Unlike the hermit I met at the exit of Yuksom (the ancient capital of Sikkim), I walked slowly, admiring the scenery offered by the winding road on mountain whose inclination commanded respect even to goats.

The few inhabitants of those regions have learned to cultivate and build their homes on those precipitous slopes. I hardly met anyone, though once in a while I stumbled upon small groups of women and children sitting on piles of pebbles, breaking one by one with a hammer, to turn them into gravel. My heart sank when I realized that those roads were built with gravel produced by hand.

When they spot me, the children would dash to me yelling, “¡Rupees, rupees!,” but  instead of money, I gave them some candy I always carried in my pockets for such common eventuality.

That evening I reached the town of Tashiding, at the base of a slender cone-shaped hill on top of which  is located the stupa of the same name. Unable to wait for the next day, I started to walk up, so I could reach the summit with daylight.

Above, in addition to the monastic buildings and some private houses, I was surprised to encounter a couple of tall blondes, one leaning against the door of a gompa with the pose of a “Matahari,” and another who came to advise me -without me asking ahead- that I should get lodged up there and not in the village below. I didn’t see them again, but the suggestion was excellent. I had a single room in a large house, and a local family prepared every night a plate of rice with vegetables along with plenty of chapatti (flat Indian bread).

The whole place invited for contemplation, externally and internally, especially from a flat rock: a balcony without railings, peering over a cliff at whose bottom you could hardly catch sight of the confluence of the rivers Rathong and Rangit.

During the early hours of the next five days I got to sit on that rock to observe how the snowy peaks in the distance were first tinged golden, and blue later. Finally, the green skin of the valley opened in front.

The day before I left, I went down to the town to buy some toys for the couple of children of the family that had served me so well. Both walked along me, excited with the new toys, in a long farewell. Surely those were the first they got in their lives.

In the following post, next week, I will tell about a very special encounter that happened while exiting Tashiding.

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