Sikkim- "The Last Shangri-La"
Sikkim, literally a bump on the map between Nepal and Bhutan, only became part of India in 1975 and still feels like a separate country. Sikkimese border guards check your entry permit as if it were a visa. With undisturbed forests, glacial streams and snow covered Himalayan peaks, Sikkim is both rugged and beautiful. It's home to the third highest peak in the world, Mt Kangchendzonga.
This tour combines some strenuous hiking and biking and is limited to people who are in excellent condition and are comfortable on both bikes and trails. It's our only adventure where we actually do some camping.
We meet in Delhi and then fly to Bagdogra, for a transfer by jeep to Kurseong. We bike through Darjeeling, Pelling, Yuksom and Borang before a rest day in Gangtok. We then head to Rumtek and Kalimpong and a spectacular descent out of the Himalayas through Lava.
After the biking, we can arrange trekking for you. The 4 day trek from Yuksom up to Dzongri is spectacular with views of Kangchendzonga and the entire Singalila range of mountains near the Sikkim-Nepal border. Treks can also be arranged from Darjeeling.
Day 1 and 2 - Delhi
We meet in Delhi, but you essentially have free time to explore the city and shake off jet lag.We will plan to get our Sikkim permits in Delhi.
Day 3 - Delhi to Kurseong
We fly to Bagdogra and then travel by jeep for 4 hours to Kurseong. In Kurseong we will put together our bikes.
Day 4 - Kurseong to Darjeeling
We visit the nearby tea estate first thing in the morning. It's a then a short bike ride from Kurseong to Darjeeling so we will have the better part of the afternoon to explore Darjeeling town. Darjeeling is famous for it's tea and the narrow gauge train. There is plenty to do and see here.
Day 5 - Darjeeling to Pelling
We'll exit Darjeeling via the VERY steep, but less traveled "back way". It's a route that cars and jeeps have some difficulty getting up. We descend all the way down to the valley before reaching Pelling.
Day 6 - Pelling to Yuksom
We have a big down hill ride and the climb about two thirds of the way back up to Yuksom. Yuksom is a great little town and a trekking center for the area. It also has some nice views of Mt. Kangchendzonga. It's not unusual to see yaks being led through town as parties get ready trekking adventures.
Day 7 - Yuksom to Borang
Today's ride is both challenging and spectacular. We go by Tashiding and then will stop to take a look at the the 300 year old Tashiding Monastery. The monastery's 10 foot tall prayer wheel looks like moving art with raised gold inscriptions on the dark bronze wheel. It's so big you must walk around it to turn it. A loud gong strides with each revolution, as if to recognize your prayer. Borang is on ridge with spectacular views.
Day 8 - Borang to Gangtok
We descend from Ravangla and ride along the Valley floor to Singtam. From Singtam we climb up to the capital of Gangtok. Gangtok, at 1570 meters is improbably spread out on the steep slope of a mountain. It's the the commercial hub of Sikkim and is also the gateway for accessing the more remote parts of the country.
Day 9 - Gangtok (rest day)
This is a well earned rest day. You have time to explore the city. You can visit the Tibetan Institute, the floral gardens or ride the aerial tram (Gondola). If ambitious, you could also ride your bike up to Hunaman Temple and back.
Day 10 - Gangtok to Rumtek
It is a short day today. We ride down and across the valley below Gangtok to Rumtek. There we visit the Tibetan Buddhist Monastery called the Darmachakra Centre, It is the largest monastery in Sikkim and is famous for the Karmapa Controversy, a lengthy battle played out in the Indian courts between two rival organizations claiming stewardship of the monastery and its contents. The site possesses many auspicious qualities surrounded by flowing streams, mountains behind, a snow range in front, and a river below. 24k
Day 11 Rumtek to Kalimpong
It's a super big day of riding. We head out of Rumtek and wind along the mountainside before a very steep descent to the main road. From there, we take short transfer across the border. After lunch we turn off the main road and start the ride to Kalimpong on a little traveled back road. It's very big climb up and over with spectacular views. We bike through plantation of Cinchona plantations. The bark of the Cinchona tree is used to manufacture of quinine. Quinine interferes with the reproduction of malaria causing protozoa. Cinchona trees were introduced in India by the British. 80k to 100k.
Day 12 Kalimpong (Rest day)
Kalimpong is like a mini version of Darjeeling, but not quite so touristy or commercial. There are monasteries to visit and it is a good place to shop for something to bring back home and simply relax and gather your strength for the last day's ride, which is a big one.
Day 13 Kalimpong to Bagdogra
Another big day as the grand finale. We ride our bikes up to Lava and hopefully arrive at the Monastery in time for their "arguments", the daily debates between sets of monks which can go on for years without being settled. The discussions can be very animated with a lot of slapping of hands for emphasis. It is quite interesting. We'll have lunch at the Monastery. From there it is all downhill to the plains of West Bengal, a spectacular descent out of the Himalayas. The temperature will go from very cool to very warm. The ride down is the better part of 50k's and it takes a couple hours. We ride on the flats for awhile, but once we hit the main road, we transfer to Bagdogra. The next morning we catch our flights back to New Delhi. 80k to 100k.
13 nights (combination of hotels, guesthouses)
Breakfast, lunch and dinner (except for New Delhi, Darjeeling and Gangtok)
Transport of baggage
Stocked Sag Vehicle(s) and Drive(s) and English speaking local guides
Transfer from Bagdogra to Kurseong
Airfare (Delhi to Bagdogra is usually less than $100)
Beer, wine booze
Meals in New Delhi and and Gangtok
Immunizations from your doctor or travel clinic