I crossed the Rangeet river over the Mangitar Bridge and took my first steps in Sikkim. A land that has fascinated me since I first heard of the Himalaya. Nestled in the mountains, this little known part of India is not exactly the ‘classical’ India of the tourist trail, the India of the Taj Mahal, Delhi or Goa, but like the rest of this country, it is hard to pin down. And Sikkim is proof, if any was needed after these blog posts on India, that the diversity of this country will amaze and astound at each and every turn.
Sikkim does not fail to amaze, and it is surprisingly different from neighbouring Dajeeling in West Bengal. For a start, it is clean. Really clean. Darjeeling was clean, but Sikkim was pristine. Secondly, the people were different. Slightly. The mountain culture of Darjeeling is shared by Sikkim, but there is less of the polyglot sense that there is in Darjeeling. Darjeeling is a melting pot of cultures from throughout this area, but on crossing into Sikkim, especially this little visited part of the state by the Rangeet River, it is much more homegrown. The culture is indigenous, and there is an attachment to the land.
This part of Sikkim is also incredibly poor. It is the first time in my travels around North East India that I actually felt that. No, there were no starving people or amputees wandering the streets, but there is a sense that India’s economic miracle has yet to penetrate this mountain hideaway. Now, this is not a comment on the state as a whole, just this part of the state between the villages of Majitar and Jorethang. I have barely scratched the surface of this evocative state, and it is a place that I really want to return to.
Over the Rangeet River I went and into mythical Sikkim. My first stop, Majitar Village. I grabbed an (expensive) bottle of water and a (cheap) bowl of noodles. Oh yes, this is fusion food at its best. Spicy noodles with dahl. A mixture of the the cultures of China and India, this Rs5 bowl was more that refreshing but an anthropological treat! Instead of spending time in colonial era societies, why don’t those useless anthropologists just open their eyes and the rest of their senses to the flavours of this world? A large tree dominated the centre of the village where (a lot) of children played around. The noise of the rapids and kids’ voices filled the air as I slurped on my noodles.
I had a choice. To walk back the way I came, or to head deeper into Sikkim. On one hand, I had the unknown ahead of me. No guidebook comes out this far into the state, nor are there any maps. Plus, this being the tropics, night falls quickly here. Then again, to walk back, along the same path I came along would be so dull…so asking the directions to the town with a bus/jeep link back to Darjeeling, I was told that Jorethang was only a 4 mile hike. Well, I had already done over 20 miles, what was another four to these tired legs. So I set off, further into this journey, along the Rangeet River. This short stroll was turning out to be something a lot longer!
I climbed up the mound past vegetable patches and a primary school towards the main road above the village of Majitar. And I took one last look at my first footsteps into Sikkim. I had finally done it! A sense of achievement came over me, as I finally entered Sikkim. I am not sure if the locals realise how famed their state is, nestled as they are in the shadow of the Himalaya. A place of wonder, a part of the world that so many people wish to visit, and I was one of the few that had made it, possibly via one of the most unorthodox routes possible. But there was no time to dawdle. The sun would be setting soon, and I had still had a few miles ahead of me yet!