17th March 2016, Thursday…Day (27) Lachung-Yumthang-Lachen 100 km
Got up at 4.30am that morning in Lachung. The views from the roof of the guest house were quite good. Since I was not able to lock the door of my room, I could not go for morning walk. A cup of tea later, we began for Yumthang at 6am.
Situated at an elevation of 9600 ft ASL and at the confluence of Lachen and Lachung Rivers, tributaries of Teesta, Lachung is a town and hill station in northeast Sikkim. The word Lachung means “small pass”.
The town is the last major town before the border with China and also the starting point for Yumthang Valley, Zero Point, Katao and Rhododendron Valley.
The 25 kilometer road to Yumthang was neither very bad nor very good. The landscape around was pretty good though. A number of vehicles carrying loads of packaged tourists were hurrying up to reach Yumthang as early as possible.
Situated at 12000 ft ASL, Yumthang Valley, also known as the Valley of Flowers is home to the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary having over twenty-four species of rhododendron, the state flower of Sikkim. Countless flowers bloom to carpet the valley in multicolored hues of rainbow during March-June every year.
Yumthang experiences heavy snow between December and March and is usually closed for tourists during this period. It was recently opened and I was lucky to make to the place during mid March. There is also a hot spring in the valley.
There was sort of traffic jam when we reached Yumthang at 9am. Number of temporary tin roofed shops lined on both sides of the road were selling all kind of stuff including food and drinks. The shops were mainly run by pretty Bhutia women.
Tourists were excited to see snow everywhere. Some of them ventured into the snow valley, clicking pictures, throwing snowballs at one another. Our driver asked us to take breakfast consisting of bread-jam and enjoy ourselves for sometime in the valley.
My fellow passengers went down into the snow valley. I though chose to walk along the road towards the only permanent structure in the valley, the forest rest house. The scenes around were pretty good but not knew to me as I have been to many a such places in northern Himalayas.
After spending some quiet time on the road I returned back to the buzzing market. My fellow travellers were not back yet. I took the opportunity and chatted with a number of local men and women. I found them very nice to talk to, charming and open hearted. In many ways there way of living was quite similar to the people of Ladakh.
The people at the place told me that the road to Zero Point and Katao was partially open and we could go quite near if we so desired. Our driver told me that he would charge Rs.5000-extra for both the places.
Since my fellow travellers were not very keen, I asked our driver, could I go in another cab, sharing a seat and the cost. He firmly declined and told me that I could go with him solo by paying full fare for the cab.
It has been long since I felt so imprisoned, perhaps first time after leaving the job five years ago. Freedom is so dear to me. It was the main reason why I always travel solo, driving my own car and sleeping inside most of the time. So far during the trip I had been on my own and enjoying the trip but for this 2 nights/ 3 trips in which I was already feeling choked.
Afternoon was quite sunny and warm when we embarked on our journey back to Lachung. The green water of the river looked heavenly. I asked our driver to stop the cab near the river. For a change he obliged and we had nice time sitting quietly near the river, watching the green water, birds fly, landscape and solitude.
We stopped for lunch consisting of sabzi, dal, chapati and a boiled egg at our guest house in Lachung for about an hour and then drove further to Chumathang (21 km). Like the previous day, our driver went to his home for about half an hour and then we drove further on a 26 kilometer bad road to Lachen.
It was good to see that the guest house at Lachen had a name, lock of the door was working, had a socket for charging batteries and better food. I was allotted a single occupancy room at the third floor.
Regarding road to Gurudongmar Lake, there was some confusion. Nobody exactly knew whether the road was fully open or not. Some of the cabs that had gone that day could not reach the lake, but some of the drivers of these cabs told us that there were chances of road being open all the way to the lake if weather remained good the next day.
We were asked to get up at 3am and be ready for departure at 4am.
Darkness fell pretty soon and it became chilling cold as well. So I had to abandon any thought of venturing out that night whatsoever.Early dinner and we were into the bed quite early that night, hoping for a clearer weather and hassle free drive to Gurudongmar Lake, one of the highest lakes in the World…………!!!