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Old 6th April 2010, 23:12   #106
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From the land of Nathu's sweets to Nathu La. You could easily find Ponytail a job in a Gurgaon call center cab outfit. Would fit right in!

In my house is a picture of Kanchenjunga taken from Gangtok by my dad during a family vacation, when I was still in secondary school. Your travelog has made me want to revisit again.
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Old 6th April 2010, 23:27   #107
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We begin our journey back to Gangtok, with a stopover at the Tsomgo Lake. On the way, closer to Baba mandir, is this smaller lake...
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-0k80.jpg
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-1k80.jpg
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-2k80.jpg

...and we find a few ducks floating around in the middle. Don't ducks feel cold?
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-3k80.jpg
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-4k80.jpg

A small traffic jam on the way, as another car stops to change a flat tyre. The ground is so slushy, he is having difficulty putting the jack in a stable position - therefore the excursion under the car.
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-5k80.jpg
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-6k80.jpg
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-7k80.jpg
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-8k80.jpg

We stop at Tsomgo Lake, on the slushy. mucky, yucky road in front. Suddenly, you don't even want to get out of the car!
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-9k80.jpg
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-10k80.jpg
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-11k80.jpg

But get out we do, it is too beautiful outside to give up the opportunity.
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-12k80.jpg
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-13k80.jpg
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-14k80.jpg
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-15k80.jpg
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-22k80.jpg
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-23k80.jpg

The yaks are an added attraction for most...
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-16k80.jpg
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-17k80.jpg
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-18k80.jpg

...but the bestiality of their keepers leaves me pained.
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-19k80.jpg
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-20k80.jpg

We take a quick round of the little market on the shores of the lake...
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-24k80.jpg
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-25k80.jpg

...as it starts snowing and raining, with little bits of hail.
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-26k80.jpg

Back to Khatara, and we are on our way down...

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-21k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-27k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-28k80.jpg

...as the little bits of hail get a little bigger, and start to drum the roof of the car and accumulate on the bonnet.

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-backtotsomgo-29k80.jpg

The intensity of the hailstorm increases, the cacophony inside the car is almost deafening, and then it happens...



Khatara refuses to climb the slope.

And nature unleashes her mayhem outside.

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Old 7th April 2010, 09:01   #108
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Wow, these pics are awesome & I guess this is the real snow to enjoy. From my point, the weather in India is awesome, you see snow, rainfall, summer heat & all the weather that can be tolerated by human that can all be seen in one country; all the more no extremes. We're living in Heaven.
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Old 7th April 2010, 09:37   #109
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The Sikkhim taxi drivers are a cartel that does what it wants. They run run-down UVs like the one you travelled in, with worn-out tyres, no maintenance. I was also forced to take one of these UVs last year to Changu Lake thanks to the cartel's ability to deny permits for private vehicles. The driver did not even have his license and car papers with him and at the Hanuman Tuk check post, the cop refused to let him through even though the driver appeared to be a regular. Then he had to drive back - after lots of phone calls trying to locate where the papers were - and something was rustled up which passed muster. We lost 45 minutes in the process and we almost thought that our day too was jinxed.

The taxi unions are very strong, there being one for each sector (Siliguri-Gangtok, West Sikkhim, Gangtok-Nathu la and Gangtok-North Sikkhim), and they are total monopolies, which is possibly why the service quality is also abysmal.
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Old 7th April 2010, 10:09   #110
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
The Sikkhim taxi drivers are a cartel that does what it wants.
So now wonder Doc got a Green Sikkim Maxx

Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
thanks to the cartel's ability to deny permits for private vehicles.
Sir, are you saying that we cannot use our (private/white board) cars to drive in those hills? And the permit is being issued because of Military area? I couldn't get the point & pardon my ignorance. Pls explain.
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Old 7th April 2010, 10:18   #111
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aargee View Post
Sir, are you saying that we cannot use our (private/white board) cars to drive in those hills? And the permit is being issued because of Military area? I couldn't get the point & pardon my ignorance. Pls explain.
Private vehicles are not allowed to drive to Nathu La/Changu and North Sikkhim without permits. These permits are rarely handed out, and these are supervised at the Police Commisisoner's level. THis restriction is not by the Army - tourists are allowed to go to Nathu la (the border) anyway by taxis. When I was in Sikkhim in 1994, I heard that these restrictions are placed mainly to arrest migration and preserve the ethnic culture and not for any border-related concerns. Apparently, the native Sikkhimese (mainly Lepchas and Bhutias) are being swamped by migrants from neighbouring Nepal.
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Old 7th April 2010, 10:59   #112
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Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
These permits are rarely handed out, and these are supervised at the Police Commisisoner's level.
Rarely handed out, well, I guess if you're who's of who, then it should be easy to obtain one isn't it?

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Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
tourists are allowed to go to Nathu la (the border) anyway by taxis. When I was in Sikkhim in 1994, I heard that these restrictions are placed mainly to arrest migration and preserve the ethnic culture and not for any border-related concerns.
What an idea? Is it not possible that the illegal migrants use the same taxi's to hop on to India? I don't see a point on how the taxis control the migrants.
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Old 7th April 2010, 19:30   #113
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Originally Posted by aargee View Post
Wow, these pics are awesome & I guess this is the real snow to enjoy.
I've seen snow, yes, but I've never been caught in a hailstorm of this magnitude before. It really was awesome.
Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
The Sikkhim taxi drivers are a cartel...
The taxi unions are very strong, there being one for each sector (Siliguri-Gangtok, West Sikkhim, Gangtok-Nathu la and Gangtok-North Sikkhim)
There are generally two types of cars and drivers. One who cater to the aam junta like us, with battered cars and bald tyres; and the other who prefer to have good, decent cars, are owner-drivers and look for the foreign tourist. We got such an owner-driver by the name of J B Tamang, for our ride from Pelling to Darjeeling, after we dumped Ponytail at Pelling because of misbehaviour. He had a clean Spacio, well-maintained, and is not only a good driver, but a very polite person as well. If anyone is interested, here is a pic of Tamang's car, and his number is as below.

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-tamang-1.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-tamang.jpg

Quote:
Originally Posted by aargee View Post
Sir, are you saying that we cannot use our (private/white board) cars to drive in those hills? And the permit is being issued because of Military area? I couldn't get the point & pardon my ignorance. Pls explain.
Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
Private vehicles are not allowed to drive to Nathu La/Changu and North Sikkhim without permits. These permits are rarely handed out, and these are supervised at the Police Commisisoner's level.
No vehicle, private or taxi, is allowed into North Sikkim/Nathu La without a permit. The permit is issued from the office of the Inspector General of Police. The taxiwallahs get the permit done quicker because they do it everyday, but private self-driven & self-registered cars (i.e. the car's owner is the driver) are also allowed, provided the chap at the counter considers that the car is indeed capable of traversing the route. SUVs are fine, and a 4wd is preferred. For you and me to get the permit done might take half a day.
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Old 7th April 2010, 22:23   #114
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
No vehicle, private or taxi, is allowed into North Sikkim/Nathu La without a permit. The permit is issued from the office of the Inspector General of Police. The taxiwallahs get the permit done quicker because they do it everyday, but private self-driven & self-registered cars (i.e. the car's owner is the driver) are also allowed, provided the chap at the counter considers that the car is indeed capable of traversing the route. SUVs are fine, and a 4wd is preferred. For you and me to get the permit done might take half a day.
Unfortunately, it does not happen that way. 2 people who I know who got the permit had to run around for 2 full days between 2-3 offices to get the permit. Last year, I decided against pursuing this option because it was also uncertain and upto the whims and fancies of the approving officials (although mine was Scorpio) and if there is snow or landslides, they simply refuse you the permits.
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Old 7th April 2010, 22:33   #115
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Khatara refuses to climb the slope.

And nature unleashes her mayhem outside.
We are stuck. Royally stuck. Stuck on an upslope, with a slushy surface on which the tyres find no purchase, and the engine has no more grunt left anyway to turn the wheels. Ponytail tries to reverse down. The windows are fogged up, and his head is bombarded by falling hail as soon as he sticks it out of his window. In his efforts, he manages to place the car perpendicular to the road, cutting off any further chances of other traffic passing him by.

The road fills up with ice. There's ice on the bonnet piling up a few inches onto the windscreen. The wipers are totally ineffective.

A couple of brave drivers from other vehicles behind us run up. They ask us to get out of the car.WHAT?!!? Well, the time has come for Plan B.

We get out of the car. One of the drivers takes over the wheel. As we walk back to the other cars, looking for a few empty seats, here's a video.



Some photographs from the walk in the hailstorm.

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09471k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09474k80.jpg

We watch from a distance as the other driver tries to straighten Khatara and make way for the rest of the traffic to continue.

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09475k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09476k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09477k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09478k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09479k80.jpg

The ground has turned into ice-covered slush.

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09480k80.jpg

Ice on the bonnet of the Sumo we managed to squeeze into. This would be our ride down to the 3rd-mile checkpost.
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09481k80.jpg

A view from inside the Sumo.

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09483k80.jpg
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Old 7th April 2010, 22:48   #116
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Quote:
Originally Posted by genesis View Post
You could easily find Ponytail a job in a Gurgaon call center cab outfit. Would fit right in!
Totally!
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In my house is a picture of Kanchenjunga taken from Gangtok by my dad during a family vacation, when I was still in secondary school. Your travelog has made me want to revisit again.
Same here. The last time I visited Kurseong, Darjeeling and Gangtok was as a 10-year-old, and the memory of the majestic snowcap views still lingers. On this trip, however, we only caught a glimpse of Kanchenjunga from Darjeeling on the day we left. Pics to follow.
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Unfortunately, it does not happen that way.
...run around for 2 full days between 2-3 offices to get the permit.
Oh! That I wasn't aware of. The impression I got was otherwise. But someday, I intend to take my own car up there, pull all the strings I can, and get a permit to do the Nathu La trip again, along with a trip to North Sikkim.

Last edited by SS-Traveller : 7th April 2010 at 22:52.
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Old 7th April 2010, 23:04   #117
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Finally Khatara is parked to one side. The driver of the Sumo comes back from his task of having cleared the road. The engine was already idling, he guns the motor, and takes off up the slope. A wild, lurching ride like that I have never experienced, what with being seated on the third row of a Sumo (albeit forward facing) for the first time.

Engine howling, tyres spinning, smoke from the tailpipe, and with a sickening series of lurches, the Sumo attacked the slope and started to make its own tracks. And then we were across the tough part, and headed out on to a white road with no other tyre tracks on it whatsoever.

Some pictures from the ride.
Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09484k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09485k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09486k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09487k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09489k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09490k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09491k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09494k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09495k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09496k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09497k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09498k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09499k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09500k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09501k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09502k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09503k80.jpg

Gross Travelling Happiness - Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling-dsc09504k80.jpg

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Old 8th April 2010, 10:31   #118
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Wow! Absolutely fantastic experience and awesome pics and story telling, SS. Hope and pray that it does not rain there next week! Some snow and hail should be fun though.
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Old 8th April 2010, 10:47   #119
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I've seen snow, yes, but I've never been caught in a hailstorm of this magnitude before. It really was awesome.
Its quite a good experience. I've experience walking, driving & (finally) sitting within a nice warm house & watching snow storm

The sumo looks good, but why a yellow paint or sticker on the bonnet? Hope there's some special reason to it.
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Old 8th April 2010, 10:56   #120
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The sumo looks good, but why a yellow paint or sticker on the bonnet? Hope there's some special reason to it.
Looks like it's to differentiate taxis from private cars. All taxis seem to have a yellow bonnet.
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