Friday, September 24, 2010

The majestic Kanchenjunga.


I woke up to a knock on the door this morning. It was Rhonda and it was barely 5:30a. She had looked out the window and seen clear skies so it was a thumbs up to try and get an early morning view of Mt. Kanchenjunga.  Standing at 8586 m  (28,169 ft ), Kanchenjunga is the third tallest mountain in the world!

Five minutes I was down in the lobby. Rhonda had already scoped out the taxi situation and apparently, none of the ones at the taxi stand that we had been to yesterday morning were willing to take us. Still not quite understanding what all the traffic rules are in Sikkim but they are quite strict and everyone obeys them.


We were about to head off to another taxi stand when I remembered that Marc also wanted to come along so I told Rhonda we should wait a few minutes to see if he would show up and show up he did.

We explained the taxi situation to him and with that, we headed off to another stand. There, drivers were ready and willing to take us to Tashi View point from which I had been told we would get good views of the Sikkim portion of the HImalayas.

In all honesty, we didn't do much bargaining on the fare because it was so reasonable to begin with. The guy wanted 100 rupees each and 50 rupees for waiting - 250 rupees which is about $6.

We got in the car and all of Gangtok was still asleep. The streets were empty so the driver was pretty much able to zoom his way up the hillsides. We went quite a far distance, much further than Ganeshtok where Mike, Merle and I had been the day before.

When we arrived at Tashi View point, we still had some stairs to climb. By now, I had gotten used to the fact that in Gangtok, you have to either drive, walk or climb uphill to reach the end point of any destination!

At the top, there was a small observation tower with a souvenir shop on the ground level. There was also a ground level viewing platform and a small covered gazebo where there was a handful of Indian women and one man taking in the views.

It was still early morning and the snow capped mountains were still slightly obscured by clouds. Nonetheless, we all started taking photos as you never know what the clouds are going to do. For all you know, this might turn out to be the best view. Of course, we hoped that that would not be the case so we decided to hang around and wait to see if the skies would clear up.

With every minute that passed, it seemed like the clouds were getting clearer. Our patience paid off because after about 1/2 hour or so of waiting, the clouds shifted enough that we could fully see the top of Kanchenjunga and several of the surrounding peaks. From our vantage point, we were looking at the west face of the mountain and my first impression was that it looked like a ski jump ramp :-)


I snapped and videotaped away. With apologies to anyone who thinks that the Rockies or Alps or Andes are magnificent mountain ranges and they are, nothing, absolutely nothing can surpass the grandeur of the Himalayas......NOTHING!!  I just kept wishing I had a wider angle lens to better capture the view.


Marc and Rhonda snapping away!
As time went by, more and more of the mountain range came into view. We all snapped away, moving to different parts of the observation platform to see if we could get better views. But, it really didn't matter where you stood or what angled you looked at the mountains from, they are a wonder to admire.

We stayed as long as we could as we had to get back in time to grab breakfast and hit the road. Today is another long travel day.

With one parting click of my camera shutter, I said goodbye to Kanchenjunga.

I've now been lucky enough in my life to see 5 of the 6 tallest mountains in the world - Everest (1) , Kanchengjunga (3) , Lohtse (4) , Makalu (5) and Cho Oyu (6). The only one missing is K2 (2) and unless the political situation in Pakistan changes anytime soon, I'm not expecting that I will be able to see it in my lifetime.


Back into the car and on the way back to the hotel, we asked the driver to stop by a waterfall that we had seen on the way up to Tashi View Point. Several streams of water were all flowing down over vegetation covered rocks. It was quite an impressive little waterfall.

We soon arrived back at the hotel. We decided that since we made the driver wait for quite a long time plus we made him pull over at the waterfall, that we would just go ahead and pay him 300 rupees for his time and effort. Seemed like a nice thing to do and the extra few cents was not going to break any of our pocket books.

The rest of the gang was already in the restaurant having breakfast. We joined them and of course, told them initially that the view was not worth the effort of having to get up at the crack of dawn but I think our smiles gave the truth away!  What a great way to start off the day!