“School will be closed from May 18 to June 22nd for summer vacations. Wish all happy holidays”. As I was flipping through the pages of my daughter’s school diary, the last two words ‘Happy Holidays’ quick fixed my eyes and took me on a trip down the memory lane, our last holidays or better say ‘our second home’ which my husband usually says.
Madhav and I are avid travelers. May be the common factor, our love for mountains clicked and brought us together. Not only soulmates, we became best travel mates too. It’s been three long years we haven’t explored. We were living but may be not alive. May be it was fear phobia of travelling with a baby that stopped us.
It’s not that we don’t like oceans, sea, desserts or historical places. But mountains have something different, something humbling, and something mysterious in them. May be its tall and grand appearance, or the clouds that surround its peak, the echo of our voice, and the feel of being at top of the world. But ultimately it’s the accomplishment, achievement, fulfilled emotions and closeness to god. Someone has aptly said, “Mountains are my temples, where I practice my religion”.
By reading travel threads, we refurbish and relive our memoirs. I picked my notebook and leaf through the pages of my memory- our trip to Sikkim……
As usual ours was a short notice DIY trip. Though packaged trips are relaxing and headache free, but we loved gathering information, deciding itinerary and flexible places. Also taking the night train from Kolkata to NJP is preferred so that you get the entire day to explore (Darjeeling mail/Padhatik Express are best ones)
Day 1: April 24th
Early morning we reached NJP (New Jalpaiguri Station). After having our breakfast there we took a shared jeep from Siliguri. There are frequent shared sumo/travera etc. from NJP/Siliguri to Gangtok/Kalimpong etc North Bengal places. As they have fixed rates so no chances of getting cheated. After four hours journey with a short break, we reached Deorali, Gangtok in evening. You need to hire taxi from there to reach your hotel (M G Marg). After some refreshment in our pre booked hotel, we hopped into some local shops.
Day 2: April 25th
Next day after having breakfast we left for 3D/2N trip to Lachen – Gurudongmar Lake- Lachung – Yumthung Valley. These tours can be booked directly from Deorali taxi stands/hotels and can be customized. Just to mention the trips are quite hectic and not recommended for toddlers/aged due to high altitude and rough terrain. Accommodation/fooding/travelling all are included in these. After approx. 7 hours of journey with quite a few breaks we reached Lachen in evening. It is in North Sikkim at an altitude of about 9000 feet. As it is in close proximity to the China border, you need to carry all your ID proofs. It offers a serene atmosphere and a spectacular view of the mountains.
Day 3: April 26th
Early morning 3 am….ooops it’s usually a midnight for me, we started for Gurudongmar Lake situated at 17,100 ft. Bunkers, Regiments, Tanks etc. would be a common sight due to military base there. We halted at Thangu, the last village of Indo – Chinese Border and a chit chat with militants there made us really proud thinking a break from our regular work is their usual workplace. At around 8 in morning we reached the lake, completely dumbstruck by its beauty. There are several stories behind this sacred frozen lake blessed by Guru Padmasambhava (you can google those). We came back to our hotel and after a short nap headed for Lachung. We reached there in evening. Who said one cannot relax at the peak of a mountain! Surrounded by waterfalls, chirping birds, mystic peaks and Lachung-Chu (river) flowing on its own tune. After taking a walk down the Lachung-Chu, we spend the night at our hotel.
Day 4: April 27th
As the dawn hit, we left for Yumthung. Also known as “Valley of Flowers”. It’s famous for its Rhododendrons. Hills, chilly wind, Yaks and Rhododendrons were our partners. From there we went for Zero Point. We enjoyed a lot playing with icebergs. Sudden snowfall was the cherry on cake. We left for Temi via Ravangla in late afternoon.
Day 5: April 28th
We reached Temi late evening. The sole government owned tea garden in Sikkim surrounded by Mt. Kanchenjunga spread across more than 400 acres. The journey through the tea plantation and a night in the heritage bungalow located within the tea garden is lifetime experience. There are several nearby places including monasteries, hot water springs and other sightseeing from Temi.
Day 6: April 29th
We fell in love with the quaint and peaceful landscapes and decided to spend a day more there. The day went in visiting the tea factory in the garden itself to view tea processing, and evening followed by a nature walk along the scenic tea garden, exploring the pristine Himalayan hamlets, birds and butterflies.
Day 7: April 30th
After having breakfast we left for Sumbuk, an untouched village in South Sikkim at an altitude of approx. 7000ft. The place offers age old monasteries, temples, numerous gladiola farms, astounding flora and fauna and dense Pine forests. It is also called birdwatcher’s paradise with countless butterflies, peacocks and variety of birds. Situated alongside of Rangit River has made Sumbuk a destination no lesser than paradise.
The day was spent in visiting Phooldara (Hill of Flowers) followed by a walk along the Tarey Bhir (a 10000 feet long ridge pathway) and a visit to Kitam Bird Sanctuary, a home to more than 200 species of birds including rare species of hornbills. Situated close to Namchi, the place is easily accessible from Siliguri and offers some beautiful and pocket friendly homestays reflecting the local culture.
Day 8: May 1st
Mountains have several options to offer. One can climb and reach the other side, go around, dig under, fly over, blow it, ignore it, or make it your home and stay forever. But we humans are so busy in money making process that we ignore the fact that nature offers most beautiful things and they are free of cost.
We bid Sikkim “hasta luego” or see you later and returned to NJP to catch our train to Kolkata.
All the while I was walking through my dreams, I heard Madhav calling, “Riya what are you scribbling in your notebook?” I replied, “Nothing, just planning our next trip, the mountains are calling and we must go”.
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I come from the land of Tagore. An IT employee by job, mother of a sweet girl by God’s grace and writer by heart.