Before my day can start, I make myself a cup of tea, and look at photos from a ten years old trip. Sikkim is one of the places I would like to go back to as soon as I can. The Family and I have been trying to organize our work so that we can begin to travel again. International travel is a long way off, but India offers immense opportunities. There will probably be a window of opportunity in the next six months, when cases have declined, and the adventurous can start to travel again.
My trip through Lachung and Yumthang had been too short. An overnight stay in Lachung (elevation 2.9 Kms) was followed by a day trip up the Lachung river towards the Yumthang valley and its Rhododendron sanctuary. The weather is usually bad, but the sight of glaciers descending from the clouds can be a welcome change, even if you are cold and wet. On our trip the clouds were so dense that we could not even sight the fabulous Chombu peak. Well under 7 Kms high, the peak remains unclimbed even today.
But spending a day walking around the village of Lachung can be rewarding. The Lepcha who live here cheek by jowl with Tibetans are very pleasant people. Ten years ago the place was small, but years of tourism after that must have caused it to expand. This would have been interrupted by the immense earthquake which happened the year after our visit, but surely the village has been built back up by now. I have many photos of the wooden houses with their cheerfully coloured doors, and I would like to see them again.
One of the other nearby places I remember fondly is the Lachung monastery, a quiet 19th-century structure. It was deserted when we visited. We walked around it, admiring the solidity of the walls and the great upkeep. The Tibetan Buddhist monasteries have a colour scheme which is simultaneously extremely visible, because of the whitewashed walls, and immensely restful because of the small areas of earth colours, mainly black and ocher, with little touches of blue and green. I wonder how well it survived the earthquake.
The monastery has a wonderful garden and orchard. I spent a long time admiring the apple blossoms, and the moss growing on it. That was a time when I began to wonder whether an aesthetic I had considered Japanese could actually be widespread within world Buddhism. The delight in nature, the accidental and fleeting, which is captured in the Japanese phrase wabi sabi could perhaps be a Buddhist response to what the religion considers to be a fleeting and passing life. We flitted through this part of the Himalayas quickly. After the day trip up the Lachung river, we were back to the village at the confluence of the Lachung and Lachen rivers. The next three days were taken up by a trip up the Lachen to the high lake of Gurudongmar. Perhaps our next trip could be slow.