National Geographic : 1963 Mar
"Do you think they really stopped short of the very top?" the youngest princess asked me, over a palace lunch of Tibetan-style noodles, sour cheese and chilies, stewed fern, and bamboo shoots with pork. I think she disbelieved because calamity followed the climb. The Red Chinese made their first probing moves across India's border. To see Kanchenjunga from base to summit, I journeyed to a resthouse called Singhik. There I watched dawn seep into the valley over which the sacred mountain stands senti nel. The sun separated black earth from steel gray sky, set fire to the highest peaks, and then raced like a flood of subtle color across the ridges and through the trees. At last, night was left only in the deepest gorges and in forest glades from which birds rose screaming to meet the day, as if terrified by the conflagration. Beside the old resthouse stands a new school. The morning I visited it, the children looked somewhat unkempt, and my compan ion, a Sikkimese official, delivered a lecture Crown Prince and American fiancee tour National Geographic headquarters in 1962. They examine a layout of this article, in cluding a large photograph of the boy on page 416. Prince Thondup, a widower, met Hope Cooke at Darjeeling, India, in 1959. 407 SIKKIM: facts and figures OCKED in by snow-capped Himalayan peaks, Sikkim (pronounced sik' im) lives beneath foreboding shadows cast by Red China. Bordered by Nepal, India, Bhutan, and Tibet, Sikkim lies on the shortest route be tween the Tibetan plateau and India's plains. While much of it is barren, mountainous, and capped in perpetual snow, Sikkim is also botanically one of Asia's richest areas. About 4,000 flowering plants and ferns-including 400 orchid varieties-flourish there. OFFICIAL NAME: Sik kim. GOVERNMENT: Kingdom, protectorate of India, has political parties but no constitu tion. India is responsible for defense, international affairs, and communica tions. AREA: 2,745 square miles. POPULATION: 162,189; 75 percent of Nepalese origin, the rest Lepchas and Bhotias. LANGUAGE: Several Himalayan dialects, also English. RELIGION: Buddhism. ECONOMY: Agriculture. Principal export, the herb cardamom. CROPS: Rice, pulse, oranges, wheat, barley, apples. NATURAL RESOURCES: Cop per. CAPITAL: Gangtok (pop. 7,000). CLIMATE: Trop ical-up to 3,500 feet; temperate-3,500 to 12,000 feet; alpine-12,000 to perpetual snow line at 16,000 feet. Highest peak is Kanchenjunga, 28,208 feet.