This was ridiculous! We had been roaming the roads of Gangtok looking for a guide and a vehicle to take us to the famous Nathula Pass and Changu lake. We had checked in with a hotel that promised us a package including the trip to the Pass and Lake, but like usual hotels, citing unavoidable circumstances, backed out. Just plain...backed out. After a loud argument and few unshed tears, we left the hotel in search of a travel agent in Gangtok who would take us to the coveted places. Unknown city and a chill night coupled with the irritation of locating an agent...I was almost sobbing. We finally located it- Sunshine Tours and Travels. The owner was a kind understanding guy. Few minutes later, I was glad I ended up in his office. Our travel applications were ready. Now we awaited the permits which would be issued only the next day.
Sunrise in Gangtok is pure Heaven.
|Sunrise from the roof top of our hotel
Clouds floating beneath, the pink peaks of Kanchendzonga shining in the early morning sun...birds chirping all around, roses and daisies in full bloom and me sipping a cup of warm chaai cuccooned with the mister, watching the sunrise. We started early and our permits were ready by ten o clock only. Nima- the gift of our Sikkim Tour was driving the Innova. He knew the mountains like the back of his hand. A simple and down to earth person, he loved us Madrasis to the core. Our Hindi astounded him. " Memsahib...tum to bahut achche hindi bholte ho", he used to say once in a while. The drive of 54 kms from Gangtok to Nathula is one journey you have to undertake, if you want to know what a spectacular scenic and thriller ride is!
|Clouds drifting apart and the winding road in between!
|The entire drive reminded me of cliff-hanger!
The road built and maintained by the Border Roads Organisation is indeed a marvel. Criss crossing valleys and negotiating bends, climbing cliffs and rolling down the slopes, the journey was made memorable by spectacular sights of mist floating by, innumerable waterfalls and occasional sighting of yaks! As we climbed altitude, my breakfast threatened to make its way up which I pushed down with all my might. As whit sheets of snow slowly came visible, I felt incredibly hungry. And we slowed down at a small town for a snack of piping hot momos. A visit to the North East is incomplete without a plate of momos dipped in chilli sauce. Lip smacking momos came to the table, but my eyes were riveted elsewhere...The sight from the window of the tiny motel was magical and dreamy.
|The best view from a window!
As we continued our climb, sheets of melting snow gurgling as little waterfalls all along and lazy yaks grazing the little grass left, the mighty mountains unfolded in myriad maze of white and brown. We crossed semi-frozen lakes and quaint villages. As we crossed Sherathang, we were surprised to see the highest ATM of Punjab National Bank at 14000 feet! The Army post located nearby must have been blessed with this ATM! The ascent through Changu lake is a sight that one can never forget, with snow playing hide and seek.
|Highest ATM of PNB, Sherathang
|One of the many serene lakes
|Our drive and us
Without stopping by, we continued to the Nathula Pass, where we had to walk almost a kilometre up the snow, thanks to a traffic jam. A traffic snarl at 14000 feet is unimaginable and the walk to the pass' entry and climb up the flight of stairs leading to the Indo- China Border is no mean feat. My father aged 60 and my baby girl aged 6 then were the happier ones enjoying the climb, while I was huffing and puffing like a rail engine on the rocky mountains...Few pictures at the summit and we were happily playing with the snow, throwing balls at each other and pushing each other on the soft bed of snow.
|Finally! At Nathula Pass
On the way back, Nima took us to another small eatery, rather a home where we were served chow-mein and I wandered out as always to play with a huge yak on the road. He seemed unperturbed and cool. As I inched close for a picture, the camera-shy guy was so nervous that he almost touched the edge of the cliff.
The yak ride in Changu was another adventure. The little yak that was supposed to carry me looked at me with utter disbelief. A good 80 kilos, I was too worried that his back would break. But the little one seemed well mannered and handed me back safe to my family. The drive back was swift, Nima keeping the conversation live and active as I dozed on and off, now used to the tumble and rumble in my stomach. It has been almost a year since our drive to Nathula, but the memories of the snow sheathed mountains remain fresh, tucked away in a safe corner of my heart. To reminisce and ponder on what a drive it was!
|Enjoying the traffic snarl at 14000 feet, playing with the snow!
Written for the Michelin Pilot Experience Contest by blog adda
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