We’d gone to Leh in September and had taken the less trodden route back to Delhi…..via Kargil – Srinagar. From Delhi, we flew into Siliguri the same day that our friends were to come from Bangalore. After all the high altitude and mountains and out of this world experiences we had had, Siliguri seemed like a whole new world!!
Since we all were going to be in Siliguri for almost 2 whole weeks, our friends had planned little trips for us. We went to Darjeeling and Jorpokhri and had amazing times!! But the trip that took our breath away again was the one to Sikkim.
We were told that the government of Sikkim does now allow vehicles from other states to bring tourists into Sikkim and so we had to change vehicles in Mangan. We met our guide and driver for the next 3 days here – Karma and Jung Bahadur. I have to say, if it weren’t for them, our trip wouldn’t have been the same!! Dipan had been dying to stock up on beer and breezers and rum and whisky since we entered Sikkim and at Mangan, he let himself loose!! Fully equipped and well stocked, we made our way to Lachen where we would halt for the night.
We’d reached Mangan a little before noon…..not yet time for lunch so we decided to push on and stop later. The three of us enjoyed our beer and breezers and soon fell fast asleep. We were woken up for lunch is the tiniest little eatery in the middle of nowhere!! It was amazing to me that such a place could actually even exist!! There was nothing around the hut other than the Teesta on one side and a very green precipice on the other with the road in between. But we had the bestest dal and rice there!!
Onward to Lachen……and with altitude, the hillocks become hills, the hills gave way to mountains. And the greenery!! I have no words!! Quaint little villages on the way with most of the village folk either playing or watching football, the chickens and goats running along the road, little kids playing and the green, green fields!! You have to experience it at least once!!
We reached Lachen an hour or so before the sun went down and decided to go for a short walk around the little village to warm ourselves!! After warm, humid Siliguri, chill Lachen was a little shock!! One of the things I had grown to love about the villages in Leh and now in Sikkim was the colourful prayer flags fluttering in the wind……seeing them gives me an immense sense of calm. The colours make me feel free…..
Dipan had just gone to Goa and there he had gone to a new casino where he has apparently mastered blackjack!! And according to him, the dealor never lost. We’d picked up our deck of cards before leaving Siliguri itself and after a nice walk around Lachen, we got back to our hotel for a filling dinner and then a game of cards with Dipan, of course, as the dealor. He would have regretted that decision for the rest of his life cause as we discovered, the dealor doesn’t always win…..in fact, he almost never wins!! Sai and me had he ball of our lives!! We kept winning and winning and winning till we all finally decided to head to bed!!
We got ready early in the morning (this time actually early…..at 5!!) in near freezing temperatures to go for our day trip to Gurudongmar Lake. After a hot cup of tea, we were all awake enough to travel!! The drive to Gurudongmar was well worth waking up at that insane hour (esp cause it was so cold!!). We kept asking Jung Bahadur to stop so that we could take pictures all along the way!!
Sai and me were amazed at how different
We stopped for breakfast at Thanggu. The last village on our way to the lake. That trip, all the places that we had food were wonderful and different!! This time, we were in a nice little kitchen huddled around a warm chimney while food was being prepared right next to us!! The little kids of the house were playing with the onion and potato peels while we coaxed them to pose for us while our yummy maggi soup was beginning to make our mouths water!!
From there on, till we reached the army check post, it was a feast for the eyes!! A stream which would eventually become the Teesta was flowing on one side of the road and there were beautiful green mountains with their tips covered in snow!! We passed dozens and dozens of army trucks and herds of sheep and yak. Never realized how nimble footed these animals were till I saw them making their way foraging for food, up and down the mountains!!
One good thing out of that incident was that it got us close to both Karma and Jungie. We learned that this was poor Karmas first ever job as a guide and that we knew more about all the places we were going to than him!! Poor fellow was the butt of all our jokes!!
By the time we got to Gurudongmar, Sai (who had gone through quite a few beers by then), was happily high!! He wanted to swim across the lake, wanted to balance on all the stones on the bank and was rolling on the grass along the banks when he was not trying to impersonate Sanjay Dutt for us!! But we should so have listened to him!! We, in our eagerness to show off our soberness, decided to go for a walk all round the lake…..from where we were standing, it didn’t look really long and Karma told us that it was a perfectly good idea. Little did we realize what we were getting into and we dragged Sai along too even though all he wanted to do was sleep there on the grass!!
We took off for our next stop. Lachung would be where we would stay to go to Yumthang Valley the next day…..after downing Saridons and Dipans hostel snack of crushed 2 min noodles mixed with masala, we tried our best to sleep…..Thank God Jungie had not come for the walk with us!!