a lifetime memory and required a dedicated post…
How to fix a Rear Wheel Axle in the Himalaya
After the trek to Goecha La we went back to Darjeeling as a stopover. At a quite steep point on our way the rear wheel axle of our Jeep broke. We had a long stop. Fortunately, a small shop that sold momos (Tibetan bread dumplings) was nearby. I love momos! Thus, the stop was not bad at all and I was in a very good mood. This changed when I saw how the rear wheel axle was fixed. The driver and some other Indians decided to make a new axle out of bamboo! Back in the car, I was extremely scared for the rest of the journey. However, we made it back to Darjeeling. There I met two German girls who travelled with me to Kolkata. They are actually on a complete world trip and continued to Bangkok afterwards.
Tipsy stumbling at Night in Kolkata
The last days in Kolkata were very relaxed. I got yet to know another Indian metropolis. Friday evening, we went to a very lively Salsa party in a great nightclub at the Park Hotel. The entrance was free and Bacardi sponsored Rigo for free the whole evening. I absolutely like Bacardi Rigo. Thus, on my way back to the hostel I stumbled more than I walked. I saw much more poverty in Kolkata than in Delhi or Mumbai. There were so many people sleeping in the streets at night. With my reduced body control, it was almost impossible to walk and not wake somebody up.
In the Footsteps of Mother Teresa
The next day, I visited some buildings where Mother Teresa used to practice. She actually spent most of her life in Kolkata. In Chandigarh, I have driven bicycle and auto rickshaws, but here in Kolkata I saw a human rickshaw for the first time. No bicycle, no car, just one man carrying the rickshaw. It took me some time to explain to the guy, that I want to carry him. I did not appear very trustworthy to him, but finally he gave me a shot. Later I treated myself to a delicious freshly made pineapple juice and met the local AIESEC guys. They spontaneously invited me to one of their parties that night. Tomorrow at noon is my flight back to Delhi.