Showing posts with label Lachen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lachen. Show all posts

Friday, 18 April 2014

Sikkim and Darjeeling Trip

As summer vacations are here, we decided to visit the hills of Sikkim. It is currently not possible to take self driven vehicles to Sikkim, we decided to rent vehicles and go around Sikkim.
The plan was to reach Gangtok and then continue our road trip in Sikkim finally terminating it in Darjeeling. Following was the itinerary that we decided to follow.

  1. 05-April-2014 Reach Gangtok, rest for the day -- Day #1
  2. 06-April-2014 Local sightseeing Gangtok -- Day #2
  3. 07-April-2014 Leave for the Lachen, Arrive in Lachen -- Day #3
  4. 08-April-2014 Trip to Gurudongmar Lake, Lunch and leave for Lachung -- Day #4
  5. 09-April-2014 Trip to Yumthang Valley, Zero Point, Lunch and Leave for Gangtok -- Day #5
  6. 10-April-2014 Local sightseeing in Gangtok, Natu La, Baba ka Mandir, Tsomgo Lake -- Day #6
  7. 11-April-2014 Leave for Pelling vial Namchi -- Day #7
  8. 12-April-2014 Local sightseeing in Pelling and leave for Darjeeling -- Day #8
  9. 13-April-2014 Local sightseeing in Darjeeling -- Day #9

Sikkim and Darjeeling, Summer 2014, Day 4 of 9, Road Trip to Gurudongmar Lake

Hills have very different character and it takes a while for one to understand the hills. Day 4 into our trip and we realized that we need to adjust our clocks. The best weather in Hills is what you see between 7AM to 12 PM. Just after 12 PM, the places become windy, cloudy and rainy.
Day 4 was for visiting the Gurudongmar Lake. Since the drive to Gurudongmar lake takes atleast 5 hours from Apple Orchard Resort and the best time to reach there is before 9, we had to leave the place at 3:30 AM. I belive we left the place sometime around 3:45 AM. Generally the resort packs the breakfast as a take away that one can eat on the way.
7:15 AM We cross Thangu Valley. Somewhere around this place one needs to cross the final army checkpost. They inquire about the health of everybody in the car specifically respiratory health.
 If you or any of the co-passengers are not feeling well, this is the place to stay back. There is no medical facility available once you cross this point.
We crossed the check post and stopped for a while when one generous Subedar Lakhveer Singh offered us tea. At almost zero degree temperature, we had no options but to accept the invite. We stopped for around 15 minutes there.

There is a small settlement in the Thangu Valley where most vehicle stop for tea, maggi and bio break. People here are extra nice and without their help and generosity this trip would be almost impossible.
7:40 AM We leave this place for onward journey. The whole areas from here onwards is under Army control. There is no other civilization. The only company you would get is from fellow tourists and Army convoys.
9:25 AM We finally pull into the parking for Gurudongmar Lake. The first sight of the place tells you that it is one of a kind, out of the world place. The place is really cold. The lake itself was frozen. but the view is phenomenal.

It is very hard to stick around this place for more than 1 hour. Most people would leave the place within half an hour but one hour is just about outer limit. There is gentleman that provides you with hot water for drinking, tea is also available. As expected, the place is not really crowded.
10:10 AM We start back for our journey back.
11:20 AM We are back at the Thangu Valley, another round of the tea at the place.
3:20 PM We are back at the Apple Orchard Resort in Lachen. We just about have enough time to have lunch and depart for Lachung.
In hindsight, we felt that between Lachen and Lachung, we should have added another day to make the journey less tiresome.
5:10 PM We are back at Chungtang.
7:15 PM We reach Lachung. We had booked Yarlam. This is one of the better places in North Sikkim. Here is my review of the place. 
A good night sleep is what we all needed and after a quick dinner we just opted for that.

Sikkim and Darjeeling, Summer 2014, Day 3 of 9, Road Trip to Lachen

The road segment of the trip started on day 3. The first stop was Lachen. Lachen is the point where people take a night off enroute to Gurudongmar Lake. Since It is a steep climb, from around 3000 ft to 17000 ft, the night halt in Lachen does help in acclimatization.
It is important to leave early, since even though the distances are not very large, the drive is treacherous. Unfortunately, for us, the permits got delayed and we were not able to start from Gangtok till 11:30 AM.
It is also a good idea to leave some luggage at the hotel in Gangtok since in all likelihood one would be traveling back via Gangtok and it is not a very good idea to carry all the luggage in the hills. The typical vehicles (Xylo, Tavera, Innova) are not powerful enough to carry a car full of passengers and luggage up the hills.
1:30 PM We get on to Singtam-Dikchu road that goes just adjacent to Teesta River. The road is narrow, good at times and not so good at times.
2:15 PM We cross Mangan. The supply of fuel after this place gets difficult so most drivers fill up here.
3:20 PM Crossed Kajor
3:50 PM Crossed Manul
5:30 PM We crossed Chungthang. This seems to be last civilization that one sees before one reaches Lachen. After this place, the road is narrow, going through hills and the altitude increases quickly.
7:15 PM We reached Lachen and Hotel Apple Orchard. This is the only decent hotel that we could locate in this area. Here is my review of the hotel. The views are breathtaking from this place. Lachen is almost 9000 ft from sea level.

In the month April the place was pretty cold. In the night one feels the need for thermals and layers of clothing. Since it is a remote area, the power is erratic and one can't depend on room heater provided by the resort to survive. When we were there, the power went off for whole night and it was difficult.
Another point to note is that one needs to leave really early (3:30AM) next day to Gurudongmar Lake. In our case, we found that there was no power when we got up and we had to get ready in absolute dark. The lesson learnt was, carry a torch when visiting remote places.