Mountain mystique

Sikkim

Mountain mystique

Late monsoon did not deter our spirit of catching a glimpse of the crowning glory of the nation, Mt Khangchendzonga. A good seven-hour drive from Bagdogra to Yuksom in Western Sikkim through patches of bad roads, cascading waterfalls flowing onto the road, lush green forest cover and misty hills, all added to the scenic beauty that Sikkim is known for.

Yuksom (means the meeting place of three Lamas), the old capital of Sikkim, is the gateway to one of the most popular and beautiful treks in Sikkim — the Yuksom-Dzongri-GoechaLa Trek. Yuksom is all of two roads, with a beautiful large monastery and stupas, home stays and a few hotels that play host to travellers. A bright day would mean a good view of Mount Kabru. With almost 24 hours electricity, clean environment, fresh water and enterprising people, Yuksom is indeed a dreamland.

Rare sights

Our trek to GoechaLa, started from the small lanes of Yuksom leading to the entrance of Khangchendzonga National Park (KNP). Unlike the other Himalayan range, northeast Himalayas have a blanket of green cover, rich evergreen forests and huge trees embracing the hills, with bright white patches of waterfalls. Sound of the gushing water and the wind overpowered the rains, as we trekked on a fairly well carved path.

With lashing rains and leeches around, we decided against camping in tents. A small trekkers’ lodge was our home. Even as my team decided to sleep in the lodge, I happily opted to sleep outside with just a roof on top. Surprisingly, it was not cold enough to send me back into the lodge.

Day two was going to be a long trek, gaining altitude to our next destination Tshoka, with the trail going up and down all through the forest. The gloomy weather with occasional showers did not help either. Even a few kilometres in high altitudes can be gruelling, more so with unfavourable weather. We finally reached Tshoka at about 3 pm, fully drenched, just in time for some hot noodle soup and tea.

Tshoka is a larger town with better trekkers’ lodges. However, we were indeed disappointed to meet fellow trekkers who were returning from Dzongri due to bad weather. We were hoping for the weather to change soon. As I woke up, weather that seemed fine was a complete whiteout in a few minutes, but that did not deter us from hitting the trail to Dzongri at 7.30 am. Dzongri was a long slippery trail, but we had the company of Himalayan Mountaineering Institute trainees heading to their basecamp via Dzongri carrying their 20-25 kg backpack.

Waiting for clear weather, we stayed for another day in Dzongri, with very little hope of proceeding further. Next day, with the weather not giving much hope, and given the fact that we had to cover two days of trek in a day, we had to take a sad and hard decision to trek back to Tshoka, and to Yuksom, the following day.

A trek to remember

On the last day of the trek, as we headed back, the weather got better. Birds, butterflies and insects were out in the mild sun making merry. Flowers bloomed and the marshy rocky walls of the trail turned brighter and greener as the sun cleared the mist. Seemed like the trail turned into paradise on earth overnight. Every waterfall offered us our water and photo break, while crossing the bridges with gushing crystal clear water underneath proved to be fun.

As we exited the KNP, the forest department was getting ready to receive a UN delegation. I wished the forest staff good luck and hoped to trek in the region again next year. This region has a UNESCO Heritage tag, which it truly deserves.

Back in Yuksom, a hot shower and a strong cup of masala tea rejuvenated me. Having binged on yummy aloo parathas and a few more cups of masala tea, we left Yuksom with pleasant memories, with a promise to return next year.

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