Reached Gangtok eventually, and checked in at the
Tibet Hotel, run by the Dalai Llama trust. Took a walk around the
town but no palms and not much else to see, a bit dull, so returned
to the hotel for a rather mediocre meal, then watched a bit of TV
16th November. Cold and greasy breakfast of fried
eggs, tasting of fish. Packed, checked out and tried to get a taxi
or other car to take us the 4-hour journey to Kalimpong, our next
port of call, but as it is election day it is all but impossible.
Eventually, the man from the hotel took us to the bus stand where
we were able to get on a bus that was to leave for K'pong in half
an hour. Quite comfortable and very cheap. Arrived at 4pm after
a palmless journey, and walked to the Everest Hotel, an enormous
improvement on last night, and very much in the Windamere tradition.
In the evening made contact with friends of friends
back in Europe, and spent a nice couple of ours at their house,
talking palms. He has mature Wallichia densiflora in the garden,
as well as one of those Caryota palms.
17th November. Planned to leave K'pong by midday
and as we had a little time to spare, decided to wander around the
hotel garden. What should we find there but one of the same Trachycarpus
we had seen in Darjeeling - identical! It is so distinctive there
seems no explanation other than it is a new species, it is certainly
no Trachy that we know. It has big, leathery leaves, a naturally
bare trunk, and seeds/fruits that are oval and grooved, quite different
from T. fortunei's kidney shaped seed. Ooooh! A new Trachycarpus!
How exciting! The hotel owner, grandson of the original owners,
offered to take us to Bagdogra in his mini-van, and off we set.
A great journey with many palms, but as usual we had left too little
time so could only stop a few times, and for a few minutes. However,
we were able to 'clock' among others Wallichia disticha (lots of
them, not the rarity we had expected) and many Phoenix rupicola.
Resolved to return next year. Reached Bagdogra with minutes to spare
and caught the plane for Delhi, this part of the trip over.