Hi again everybody,

We have good internet access here in Darjeeling, so we’re posting again just a few days after our last post. If you missed the last post, take a look… India: Views From a Bus Window.

Our epic overland journey brought us (eventually) to the tiny northern Indian state of Sikkim, an ancient Himalayan kingdom tucked between Nepal and Bhutan. Upon arrival we immediately felt like we were in a different country, probably because Sikkim was a separate country until just over thirty years ago. Mountains, cedars, rhododendrons — we had left the plains of Hinduism and entered the land of Tibetan Buddhism.

The wind sends prayers from the prayer flags.

A freshly-painted windowframe at a monastery we visited.

We spun the prayer wheels to bring good luck and good weather as we prepared to trek in the Himalayas.

The trek begins. We started out at an altitude of 5800 feet, surrounded by spring vegetation.

Hello Daphne! But where are your leaves?

Breakfast in the sunshine — short-lived, as springtime brings afternoon clouds to the Himalayas each day. We trekked with two other couples, two guides, various cooks and porters, and a whole lot of…

Yaks! Dzhos, actually — half-yak, half-cow. Trekking in Sikkim is not like trekking in Nepal; there are no teahouses or other accommodation along the trail. Trekkers stay in tents, or bed down on the floor in shacks that house yaks during the winter. The dzhos carry everything necessary to keep us alive for nine days.

Day 3. We still had morning sunshine, but no table or chairs (and it was getting noticeably colder…)

Possibly a relative of one of our trusty dzhos. Our guide told us that real yaks like this one cannot go below 2000 meters (6600 feet), or they will die!

After some days of climbing, we emerged from the forest to rewarding vistas of the third highest peak in the world — Kanchenjunga!! (Also spelled Kanchendzonga.) About 100 km west of Everest (and directly above Kate’s head in this picture), it stands at 28,373 feet.

Our farthest camp, at about 13,000 feet. This hut did not provide a whole lot of protection from the cold, but we did feel luckier than the people in the ice-encrusted TENTS!! (Not visible in this photo, unfortunately… use your imagination if you dare!)

Don’t let these smiles fool you. It’s freezing.

This is what we came to see — Kanchenjunga up close.

Our trek mates.

Celebrating with some locally-brewed Chang. To make at home, pack fermented millet seeds into a section of bamboo. Add boiling water. Let steep for a few minutes, then sip the liquid through a bamboo straw. Mmmm!

Making our way back down to warmth and civilization (i.e., hot showers!)

The road back to India.

Gluttons for punishment, we’re now heading to Nepal to trek (partway) around the Annapurna Himal. We would have left yesterday, but we were stranded in our Darjeeling hotel room by political demonstrations and a general strike, which **gasp** closed all the restaurants! And the internet cafe! Things seem to be getting back to normal, though — restaurants are open and jeep drivers are back on the job — so we’re off tomorrow. Wish us luck!!!

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