Tsomgo lake at a height of 12400 ft is situated at a distance of about 40 km from Gangtok on the way to Nathula Pass (around 20 km from Tsomgo). The Nathula Pass connects India to China and is a part of the old silk route considered to be one of the oldest trade routes between India and China. This trade route between India and China was closed for several years and finally reopened in July 2006 and trade through this pass between the two countries has resumed. The Nathula Pass is open for visit only for Indian citizens (You have to get a permit made before hand) on certain days of the week. The day we visited was a Tuesday and unfortunately Nathula was closed for tourists on that day 😦 So as per the itinerary our excursion for the day was to Tsomgo lake and back to Gangtok.
Now Gangtok is located at a height of 5800 ft above sea level, while Tsomgo lake is at a height of 12400 ft. So we were going to ascend more than 6000 ft in just a couple of hours. To add to this, we had heard that the roads were not in very good condition, the area being prone to landslide. Just a week back heavy rains had caused massive landslides which had resulted in several thousand tourists being stranded there. Knowing Cheebu’s travel sickness, we were worried if she would be able to make the trip comfortably. So armed with anti vomiting tablets (yes, even hubby took one that day), extra pair of clothing for Cheebu and lots of warm clothes for all of us we started our journey. Cheebu was in the best of spirits, but I knew she would start feeling uncomfortable on the steep, bumpy mountain roads. So my plan was to make her sleep as soon as we started the journey. But Cheebu had no such plans 🙂
We started early after breakfast. It was a nice day, no rains thankfully and the drive through Gangtok city was a pleasant one. Our first stop was at a checkpoint for checking our permits to visit Tsomgo lake (Making of the permits was taken care of by the tour operator) and then the real journey started. The roads were nowhere like in Gangtok city at many places non existent. And no, I wouldn’t blame the authorities. The roads here are built and maintained by the Border Road Organization and making and maintaining these roads in this area so prone to landslides is no small deal. See for yourself …
Otherwise, the journey was scenic and awe inspiring. Only when you see nature in this form in all its glory you can realize that you are only a very, very small speck here. Humans may have tamed nature by constructing huge cities, but in places such as these nature still reigns supreme.
We went through winding roads that looked upon deep valleys covered with mist and clouds
lined with waterfalls… big and small …
Mountain streams with crystal clear water
And resting mountain yaks…
Cheebu was uncomfortable by now 😦 . I tried to make her sleep so that she would not feel the discomfort much. I do feel sorry that she misses seeing all the scenery while travelling 😦 . But the moment we are out in the open she is her normal fun filled self again 🙂 I really hope she outgrows this travel sickness. Finally after a couple of hours of drive we stopped at a place for a tea break.
We had reached a height of 10400 ft and Tsomgo was still 8 km from here
We had hot bread pakoras and tea at a small place here. Cheebu didn’t have anything and actually vomited after getting down 😦 But she felt lot better after that. It was cold and most local shops were selling woolens or hot snacks and tea.
Thankfully we had come prepared with our woolens. We resumed the journey after a short break and soon we were at Tsomgo Lake. One look at the lake and all the tiredness from the bumpy rides disappeared 🙂 Cheebu was also in the best of her spirits 🙂 Have a look
Doesn’t it look very peaceful and serene?
There are yak rides that take you around the lake. Now Cheebu has been wanting to see a yak ever since she had learnt “Y for Yak” and so we were very eagerly looking forward to the yak rides. But the prices that the yak owners quoted for the yak rides was EXORBITANT. Finally, after lot of bargaining we settled on a short trip on 1 yak with Cheebu on it. Hubby and I decided to walk behind.
So far during the journey, we had not seen any snow. Being summers, most of the ice has melted by this time. However, as we went little ahead along the lake, we did see some snow on the mountains ahead.
During the return trip, Cheebu refused to sit on the yak. She was probably a bit scared as the yak was walking too close to the edge of the lake. We tried to convince her but in vain. Finally the yak owner asked me to sit with her on the yak. So both of us came back on the yak and I must say a yak ride is much more comfortable than a camel ride or horse ride 🙂 And I must thank Cheebu for giving me the free yak ride 😉 Smart girl 🙂 There she is happy after the ride and having said thank you to the yak for giving her the ride 🙂
Now, Cheebu had never seen snow. Our cab driver said that there would be snow higher up if we plan to go upto Baba Mandir (13,500 ft close to NathuLa). And even though it was not a part of the itinerary, he agreed to take us to Baba Mandir (with extra payment of course). We wondered if we should go ahead, because it meant an extra hour of travel on bad roads and with Cheebu’s travel sickness. But Cheebu wanted to see the snow and was quite excited about it, so we went ahead. The drive from here was even more tough and as we began to ascend steeper heights, even hubby felt a bit nauseous. Also, it was very, very cold. But we did see some amazing sceneries around, the mountains with some snow, yaks grazing on the green meadows, a couple of lakes like Tsomgo…
On the way to Baba Mandir we passed through the road that goes to Nathula – the Indo-Chinese border. We also saw a warehouse/storehouse where Chinese trucks bring in their goods.
Here our driver remarked that how the Chinese trucks were much more good looking than their Indian counterparts 🙂 The entire area has a very heavy army presence.
Finally after more than an hours drive we reached Baba Mandir. The Baba mandir is built in memory of an Indian soldier, Harbhajan Singh and has a very interesting legend attached to it. Do read about it here. There was a huge queue for darshan inside the temple and as Cheebu was not feeling very good after the drive and in the cold, we decide to skip going inside the temple, just had some hot momos with tea admired the scenery around and started on our return journey.
And I forgot to tell you that during our journey to Baba Mandir, we did see snow/ice at close distance on the road. The driver had promised to stop there during the return journey. Needless to say, Cheebu was quite excited to see it. We played for a while in the snow and then started back again. And you can see that she is wearing only her crocs here, no shoes… her feet were quite cold after the experience and once back in the cab, hubby and me gave her a nice feet massage and covered them with shawl immediately 🙂
We stopped briefly at Tsomgo again where we had hot tea with steaming hot Maggi. After driving downhill for what seemed like ages, the driver stopped at a small natural waterfall. He explained that because of the drive downhill on rough roads where you had to apply brakes all the time, the tyres were overheated and have to be cooled. He went about splashing buckets and buckets of water on the tyres and we actually saw steam coming out of it.
It was evening by the time we reached Gangtok. And what could be better than concluding a trip like this with a visit to the Hanuman temple on a Tuesday 🙂 We visited Hanuman Tok which was on the way. It was a lovely temple, calm and peaceful not crowded at all and with bhajans playing. There is something about temples on the hills… they have a very divine feeling about them as if the Gods actually reside here.
It had been a long day. Back to our hotel, we just had dinner and slept. To me, this was the most memorable day of the trip. I was specially worried about Cheebu and I was happy to see that she made the trip successfully though with some discomfort but at the end of the day very happy with the experiences of this trip.