Savour the snow-capped wonder

Charming town

The 2,400 km-long stretch of the mighty ranges with some towering snow-capped giants are not just barriers but hold within their niches, countless number of hill stations affording spectacular views of the Himalayas. Sikkim, the tiny Indian state, snugly placed between Nepal and Bhutan, has many wonderful towns often thronged by tourists to have a glimpse of the snow-covered peaks. Khangchendzonga, the third highest mountain in the world and the tallest in India, is visible from almost everywhere in Sikkim.  
Pelling, a quaint town perched on a ridge, is a favoured destination for closer views of Khangchendzonga and other mountains. Apart from this majestic wonder, a couple of waterfalls, ancient Buddhist monasteries and a lake with mysterious legends, make Sikkim a dream tourist destination.

With copious stretches of pines lining the road from Gangtok, the state’s capital, driving was the best way to reach Pelling. It has just one road along a ridge, which is punctuated by probably more hotels than houses and each one vies with the other for the best view. Some of them boast of  balconies covered with large glass windows so that one can savour the beauty of the mountains from the room itself.

The best time to view them is certainly at dawn, when sunlight casts a golden tinge on the mountains. Therefore, waking up at the odd hour of 4 am was mandatory. At the crack of dawn there was an electrifying excitement all around. The mellow light bathed the whole valley in  yellow with the sharp peaks adorning a golden lining. The whole massif of Kangchendzonga, the peaks of Kabru, Janu and Kumbhakarna, followed by the needle-like Siniolchu lay before, so close as if we could touch them. The beauty was momentary and soon the peaks attained the regular snow white brightness. It is for this moment that people come here.

At Pelling, mountain viewing is not the only attraction. We took a day tour of the town and first arrived at a waterfall, right beside the road. Called Rimbi, this tiny cascade drops down in steps and joins a stream. A little further down, we visited another waterfall.

Named after the mountain itself, this huge fall roars down amidst rocky cliffs covered in moist vegetation. Next was the Rock Garden. Sprawling along the river, this enclosure is studded with rocks and stones, naturally sculpted into various shapes by the river.

A must-visit in Pelling is the mysterious Khecheopalri Lake, surrounded by forested mountains and steeped in myths. According to a legend, when a Lepcha farmer was tilling the field, a pair of conch shells bolted from the sky and a lake was formed where they fell. The lake, shaped like the footprint of Tara, a goddess, made people worship and protect the lake. It is believed that people’s wishes are granted here and thus the name, Wishing Lake. The afternoon saw us visit the Pemayangtse Monastery, built by the Nyingmapa sect for the Ta sang lamas or pure monks. The collection of sculptures and paintings here is beautiful.  We wanted to leave after exploring Pelling but its uncanny charm made us extend our stay.

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