Trip to the Eastern Himalayas - Part I (Aritar, Zuluk, Nathula, Gangtok, Lachen, Gurudongmar, Lachung, Yumthung, yumesamdong, Darjeeling)The journey started from Chennai to Bagdogra (the nearest Airport) Siliguri and NJP are the nearest stations. Then from there, nearly a 5 hour drive on the lower Himalayas to Aritar. Entering the state of Sikkim from West Bengal crossing the Tista river ( Flowing from West Bengal through Sikkim, Bangladesh before entering the Bay of Bengal). This river separates the two states. The beauty just begin to appear there. Need to travel along the river for kms. Then when you enter Sikkim, your identity will be verified at the check post. Welcome to Sikkim !Note: Most of the routes and places in this state is allowed only with a tourist permit.Have a night stay at Aritar to take rest after the first journey on the harsh Himalayas. Start your journey early in the morning through the beautiful Zig zag road along the silk route which connects the Chinese trade route to Bangladesh and other south Eastern countries. The road itself a beautiful one when you just climb the road and at an altitude of 12000 ft, the view is just awesome. The road you travel is a short stretch of road around 30kms in length which has over 100 hairpin bends. Along this route you get to see the deep valleys. Ending this route, you reach the famous Nathula Pass - The Indo China border. Just before the gate, a few miles ahead, there is the elephant lake along the border which is named so because of its shape .
Border at an altitude of 14500ft is just mind blowing when you just pass through the snow capped mountains. Then you reach the Tsomgo lake familiarly known as the Changu lake. The view from the lake with the snow fed mountains at the backdrop and the golden rays reflecting from the sun is a treat to the visitor. After a tiring travel of around 10 hours reach Gangtok to give your body the rest and be prepared to hit the most harsh roads of the Himalayas the next 3 days.The next day get prepared to hit the best. The 7 hour travel from Gangtok to Lachen. The winds started to blow and it started to rain making the conditions wet and slippery. Just after traveling for 20 mins, the scenic view starts. The mighty mountains on one side and the deep valley on the other side is a treat to he eyes with lush green Meadows, the colorful trees along the mountains. Lachen means 'Big Pass'. The beautiful Lachen river along the entire path and the view of the Kanchenjunga along your way will make you forget about the dirty hard roads taking you to another world. The road conditions here begin with beautiful stretch of well built road to the Rocky Himalayan roads to the muddy roads. The climbs here are vertical. The Rocky conditions here are due to the water flowing from the melting of the slow through the roads eroding it before falling into the Lachen river. Every turn you literally get pass through the waterfalls and cross the rivers on some areas. The Rocky vertical climb along the slippery muddy roads will give you one hell of an adventure reaching the destination. Most of the areas are single lane roads where only one vehicle can pass through comfortably. When you get a vehicle on the opposite side, the thrill begins hitting the edge of the mountains. Reaching Lachen, get your body prepared for the most excellent the next day.Hit the roads as early as 4AM in the morning as there is a 14 hour journey ahead through the most scenic to the best. The journey begins when there is no light and covered by total mist where the visibility is just 10mts. The journey takes you through harsh vertical climbs on no road conditions. The roads are just muddy, Rocky till you reach the Thangu valley. The beautiful sight along the valley will make you forget the most dangerous? roads are ahead.
Have a hot breakfast to beat the cold to get to 18000ft. The roads are controlled by the Indian army and you see only their base camps every 200mts and the big tankers. There were 100's of tankers and the scenic view in the back drop and along your path can only be recorded by your eyes and stored in your brain. As photography is prohibited in these areas. Starting from the Thangu valley you begin to hit the snowy roads to climb the Himalayas. The bad news is that the tourist vehicles cannot use the chains in these places. Getting prepared to climb, the vehicles stated to skid back along the mountains. Making you think that you could quit the journey considering the risk involved in climbing as one side is the snow fed valley leading to the Lachen river. But you shouldn't forget that to get to the best, you need to get through the tough. Fighting for about 2 hours in these roads, delaying your journey finally get past the valley. From this point, you still have the Lachen river. But snow capped mountains ascending? from your path on both sides straight away.
The beauty of the journey from this point can only be lived not explained. Traveling for miles along these roads, you get to hit the beautifully laid road in your last 14kms towards the Indo - Tibet border. Before reaching the military area, the frozen gurudongmar lake at an altitude of 17100ft along the snow fed mountain is scene to watch. Low oxygen, -12 degrees and the strong chill winds will not let you enjoy the scenes for a long time. Take a deep breath and get prepared for the return along the same path. The Tyre getting punctured makes it worst on these conditions. Standing at an altitude of 17000ft, strong chill winds hitting you making you feel like hell for around 30 minutes. Once fixed, the journey to Lachung via Lachen continues. And have a rest at Lachung.Once again early start in the morning through similar roads but slightly a better conditions for 14 hours. Once again to the Chinese border in Katao. Journey through the green cedar trees and the frozen waterfalls. Taking you to the border check Post at an altitude of 14000ft. From where you are under the direct observation of the Chinese troops. From this point, photography is prohibited facing the Chinese side. From Katao, start the journey towards the yumesamdong which is the zero point. Again at an altitude of 17000ft, you get to see only snow around you. Reaching the top, you get to see different mountains on the other side. The snow filled, the green mountains, the muddy Rocky mountains making you feel that you are in a different place when you look around each time. Walk along the snow for 3kms if you can manage the climb. And slide down the slope. On your way back, have a trek to the Yumthung Valley to reach the north Lachen river. The scenic sight is the green river banked by pebbles and the green mountain valley and the snow capped mountains on the backdrop?. Then proceed to the hit spring to get refreshed and head towards Gangtok for a long journey.After a night stay at Gangtok, get ready for the queen of hills - Darjeeling. The road climb from Gangtok to Darjeeling was just unbelievable. The road started with a climb comparing with a climb inside a light house. Then reaching the top, you get to the other mountain passing through a road with tea valley on both sides. After being in sub zero conditions, the 12 degree temperature in Darjeeling will be a bit hot. Pass through Ghum, the highest railway station. The Himalayan railway route laid by the British is a treat to watch. Darling is not just like Sikkim. As it's a common tourist spot, the roads are good and you get everything you need. You get to see the HMI and the HMI muse which will give you an interest in mountain climbing. And get to know about mountain climbing history and the mountain climbers and the structure of the mighty Himalayas. The get an opportunity to climb tye Tenzing rock. Which is named after mountain climber Tenzing who climbed the rock in no time without the ropes. Visit the Himalayan zoo, the Buddhist temple, the monastries, the Himalayan birds and animals museum. Have a drive to the Indo-Nepal border. Get some cheap goods in the border and good home made Nepali sweets. Then head back to the hotel, walk along the Darjeeling market to have Street food and shopping. Have a good rest in the night and head back your journey from the Himalayas with memories.The roads you travel are border roads and hence you need appropriate permits. You get delays by landslides and need to make way for hundreds of military convoys. Also note that if you have neck problem, back problem?, breathing problems, avoid these areas. You can also book an helicopter ride from Bagdogra to Gangtok. But always remember "No pain No gain"Tougher the roads; Beautiful the destinations are !!
Article by judesolomonc
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