Friday, February 24, 2012

Pelling, Gangtok and Bagdogra — the last three stops on our trip

We knew when we left Darjeeling, that we were headed back into cold weather, unheated hotels and the possibility of rain or even snow. Yuck! Pelling promised beautiful sunrises and views of mountain peaks, but the weather when we arrived was unforgiving and the town itself had little to offer except the views (which were covered in mist). Gangtok was also cloudy and rainy, but at least there we had a mission.

Our journey through India (and cold weather) was coming to an end. To lighten our load we planned to make use of the large post office in Gangtok which was conveniently located right across from our hotel (thanks Anja!!!). We also knew that sending a package in India is a three-part process so we needed to allow enough time to complete each of the procedures. On our first attempt at information gathering, the woman behind the counter at the post office informed Marc that we would have to find a cardboard box, and then go to a fabric shop to buy enough white cloth to wrap the box. Then we needed to find a tailor to sew the cloth securely around the box. With this all done, we needed to come back to the post office (between 10:00 am and 3:pm) to have it weighed and shipped.

OK. So where do we find a fabric shop and a tailor? She motioned in a direction and told us we could find both in the market by the Gandhi statue. It was already evening, but we took a walk to the market to see if we could get a handle on this. We asked several people without getting a clear answer. The number of head wobbles and questionable looks led us to believe that we may be the first people on earth to send a package abroad from this town! The first tailor we found needed 24 hours to do the work (and he was not at all interested), and we still needed to find a box and buy the cloth and figure out if the stuff we were sending was even worth all this bother.

The next day after doing some touring, we went back to the post office to try to get some more information. After talking to three people (mostly us talking and them listening blankly and directing us to another person), we found someone that could give us an idea of how much it would cost to send 10 kilo to New York. That was surprisingly easy. He sat down at a computer like any post office employee anywhere in the West and plugged in the coordinates and presto there was a price.

But of course he had no idea how we would get the rest of it done.

I was exasperated at this point and was ready to leave all of our winter clothes in a pile at the entrance to the post office and be done with it. But I calmed down and we decided to ask our hotel manager if he could help, and of course he could!

That evening we stuffed our winter clothes into a couple of carry bags and went downstairs to discuss our problem with the hotel manager. He looked at our stuff trying to figure out if he could find a box big enough. After convincing us to keep a few things and eyeballing the weight, he sent us down the street with one of the hotel staff to weigh our stuff on their scale. Once we had made some adjustments and knew that we were within our 10 kilo limit, he took full control of the situation. “Just leave it all with me” he said with a smile. “I will look after finding a box and I have a man who will do the sewing. Tomorrow morning it will be ready.” I put some money in his hand and we were done.

In the morning as promised, our package was beautifully wrapped and sewn with additional wax seals all the way around. He carefully explained the costs for the cloth and the sewing and gave me back almost half of the money I had given him the night before. I left him with a nice tip, which he gave directly to the young man who had done all the running around. We walked across the street to the post office and within 10 minutes, our travel worn belongings were in the hands of India Post!

But it was much more than sending off a box of dusty belongings. It signaled the end of the organized part of our travel adventure. No more preplanned itineraries, transportation or tour guides. No more Al and Anja to figure anything and everything out for us. No more shared group experiences. And — no more India.

When we walked out of the post office, I felt both much lighter and much heavier at the same time. One chapter was ending and another was just about to begin.

That night was a farewell dinner for us. We spent the rest of the afternoon writing notes to all of our travel companions. I knew I would be a mess after the first farewell hug, and needed to get things down on paper. We had been through so much together and there was a lot to say to each of them.

close up at one of the Monasteries in Gangtok

The next day we all drove to the Sikkim border in our jeeps and then to Bagdoghra where Marc and I were dropped off at our hotel. As I had predicted, I was not able to say anything to anyone once the hugs began. My eyes were full of tears and my throat was tight.

Anja gave us both a hug from Al (who is still stuck in Delhi waiting for the truck to clear customs) and walked us to reception where her last responsibility to us was to check us in. “I promised Al I would make sure you were safely in your hotel before we left”, she said tearing up herself. One last hug and she was on her way with the rest of the group to the Nepalese border and the rest of the tour back to Kathmandu.

close up at one of the Monasteries in Gangtok

Our last night in India was in a very pleasant hotel in a small Indian town whose only claim to fame is that there is an army base and an airport there. So we felt just fine doing nothing, regrouping, packing and watching TV. We had an Indian curry for dinner in the hotel restaurant (which was very nice) and just let the last night go by. This morning we were served a very nice complimentary breakfast, got into an airport cab and caught our flight to Delhi. Right now we are camped out in the Delhi airport (which is gorgeous!) until our flight six hours from now. By this time tomorrow we will be in another country at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Singapore here we come!


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  3. Hey, thanks for sharing. I like Gangtok. Gangtok has an amicable cultural fusion and people live peacefully in spite of the diverse ethnicity and religions. Check out other best hotels in Gangtok also.