Sikkim - Land with magical Landscapes!
It’s October! Time to take a break and visit my second home - The HIMALAYAS. This time I wanted to explore North-East India and choose Sikkim and Bhutan.
My itinerary was Bagdogra -> Gangtok - Lachen - Lachung - Gangtok - Zuluk - Phuentsoling
Journey to Gangtok via Teesta River
It was all about getting bikes from Siliguri and reaching to Gangtok. I wasn’t expecting anything from today's ride but It turned out to be an amazing one! Simply because the entire Journey was around the Teesta River. We started from Siliguri a bit late due to delay in getting bikes and then fixing the puncture of my bike. So we had to face an unwanted challenge of driving in the Dark, that too in the Mountains where you couldn’t guess when a rough patch or stones would come on your way and make your life miserable. Anyways, after 2 hours of this thrilling ride, we were able to see mountains glowing with so many lights. Gangtok! Here we are!
I had heard Gangtok is an amazing city. Sadly! We reached late and weren’t able to explore much. We though got enough time to visit the most happening place of Gangtok - M.G Marg. It has everything - Pubs, Restaurants, Street Food Kiosks, and Local Shopping Stores. Another thing I read about was: You can see the mighty Kanchenjunga from Gangtok. Next morning, When I got out of my bed, pushed curtains and stepped into our Balcony! Woowwwww!!! There is that amazing Kanchenjunga!
An Important Note: You will need a Permit to visit any Northern or Eastern part of Sikkim.
Beginning of an Adventure - North Sikkim
Today’s entire route was scenic with full of adventures! We crossed few water streams, slippery muddy roads where neither break, gear nor clutch can stop your bike from skidding! But then being a Rider, I always wanted to drive on such roads where I can feel the Thrill and Test my skills and courage. Reaching a destination gives me so much joy & satisfaction- That's what a road trip is all about. On our way, we met few people and when they came to know about our 13 days itinerary which included another country Bhutan after Sikkim, most of them were impressed while few giggled of our madness and few got jealous of our way of living life. The best part of the day was to stop at random locations, click pictures, do some chit chat with locals & travelers.
We forgot to take printouts of the permit and before entering to Lachen we had to submit a copy at the police station and we also needed to submit these copies at 5 such places. So we drove back a km but weren’t able to found any Xerox shop. There we met a few Indian Army soldiers. One of them was from the Odisha where my friend Rashid belongs. All thanks to my Odiya friend we finally got our copies printed from their help. And Bang On! We were running short of Petrol and entire Lachen doesn’t have any petrol pump. While submitting copies at Police Station, I met a guy who had a Can full of petrol! I tried my luck and it was my lucky day. He was returning home and had sufficient petrol, so he gave us 5 precious liters of petrol that too without overcharging me. This reminded me of a moment in my past: We gave petrol to few people in SPITI and today we got it from someone else! A play of KARMA!
Ride to Gurudonmar Lake - Nature @ It's best
I knew today’s route would be the best one! Despite having such high expectation, I got amazed by the route from Lachen to Gurudonmar Lake & the panoramic view of this incredible Lake! To be frank, After initial 10 km there wasn’t any proper road. Just a path with mud and stones. Despite this, the journey was one of my most memorable ones! Entire Valley was surrounded by Snow capped Mountains. Between this valley, river Lachen was flowing rapidly and creating a soothing sound. We were witnessing waterfalls at every 5 mins and these waterfalls are much larger than many famous waterfalls from other parts of India! I felt like marking one on google map with my own name :P.
About the ride - Bad roads weren’t the problem, It was this sub-zero temperature! I was wearing 5 layers of top and 3 of the bottom and was still shivering. As they say, ”When going gets tough, Tough gets going!” The panoramic view of Gurudonmar lake kept me going. After the last check-post, roads became good and now I was literally counting 16, 15, 14 .... 1. Here we are at Gurudonmar Lake @ 17780ft above sea level! Incredible! It was the moment one can feel & live it and keep in memory but would not be able to describe in words. I really wish one should go there or any Lake in the Himalayas and live that moment! As it’s @ 17780feet above sea level even the fittest person can end up having breathing issues. But who cares about all these when you are at Gurudonmar lake. You just Explore!!!! My friend and I walked half the lake and even on the frozen part of it. This is One of the Best days of my Sikkim Diary or in that case, my Travel diary.
During our return journey we had a very nice cup of tea and Momos @ Army Base camp near Checkpost!
Today we had to reach Lachung so without wasting much time we checked-out from our hotel and started towards Lachung! Gurudonmar Lake You gave me a time I will always remember!
YUMTHANG Valley, ZERO Point & Crazy Ride
Till now on this trip we drove in rain, in dark but we were at least able to see the road. Today was the day where visibility was merely 2 meters from the front tire. Yeah! You read that right - just 2 meters! It was a typical chilly, cloudy morning with a little drizzle. There was fog all around the place and it gave a different beauty to the mountains of Lachung & Yumthang.
Zero-Point is at the top of this mountain range, the only place of these trip, where we played in the snow, drank water directly from the river like an animal, sat in front of the Campfire and ate Maggie with the "OLD MONK". I will forever carry this memory from Zero-point. I enjoyed a bit more because of many Gujju tourists around zero-point. Hearing their conversation and laughing at them was so much fun especially when they don’t know you can understand what they talk!
During our ride back to Lachung, clouds surrounded us completely multiple times. Due to that, we weren’t able to see the roads. To add up to our Misery, the temperature was -4C. Because of the high altitude and -4 temperature, my bike’s engine was stopping whenever I reduce the speed or leave accelerator. Self-start wasn't working and if my bike had stopped, the best way to start it was by pushing it and then putting it in GEAR! Of course, it would be impossible. So the only solution left with us was to maintain speed and keep accelerating bike. Doing this on these slippery curves was really challenging! At every hairpin bend, my bike was skidding but that's the only way my engine would be ON! And now Skidding wasn’t scaring me anymore!
Today after visiting Zero-point, we had to reach to Gangtok but because it took so much time for us to visit Zero point, we decided to stay at MANGAN, a place 60kms from Gangtok. Last one hour’s drive was nothing less than hell. It rained the whole day. So the entire dusty road turned into the slippery muddy road! While returning, we had to cross a few water streams and crossing them in the night was madness which we had to do! I am the one who generally leads the group, means I have to expect the unexpected things from the Roads! I really wanted this craziness, madness, bad roads to get over ASAP. Finally MANGAN! we made it! After SPITI’s last day’s ride, It was today I felt like crying & screaming at these roads...
Thankfully we found a very good family who was running a homestay. We got shelter, food and I was even able to watch Manchester United beat Bournemouth by 2-1. This brought a big smile on my face ;)
Miracle @ Patriotic Nathula Pass
I thought the toughest part of this trip got over, but wait!!! My life’s scariest accident was waiting for me on the way to NATHULA! NATHULA - strategically the most import point on INDO-China Border.
We started early from MANGAN and reached Gangtok to collect another Permit to visit NATHULA.
Another Important Note : You have to cross first Checkpost, which is 5 miles away from Gangtok, before 11 AM.
Scariest & Craziest experience of my life : Few miles after Checkpost came the scariest part of the trip. There was a slope which was very steep and you can only reach on top if you ride in first gear with full Accelerator from the beginning. As I was riding first in the group and didn't know this in the beginning, I kept driving in 2nd gear as initial slope wasn’t so steep but then it suddenly increased a lot and due to high altitude when I switch to 1st Gear, due to lack of motion my bike stopped in the middle of the slope. Somehow I was able to control the bike but I knew I could not hold it for longer. I calculated that for sure that I was gonna fall but I should not fall in such a way that bike will roll down an entire slope and break completely. Then I thought of going diagonally to reduce the effect of the slope's steepness. Bad Idea!!! As soon as I started driving diagonally, after initial movement my bike stopped and started going backward. Even though I wasn't sitting on the bike, It wasn’t able to carry its own weight. Now my leg was slipping and the bike started skidding. I realized that was it, I couldn’t handle it and I had to jump from the Bike to save myself. My Classic rolled down completely that too, Twice!! Bike’s Headlight hit the road and broke. At that moment the only thought that crossed my mind was: We are done here, Call some truck to carry this bike and GO HOME! Somehow with the help of a local Rider named KARMA ( That guy had a bike with number plate as KARMA ) I started the bike and drove down the slope and then rode it in 1st gear from the start to top. As they say " Try and Try You will succeed!" True Indeed!!!
Next task was to see if the bike's handlebar was proper and the bike was drivable? I was surprised when I found out that other than a headlight, there wasn’t a single dent on the bike. After a while when I was thinking about the incident, I couldn't believe that just after this accident, I picked the bike and rode the same slope! I don’t know how I got courage or strength to do that.
Funny part was: There was a military truck carrying vehicles met in an accident at that place.
Anyways, these kinds of incidents will make a trip memorable one! Let’s Go Baibyyyyy that’s what we used to shout before resuming the journey! Next was TSOMGO Lake. I had huge expectation for it but I ended up being a bit disappointed because the water was dirty and the place was very crowdy & noisy.
Now comes NATHULA, an Indo-China border. Part of my body visited china illegally! Haha It was fun doing stupid things like putting legs and fingers across the border!
We were the last ones to leave NATHULA and move towards ZULUK - 16 KMS of Ghat section, the one I always wanted to drive since the time I read about it and saw the pictures. Finally, We reached Mary Gold Homestays @ Padamchen. Really lucky day for me to come alive and in one piece!
Thank you Sikkim
It’s time to say goodbye to this incredibly beautiful state Sikkim. I am glad I visited this amazing place. LET’S GO Baibbbyyy!!! Country of Thunder DRAGON - BHUTAN, Here we come!
To continue reading about my International Leg, please click here BHUTAN - Country of Thunder DRAGON