Romancing Yumthang…

IMG_20160329_101344

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!

IMG_20160329_092443

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.

IMG_20160329_124736

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 😦

DSC_7419

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.

20160331_084252

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!

DSC_0209

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.. 🙂

Time to move on! Lachung is waiting!!

 

DSC_0282

Though the classrooms were way dark and pretty cool, we, at least I managed to grab some good sleep that night. My darling friend Shweta woke me up early in the morning around 4.30 AM and when moved out of the room to the open ground, that was one awesome scene with the twinkling stars up above the sky, the moon throwing some bright light and the tips of the surrounding mountains shining dim in the moon light. But, I couldn’t get a chance to capture that awesome scene as it was extremely difficult to find out my camera in that dark cosy classroom 😦

DSC_7069

It was a sunny day and the weather was clear. We packed our rucksacks and left for breakfast. Before moving on, we quickly cleaned up the surroundings and set on to the track for Lachung, our next base camp at around 7.30 AM. Lachung is a small mountain village located at an altitude of 8600 ft and a distance of about 110 kms from Gangtok and 25 kms from Chungthang. And we gonna trek this 25 kms in a single day. Though excited, we were a bit scared too. Scared not because of the distance, but coz of the off-road route which we gonna follow!

IMG_20160324_142104

The way to Lachung is through quaint villages, scenic spots, and waterfalls. The first leg is of 12 or 13 kms. It’s almost a road trek except for one or two shortcuts. We stopped at a roadside tea spot around 10 AM where we got some buns and tea as refreshments. After relaxing for a short span of 20 minutes, we resumed our trek towards Lachung. They told us that the next leg is of another 12 kms but it’s only at the end of the trek we realized that it is nearly 16 kms.

DSC_7082

The second leg is far more beautiful than the first leg, as there were lots of streams which cut right through the roads, some lush green agri fields probably of some millets or fodder, yaks, Rhododendrons, waterfalls and the beautiful Teesta River running all way along with us. I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the trek as the short hikes through the forests were spine chilling, because of the narrow margins and rough terrain.

DSC_0245We could see more and more number of army people and their vehicles as were nearing Lachung. Before 1950, Lachung served as a trade point between Sikkim and Tibet and after the Chinese annexation, this has been shut down. The Indian Army now has a forward base at Lachung. Finally at around 3.30 PM we reached our base camp at Lachung. A hot meal was served to us and it felt so good to have something hot after a long trek.

20160326_203414

We had lots of fun before having our dinner and retiring to our beds. Lucky enough to get a bed to sleep, but not in the sleeping bag 😀 .  Stay tuned to see what’s waiting for us in Lachung!!

Adieu Gangtok.. Here we come Chungthang!!

DSC_0019

It’s time to move from Gangtok to our final destination Yumthang – the valley of flowers enroute Chungthang and Lachung. And the plan is to reach Chungthang by bus, and to follow a permissible route along the Teesta River to the picturesque riverside village of Lachung and then trek to Yumthang. The route to Chungthang is via Kabi Longtsok, Phodong, Mangan (head quarters of North Sikkim).

JpegWe celebrated Holi – the festival of colors in Gangtok and around 2 pm, set on our journey  to Chungthang, a valley located at a distance of about 100 kms from Gangtok in our buses.  Our first halt on the way was Kabi Longtsok, which is at a distance of about 11 km from the Northern Highway of Gangtok. Kabi Longtsok is a historical place where the colonists from Tibet settled down in the early 14th century.

Jpeg

This spot has witnessed a historical event which came to be known as “the treaty of blood brotherhood”. It was a treaty of friendship in between the Lepcha chief and the Bhutia king to encourage the religious tolerance amongst devotees and people around the state. A stone pillar was also there in memory of this event. The lush green surroundings made this place spell bound. There is also a belief associated with this place. The belief is that if we construct a small stone building and pray for our wishes to come true, they would come true. We too tried our hands at it and succeeded in erecting some stone buildings.

Jpeg

The road leading to Chungthang from here is very rough and narrow, especially filled with large size stones and boulders. The real fun is when there comes a bridge and we all have to get down our buses and cross over the bridges so that our buses and we would be safe :p. 

DSC_0016

Unfortunately a huge stone got stuck in between the back tyres of one of our buses, and we turned out to be fortunate as this gave us a chance of enjoying the scenic beauty of North Sikkim. After struggling for about an hour, finally our drivers succeeded in removing the stone and we resumed our journey. We reached Chungthang around 7 pm and our accommodation was arranged in a school premises which has no electricity.

Jpeg

As it was the month of March, the weather was a bit stable throughout our journey and was relatively warm. But there was a drastic drop in the night temperature and it was very cold in Chungthang. We turned the classrooms into our bedrooms for the night by spreading out carry mats and sleeping bags.

Let me sleep tight tonight, so that I can trek down to the beautiful Lachung tomorrow 🙂 😀

Gangtok – India’s cleanest City

11994061386_3926f67de7_b

Gangtok – Not only the cleanest but also the prettiest Indian city. I travelled to Gangtok from Bagdogra airport by a local cab, the driver who is quite experienced in driving along those tricky hill tracks. It was a 5 hour drive from Bagdogra as the condition of the road was not that good. But didn’t get bored as the curvy roads and the beautiful Teesta river kept on drawing my attention. The welcome board at Rangpo and the check post welcomes us to this small land-locked state, which shares it’s border with three countries. The green woods, bluish waters of the river Teesta and the mighty mountains add to the state’s charm.

DSC_0495

Gangtok is the capital city of Sikkim and the largest town in the state. It is also known as the land of monasteries with the highest number in a small area in the whole world. The city became a Buddhist centre after the Enchey monastery first built in 1840s. Gangtok has been modernized without compromising the bounty that Nature has showered on this beautiful city.

DSC_0754

The narrow roads with buzzing cars, and decorated with colorful flowers on their pathway, busy markets, lots of liquor shops without any long standing queues, good confectioneries, bars and castles, multi-cuisine restaurants, beautiful monasteries and the amazing views of Kanchendzonga and many more..

Stay tuned to see what am gonna reveal about this b’ful city!!