Sikkim, in the lap of Himalayas is a magical place for us. The state though small in size packs a huge punch. We found that the landscapes, the food, the people and all the experiences were just wonderful. Each and every place left a lasting impression on us. And the journey still seems like a dream or a beautiful story to us.
The Bagdogra airport serves as the gateway to Sikkim region. As we drove out of the airport, the sight of tea gardens next to the airport brought back fond memories and smile to us. We would have seen more of green plantations had we gone to Darjeeling. However, we had other plans. We drove to Gangtok, the capital city which doubles as a beautiful hill station and also serves as the focal pit stop before going higher. And it might not be possible to drive directly to the North Sikkim.
Gangtok city itself offers a lot. With serene Buddhist monasteries at the fringe of the city and the temple-cum-viewpoints spread across the area we have a day trip lined up. Visit the monasteries just not to admire the beautiful meditation temples but also experience the life of the monks.
In the evening the quaint mall road is the perfect place for a stroll. You would be drawn to the shops lining the street. And no better way to end the day that with an authentic native meal. We loved the food at ‘9ine native restaurant’ and came back here for dinner during our next stop as well. It is a small-ish restaurant on first floor tucked away right on the mall road. The food is awesome; vegetarians and carnivores both would have great time.
Our plan for Sikkim was always to go up to the two Northern towns: Lachen and Lachung. We had planned the trip just on the cusp of summer in hope that snow would clear away. And we had set on out trip with the same hope.
But as they say: “Man proposes, God disposes”.
So, arriving at Gangtok our driver-cum-guide informs that the Lachen route is still blocked due to snow. However, we still had Lachung.
The morning of our Gangtok stay we were greeted by a clear view of Kanchenjunga which is quiet rare with all the clouds around. The sight cannot be explained in words (as is the case with most natural phenomenon). As the peak changed colors in the dawn sun, we were spell bound. Every moment felt like we were witnessing something different. This seemed a good omen to us that the mighty peak graced us with such a beautiful appearance.
After the night stop at Gangtok we were refreshed to advance onward to Lachung. The Lachung – Gangtok road is not perfectly metaled as you would expect on the hilly terrain. But the route has breathtaking views of the mountains and the valley. We stopped on numerous view-points, several waterfalls, some bridges and few temples as well. So many picturesque sights and endless photo spots. When journey was so overwhelming, we could just imagine how the destination would be.
We reached our stay at Lachung at the dusk could hardly sleep till late night. The cold might have been one reason but I believe our excitement was holding us up.
Trouble with the curve
In the morning we set out for Yumthang valley. The main event. The draw for the nature enthusiasts like us. The emblem of natural beauty and serenity.
As we drove higher, we started getting patches of white snow. Then we had the complete side of the hill next to us covered with sheets of white snow. We stopped at the curve for the Yumthang valley natural reserve to get down and enjoy the snow.
We rented the gloves and boots for protection and hiked up the hill-side with ankle to knee deep snow. Playing in the snow, making snow angles, snow man and feeling the soft crystals. It was so much fun.
When we came back to our cab, the driver hit us with the bad news. The route to Yumthang was closed due to snow. We could walk up ahead round the curve to the valley reserve but the car couldn’t go any further. It was a big blow to our plans. Had we know this earlier, we might not have come to Lachung.
But then we would have missed the splendor of Lachung valley and that would have been a shame.
We walked to the valley reserve with a heavy heart but the sight of the valley swept-away any remorse.
The rising peaks of mighty Himalayas around us, a white snow path in front of us, lovely expanse of valley flowing on both side and hot noodles in our hands (Yes, a makeshift stall was set right at the gate where the vendor was making piping hot Maggi noodles by melting the snow). We felt like we were in heaven.
A new hope
We came back to Gangtok with a heart full of wonderful memories. And we took a detour on the way to admire different vistas.
Next morning we planned to go to Nathu La pass. It is close to the Indio-China border and has attached with it all the glory and admiration that comes with our men in the army. However as they say…
So, we couldn’t go all the way to Nathu La as the road was closed (again!!) for the general public. But we did reach up till Tsomgo Lake. The route is better with more stretches of metaled road and we passed a couple of army camps as well. At the Tsomgo Lake we again rented the gloves and boots and after much haggling we hired a couple of Yaks to take us to the Lake and back. Walking to the lake is possible but the path is slippery and it is more fun riding on a Yak.
The lake was frozen (completely!!). You could (but should NOT) actually stand on the ice. The sight of mighty mountains nestling the frozen lake with hardly any human settlements around was one to behold. The spectacle was like embedded in our mind and would remain with us for a long time. Any direction we went, we were greeted with splendid views. Just this experience made our Sikkim trip worthwhile.
We couldn’t stay for as long as we wanted. It was overcast. And the clouds were flowing low touching the surface of the lake and at one point we were engulfed completely in the mist. Had it not been freezing, we could have just sit there for hours. But we had to return and on our way back it started to rain and sleet. Good advice from our driver to leave early.
We headed back to the plains and to heat after spending few days in the lap of the land where even the God smiles.
Did we feel we couldn’t fulfill all our plans?
Not a bit.
Would we go back?
In a heartbeat.
Do you have a story to tell about your Sikkim experience? Drop in a comment or send us a mail. We will definitely reply. All the interesting tales will be published in a special feature.