Welcome to Sikkim

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Tiny Sikkim lies in the Indian-controlled region of the Himalaya sandwiched between Nepal and Bhutan. Lush forests of bamboo and cardamom give way to big peaks, including Kanchenjunga, the world's third-highest. While we only got four days across the border, it was well worth it, and the area requires more exploration in the future for those interested in remote villages, high peaks and friendly people.

Front row seat of Kanchenjunga from Darjeeling

Frankly, we spent longer than we'd have liked in Darjeeling, precisely because it's not quite in Sikkim...We had some permit issues before entering Sikkim, which requires additional bureaucracy due to its proximity to all sorts of hotbeds of potential civil unrest, notably China and Nepal. But Darjeeling had its charms, not least among them the unending list of teas on offer. Unfortunately, I was unaware that this once quaint British Hill Station is now in the running to win the worldwide contest for incessant car horns, honking at all times day and night, beeping at friends, people on the sidewalk, birds in the street--who knows, but beep they do. Get a place out of town a little...

Yuksom--the end of the road

Yuksom is a small Sikkimese village popular with trekkers seeking views of the highest peaks

The night we arrived here, I'd spent the past couple of hours hanging on to the roof of the bus, enjoying the stars, fresh air, and nearly getting decapitated by several low obstacles as we zoomed along on winding unlit roads deep into the Himalaya. We'd come from Dar that day, down the impossibly steep little cowpaths they dare to pave and call roads, across the river, and into Sikkim. This was our second bus of the day, and I'd had enough ever since a drunk wanted my seat, so I rode up on top of all the baggage. Michele was sensible and rode inside with the live chickens. When we arrived here at Yuksom, it was after 8 p.m., and we were directed to knock on the secret door of the apparently closed restaurant. Behold, a sliding panel, and the view inside reveals an unmistakable warm comraderie, with smoke, and food, and beers. The place was 'officially' closed due to Yuksom's not entirely unique problem of drunken mayhem marking many nights due to overconsumption. People seemed pretty subdued while we were there, and the food was good.

Stupa in Yuksom, an area of high importance for Buddhist scholars and practicing devotees.

Dubdi Monastery, above Yuksom.

View out the back 40...

Sharing a kodak moment with a local girl. Michele ended up giving away her backpack, and very happily.

Wood carving detail, Dubdi

Inside Dubdi

We call him Bigfoot...

Rare white-on-black line mural

Michele and bamboo

Down to Yuksom

One of the largest prayer wheels around...wheel keeps on turnin'

On the way to Hankar.

Toward Darjeeling

In foreground is leafy cardamom, which is widely cultivated as an understory cash crop.