Friday, May 27, 2011

A trip to Mystical Gurudongmar Lake

‘Go out alone on the hills and listen. You will hear much. The winds will be more than sound; the stream will not be merely the babbling of hurrying water. The trees and flowers are not so separate from you, but very near. Alone amidst nature, a man learns to be one with all and all with one.`
Inspired by Frank Smithe’s words, we began our planning for a ‘great escape’ in the Trans-Himalayan region of Sikkim. Our destination was lake Gurudongmar- the largest and most sacred lake of the state situated at an altitude of 17,800. After reaching New Jalpaiguri, we rushed to Gangtok by a car. It’s a 124 kilometre drive. Near Sevok, we were welcomed by mighty river Teesta of North Bengal. At Gangtok we took our time off in a hostel. All of us were excited because the next day we were about to start for Lachen the gateway of Gurudongmar.

Next morning we woke up early. We kept most of our luggage in the cloakroom except the winter garments and necessary medicines. Our tour operator introduced our driver, Sering and our guide, Satish to us.

Lachen is 126 km from Gangtok. Travelling 32 kilometres via North Sikkim highway, we came across the Seven Sisters Waterfalls. We took photographs and started again before stopping at Menchu falls another picturesque beauty of nature. We had our lunch at Phodong. Mangan the district headquarters of North Sikkim, which is 70 kilometres away from Gangtok is famous for large cardamom. Mt. Kanchenjunga the the third highest peak of the world and Mt Sinialchu worlds most beautiful peak are located near the confluence of Lachen and Lachung rivers and the emerging point of river Teesta. Lachen is only 29 kilometres from here.

We reached Lachen at about 5 pm. Lachen, a small village is situated at an altitude of 8,960. The rays of the setting sun made the peak mysteriously beautiful. The beauty of nature spellbound us. Next day we got up very early. As we opened the window, we had a glorious scene. The magnificent Lachen peak was welcoming the rising sun. It seemed as if someone has decorated the peak with golden streaks and the peak was looking gorgeous again. As the time scrolled by, the golden colour turned to silver. Paying homage to the mighty Himalayas, two cars started for our ultimate destination, Gurudongmar, which is 61 kilometres from Lachen. After 5 kilometres we entered into the world of snow. Patches of snow were accumulated on both sides of the road. Army bulldozer has cleared the ice from the road made driving possible.

After 28 kilometres we came to Thangu –a small village at an altitude of 14,000. The valley was covered with fresh snow. Ice sicklers were hanging from the roofs and windowpanes of the houses. The alpine forests were found wrapped in snow. From Thangu, the road became extremely narrow and rough. Here, we stepped into the alpine meadow region. Scarcity of oxygen made it difficult to breathe. At last we reached the army check post. Once the routine formalities were over, the army men invited us for tea.

Now, the enthralling journey through landmines and army bunkers began. Altitude sickness is an acute problem of this route. Within a few minutes we encountered a real danger. The road was covered with snow and the drivers could not trace the thickness of the snow at one junction. As a result the wheels of our vechiles got stuck in snow. We encounter breathing problems thereafter, which became acute. However, army men came to our rescue with iron rope and shovel and we manage to escape.

Again we started and this time we requested the army men to accompany us. After half an hour drive, it was impossible to cut the snow and drive, hence we decided to trek for one kilometre to reach Gurudongmar. After the tedious trek we reached our dream destination Gurudongmar. The ice-cold water of the lake was turquoise blue in colour and surmounted by the mighty Himalayas. The peculiarity about the lake is that it never freezes completely even under such temperature zone. It is believed that Guru Padmasambhava touched the lake whilst he visited Tibet. The beauty of this lake is splendid and a mere photograph can’t be a complement to its grace. On the bank of the lake was a temple dedicated to religious harmony. As per rituals we placed five rocks on top of each other and made wishes. Our eyes were full of satisfaction. We were in such an ecstasy that we forgot the miseries of life. And that perhaps enthrall us to decide that we will make a trip to this place once again.

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