So you are short on time and would like to experience terrains akin to Leh and the Valley of Flower….
AND you want it to be a 2 in 1 experience.
AND it should fit in a 4-5 days schedule
AND there should be possibility of snowfall as well, that too in summer months.
….well, North Sikkim has ‘what the Doctor ordered’ for you. You can do a combo of Gurudongmar Lake @5154m (akin to Ladakh terrain) and Yumthang valley @3700m (Valley of flower) in 4-5 days from Gangtok or Siliguri.
We’d been planning this trip for many years. Finally in May 2012, we decided to do it by road from kolkata. I pataoed my office colleague Kingshuk to accompany me from Kolkata and Praveen was to fly from Delhi and meet us at Siliguri. All the preparation was done and we were raring to go.
It was to be a 7 day trip. Member Ashish, Praveen and Kingshuk (?)
Kolkata to Siliguri
30th April, Time 6 am to 6pm, 570km via Bardhman, Farakka, Malda.
The night before D day, Kingshuk called up to inform me that he can’t make it due to some emergency. The next days drive of 550+ kms, with only google research, in an unknown terrain and all alone in a Ford Endeavour. It was a bit risky as the world outside Kolkata in West Bengal is different. There were some anxious moments. But then P was already booked and landing tomorrow. I didn’t tell my better half re this development as that would have amplified anxiety from one to two persons.
Left early in the morning. NH-1 upto Bardhman was smooth. There were lot of stories in the net re the Highway construction work and roads being bad. All that was true after I turned right on to Malda/Islampur road. Reached Siliguri by 6pm and checked into the hotel. Had early dinner and dozed.
Siliguri to Gangtok
1st May, 9am to 3pm , 126km
Picked up PJ @9.30 from the Airport and hit the road. Had Brunch at Sevoke to reach our destination by 3 pm.
While applying for Inner line permit at Gangtok tourism office we learnt that non-Sikkimese vehicle may not be allowed in restricted north zone’s. Gangtok has the menace of taxi unions and there are stories of cabs /pvt vehicles from other states being harassed.
What to do now? We discussed the pros and cons. While taxi union was smaller concern, we were not too sure whether checkpoints would let us through. So it was decided to park our WB registered car in a parking area and take a cab. Found one Mahindra Max cab who was from North Sikkim. Asked him to reach our hotel next day @6am.
Gangtok to Lachen
2nd May, 8am to 5pm, 95km to Chungthang + 25km to Lachen.
We checked out at 7am in the morning, put all our luggage in the Max jeep and proceeded to park our car at the paid/authorised car parking. Left Gangtok by 8, enroute stopped over to check Bakthang and Seven sisters Water falls. Had our Brunch at Mangan.
Road was OK till Tung. There was a massive one hour jam near Tung Bridge because of construction work and one way traffic. Road from Tung (610m) to Chungthang (1790m) was a steep climb (1200m elevation in 9.4km), it was narrow and their were places where repair work was going on. Reached Chungthang by 3.30pm. Proceeded to Lachen (2600m).
It was cloudy and almost dark at 5pm in Lachen. Searched and found a small hotel for the night stay. Enjoyed our drinks, cooked/ate and slept early.
Lachen to Gurudongmar lake to Lachung
3rd May, 5am to 5pm, 66km to G.lake + 113km back via Lachen, Chungthang to Lachung.
It rained overnight and there were signs of snow in surrounding peaks as we started early. Reached the Half way Thangu Valley (3900m) @7am. Explored the village, river stream flowing through the middle of the village. Had our Breakfast.
10kms after Thangu town the terrain changed completely. It was dry and desertish like Leh. And we were literally driving thru gravels in a plain. There were rocks placed on both sides to demarcate it as a road.
Both the sides had barren mountains with snow peaks galore. The Gurudongmar temple and lake are at a height of 5154m or 16900 ft. Its freezing cold and oxygen levels are low. Make sure that you do not run around after alighting from your vehicle.
The temple and lake are named after Guru Padmasambhava or Guru Rimponche, founder of Tibetan Buddhism, in 8th century.
The lake with Kangchengyao mountain range forming the backdrop is pristine and simly mesmerising. Water was crystal clear. If you have time you should take a walk around the lake to view it/glaciers from different angles.
We spent more then 2 hours just gazing and exploring.
The Journey back was uneventful except for the fact that it snowed for a while near Thangu. We picked our luggage from Lachen hotel, passed through Chungthang and reached @5pm for our night stay at Lachung.
Lachung to Yumthang and back to Gangtok
4th May, 5am to 6pm, Lachung (2700m) to Yumthang (3700m) 26km and back to Gangtok 141km.
It rained/snowed over night and was overcast with fog in the morning. The drive from Lachung to Yumthang was very picturesque and we enjoyed the snow fall all around us. Kept stopping for taking pictures.
Yumthang Valley was wide and beautiful high mountain meadow. That day it was snowing and covered with fog. Roamed around and had breakfast there.
The weather cleared as we started back.
Enjoy the shots of snow, jungle and flowers (which had started withering). Place must be full of flowers in the m/o April.
Way back to Gangtok.
Reached at 6pm and picked our car before checking in.