Romancing Yumthang…

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Dr. Joseph Hooker in his “Himalayan Journal” of 1855 mentioned that Lachung and Yumthang are the two most picturesque places in the whole of Sikkim and had even compared them to the valleys of Switzerland. Everyone will agree with him after having the magnificent view of these vast grassy meadows covered with so many flowers of different colours. It was as if a carpet of flowers spread over the bare ground!

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Yumthang, situated at a height of 11800 ft is located at a distance of about 150 kms from Gangtok. The scenic beauty of this valley of flowers is breathtaking. The alpine meadows covered with primulas, the natural vegetation comprising of silver fir and pines, the blooming Rhododendron forests, the snow peaks of Himalayas with the Lachung River cutting across it is truly a fascinating destination for nature-lovers.

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The mountain peaks like Pauhunri and Shundu Tsenpa and some other glaciers form the backdrop of the river Teesta. Another speciality of Yumthang is the hotsprings. Yeah, even in the freezing temperatures, one can feel the warmth of this sulfur rich hot water, which is believed to have healing powers. A hot spring is located just right side of the river which is in a close proximity to our base camp. But, didn’t go there as it was snowing continuously and the water was not that warm 😦

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Our next destination is Shiv Mandir; six kms away further north. The trek to this place was so refreshing and exhilarating. The serenity of the valley cannot be described in words and one should experience this at least once in a life time! We started our trek towards Shiv Mandir early in the morning when it started to drizzle. Though the road is quite treacherous, the marvelous scenic views offered by the snow-clad mountains were awesome. Except for the road, everything else which we could see is covered with snow.

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There was a point when we missed the off-road track leading to Shiv Mandir and started stopping the car drivers asking for the directions. Interestingly, almost all the drivers stopped by and were very cordial in guiding us. Not only Yumthang is great, but it’s ambiance too! After trespassing few walls, passing through the barely grown shrubs and plants, sliding down the sloppy ice-sheets, we were at the Shiv Mandir finally.

The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This is not a regular temple; I mean not a big one which we generally see. It was aloof, small, and dark and lit by some lamps. The linga is placed on an elevated platform and there is a small track around it to do the pradakshinas. The tranquility of the premises invokes the spiritual nature of every person who visits this temple. Om Namah Shivaayah!

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Further up and about 23 kms from Yumthang at an altitude of over 15000 ft, there is a place called Zero Point or YumeSamdong. For most of the times, this place remains covered with snow. Without a visit to zero point, the visit to Yumthang would be incomplete! Anyways, my romance with one of the most beautiful places on the earth came to an end with this last trek..

Time to pack my bags.. 🙂

Let’s go hand-in-hand and embrace the nature!

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On the track around 7 AM in the morning. Very punctual huh 😛 Started our trek towards Yumthang which is located at a distance of 25 kms from Lachung and at an altitude of 11800 ft. The road leading to Yumthang is through the snow covered mountains and lush green meadows.  After a km distance from our base camp at Lachung, we were out on to a vast meadow which is covered with lavender and yellow colored Primulas (small flowers which occurs in many colors). Now, I can understand why this place is called “The valley of flowers”. The entire meadow sees like an unforgettable combination of colors.

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The first leg of the trek is mostly a road trek through the lush green meadows, to some extent forests and the cascading waterfalls and streams. The day was sunny and it gave us a chance to enjoy the true colors of the nature surrounding us. Today it was some more special as I could see the group getting more and more close. Though it’s been more than a week since we met, we are yet to break the ice :p And this trek proved to be that ice breaking session!!

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 Yumthang is a land of more than a hundred species of Rhododendrons, Primulas and Magnolia. The valley has nearly 24 varieties of Rhododendrons itself, and to protect these varieties, a sanctuary name “Singba Rhododendron Sanctuary” has been declared by the forest department here. Though we got to see a wide variety of Primulas, we didn’t get a chance of seeing Rhododendrons except one or two, as they were still in the budding stage. Rhododendrons bloom from April to May end.

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After the sanctuary, the roads turned steeper and steeper. There was a stretch of moraines, the sediments that were carried down and deposited by the glaciers at the foothills of the mountains. Though this turned the trek route a bit difficult to access, the view of the moraines along with the glaciers and Snow Mountains was breathtaking.

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The nature has left a mark just after these moraines which is yet another picturesque scene. There is a lake which is greenish blue in colour and the specialty of this lake is it’s an artificial one. Now don’t think that it was human made, but it was made by the nature itself. Yes, it was created by an avalanche, after which an entire range of peaks got destructed and the snow got deposited there!

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We rested near the lake for half-an-hour and as I always say that the climate here is unpredictable, the temperatures dropped out drastically and it started to drizzle. Just after this lake, our second leg of the trek started and this was more adventurous than all the previous ones. Though the roads leading to Yumthang from Lachung are not in that good condition, the trek route engraved through the dense forests and streams is way better. As it was raining and snowing, the track was filled up with mosses and snow, which turned the way slippery. But, that was truly one awesome experience.

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Trekking for me is not merely walking along the roads or through the woods or a travel to a new place. Trekking is more like a learning process for me. Every time I go on a trek, I learn and earn. Yes, I learnt some of the most important lessons of life like “I don’t need a lot of material things in my life to be happy”, “we can’t take control of everything” and much more. I earned too, I earned a lot of friends some turned out to be my family too. This trek gave me a chance of molding myself into a better person.

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I could see lots of our friends talking with each other, exchanging greetings, encouraging and motivating each other. It opened up our hearts, now we are like one single family. It was 2 pm by the time we reach our base camp at Yumthang. Some of our friends who reached earlier than us has set up our tents and were busy preparing some food for us. We had our lunch around 3 pm, relaxed and it started drizzling by 4 pm. The temperature was around 10o. We had a camp fire around 6.30 pm and danced to the hilt! Thanks to our Quarter Master who prepared some delicious pakoras (savouries) and hot soup to energize us!

The real fun starts now 🙂 😀