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North Sikkim Tour- My travel experience
North Sikkim is a place with enchanting mountains, green valleys and gorging waterfalls all adorned by the mighty Teesta River.
It was in March 2015 after the completion of my sister’s final examinations that we decided to go on a trip to North Sikkim. The research and reading travelogues about North Sikkim began a month ago and we finally decided on the itinerary to be followed.
We boarded the Darjeeling Mail from Sealdah station at 9:50pm and reached New Jalpaiguri Station the next day from where we boarded a shared car towards Gangtok which is the capital of Sikkim. The journey from NJP to Gangtok is a 4-5 hrs drive and we were given the glimpse of river Teesta in her full might during the whole course of the drive. Teesta is the main river flowing in this area of West Bengal and Sikkim as it originated in the Tso Lhamo Lake and drops into the Bay of Bengal.
Finally after 5 hrs of drive and 30 mins of Maggi break (yes maggi was legal back then) midway we reached Gangtok at around 4 in the evening. After reaching Gangtok we kept our luggage in the hotel and went out for a walk at MG Marg and the Ropeway ride. We also did a bit of shopping from MG Marg and met our Travel agent to whom we gave our ID proofs for permits. You need a permit to visit North Sikkim and it is generally done by the Travel agents you hire the day before the trip begins.
Next day overcoming a lot of excitement and prayers to the weather gods we boarded the car from Gangtok. The itinerary was as follows:-
- Day 1- Gangtok to Lachen. Nightstay at Lachen.
- Day 2- Lachen to Gurudongmar Lake back to Lachen for lunch and then to Lachung.
- Day 3- Lachung to Yumthang valley back to Lachung for lunch and back to Gangtok.
Lachen (9000ft above sea level) is around 125km ride from Gangtok which generally takes 7-8 hrs as a lot of sightseeing is involved on the way. Gorging waterfalls are ready to welcome the passengers on the way to Lachen. We also had a lunch break midway and we finally reached Lachen at around 5:30 in the evening. Time flies in the mountains and you will hardly realize when its sundown. Now Lachen is a no plastic zone so we had to hide our plastic water bottles and snacks packets in the car near the checkposts.
Next day we had plans to visit Gurudongmar Lake which is the second highest lake in India at around 17300 ft. We had to wake up at 2:30am as our journey was about to commence at 3:30. After hot tea from our home stay we started our journey amidst darkness with only the car’s headlights as the only source of lights on the roads. The roads were treacherous and slippery because of the night long rain. At around 4:30 we started seeing bleaks of light as the sky had this amazing combination of blue and grey clouds. We also started seeing the very first flakes of snow covered with mud along the road. We stopped at Thangu for a hot cup of tea and Maggi as our breakfast. The taste of simple masala maggi tasted somehow different and heavenly at that altitude, temperature and time of day.
North Sikkim has a huge presence of Indian Army and we saw quite a few army barracks in this area which were just mere arms length from each other. We expected to experience temperatures of around -8˚ to -10˚C at Gurudongmar Lake. We reached Gurudongmar Lake at around 8:30 am. It’s advisable to carry some sort of medicine like COCA 6 which helps cope up with the breathing problems at Gurudongmar Lake. It’s said “To spend 15mins at Gurudongmar Lake is a life time achievement”. I became so engrossed in absorbing the heavenly surroundings and taking pictures that hardly did I realize that I had already spent 45mins there. I was interrupted by my mother feeling nauseatic at such low oxygen level atmosphere.
Gurudongmar Lake is a place which is devoid of vegetation, cold, desert like terrain, yet there is some sort of charm in the air which keeps you enchanted. After spending 45 mins at Gurudongmar Lake I reluctantly climbed back onto our car and prepared myself for the return journey to Lachen. 45mins spent in heaven was probably a bit too less for me but then again its said One mustn’t have too much of good things.
We returned back to Lachen at around 1 pm and after having our lunch at our home stay we started towards Lachung.
Lachung was at the height of 7000ft and it was at a less treacherous terrain. It was also along the hills overlooking the faint lines of Teesta. The next day we had plans to visit Yumthang Valley but were uncertain because of a landslide in the road. Braving our hearts and with loads of prayers we began our journey towards Yumthan valley. Yumthang valley is 30km away from Lachung and at an altitude of 12000ft. Luckily we could reach Yumthang Valley after braving extremely slippery and muddy roads.
The temperature at Yumthang valley was at around a pleasing -1˚C to around 2˚C. The fields were covered with soft flakes of white and fresh snow ideal for slipping and falling down if not in proper shoes. We spent around an hour here, clicked pictures of the Yumthang River and the adjoining mountains. Finally we returned back to Lachung and after having our lunch and couple of hours of nap we began our journey back to Gangtok the same day.
We reached gangtok in the evening at around 6pm and returned back to our hotel. We planned on taking a Local sightseeing tour of Gangtok the next day. The local sightseeing tour included the Monasteries in Gangtok and the flower gardens. It was the month of March and we saw a lot of Orchids in bloom at the local flower museum.
The next day we returned back to NJP station to board our train back to Kolkata.
Important Points to be noted:
- You will need a permit to visit North Sikkim as it is a highly militarized area and it is quite close to china border. Hence carry you Voter ID cards and several copies of Photographs.
- To visit Gurudongmar you must carry popcorns, munchies and if possible an oxygen cylinder. Also if possible carry medicines like COCA 6.
- Please check the temperature and weather in North Sikkim and plan your warm clothes accordingly. We shopped our heavy duty gloves in MG Marg and carried Jackets and Thermocot inners.
- People with heart and lung problems should not attempt this tour.