Not such blissful days of riding in the mountains to report, I'm afraid.
Yes, Sikkim, India has fantastic scenery and challenging roads, but we've
had to contend with natural disasters, a string of mechanical troubles, and
now, a robbery!
In case you missed the news, there was a 6.9 earthquake centered in
Sikkim on September 18th. At that time, we were in the capital city called
Gangtok, staying in a rickety old hotel, five stories up. Gretchen, my
California girlfriend, grew up on ground that regularly shook. She was
pretty calm when the walls started rattling and urged me to stay put. The
noise was incredible, and down in the street we could hear screaming.
Fortunately the damage at our location was minimal, but landslides up north
killed many people and shut down the highways. Our plans to cycle north of Gangtok were immediately off the table.
For the next couple weeks we instead toured West Sikkim. The monsoon
rains lingered a bit, stranding us a few times, and the combination of rain
and earthquake damage shut down a few small roads we tried to travel on. We
did a loop of West Sikkim, which included daily steep climbs and views of
the glaciated slopes of Kanchenjunga (third biggest mountain in the world)
and her Himalayan sisters.
Just after the tiny town of Tashiding, our mechanical troubles started.
First, the rail of my Brookes saddle snapped in half one hot morning. I've
probably ridden on it a total of six months. It's still under warranty, so I
can get a replacement. The next day, my new Continental Travel Contact tire
developed an unexplained rip in the sidewall. Gretchen brought that tire out
for me from New Zealand just last May. I tried to patch and boot it, but the
tire continued to give me trouble for the next few days. Finally I put on my
Camping under Sikkim India's majestic snowcapped mountains.
We came out of the mountains, minds already switching gears to our coming
trip to Bangladesh, when the next disaster struck. While we checked into a
hotel in Jorethang, one of my rear Ortlieb panniers went missing! We're
still mystified as to how it happened. We were alert and careful as usual,
but there was a tiny window of time (less than a minute) when the bags were
unwatched in the hotel lobby. I think we were victims of some crazy
compulsive kleptomaniac. The police inspector was eager to help, but he
seemed to think the affluent citizens and Christian missionaries at our
hotel were above suspicion and refused to conduct the room-to-room
questioning we thought appropriate. He was certain that the bag had dropped
off the bike without my noticing somewhere back on the road. That's just
ridiculous if you know anything about how well Ortliebs attach to the rack
and how a missing bag would throw the whole bike off balance.
bag contained my tools and spare parts, my precious tools that I've been
collecting since middle school. Although it could have been worse (computer,
passports, money), it's a tough loss to take. I'm very worried about not
being prepared for breakdowns, and angry about having to replace my
belongings. If I break a chain or a spoke, we'll be stranded on the side of
the road. Back home it would be an expensive search to replace them all,
here it's a mountainous task. You can read a more detailed description of
the event, and see a list of the stolen items, here:
Despite all the setbacks, the tiny kingdom of Sikkim has been a fantastic
journey. The mountainous terrain is clean and green, the people are curious
and kind, and the ride was challenging. As we continue on to the hot
flatlands of Bangladesh, I will miss the cool hills and crashing rivers of
Sikkim. I refuse to let the loss of my beloved tools keep me from
continuing, although I will do my best to replace what I can. I've set up a
donation page if you'd like to contribute to my tool fund. I appreciate
immensely all the help and well-wishes I've received from readers, and I
hope you all will keep working towards your own cycling dreams.
Green Grass and High Tides
Our touring bicycles loaded up in downtown Gangtok, Sikkim, India. A few day
after we arrived, there was a 6.9 earthquake that shut down all water and power
service and closed many roads. Gangtok didn't suffer too much, but some villages
in the north were mostly destroyed. Sadly, many people lost their lives in this