Lachen to Thangu and Gurudongmar Lake North Sikkim

Sunday, October 27, 2013

This page is part 2 in the series North Sikkim Trip Report - 2012 and covers travel from Lachen to Gurudongmar Lake. Please visit Part 1 - North Sikkim Trip Report 2012 - Gangtok to Lachen if you have not read it before. I had gone to bed the previous night at 11.00 pm after setting an alarm on my cell phone to wake up at 4.00 am so that I would be able to start the trip to Gurudongmar Lake at 5.00. The room was cold as it was raining heavily outside but the blanket on the bed was quite thick and looked adequate. I had left the water heater in the bathroom switched on as advised by hotel staff. Everything looked set for a comfortable 5 hours' sleep. But an inner voice was telling me not to be so confident. I have never been able to sleep comfortably in a hotel room and always wake up in the middle of the night because of the room temperature being too cold or too hot. That night it became too hot. The room wasn't getting any air because all the windows were shut tight. I woke up at 2.00 am. The noise of rain had stopped. I suddenly realised that the room was very dark. What happened to the night lamp? I switched on the flash light on my cell phone to look around. There was no electricity. Now my mind was no longer at peace. I spent the next 90 minutes in bed trying to go back to sleep. No luck. Finally I got out of bed at 3.30 am. (Read more below)

Also Read: Travelling From Bagdogra To Gangtok (Link opens in new window)

Gurudongmar Lake North Sikkim

Trip to Gurudongmar Lake

Electricity had still not returned so I switched on the flash lights on both my Nokia phones and started to get ready. There was still some warm water in the water heater. I finished my bath in the almost dark bathroom, packed all my stuff back into the bags which took longer than usual because of the darkness, and then heard my driver banging at the room door. It was 4.30. Daylight had started to enter the room through the windows. He was shouting that all the other vehicles had already left for the Lake and we were the last. I asked him for another 15 minutes and joined him and his friend in the Bolero at 4.45 am. Day breaks very early in the hills. It was as bright as 7.00 am on a winter morning in the plains.

It was very cold. I was anxious because some fellow travellers at the hotel who had visited the Lake the previous day had told me that they had experienced shortage of oxygen and had returned totally rattled because of the bad road, etc., etc. I needed coffee which would be available at Thangu. I was told that my packed breakfast was already in the vehicle which the coffee shop owner at Thangu would be kind enough to reheat for me. Thangu would be an important stop. The vehicle sarted and I got a chance to see some village life on the outskirts of Lachen. A lot of activity could be seen even that early in the day. The noise of vehicles going towards the Lake seemed to have woken up everyone in the village. On the way, a young lady and her kid brother asked for a lift and joined us in the Bolero. They were going to their coffee shop at Thangu. I wanted to have a little chat with the lady but she did not speak much English. She took out her iPod and soon the brother and sister were lost in their music. They were sharing an earbud each of their headset. Techincally,  they were "BiPodding". I was looking like a backward city guy with not even an iPod on him. I quickly retrieved my camera from my had bag. So what if it did not play music, it was still a piece of technology.

The road was rough but not so bad. The landscape was stunning, so who cared about the road. We stopped a little at an Army check post before Thangu where my driver went in to make an entry. The entire area is controlled by Indian Army and their camps are scattered everywhere. Every tourist going to and coming from Gurudongmar Lake is accounted for.

Breakfast at Thangu

Thangu Before Gurudongmar Lake North Sikkim

Thangu turned out to be a small village with a few small houses and coffee shops. My driver said that we would be having breakfast in the coffee shop of the lady who had taken ride in our vehicle from Lachen. I got out from the warmth of the vehicle and stepped into biting cold air of Thangu. I was feeling weak  probably because of inadequate sleep last night.
Tea Shop At Thangu North Sikkim

The coffee shop of our lady friend was already up and running. She had a sister who lived at Thangu during tourist season. The shop was also her sleeping quarters. Must be a really tough life. I asked for a strong coffee and sat down. There was a wood fire in the shop making it warm. What a relief.

Breakfast At Thangu North Sikkim

My packed breakfast provided by Hotel Lachen View Point was just four slices of white bread and a little left over fruit jam in a small plastic pack. The bread was heated in a perforated pan over boiling water. But even this steamed bread with a little jam seemed like a lifeline to me. The coffee tasted very good. I was charged only for the coffee (Rs. 20). The rest of the service was free. My driver and his friend got free tea from the shop. I almost felt guilty. Hopefully, the shop would make more money from other customers.

To Gurudongmar Lake

My weakness was gone, and I was no longer feeling cold. The little breakfast had worked wonders. We were back in the Bolero and our journey towards Gurudongmar Lake resumed. Soon, the landscape started changing. Greenery was getting scarce and the whole area had started looking like open, barren land. The last Army checkpoint came where our permit papers were retained and we were given a number (9). The number 9 meant another eight vehicles had gone towards the lake before us that day. An Army officer asked us whether there were any kids in the vehicle. He practically searched the vehicle even after we had told him there were no kids with us. The Army officer was satisfied, and we were back on the road. The Lake was not far away.

At Gurudongmar Lake

Temple / Gurudwara At Gurudongmar Lake North Sikkim

Finally, we were there. Some of the eight vehicles that had preceded us and their passengers were still there. It was cold but not any colder than Thangu. Or may be, I was being too brave. I did not feel any difficulty breathing. But talking did take some effort. My voice sounded different. Two Army men were on duty guiding the tourists, answering their questions, and posing for photographs with them. Weather was a little cloudy but not obstructing the views. The lake with its calm blue water looked like an oasis in desert. There were stairs in a corner leading down to the Lake. I started walking towards the stairs when an Army man told me to go slow and not run down or up the stairs. I went to the Lake and touched the water. It felt like I had achieved something in life.

All-Religion Temple / Gurudwara

Sikh Gurudwara At Gurudongmar Lake North Sikkim

There is a Sarv-dharm Sthal (All-Religion Place) at the Lake. When inside, it looked more like a Sikh Gurudwara with Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Holy Book, present. Army men must be taking care of the Gurudwara. They seemed to be doing very well. I paid my obeisance, put some money in the offering-box and came out.

Free Tea and Biscuits

Free Tea And Biscuits At Gurudongmar Lake North Sikkim

Army men had set up a self service counter with tea and biscuits right outside the Gurudwara. I had some tea and two biscuits, washed my cup and kept it back there saying a silent thanks to Indian Army. The border with China was not far away, so Indian Army had a huge camp up on a nearby hill. The tourist vehicles would all return to Lachen by noon after which nobody is allowed to go towards the Lake. The Army men on duty at the Lake then return to their camp.

Road From Gurudongmar Lake To Thangu North Sikkim

After having spent about 30 minutes at the Lake, we started back. The road back to Thangu looked like a rally track. A beautiful snow covered mountain in the front was partly visible through the clouds.  What a sight. I will never forget this part of the journey. With no more anxiety, the return journey was relaxing. We stopped again at our favourite coffee shop. This time I had tea and my driver and his friend a beer each because of which they both had to listen to a piece of advice from the owner. Good boys do not drink, she told them. I was a good boy, just having tea.

Lunch at the hotel

Lunch At Hotel Lachen View Point North Sikkim

Hotel Lachen View Point North Sikkim

Lunch back at the hotel was good, no extra salt, and no chapati. The chef told me he had only made rice with dry potatoes, green peas curry, and daal. I ate well, took out my bags from the room, took a last look at the hotel building, and left for Lachung. Read Hotel Lachen View Point Review

Next: North Sikkim Trip Report 2012 - Part 3 - Lachung, Yumthang Valley, and Yumesamdong (Zero Point)

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I left my day job in October 2013 and became a full time blogger. I love travel and hence a travel blog was the obvious place to start from. The result is I currently live in Bengaluru, India. - Narinder Singh.


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