Notes From a Wet, Wet Monsoon Holiday in Sikkim

Part of “The Trip That Changed the Way I Travel” series.  
Sikkim India Monsoon
Sikkim’s violently green forests and mountainside would give Kerala a run for its money.

Sikkim, India, 2011

Everyone discouraged me to go to Sikkim during the monsoons. Friends, guidebooks, and tour guides, all warned me about the unmanageable rain, the landslides and clouded views of the iconic Kanchenjunga. But I was curious and driven by the desire to prove them wrong: If locals can survive the season, I told myself I could too. So I planned my trip with buffer days, packed my bag with rain covers and made my way to Darjeeling. From there, I would make my way up north, across the border of West Bengal and into Sikkim.

Their ominous predictions came true even before I entered the state. In Darjeeling, I was calmly informed that a landslide had clogged the route, but the roadblock will open in 2 days. I could go to Sikkim then, the nonchalant locals told me. And sure enough, 48 hours later, the muck was cleared and I was on my way.

Bundled up in layers to protect myself from both cold and the rain, I gallivanted across Sikkim, jumping in and out of crammed shared taxis along with locals going about their business. The roads were slushy, bumpy, sometimes non-existent, but as if in compensation, the path was lined with ginormous ferns, wild flowers and roaring waterfalls that find a temporary lease of life during the monsoon. A blanket of sinister clouds always hovered over the mountains obscuring any sunshine, yet there wasn’t space for a gloomy thought in my head. The constant lashing of raindrops on the windowpanes and windshields was strangely spellbinding. Veils of thick mist swathed the landscape, revealing only its most beautiful features: a lone house in the middle of a glistening field, the faint outline of a gorgeous cascade tumbling over the edge, the sound of an invisible stream snaking through the forest.

The lesson was loud and clear: There is no wrong season to visit any place, only poor preparation. By the end of my trip, I was so glad I didn’t listen to the naysayers. The truth is, I managed just fine. My clothes and shoes were always damp, but that was a minor inconvenience compared to constant awe I felt when I was there. It was a side of Sikkim I had never known, or imagined before.

Ever since that experience, I’ve started preparing for the season instead of avoiding the so-called off-season travel altogether. I now gleefully pack my bags, whether it is winter in roof of the world or monsoon in the wettest part of the world, because a new season can only mean a new perspective.

For other stories in “The Trip That Changed the Way I Travel”  series, click here. 

  • Neelima Vallangi is an itinerant freelance travel writer and photographer who enjoys purposefully getting lost in the mountains and going to faraway corners where Google Maps fail. She tweets as @i_wanderingsoul.

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