The First Big Climb
Finally after almost 2 years, I managed to get my 2 wheels rolling on the road again. I still remember, the last big climb I did with my fully loaded bicycle was the Tor Ashuu pass in Kyrgyzstan, where I climbed for days and days from Jalalabad in the south, passing by Suusamyr valley of the Tien Shan. After the pass, it was a nice rolling down, where I was pushed by the gravity all the way to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Since then, I stopped travelling on bicycle. I started to get bored and wanted to try something new, so I went to Finland to learn skiing from the Finns about a month. I then returned to Kyrgyzstan with a complete gear of forest skis and enough knowledge of cross country skiing. I then explored the Kyrgyz mountains on my skis for the whole winter until the snow finally melts, then I continued exploring the rest of the mountains with 2 mountain horses. It was hell of an experience, I even came across the face of death when I was almost attacked by a big pack of wolves in Naryn region. Luckily those hungry and nasty wolves, about 20 of them were chased away by Taigans, a fierce Kyrgyz dogs. But while gaining those exciting experience of my life, I lost the muscle group needed to pull my heavy bicycle through the high mountains.
So after almost a month trekking in Bhutanese mountains and got myself lazy in Darjeeling and Gangtok, I finally freed my bicycle out of the bike box again. Installing the racks and the wheels, putting enough pressure on the tyres and fixing every other thing on the bike in my hotel room in Gangtok. I then held the handlebar tight, imagining myself rolling along the road again after for so long, rocking the Himalayan roads. I woke up early in the morning, did some final preparation, had early breakfast, saying goodbye to the hotel owner and finally, hit the road while it was drizzling gently. Getting out of Gangtok was quite slow, since there were so many cars in such a small road. But it was only for a few kilometers, after passing by another town called Ranipool, the road started to become calm and I was rolling down fast. It was a good rolling down from Gangtok to Singtam which is about 20km. After Singtam, it was flat until I passed a bridge to cross a river. Once I crossed the river, I started to hear lorries from up above. The road then started to become steep. The first big climb started for me right after Singtam.
At first I was cycling uphill steadily, fighting the gravity on the long endless climb. But slowly, I started to feel the burden… I became slower. The road was so steep and it seems endless. I was hoping that the muscle memory would do its magic, since I stopped cycling for a long time. After about an hour of climbing, I realized that I only climbed less than 8km. There was still long to go. I started to take a break once in a while. The higher I climbed, I found myself taking rest more often, the gravity seems stronger, pushing me harder. But its good that sometimes jeep taking tourists passed by me, and local tourists waving at me shouting “the very best luck… only for you!”. That made me smile and giving extra energy for the climb. It reminds me of cycling in Tibetan plateau many years ago, only that time they said it in different language, “Jia you!” in chinese. The battle of mind and body was going on inside me. My body wanted to stop but my mind wanted me to keep going. After many hours on the road, I finally reached a small nice village called Temi. I decided to take a rest there in one of the cheap hotel by the road. The owner is a nice guy and helpful. He loves the bike so I let him roll the bike while I took a good rest in the hotel.
The next day I decided to take a good day rest and explored the tea garden in Temi. Temi is very famous of their tea, they say, Temi tea is one of the best in the world. Not surprising to me, since I always heard that Indian tea is the best. The tea produced here is in high demand by international market. I probably used to drink it, since its available in many places in the world. And often, the tea produced here is called Temi tea. You probably should go to your kitchen and check the tea that you have in your kitchen’s cabinet now… it is probably the Temi tea… and here is the place where it came from :) Once I reached the tea garden which is very near the hotel, there were many local tourists visiting the garden. It was a big one, probably the biggest tea garden I’ve ever seen. It goes as far as my eyes could see down below… such a beautiful view. Walking around the tea garden while it was covered with clouds, is amazing.
There is also a tea factory where I got to see the process of the best tea in the making. It is a quite big tea factory with many workers, I guess majority of the people who live here in Temi are involved in the tea industry here. A local here mentioned to me that majority of the tea here are being exported to Germany first before being distributed to everywhere in the world.
The next day after having early breakfast, I began to climb again on steep road. This time, I stopped after only half an hour of climbing. I was tired but the view was amazing. I finally could see the alpine mountains far in the west… beautiful! The weather was good and my eyes could see far under the very blue unpolluted sky of Sikkim. When I took a rest at some viewpoint, the locals started to surround me and studied my bicycle. The most usual questions I got were where I came from, am I travelling alone and whats the price of my bicycle. I didnt want to create much attention so I just said that my bike costs less than 200 dollars… hoping that they know nothing about the bike and didnt realize the rohloff system Im using for my bike. It took me hours to climb until almost noon where the road became flat again once I reached another small village called Damthang. So far I came across very helpful people here in Sikkim. Everyone showed me the correct direction to my destination with a smile carved on their faces. I even came across the hottest policewoman I’ve ever met here in Sikkim. Looking at her makes my heart melts… turning it into liquid in seconds, so I quickly looked away before it turned into gas…
After Damthang, there was one last climb, a small one before the road finally goes all the way down to about 2100m altitude towards Ravongla. It was a sunny noon, the weather was quite hot and I was sweating all over during that last climb. It was great again once I rode under the shade in the forest area, where it reminds me a lot of Loch Lomond in Scotland when I was cycling in the UK many years ago. Once I reached Ravongla I stopped in a nice quiet hotel located outside about half a kilometer away from the centre of the town. I was greeted with a smile by the hotel owner, who let me to stay in a very comfortable room with a nice view of the surrounding mountains… and he gave me a good discount since Im coming with a bicycle and a solo traveller… and because he said Im charming… hehe…