We started from Lachen around 4.30 a.m. We had to leave so early as it was suggested to us that we should return from Gurudongmar lake by noon because as the day progresses, it becomes more and more difficult to breathe in that altitude.
Tip: Have a diamox before you leave. It will help you acclimatize better without the risk of altitude sickness. Also keep some popcorns for the road. They can also help you with the altitude. (I don't know the science behind that. But it worked nonetheless.) Most important, drink a lot of water!
The route was intriguing more than anything else. When we started, we were surrounded by green forests. As the climbing started, there were just small bushes with small leaves. This apparently is called the tree line threshold. Finally we reached a point where we could not find any kind of vegetation. It was an endless stretch of brown barren land. But that doesn't make it a bland view though! For the lack of other analogies, it will remind you of Ladakh. It was serene and melancholic in a strange way.
Warning: If a person gets severe mountain sickness which won't go even after the meds, you need to get that person to tree line. That is, as a thumb rule, bring him/her to an altitude where there are plants.
You will definitely develop a heightened sense of respect for our military during your trip. You will get a taste of the extremities they face on a daily basis. We saw some officers clearing out a tree which had fallen as an aftermath of previous night's downpour .. while singing songs!
The last stop before Gurudongmar lake was a place called 'Sarvadharma stala'. According to what an officer told us, every big military camp has their own version of Sarvadharma stala. Our country's defense comprises of people from different faith so instead of building separate temples, churches and mosques inside the cantonment, they believe that all the Gods reside at that one place. There by, the religions don't split them, it unifies them.
Nearby Sarvadharma staan there is a small military run canteen. Do try their momos and black tea, even if you are not a fan of black tea (it is that good!)
Finally we reached Gurudongmar lake by 8.30-9 am. It was extremely windy and cold. It will almost make you not want to step out of your car. But the view is worth every strained breath you take! That still clear water with the backdrop of snow clad mountains bordered with infinite number of Buddhist prayer flags is what dreams are made of!
Tip: There are stairs available to go down near the lake. Climbing down is easy but while climbing up, don't exhaust yourself.
After spending 30-45 mins there, we left back for Lachen. But our lovely driver, Vinay bhaiya suggested us a detour to a place called Kaala pathar. Now this place is at around 15000 ft and according to locals, it snows almost everyday there. What a coincidence! I am 23 and I had never seen snow in my life. So better late than never. ☺
When we reached there, it was almost snowing. The first thing I did was to remove my goddamn gloves and feel the snow. I won't lie, it was overwhelming and some happy tears were shed.
After playing in the snow for sometime (and a few failed attempts at snow man making), we found a small tea stall there with Bollywood songs blaring. Who would have thought, we would be listening and dancing to crass Punjabi songs at 15000ft! After some futile attempts at convincing us to get into the car, Vinay bhaiya also gave up and joined us in the dancing.
When we finally said our good byes to the lady running the stall, she sang 'Pardeshi Pardeshi Jaana nai' for us! I mean, Come-on! Who does that? Ab rulaoge kya!
On the way to lachen, when I was listening to 'Kahaan Hun main' from Highway, I had an epiphany that maybe Bollywood has a song for every human emotion!
....Sochoon Na Kya Peechhey Hai
Dekhoon Na Jo Aage Hai
Mann Yeh Mera Poochhta Main Kahaan ....
(I don't think of what I have left behind.
I don't look for what's ahead of me.
My heart is asking me, where am I?)