The information pack we had been given on arriving in Sikkim was quite explicit:
“Due to shortage in space for parking, please be informed that you will have to be ready on time & wait in the lobby. Due to uncalculated situations the vehicle reporting may get delayed. We will request you to bear with us, and as soon as vehicle arrives you will have to get in, within few seconds, before the policeman blow his whistle.”
Our itinerary for today:
“an early morning tour to Tiger Hills to view sunrise over Kangchenjunga Peak (subject to clear weather)”.
We were to be ready in the hotel lobby by four o’clock in the morning.
My mobile alarm was set.
The morning began with a barely tepid shower and, for once, no early morning tea.
Wrapped in multiple layers of clothing, hats and gloves, we tried to leave our room causing minimal disturbance to the other hotel guests. But, reaching the eerily darkened lobby, it was soon apparent that the hotel entrance was locked and bolted.
After a few minutes of blindly bumping into lobby desks and sofas, the sound of a car’s horn could be heard.
Sanjeez, our driver, was summoning us.
The phrase “before the policeman blow his whistle” sprung to mind.
Like latter-day Cinderellas watching the clock hands about to strike midnight, we waited in hopeless frustration.
Suddenly, a shadowed sofa began to groan gently.
Not the yeti, but one of the hotel’s countless diminutive bellboys emerged hesitantly from a heap of blankets and cushions.
He pointed to the side-door of the lobby: an emergency exit, designed to be pushed open without access to keys.
We muttered sheepish apologies for disturbing the boy’s sleep and emerged to greet a grinning Sanjeez.
Forty-five minutes later we tumbled out of the car at the summit of Tiger Hills.
As it happened, we were not “subject to clear weather”. Kangchenjunga kept herself shyly veiled in mountain cloud.
But the experience was still worth that bleary-eyed, early start.
Pictures of dawn taken from Tiger Hills, Darjeeling.