Yuksam - gateway to the trekking paradise of Sikkim

11-Aug 08:30 PM
Kanchakanya express to New Jalpaiguri. Interesting journey with three Nepali middle aged ladies on their way to Kalimpong and a Bengali IBM Engineer with family on his 4th trip to the hills. Carrying lots of baggage and tons of polythene. Train one hour late - only.
12-Aug 08:30 AM
Reached NJP in a bandh. Met Gautam Dawa who took me by backstreets to Yuksam via stops for breakfast and lunch of pork momos at Legship. Gautam would make a good master trainer for tourists - has in depth knowledge and goes out of his way to pass on info and solve problems.
12-Aug 03:00 PM
Reached Yuksam, met Kinzong (secy KCC) and booked into Yoksam Residency. Then got a download about KCC and other details from Kinzong and UT Bhutia, member. Visited the KCC office and saw the work currently being done there. Kinzong is a walking encyclopedia on Yuksam and its problems. One of the founders of KCC, a local voluntary org. KCC office being built with NGO project funding, lots of room for training and development.
12-Aug 05:00 PM
Went to Coronation Throne with U T Bhutia who explained the basis of Yuksam being the first capital of Sikkim 1641 AD. The story of Yuksam being the meeting place of three sacred Buddhist monks who met here to appoint the first king of Sikkim, was told in great detail by UT, my guide for the moment.
Saw the CSC office, closed. Had roadside beef momos with a bunch of girl footballers from Yoksam School - the Shya Palay looked good. Will try some tomorrow. Raining a lot, got pretty wet, bought an umbrella. Thank God I brought the leather shoes and not the tracks suggested by the family. Hard climbing, out of shape - gasp! I'd forgotten that there were certain muscles that needed to be yanked out of sleep once in a way.
12-Aug 07:00 PM
Met Dhanraj Gurung (Red Panda), Jit Bahadur Gurung, Nawang Bhutia - all tour operators or guides; lots of inputs from U T Bhutia.
12-Aug 08:00 PM
Dinner at Hotel Yangrigang - owned by Nawang Bhutia, guide and tour operator. Beef Gathuk. Went back to Yoksam residency - no water, no reception! And NO INTERNET
13-Aug 08:00 AM
Checked out of Residency, moved to Yangrigang. Nice rooms, good reception, no TV. Had Tibetan stuffed bread and omelette. Awesome. And INTERNET but very very slow
09:00 AM
Met a tour operator, gave my questionnaire. Took cross country trek with Nawang to the beginning of the Khangchendzongpa National Park. En route met UT and saw the Waste Management Units, handmade paper unit
Met Doma Tshering Lepcha, admin at the district office - got info on issues, permits, took pictures of all the documentation requirements (can be used to train guides)
10:30 AM
Met District Forest Officers - Tshering Pintsho and Sangay Bhutia - detailed discussions on some areas of concern for trekkers and guides. Lunch with the Forest Guards as well as Kinzong, UT.
02:00 PM
Back to Yangrigang for a rest - raining incessantly. The whole family is making national flags on the dining table while a couple of the girls are outside cutting poles for the flags.
03:00 PM
UT says we have to go to visit the Home Stays - so we set off with umbrellas, camera and file. First stop is at Tamding Bhutia's - he is a guide, a home stay operator, owns a restaurant and owns a pony as well. One of the few graduates I have met. Also met Passang, a bird trail guide (specialist). Excellent inputs. Passang Tshering, very experienced bird trail guide - good master trainer material.
04:00 PM
Another long uphill and rocky hike for almost 30 minutes, straight up in pouring rain, narrow rocky pathways, overgrown on either side! To Ezam Cottage, tucked away in the hills. Run by Doma Subba in her in-law's house. Delightful experience. Got to meet Till - one of the daughters who now works in Italy in the hotel management industry along with Doma's husband and another sister. This is really a different kind of homestay - totally dedicated to traditional hospitality, vegetarian food and an outhouse toilet ... as in "out" and down a flight of stairs, across a small courtyard. They arrange traditional dances and folklore for tourists who want to see them. Guests are expected to help with the kitchen garden, milk the cow and collect firewood if they want to eat!! Some amazing hospitality and friendship though they didn't know me at all.
06:00 PM
Left Ezam in pouring rain. Dodging leeches in an overgrown path, hopping from rock to rock with my pants tucked into my socks … balancing an oversized umbrella in one hand and the camera in the other. Raindrops the size of marbles see no resistance in the chinese fabric of my umbrella and dive right through, hitting me happily on the head. Back in Yangrigang and intermittent power cuts ... in fact, so intermittent it's beginning to look like a disco. So, on goes the headphones and music while I type. Sikkim Rum, beef momos and thukpa - dinner.
08:00 PM
Uden Bhutia, Treasurer of KCC and Kinzong's sister dropped in. Very passionate about the work. Some insights that the guides from North & East Sikkim (Gangtok) are the ones who need to be trained as they don’t have the information on West Sikkim and do a poor job.
14-Aug 09:00 AM
Meeting with the committee members of KCC - Pema Bhutia, Chewang Bhutia, Uden Bhutia and UT. Discussed concepts of eco-tourism and the proposed action plan for training.
11:30 AM
Visited the Yuksam school with UT and Uden. Met the Principal, Mr Acharya, who put me in the front row … had to leave because I was heading back to Gangtok. Missed the program but got the full brunt of the political speech! All in Nepali, of course, so floated over my head in a wall of sound and fury ... signifying importance of sorts.
01:30 PM
Left for Gangtok after searching for my driver for 45 min. He was so absorbed by the spectacle at the Yuksam school that he forgot he had to drive me. We had to take the alternate route via Pelling and Rimbi as the original route was blocked. An amazingly spectacular route where we played games with the clouds — driving below, then through, then above them. Visibility shrunk to a few feet and the road was full of potholes and rushing waterfalls. Headlights dont seem to have much say in the matter either. Bal Bahadur Misra, an expert driver, made short work of the mountains.
Interesting extra : one of Bal Bahadur's friends with wife and 8 year old daughter had come to Yuksam to have the kid treated for jaundice. The hospital turned them away as they did not have the medicines. Bal Bahadur gave me the story and said that they were walking back to their village - a distance covered in 6 to 8 hours! Then we saw them on the road. I offered them a lift for some way. When we left them they still had an hour or two to walk - a sick child, a mother and father. Broad smiles, thanks and no concern about their difficulties. We have a lot to learn.
07:30 PM
Reached the Basi Kothi guest house, checked in, relaxed …. Tour is virtually over. Tomorrow we celebrate Independence day.
15-Aug 08:00 AM
Exciting time .. Locked in with God. Went to the St Thomas' church above Ranka taxi stand. Mass was over and being Independence day, there was no other mass slated for the day. So, I knelt down to pray, got slightly involved … church was locked behind my back. Managed to get to the main gate and signal for help. A passing stranger explained how I could find a back entrance that goes under the church and exits near the main street ... phew! Now it's back to the guest house and lunch with the boys (Hotel Potala - fried pork and beef momos, a Dansberg, mixed Gathuk), then shopping for their stores and rest.
06:00 PM
Heavy rains. Tomorrow's trip to Bagdogra could be more than eventful. Let's hope and pray.


This sounds more like a Adventure tourism than a Pleasure Holiday .... Your Blog if Made into a movie it could work as & for Sikkim Tourism.

Sikkim - A land where adventure is a daily experience to be lived with Mindset of its people who believe "Nothing is Impossible".

A land of "No Complaints" & with the faith & trust in the Land of Gods.

Jai Ho !

Awesome commentary ! I feel I have almost been there ..... Yes and the inimitable breezy narrative style should be an example for travel and tour book writers to emulate. Attracts and fuels the interest to see and experience such a place. More travels off the beaten path please Les !