Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.






Bhutan: Day 12

by Kathy 10. March 2011 09:21

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<< Day 11: Crossing the Border into Jaigaon, India | Day 13: Kalimpong to Darjeeling >>


West Bengal Backroads to Kalimpong

(Note: This posting continues our journey through Bhutan and Northeastern India in November 2008. Today’s story picks up at the Indian border town of Jaigaon, where we spent the night after crossing over from Bhutan yesterday.)

I slept sporadically last night. Even the earplugs couldn’t completely block out the sound of barking dogs echoing off the walls of the surrounding buildings.

We were glad to say goodbye to our hotel room.

I think that the layout of the room, combined with the light green walls and the large hallway vent over the door, gave the room a dinstinct “institutional” feel. There was an attached bathroom, but we didn’t linger in there. As Ben remarked, “I don’t think anyone has ever cleaned that bathroom--because if they had, it wouldn’t look like that!”

Our room overlooked some homes behind the hotel:

Looking down at those homes, I realized how grateful we should be for even having a bathroom, regardless of its state of cleanliness. Is the glass half full or half empty? We agreed that our glass was definitely on the full side.

Before breakfast, we stood on the front balcony of the hotel and watched the morning activities on the street below.

There were the usual cows walking nonchalantly down the street:

Pedi-cab drivers were hard at work, transporting passengers:

Across the way, two men were using shovels to unload gravel from a beautifully decorated dump truck:

I did a double-take when I first saw Dorji this morning—he was dressed in Western style clothes, instead of the traditional Bhutanese gho that he had worn in Bhutan. Dorji and Ann:

Next to our bikes were a few sheep grazing on some garbage:


After the clean streets of Bhutan, India was quite a contrast.  Here, the sheep played a role in the city's garbage disposal system by consuming part of the trash that was dumped by the side of the road.

As we rode further away from Jaigaon, into the surrounding rural areas, I could feel my whole body exhale as the energy around us became much more relaxed. We had entered the Dooars (or Duars), which are the foothills and floodplains of the eastern Himalayan Mountains, next to Bhutan. Surrounding us were miles and miles of tea bushes. In fact, we would continue to be surrounded by one tea plantation after another for practically all of our remaining time in India.

We stopped for some tea in the small but bustling town of Binnaguri.


One person in our group was still suffering from a lung ailment that had started in Bhutan, in the Bumthang Valley, so Rob took him to see the doctor next door to the tea shop. Outside was a sign advertising “Lifeline Diagnostics, Saha Medical Hall”:

Bicycles seemed to be the most common mode of transportation in town:


Happy kids:

Two men were loading chickens into a truck:

The road wrapped around a large tree in the center of town:

The men walking by looked back at us with a mild sense of curiosity:

I felt a huge sense of relief that there were no groups of men gathering around to stare at us with an aggressive, soul-sucking intensity, as had occurred in Jaigaon yesterday.

More photos of people in Binnaguri:


Continuing onward, we stopped at a junction near the town of Damdin to switch our gear to a different chase truck. Our Bhutanese truck, guide and assistant could only accompany us so far into India before they had to turn around.

The team quickly unloaded our luggage from the Bhutanese truck:

And piled it into the Indian one:

We bid farewell to our wonderful Bhutanese guide Dorji and the ever-helpful Tsring. Dorji’s openness and wealth of information had been a huge part of what had made this adventure so special. And I had appreciated Tsring’s genuine warmth and graciousness in assisting with whatever might be needed. Here I am in a farewell photo, with Dorji on my right and Tsring on my left:

I would miss them.

In the meantime, motorcycle gurus Gyan and Sono filled my bike with gas:

While our bikes were being taken care of, we watched in awe as a steady stream of women passed by with their giant bundles of sticks:


We took one final group photo before Dorji and Tsring departed:

From left to right, in the above photo: Tsring, Sono, Larry, Dale, Paul, Dave, Gyan, Ann, Fred, Dorji, Rob, me, Ben, Marian, and Glynn.)

Down the road, we passed a sign that said, “Welcome to Gorkhaland”. (Sorry, no photo.) We learned that this area is currently part of the State of West Bengal, which stretches far south to encompass the sprawling city of Calcutta. Not only is the terrain here different from that in Calcutta, but the people who live in this hilly region are ethnically and culturally distinct from the people who live in the southern region. The people here have been requesting (and at times demanding) their own separate state or administrative unit for over 100 years. The name of the proposed state is “Gorkhaland,” and we would see this term a lot during the next two days.

Our road meandered next to a small river:


A bridge in the distance:

Tea bushes covered the gentle slopes:

The road ahead:

Somehow Ben managed to get a flat tire, but Gyan—our tire changing king—made short work of fixing it:

We stopped for a picnic lunch at Garuda’s Rock, a massive rock with stairs. Here I am on top of the rock:

Local folklore tells the story of Garuda, a mythical bird that flew to the Tiger’s Nest dzong in Bhutan. There, Garuda found Rimpoche, who had established Tantric Bhuddhism in Bhutan in the 8th century and is believed to have been the 2nd incarnation of Buddha. Garuda also found a mythical female deity that Rimpoche had transformed into a flying tiger to carry him up to the Tiger’s Nest. Garuda then swallowed both Rimpoche and the tiger, flew to this spot in Gorkhaland, and laid an enormous rock egg. The story declares that when the egg hatches, this borderland will be free.

Above the rock were small mountain peaks covered in green:

Behind the rock was a flowing stream:

The large boulders in the streambed spoke of the powerful strength of the water during storms or high floods:

During our lunch, two local men hung out at the edge of the nearby bridge and kept an eye on us:

The next stretch of riding took us through many quaint villages that clung to mountainsides. We stopped in the small town of Lava for a break.

Here is Ben, resting on his bike:

Down the street was the Orchid Hotel and Restaurant, a fairly modern building that also served as the town bus stop:


Looking back, in the other direction (that’s me in the wings):

Across from us was a house with a ladder front staircase:


I wouldn’t want to lug heavy items up and down that ladder; although with practice, I imagine I would become quite adept.

A few of the homes were adorned with colorful flowers in pots along their balconies:


Metal rooftops flowed down the steep hillside:

This home seemed a bit precariously balanced:

The town reservoir:

After our rest, we continued our gentle ride to the city of Kalimpong, where we were immersed in a bit of crazy rush hour traffic through the downtown area, splitting lanes, and making our way up a small hill. My bike stalled while puttering through the stop-and-go madness. I remained calm, but my heart was adding its yammer to the horns tooting around me. I methodically went through the kick-starting process with my finicky Royal Enfield, and quickly merged back into the stream of vehicles.  By now, I had grown used to the bike’s quirks, and had actually developed a genuine fondness for the lumbering beast

We parked our bikes in front of the Kalimpong Park Hotel:

The hotel was situated near the top of a hill, overlooking the city below:

The rooftop patio gave us a magnificent view of the Himalayas:

Here is the mountain Kangchenjunga, at sunset:

At 26,169 feet, Kangchenjunga is the third highest peak in the world, after Mt. Everest and K2.

The hotel appeared to have been originally built as someone’s mansion.  Ben and I shared a grand space that we nicknamed “the Winchester Mystery Room”—it was humongous, with many doors, 2 bedroom areas, 2 bathrooms (both clean, and one with two separate sections), and a huge pass-through storage area leading to the second bathroom. We giggled like school kids as we opened doors and discovered “secret” areas.

The main bedroom:


After a quiet group dinner at the hotel tonight, Ben and I heard a knock on our bedroom door. Who could that be, so late? We opened the door and found several members of the hotel staff holding out a birthday cake with a candle. They had discovered while serving dinner that it was Ben’s birthday, and they had searched out a cake for him!

It was a happy birthday indeed!


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Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

Bhutan
   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Kanglung
   Mongar
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Thimphu
   Tongsa
   Wangdi Phrodrang

Bolivia
   Caranavi
   Guanay
   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Llica
   Potosí
   Queteña
   Rurrenabaque
   Sajama
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sorata
   Sud Lipez
   Tupiza
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

Canada
   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Chetwynd
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Isle-aux-Coudres
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Montreal
   Niagara Falls
   Ottawa
   Quebec City
   Quesnel
   Thousand Islands
   Toronto
   Vancouver
   Vancouver Island
   Victoria
   Watson Lake
   Whistler
   Whitehorse

China
   Beijing
   Datong
   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   HuaShan
   Lijiang
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Xi’an
   Yangshuo
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Quepos
   Sarchi
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves
   Zarcero

France
   Paris

Ecuador
   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Quito
   Yasuní National Park

India
   Bagdogra
   Darjeeling
   Delhi
   Gawahati
   Jaigaon
   Kalimpong

Mexico
   Baja California
   Crucecita
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Huatulco
   Marietas Islands
   Mazunte
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Patzcuaro
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Sayulita
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotihuacán
   Teotitlán del Valle
   TzinTzunTzan
   Yagul
   Yelapa

Namibia
   Caprivi
   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Katutura
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisfontein
   Seisriem Camp
   Sossusvlie
   Swakopmund
   Treesleeper Camp
   Twyfeltein
   Windhoek

Peru
   Balsas
   Barranca
   Cajabamba
   Cajamarca
   Caraz
   Cañón del Pato
   Celendín
   Cerro de Pasco
   Chachapoyas
   Cusco
   Huamachuco
   Huánico
   Huaraz
   La Oroya
   Leymebamba
   Llanganuco
   Lima
   Machu Picchu
   Moyobamba
   Nuevo Jaén
   Pallasca
   Pampas
   Tápuc
   Tarapoto
   Tarma
   Tingo Maria
   Tocache
   Yungay Memorial

Portugal
   Burgau
   Coimbra
   Evora
   Lisbon
   Marvao
   Nazare
   Obidos
   Portimao
   Sintra
   Sitio

South Africa
   Johannesburg

Spain
   Barcelona
   Bilbao
   Hondarribia
   Madrid
   Montserrat
   Nerja
   Rock of Gibraltar
   Ronda
   Santillana del Mar
   Tolosa
   Zaragoza

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.


Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin