Demazong – The hidden valley of rice..

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Something is missing. Isn’t it? It’s obvious that I was missing from past 4 or 5 days (Spiritual spree). Lol 🙂 But, I am saying about the thing that is missing from my North Sikkim trip. I gave a brief about all the places that I visited except Chungthang. Now, am gonna fill that gap. But, the title of this post says something else right? Don’t worry. The confusion will be cleared by the end of this post 😉

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Chungthang, a small town on the way to Yumthang, at a distance of 95 kms from Gangtok and an altitude of 5900 ft and stands at the confluence of the rivers Lachen Chu and Lachung Chu. Chungthang is surrounded by mountains and streams. It is very rich in bio-diversity with wide varieties of flowers and orchids. It has lots of small eatery shops, restaurants and of course liquor shops. There is no good accommodation available as such here.

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This small town is mired with myths and is full of legends. According to the legend, the Chungthang valley is believed to have been blessed by the Buddhist Guru Padmasambava (“the Lotus-born) also known as Guru Rinpoche. It is said that he visited this town before going to Tibet and left his footprint on a rock where he once rested. There is a small opening on this rock from where there is a continuous flow of water.

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It is also believed that Guru Rinpoche had grown some paddy here, which is supposed to be a miracle as paddy does not grow at such altitude and conditions. Later on, people earned their livelihood from growing paddy. And this is from where the word ‘Demazong’ (the Hidden valley of rice, as Sikkim is known) first originated. I think, the confusion is cleared now :p

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It is also believed that Guru Nanak Dev ji visited this place during his trip to China and Tibet. Guru Nanak Dev ji dug his walking stick at a place where eventually the stick has grown into a tree. A Gurudwara named Gurudwara Nanak Laama Sahib was built by officers of the Assam Rifles and Army personnel with the help of the local Lepcha tribe in the early eighties.

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While we stayed in a school compound on the way to Yumthang, we stayed in the Gurudwara on our way back to Gangtok. The Gurudwara provides accommodation to the pilgrims who pay a visit to the Gurudwara. It was quite a good accommodation, the beds and blankets, the washrooms and the hot water availability in such cool climate and the langar (kitchen) which provides tasty rotis and sabji to the visitors is truly relishing! Love to visit this place again 🙂

The end to my North Sikkim trip! Will be back soon with my Andaman Diaries 🙂

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.. 🙂

Nature at it’s best!

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Though it was a restless night, the early morning view of the nature, made us forget our restlessness and rejuvenated us in turn. It was an awe-struck moment to watch the entire land covered with milky white powdery snow, the verglass formed on the river, the green pines turning out white with the snow over their leaves and needles, entire mountain ranges looking like big cones of ice-creams and the colorful prayer flags with that white background!

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The snow-fall is going on. For most of our group members, this might be the first time seeing it snow and everyone was so excited. Everyone started enjoying the snowfall, clicking some good shots in various poses, while few of the others kept on removing the snow that was being accumulated over their tents so that they won’t collapse 😀

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It was freezing cold and we were instructed to assemble to perform a puja. As per the Indian tradition, when we set up a base camp, a ritual is performed to invoke the spirits of nature and local deities to safeguard us from all sorts of calamities.

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Once done with that, we started carving snowmen, decorating them with different things which we can gather, in fact that was a competition to see who’z gonna carve the best snowman 🙂 We played, danced, we are one big family now! As it was snowing continuously, there is nothing much to do. But, there was a good session on survival techniques. We learnt different things like preparing our food, collecting water in difficult situations, constructing out shelters. We had a hands-on too! 🙂DSC_0072

Uhh..This is life! Far away from the materialistic world and the concrete jungles, listening to the music not on tapes or DVD players, but from the flowing streams and blowing wind, enjoying a meal with friends sitting on the grass on a river side, singing and dancing not caring about what others may think; as if we were again into our childhood phase, replacing the mobiles and other complicated gadgets with simple cameras and torches. Life is so simple and beautiful 🙂 We were totally out of this world. Ain’t we?

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Welcome to “PARADISE INN” :)

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It was an ideal base camp. The leveled ground is elevated and safe from the flowing river one side and is protected well on the other side by the Alpine vegetation consisting of pines and silver fir. There were no human settlements downstream and has lots of empty space for all other activities. From here, one could see the vast, mirror-flat sheets of snow reflecting the mist peaks of the mountains. Our base camp is well connected with the roads and main center. And there is our “PARADISE INN”! 🙂 🙂

Well, don’t think that the Paradise Inn is a resort on the valley side or a luxurious room in a star hotel. It is our cute little, cozy tent erected just beside the river side. Oh Yeah! Why only a home or a resort should be named, why can’t be a tent which is going to be our home for the next few days? Logic right 😉 It is the most beautiful amongst all the things present there. Here on this beautiful valley of flowers – Yumthang!

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Thank you dear Stan for the wonderful name! Paradise Inn, as the name itself suggests, is truly a paradise, a paradise full of wonderful angelsStanzin2, Gaicham, Asha and Shweta. This small yet beautiful tent truly turned out to be my home with the presence of my sibling-friend Shweta and other dear friends. Though am away from my family, this tent never made me miss them, and justified the saying “Friends and family makes a trip more beautiful”.

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Paradise Inn, though not much big, can accommodate six people easily. And it was quite simple. It has a monstrous mouth 😀 , two ventilators, a pole in the middle which has a 12 watt CFB fixed to it and works only from the evening till the morning. I realized how beautiful this world is, though we are away from our homes, we are not missing our families too much, we are carefree and stress free as there was no beeping phones and complicated gadgets with us. What all we do is just eat, roam around, learn things, enjoy the nature, and spend some quality time with friends. How simple life was all of a sudden! True, life is always simple; it’s only us who makes it complicated.

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After dancing around the camp fire till the time we get exhausted, we had our dinner and retired to bed. Our beds were also simple. It comprised of our ground sheet, carry mat, a blanket and a sleeping bag with the inner. Though the temperature out was somewhere around 2 degrees, we managed to keep ourselves warm by zipping up in our sleeping bags and woolens.

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It was around 12.30 am in the morning when it started to snow. And, we were up the whole night to keep our tent safe by removing off the heavy snow that was accumulating over it. A restless night!

What’s gonna happen next? Just watch!!

 

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 🙂 😀

 

Lachung – the Zumsa governed!!

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The night was very cold. But probably for the locals, it might be relatively warm. Usually it snows in Lachung till the month of March, but not this time 😀  Seven of us occupied a small room and it was pretty warm, might be because of the abnormal population which occupied it 😀 Yet another sound sleeps 🙂

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Hurrah! It’s a sunny day again. The day started with more like a poll. The poll was about whether we would like to trek to Yumthang on the same day or the next. As we hail from a democratic country, everyone has their own right to say what they feel and ultimately there will be a hung, the same happened there too. Half of us wanted to trek on the same day, while the other half wanted to do it the next. The deadlock got resolved with the intervention of our instructors and it was decided to continue the trek the next day.

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And what we gonna do all the day? Well, we’re going on a hike, not a long one though. We quickly finished off the puri sabji that has been served to us and got ready to go on a walk around the beautiful mountain village Lachung. Lachung, situated at an altitude of 9000 ft is about 115 kms from Gangtok and is the last village in North Sikkim before Yumthang. The village, spread out on either side of the river Lachung Chu, is surrounded by mighty mountains of which some are covered with snow and some not. And the beautiful waterfalls on almost all the mountains add to the charm of this little village.

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There are lots of hotels and lodges in this village; I think there is a 3-star hotel too. So accommodation is not a problem here and hence became an important tourist spot. There are small shops all along the roads; which sells all kinds of eateries and liquor, which the state is so famous for ;). We followed a road just beside the helipad located in Lachung. The narrow road bifurcates just after crossing the helipad. While the left one leads to Yumthang, the right one leads to the remote parts of this village.

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We took the right one, and this is one of the best so far. One can see that the nature is so beautiful as well as feel the wrath of it. Probably this is one the biggest marks of an Avalanche I have seen so far. Perhaps after 5 or 6 kms of walk, we reached a small monastery, sorry for not remembering it’s name (something like Chhuwa). It was so simple, yet very beautiful.. so peaceful with the positive vibes spreading throughout its premises. To my surprise, there was no one in the monastery as well as the premises. The sanctum was on an elevated platform and there were no lights inside except for some flickering butter lamps. I could see a statue of Buddha along with some statues of others, probably of Guru Padmasambava. 

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We were back by 2 pm and went on to a small walk to the helipad in the evening. It was rightly said that the weather is so unpredictable here. The day was so sunny, but by 4 pm the temperatures dropped so drastically and in a while it started to drizzle. We returned to our rooms and started the fun part of dancing and singing, as well as packing for the next days’ as it is going to be tougher.

Wait.. Wait.. Many of you might be thinking that I left something unsaid. The title of the post, right? Well, that is the most important feature of this little beautiful village. Lachung has a unique local and traditional self-government body called the Zumsa, a part of their rich tradition and culture. The Zumsa takes care of all the local disputes and are settled by a totally representative body of the village which is headed by an elected Pipon.

The best is yet to come! Stay tuned!!!