Sunday, 4 January 2015

A trip to Sacred Gurudongmar Lake : Eastern Himalaya's Paradise

After taking you along on odysseys to various places of Sikkim, now is the time to take you on one of the best voyages of my life, North Sikkim, where travelling is as wonderful and memorable as the destination is. Certainly the best part of Sikkim and one of the best in India. It seems that the Mother Nature has bestowed undivided attention and care in decorating this part of Sikkim with all the jewels, she has, and has made the place her own abode, like a mother, who has soft corner for one of her children. North Sikkim is the place, where you will feel yourself one with the nature and will find least human intervention. I genuinely feel that the upper part of hilly state will give any other contenders of "paradise on Earth" title, a run of their money. Having said that, it is also a truth that the patchy and treacherous roads leading to North Sikkim will give you an adrenaline rush and keep you on the edge due to the area being heavily prone to frequent landslides and earthquakes. North Sikkim is for avid travelers and adventure seekers, who are young at heart. And believe me, you will be amply rewarded with the fulfilling and lifelong experience, if you decide to travel to this part of Sikkim overcoming these small barriers. If North Sikkim happens to be the crown of Sikkim, then Gurudongmar Lake must be the brightest pearl of that crown. 

During my three year's stay in Gangtok, visiting Gurudongmar Lake was on top of my wishlist since the very beginning, but ironically, my wish came true only during the fag end of third year of my stay. The delay in fulfilling my wish may be attributed to reluctance of my colleagues and fellow travelers due to rough terrain and harsh climatic condition of the place. Whenever, i used to raise the issue, they used to say, it's very difficult to visit the lake, as it remains cut off from rest of Sikkim most of the year due to heavy snowfall and landslides. A major Earthquake at North Sikkim in September 2011 also discouraged us to venture into that dreaded path. However, as the saying goes, "Better Late than Never", I along with four travelers managed to explore most of North Sikkim and it is my best travel experience till date. I am yet to see a place, which has elicited more wows and adjectives like beautiful, superb, wonderful, mesmerizing, magnificent etc. from me than that elicited by North Sikkim. Now Let us come to my travel memoir, otherwise, the adjectives will fall short in describing the beauty of the place.

On a sunny day of April 2014, we 5 people started for Gurudongmar and Yumthang Valley on a 03 day's trip taking our reliable and expert driver Mr. Tularam with us after obtaining all necessary permits required in order to travel to North Sikkim. Tourists need to obtain tour permits from Department of Tourism office, situated at M G Road, Gangtok. Foreign Tourists are not permitted to travel upto Gurudongmar Lake. 

We started our journey by 8:00 AM and reached Mangan, the district headquarter of North Sikkim (68 km from Gangtok) by 10:30 AM. As we left Mangan, the natural beauty of North Sikkim started unfolding before our eyes. The Purity of air had kindled the child inside us and that was the reason, whenever we saw any waterfall, we started screaming with joy.... Oh waterfall! What a fall! We kept screaming with unbridled joy, as this part of Sikkim had plenty of waterfalls and hot springs. We had really lost count of the waterfalls in our journey to Lachen and Gurudongmar.

Thundering Waterfall on the way to Chungthang

Waterfall in closeup

After getting photographed in various poses with mighty waterfall in the backdrop, we proceeded further only to find a feisty river called Teesta making it's way in the mountains and dense forests.

Teesta River flowing with full force

By 12:00 PM, we had reached Chungthang, a town of North Sikkim, which is situated at the confluence of two rivers - Lachen chu and Lachung chu (Chu means river), both tributaries of Teesta river. Chungthang is a small town from where the road bifurcates into two, with one road leading to Lachen and other to Lachung. 

Chungthang has fair share in myths and legends surrounding Sikkim. As one legend goes, Guru Padmasambhav, Buddhist Guru, visited the town before going to Tibet and left his footprint on a rock where he once rested. Around the rock some paddy is grown, which is supposed to be a miracle as paddy does not grow in these conditions. We also saw a Gurudwara in Chungthang, which suggests that there are also some legends related to Guru Nanak Dev.

We had stopped at a road-side eatery at Chungthang to have lunch, but the food was not readily available. We were told that today tourist inflow was higher and there were very few hotels at Chungthang, so it will take some time for food to be cooked afresh. After having sumptuous lunch at Chungthang, we left for Lachen, 25 km from Chungthang. By 2:30, we had reached Lachen village, where we had decided to stay for the night and start for Gurudongmar Lake next day. Lachen is also a very beautiful village and in winters, village becomes inhabitable for locals and a picturesque spot for tourists due to heavy rainfall. Lachen has all budget hotels starting from Rs. 800/- per room. After settling in a hotel, which was more like a home stay, we had enough time left for exploring the village and we didn't waste any time. 

Hotel at Lachen

As the evening had set in, dense fog had started engulfing the entire village and before that could happen, we were able to catch some glimpses of the village and it's surroundings.

View of Lachen Village

Our cameras were searching for snow-clad peaks, as we were at the height of 8500 feet, and soon we were greeted with the spectacular sight, which increased our excitement for tomorrow.

Snow-clad Peak as seen from Lachen
As the temperature was falling rapidly with the darkness, we were forced to rush towards our hotel rooms. After having dinner at 8:00 PM, we retired to bed by 9:00 PM, as we had to leave for Gurudongmar Lake by 4:00 AM in the morning. Before we could sleep, rain had started pouring in and our hope to see the pristine lake in it's glorious best was diminishing. Praying for good weather for tomorrow, we had gone to bed, leaving everything at God's will.

In the next post, i will share my travel memoir on Gurudongmar Lake. whether, Weather God smiled on us or remained in sulking mood in the form of torrential rains, you will come to know in next post.

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  1. Keep writing , your writing are encouraging me to travel those part of our country ...

    1. Thanks Mithilesh for your nice words of appreciation!