Sikkim is a lost area at the extreme North of India, between Nepal and Bhutan. We needed a special permit to enter it, only allowing a 15 days stay. And then we still needed other permits to visit many parts of Sikkim, making it impossible to travel without an expensive travel agency. As the monsoon season was staring, it was also impossible to camp. So it was not such a good plan for backpackers…
We spent a few days in Gangtok, the capital. We walked around, discovering monasteries and waterfalls, getting lost on the way in small villages. We discovered terraces gardens, with the light green fields of rice ready to be replanted and many small houses surrounded by chicken or buffalos. We saw many men or women carrying heavy stuff on their back like « sherpas » carrying most of the weigh with their front head. I even saw some women carrying their child on their back, like in Africa!
We couldn’t see the snowy Himalayan Mountains because of the fog, and we couldn’t go trekking because of the high cost. So we decided to volunteer for 10 days at “Bamboo Retreat”, a luxury hotel a few kilometers from Gangtok. We had a room and food for free, in exchange of teaching composting and mulching (see “Permaculture” part) to the gardeners. We also listed all the medicinal plants of the garden, discovering all the Ayurveda properties of the Sikkim plants. It was a pleasure to eat a little more European food, even if rice was still the main dish!
When the weather was sunny, we went walking around trying to avoid the numerous leaches. We bath in some waterfall and assisted to a Buddhism ceremony in the Rumtek monastery, animated by enormous gongs.