Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Trip Report of Sikkim by Anjan Chanda




Boarded a Kolkata-Siliguri bus on the 30th of May 2008 from the Esplanade Bus terminus, Kolkata and, -- ONE MORE TIME we were on the way to the HIMALAYAS...













Day 1: Gangtok

We reached Gangtok in the afternoon around 3 pm and checked-in the hotel “Dzong”. Arindamwas eager to watch a movie with the lamas in the “DENZONG” (a well known movie theatre hall in Gangtok). (Un)fortunately he did not - he was not ready for a boring movie like "Tashan".
We tried out our night landscape photography skills – capturing Gangtok from the “Dzong” hotel terrace top in the dead of the night.









It was raining heavily and the roaring sound of the water over the tin roof was deafening. The atmosphere was elec
trifying.
We discussed our tour plan
in details with our trek organizer (Kishen Gurung) over few glasses of a very famous local Sikkimese beer. Hot chapatis and steaming hot curry served by the hotel boy was what we had for the first night’s dinner. We had a good night sleep after that beer and rain. We were mentally prepared to take up any challenge now – nothing can deter us from reaching our target – The Cholamu Lake, which is the source of the river Teesta and is also the highest lake in India. By now, Cholamu had already become the lake of our dream.




Day 2: Gangtok to Lachen

Non-eventful morning spent at Gangtok. The veg-cheese sandwich tasted good along with a hot cup of coffee. Vishal, our tour guide, came to pick us up from our hotel at about 9 am. He made six copies of the permit, which had Cholamu written on it. Sikkim police do not issue permits for the “Cholamu Lake”, which falls into an army-restricted zone. It is only after our repeated requests to Kishen and because of his father’s acquaintance with the local police officer that he managed to include “Cholamu” into our permit paper.
We had lunch at Mangan, a nice hot "chai" (tea) at Chungthang and finally reached Lachen at around 7 pm – a whole day’s journey. On our way we stopped by some colossal waterfalls; most renowned amongst them were the Bachchan falls (name given by the locals and/or the tourists) and the seven-sisters’ falls.

Evening tea at Lachen; dinner at 9:45 pm; “Chaang” and the local Sikkimese beer before we fell asleep.







Day 3: Lachen to Cholamu to Gangtok

D-Day – we left Lachen in the wee hours of the morning at 4:15 am and reached Thangu at around 6 am. We stopped for a hot cup of tea and some light breakfast.










We agreed to take with us a local per
son from Thangu who would help us to find the way to Cholamu. During this time of the year when there can be occasional snowfall, finding the trails after a snowfall is difficult, practically impossible for a person who is visiting the place for the first or a second time. That was one of the two most important decisions we took during this trip. We were faced with heavy snowfall on the way up to Gurudongmer.




The car could not push itself up the last stretch before the Gurudongmar Lake– we had to walk to reach the top.

We found few of the tourists were already returning back as they could not tackle the high altitude oxygen scarcity and were gasping for breath. We spent for about half an hour there – a hot chai was like “amrita” to us. Now all of us are charged up again for our ultimate target of this trip – the Cholamu Lake.
We retraced back in the car for about twenty minutes, before we came to a diversion; one leads to Gurudongmer, the way we were returning from – the other to nowhere. (!!!) The signboard in the direction of the later read

RESTRICTED ZONEDO NOT ENTER

The local person accompanying us from Thangu immediately knew that this was the way we have to take to reach our destination. Ahead of us laid big boulders and there was little if any left of the road markings with the medium sized stones. The trail was completely washed out with the snowfall that morning. Our driver refused to move ahead with the car. If a boulder damages the fuel chamber underneath the car and the car is stuck then that could mean (gasp!) death perhaps for all of us – due to cold or lack of oxygen or both. No tourist car plies that way and the nearest we have to walk by ourselves to find any human help is at Gurudongmer – a good twenty minutes driving distance from that point.
Another important decision had to be taken – whether we move ahead ignoring the army’s warning and the driver’s will or we console ourselves with Gurudongmar only. The second and the most important decision of this trip was taken at that point of time. We decided to move ahead whatever the consequence be. After a topsy-turvy thirty minutes drive over that terrain, we finally reached a high vantage point from where the lake of our dream could be faintly seen. Yes, we finally had the glimpse of the Cholamu Lake at a distance.

We got down from the car and started to walk towards that mystic blue sheet of ice. The color of the water of the lake from that distance was emerald green.







Snow and mud made the earth slushy beneath our feet and we had to occasionally struggle to get our boots out of that soft snow filled earth.







The 
landscape resembled to that of some prehistoric land. The mountains surrounding the area had army bunkers over the ridges everywhere. Someone is surely spying on us. Lack of oxygen and the fear of getting spotted by a not-so-friendly army personnel made our heads and body heavy.






We could not walk – we literally dragged ourselves. The source of the river Teesta is just a few hundred meters ahead of us and we have come all the way to witness its birth.







I remember, when after an hour and a half, I finally r
eached the bank of the lake I could not stand on my feet. I could feel the oxygen-deprived blood gushing through my veins and my heart pumping vehemently to get in that extra oxygen to keep it ticking. With my mouth wide open, I breathed heavily for some time.



Now that I have atle
ast managed to keep my senses awake, I took my first shot of the lake.







A transp
arent sheet of thickice covered a large portion of the lake and we thought of walking over it. On a second thought – we decided not to – we had pushed ourselves extremely to reach this spot. Now, that we are here we wanted to stay there for few minutes and enjoy the beauty of the lake. Truly, Cholamu is the lake of the dreams.










We made it to the 
C
holamu (18000 ft) – we made it to the highest Lake in India.

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