Sikkim, the land of hope
I know you are thinking what the hell she is writing!! Is Sikkim really called land of hope? Some of you may be thinking to google also, but believe me it is, at least for me and my 6-7 friends. Let me explain further. In the beginning years of my carrier (2008-2013), Sikkim was one of the main land of hope for us, for which we were able to cope up all the work stress, last minute target meet up and scolding from our Bosses. We were 8-9 people in the group, with similar interest to travel. We were always in search of travelling any trip to Sikkim and its surrounding places, whenever we could get an avenue of 3-4 days of holiday. However, being in the same office, it was very difficult to get leave for all of us at the same time, so initially we even made many stories including fever, stomach upset etc. However the determination was like freedom fighter!! “Whatever is the hindrance in front of us, we will achieve our target.”
Each place is equally beautiful in Sikkim, but due to limited time, we had to be selective. In this post, I will share my East Sikkim trip.
East Sikkim is surrounded by China (North-east part), Bhutan (South East part) & West Bengal (South part). We have started our journey from Kolkata. Our all-time favorite train is Darjeeling Mail to reach the New Jalpaiguri Station (NJP). Darjeeling Mail is the best train for people like us, who can board the train after office hour. It has only 4 stoppage and reaches at 8 am with an average delay of 15 min (as per statistics of www.Trainman.in). Though there are other trains e.g. Padatik Express, HWH-NJP Subidha etc. People, who wants to travel by air, can go up to Bagdogra airport. From there you have to take Cab/Bus to reach your destination.
Initially our plan was to North Sikkim. From Gantak to Yumthang valley, but due to sudden snow fall and road block, we had to change our plan. So while going to Sikkim or any of the higher altitude places, you need to have a Plan B. we chose the following Route:
NJP-Gantok- Nathula Pass-Zuluk-Aritar-NJP
Me, my husband along with 6 other friend, started our journey from Sealdah Station on 28th March 2012 and reached NJP station at 8 am in the next day morning. Every time we reach NJP, we feel like it is own place. I can’t express how much happy, I always be after reaching NJP. It’s like Kanchenjunga is calling us. (Though from NJP it can’t be seen).
Outside NJP station there are many travel agencies. We booked an 8 seater car for Rs. 1500 after showing our negotiation skill to the travel agents. You can also get shared car from those agencies. We started the journey towards Gantok, keeping aside the army camp in Siliguri and taking Teesta River along with us. When you are travelling with friends, the journey becomes as good as the destination.
We took our breakfast from one road side hotel and proceed for Gantok. We reached there at around 12.30 pm, checked- in hotel and had our lunch. The weather was pleasant and in afternoon, after taking some rest, we thought of exploring near around places.
We moved around Mahatma Gandhi Marg. There you will find lot of shopping options which is a paradise for shopalcoholic like me. We would have increased our luggage more if heavy rain has not stopped us.
That day, we had kept to see the in and around of Ganok city. We booked a car from local market after having break-fast and started at around 9.30am. We visited Rumtek Monestry, Ganesh Tok View Point, Hanuman Tok, Tashi View Point, Do- Drul Chorten or Stupa, Ban Jhakri Falls and Saramasa Garden.
Rumtek Monestry is most significant and largest monestry in Sikkim. We witnessed the recent damage of earthquake of 18th September, 2011 in the monestry wall.
While returning to hotel in evening, we checked with travel agents in market and got the information of road block towards Yumthang valley due to heavy snow fall. We changed our plan to the Plan B.
We check out from hotel and started the journey towards Nathula Pass. We could sense that temperature was falling as we were moving towards higher altitude. Our first halt was at Tsongmo/ Changu Lake. This lake is located at an elevation 12313 feet with a stunning view. Surrounded by snow covered mountain from all sides. Suddenly snow falls started. It was like a dream comes true. That was my first snowfalls. All the trees, road were covered by the white carpet. We saw some yak also.
We moved towards Nathula Pass. Nathula pass, at an altitude of 14,140 Feet, connects India (Sikkim) and China (Tibet) via old Silk Route. The view cannot be described in words. Total 360 degree is covered with snow. You can see the China Border and China Military base camp from there. We all almost were frozen, but the hot Maggi with tea from Military canteen helped us to survive.
We proceed to Baba Harbhajan Singh shrine. It is believed that Baba Harbhajan Singh, who was a soldier from Punjab regiment, passed away in 1968, still helps the soldiers. An army base camp is also there and they believe the ghosts of Baba Harbhajan will help them from any upcoming attack. We heard that even the Chinese on the other side of the border leave a seat vacant for Baba as a sign of respect at flag meetings. People and soldiers passing through make it a point to pay their respects at the shrine. Clearly faith is stronger than anything else here.
Now we took the renowned Silk Route to reach our next destination Zuluk. While going we saw many unknown frozen lakes from far. One was Kupuk Lake.
Zuluk is a small village in East Sikkim at an altitude of 10,100 feet with a population of 700 people. If you love to explore the peace of Himalayas, visit the place. Absolutely non commercialized Zuluk is only having home stay facility to stay. We stayed in lower Zuluk. We reached there almost around 5pm. We were physically exhausted but mentally very energetic to explore the locality. Evening we were seating beneath the clear sky- full of stars, no sound is coming from anywhere. We witnessed the silence that can wipe out all your tiredness, all your anxiety and give you the strength to cope up with your problems in life.
Morning we thought of wake up and see the Sun rise from Thambi View Point (which we actually missed for some of late riser in the group). But it’s ok. We should not rush at least when we are in holiday. After taking lip-smacking break-fast we started towards our next destination Aritar.
Aritar is a small village in East Sikkim which is known for its lush green view and famous Lampokhari Lake. We reached there at around 2pm and after having lunch we went to Lampokhari Lake. There we did boating. Evening, after returning to hotel, we heard that there was a festival going on, so we decided to join that. After enjoying the Pahari Songs, we walked through the dark, misty mountain road. I must say, in city you can never feel so safe in the dark road. There everything is pure and safe.
Beginning form waking up, we were feeling heavy hearted, as this was the last day of this trip. Morning we visited Mankhim, which is a temple of Nepali origin people. From there you can get the top view of shoe shaped Lampokhari Lake. After that we started towards NJP station. We boarded train from NJP station with a promise of come back to our land of hope!!