Day 3 in North Sikkim (8th May, 2017)
Before I start sharing my experience of this challenging trip, it is extremely important to understand the prerequisites of such trips:-
1. Physical fitness (at least start walking daily for 40-45 minutes, 3-4 weeks before such trips). People with high BP should consult their physician before starting).
2. Heavy jackets, thermal wears, gloves and warm cap (Gum boots are needed for crossing muddy stretch or walking on snow at Zero Point, which are available on hire for Rs.50/- per pair).
3. Medicine (Diamox-Acetazolamide is used to prevent and reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness. This medication can decrease headache, tiredness, nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath that can occur when you climb quickly to high altitudes (generally above 10,000 feet/3,048 meters). It is particularly useful in situations when you cannot make a slow ascent. The best ways to prevent altitude sickness are climbing slowly, stopping for 24 hours during the climb to allow the body to adjust to the new height, and taking it easy the first 1 to 2 days).
4. Diet: Very light diet, keep bananas, biscuits, diet chewda etc for munching.
5. Keep adequate amount of water to remain hydrated.
6. Must take 6-7 hours of undisturbed sleep.
7. Carry protective gears like Neck brace/Cervical Hard Collar to prevent jerks to neck in case of sudden brakes or accidental fall.
Got up early to capture rising sun and get ready for a long day.
Started at 7.30 am from Lachung and stopped at Yumthang Check Point for changing shoes, left my brand new Reebok and put on plastic gum boots, which are needed to walk across snow clad mountain. Thereafter, did not stop till we reached Zero Point, Yumesamdong (14,540 feet or 4,432 meters), where nearly 100 vehicles were already parked haphazardly. Told my driver to park ours right near the exit point.
I was amazed to find people from all age groups, starting from toddlers to grey heads like me! Almost everyone got down from their vehicle, crossed the small stream of water and headed for the “Snow Line” to make snow balls, click some pics and return quickly as the oxygen level at 15,300 ft is low, making it difficult to even walk briskly. However, I was emboldened by my yesterday’s experience of 18,500 ft for more than 1 hour and I started climbing the snow-clad mountain. After about 30-40 minutes, I found myself alone and felt breathlessness, even Buddhist monks from Thailand turned back halfway. I saw one of them lying flat on rocks, catching his breath. I captured small clips from my Iphone to confirm that there was none beyond my level, which reassured me of my level of fitness!!! (Only problem I had was when my left leg went deep inside snow, which resulted my socks getting wet and toes became numb. I immediately removed those gum boots and stayed bare foot till I got my pair of Reebok back from Yumthang).
Taxi drivers tend to overload their vehicles, therefore, travellers must avoid such situations. One careless move and the vehicle lose balance. It would be your good fortune, if the vehicle hits the correct side of the mountain, else it could be fatal. Vehicle going right in front of us swerved to the right and hit the mountain and came to a halt with a thud. A few minutes later, a lady was being carried to the medical facility, which was fortunately right opposite site of this “minor” accident, which burst its right tyre.
Further up, we stopped to capture the flora and fauna of Yumthang Valley – valley of Rhododendron flowers. Sighted Yaks of various colours
Next pit stop was at Hot Water Spring of Yumthang, where I did not find even one person, going about 250 meters across a small rivulet to the source of Hot water, in a closed room. I clicked few pics to share with my friends.
One gets Goosebumps, while crossing Yumthang Valley, which is littered with massive boulders and uprooted trees, even on the other side of the river, showing the ferocity of this natural disaster. The level of destruction is spread over more than 10-15 kilometers, which made this ride extremely bumpy and many people could be seen throwing up or running behind bushes! Therefore, point Nos. 3 & 4, mentioned above are absolutely relevant and I managed to save time because of those precautions.
Crossed Bhim Nala falls, where lot of people had stopped, dancing to music and having food with beverages.
Bhim Nala waterfalls
An important Sikh Gurudwara is located at Chungthang, where Guru Nanak Dev ji came in 15th century and left his walking stick, which has now grown into a huge tree. Sd. Yadvendra Singh (Yadu) is managing the Yatri Niwas of this holy place. This is the only place in North Sikkim, where rice is cultivated, thanks to Guru Nanak Lama, who threw variety of grains during his stay here.
It was more than 6 pm and we were still 40 kms from Gangtok and lo behold when our car made some funny noises and came to a halt. Had a flat tyre, fortunately driver quickly changed it with a spare one (unlike what we went through in Ladakh, near Taglang La, where help came after 70 minutes).
Reached Gangtok at 8 pm, had no clue about accommodation but my gut feeling took me to SBI’s main branch, where the Chief Manager and his dedicated officers were still working. He came to my rescue and arranged one room in Hotel Mountain Retreat, which also serves as Bank’s Guest House.
Finally, bid adieu to driver of Innova, who headed straight for Siliguri, another 4 hour drive!!!