Apr 30, 2014

A Walk in the Mountains - Part V

The homestay.

The reason why the concept of a homestay appeals to me is probably because I find the fake smiles of most hotel staff a bit jarring. On most occasions. On other occasions, the staff are truthful enough not to smile. Besides, there is a sameness to hotels - you could be staying in Kashmir or Kanyakumari (or Jammu or Jhumritalaiya) and you wouldn't know the difference unless you look outside the window (and see the wall of the adjoining building).

So, the prospect that there can be a set of people who are genuinely excited at having you over, open their home to make you feel like you belong, and share their culture with you while learning about yours, was a completely new and surprising one for me.

After all, a hotel does not have the hyperactive owner's kid chasing a hen and its chicks giving the ultimate threat to the birds - "oye, tereko chicken tandoori bana doonga!", or the same kid telling you, "aap toh superman lagte ho." I rest my case.

After a refreshing welcome drink made from a root extract (how I wish I could remember the name), off we went to our rooms. Now, I don't know about you, but after 4 days of walking without a wash, the sight of a clean bathroom and running hot water made me act like an Indian male tourist in Ukraine... drop all my clothes and get steamy.

After a thorough wash, I came back to some chai-pakora and settled down with a book (a 'real' book as opposed to the kindle, as some people I vehemently disagree with say). Soon, it was time for dinner, and some of the most mouth-watering (and eye-watering, man, it was spicy) chutneys. This, coming from a guy who gets to sample some really brilliant mom-made chutneys at home. We also sampled some home made millet beer, but I did not get high since I didn't have much. Blame the elections for that.

The next day, we took a leisurely walk through the village, led by our guide Khushu. Or the Spiderman of Sikkim, as I have named him, for his ability to leap over rocks. No parkour training, no aaj kuch toofani karte hain funda, just years and years of playing on those very same rocks since his childhood!

We went to the riverside...

... and settled down on the rocks...

... and dipped our feet in the icy cold water...

... and came back very refreshed. For once, I felt a little guilty about financing hydro-power projects which go and screw up the beautiful rivers.

We walked some more (me with a wet shoe since I had stepped into the water, after a failed attempt at trying to mimic the Spidey of Sikkim), preferring to soak in the beauty of the hills, till it seemed like it'll rain on our parade. Thankfully, we hitched a ride before the rains came down too strongly, and after a late lunch, I preferred to settle down on a chair, put my feet up, and read.

A good dinner, a very good night's sleep, a warm farewell to our hosts and a sleepy car ride to the airport brought an end to an amazing vacation.
PS1: All photos across all the posts credited to either Shilpi or Mansi, my co-travellers and the really patient folks who have somehow managed to put up with me all through this trek. One would have thought that one previous vacation with me would have been enough to ensure they don't repeat this mistake, but some people apparently never learn!

PS2: Another co-traveller, the greying, grandmotherly, good doctor (in her own words) has also written about this trip. In far fewer words (unless you count the pictures and assign 1 picture = 1000 words logic).
Here: http://jayitapoduval.blogspot.in/2014/04/sikkim-very-special-experience.html?spref=fb&m=1  

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