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Friday, 20 November 2009

Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best - Page 6

Written by Christina Kay Bolton
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Sikkim is the greenest state in India in more than one way. It is lush and vibrantly green due to its unique micro-climate, created by its location in the shadow of Mt. Kanchenjunga and between the Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal. Books have been written about the miniature biosphere created here, and the region’s multitude of different species. The cyclones of the Bay of Bengal reach up to the Himalayas and to Sikkim in particular; that, combined with the monsoon, means Sikkim receives more than its fair share of rain, but it is also ‘green’ in an eco-sense. For instance, plastic bags are banned so they don’t end up on roadsides and in rivers like in the rest of India. Shops use paper bags or newspaper to wrap things and shoppers can buy inexpensive re-usable bags in most places. In fact, Sikkim is definitely the cleanest state that I’ve been to in India.

Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, KurseongAfterwards, I hiked with a naturalist guide down through the tea plantation and villages to the Glenburn Camp next to a river, and enjoyed a fabulous three-course barbeque lunch while the air was filled with the sound of rushing rapids. I continued hiking over a suspension bridge to a small village in Sikkim. It was fun as the village kids loved getting their pictures taken and would break into big smiles and laughter every time we showed them a photo. From the camp we took a Jeep back up the hill to Glenburn over an extremely skinny, bumpy road.

The next day I visited the village school that Glenburn helps support at 9 am for the school assembly. The kids are very cute – they do exercises and sing songs before they file off to their classrooms.

After breakfast I went on the tea tour, where Sanjay (the manager of the tea plantation) and his assistant showed us the process of making tea. There is a lot to explore: picking, withering, drying, separating, and tasting. Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, KurseongI learned much about tea – for instance, that most of the ‘tea’ that makes it into tea bags in the west is mainly dust and stems and it is also usually about a year old (which means it has lost most of its flavor). To have a good cup of tea you need to use whole tea leaves and steep them for five minutes; you’re also not supposed to drink it too hot. Darjeeling is a prized and delicate tea and should not be taken with milk (milk degrades tea’s antioxidants and actually creates carcinogens). Glenburn is coming up with a program to sell tea directly to customers and ship it the day after it’s finished so connoisseurs can receive fresh tea all year long.

Later in the day I hiked down to a different river with other guests and a guide, and had a picnic lunch on its wide, sandy beach. Another stunning dinner followed – this one a south-east Asian feast.

Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, KurseongOn my last day, I was planning to leave in the morning after breakfast, but wanted to stay longer, so I left in the afternoon after lunch and soaked in the peace of sitting on the verandah for a few more hours. On the bumpy drive out I finally got my first glimpse of Kanchenjunga, which had been hidden by the clouds the whole time – amazing.

Glenburn Photos ©Nathalie Boscq

 

Darjeeling

My next stop was Darjeeling itself, and I stayed at the Mayfair there. Though not as elaborate as the Mayfair resort in Gangtok, it was still very comfortable with nice rooms, a library, and a great location. The most popular viewpoint is only a few minutes’ walk from the hotel, so at sunrise Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, Kurseongthe next morning I went there and watched as the snowy peaks were turned pink when the sun glimpsed the mountains. It was spectacular.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a breakfast buffet at Mayfair we went on a walking tour around the city and we found Sikkim and Darjeeling: Eco-travel at its Best, travel india, travel Sikkim, travel Darjeeling, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Eco-travel, Quest Himalaya Adventures, Arthur Pazo, The Orchid Retreat, Kalimpong, Elgin Mount Pandim, Pelling, Norbu Gang House, Hotel Tashi Gang, Yuksom, Mayfair Gangtok, Mayfair Darjeeling, Gangtok, Glenburn Tea Estate, Darjeeling, Kurseongan even better spot to take pictures of Kanchenjunga, near the train station. Then we went to the Tibetan Self-help Center where refugees make traditional crafts and receive support in their new lives in India. Sightseeing was cut short due to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and the zoo being closed on Thursdays. We walked across town again to Glenary’s for lunch. The food was good, and the view at the big tables by the window great, but the problem there was the absolute stench of moth balls coming from the bathrooms. It made it hard to even taste the flavors of the food. I can’t imagine why any place serving food would use such strong scents. If you come here it’s better to stay as far away from the bathrooms as possible (even though then you don’t get any mountain view).

After lunch we went to the Japanese Peace Pagoda. Its stupa is beautifully carved, though it is not historic – its only 25 years old. There is the constant sound of a drum beating which adds to the spiritual feeling of the place. We also went to the Ghoom Monastery and to the railway museum. Unless you’re a rail fanatic you could give this a miss, and if you’ve already seen lots of monasteries the one in Ghoom doesn’t have too much more to offer, but it was interesting when we were there as we saw a funeral cremation underway.


Back at my hotel I had a good, plentiful dinner buffet with great service. I woke early the next morning to go back to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) and zoo before my 10 am toy train ride to Kurseong. Though I only had about a half hour there, I managed to see snow leopards, red pandas, tigers, and a bit of the HMI. Red pandas are very rare and this zoo has one of the world’s only successful breeding programs that re-introduces the pandas into the wild. Snow leopards are also endangered and I loved seeing them, even though they are in cages. The HMI has many of the paraphernalia used by Tenzing Norgay on the first ascent of Mt. Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary.

(Page 6 of 7)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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