Travel to Sikkim (PEAK COVID- WAVE 2) - HAiL, thunder and snowstorm during our road trip.

Tripoto
16th Apr 2021
Photo of Travel to Sikkim (PEAK COVID- WAVE 2) - HAiL, thunder and snowstorm during our road trip. by Rohit Baheti

THIS WAS DURING THE SECOND COVID WAVE PEAK TIME- Not sure what we were thinking but left to experience the most adventurous journey .

PPE kits was the dress code for air travel those day;-)

Photo of Travel to Sikkim (PEAK COVID- WAVE 2) - HAiL, thunder and snowstorm during our road trip. 1/1 by Rohit Baheti

Background story- I'm sure none of the other articles here or anywhere on the internet talks about Thunderstorm/Snowstorm in Sikkim during April Mid week. I am telling you this because I read tonnes of articles myself.

Nough said, I didn't even think about it for one second and planned this Road trip.

With the pandemic and work from home, we first planned to reach Hyderabad (my hometown), celebrate my kid's birthday and drop her off (yeah!) with my parents and start off from there.

With kid - "safe"; next was to decide on the number of days and budget (of course). We had to keep it short but also cover all the places.

THE PLAN: Simple (or so I thought):

To and fro flights: Hyderabad - Siliguri via flight.

Places - Gangtok- 1N, Lachen- 1N, Lachung-1N, Gangtok-1N, Darjeeling-1N

Day 1

Day 1: Reach Siliguri airport by 12 Noon, pick bike from there and drive to Gangtok. Per Google maps, it was a 5 hr ride. Simple right ?. Everything went as planned as far as the flight from Hyderabad to Siliguri was concerned. Took the bike and started off. Couple of hours drive was heaven and then... the actual adventure started...Guess what happened?It was raining. Initially, it was drizzling which slowly turned into a downpour in no time...

Photo of Siliguri, West Bengal, India by Rohit Baheti

We were alright during day's time. Slowly, Sun had set and we were still around 1-2 hrs away from Gangtok (I could've said kms here but NO). Today's event doesn't stop there. Nada. It's 6ish and it is now a full fledged Thunderstorm. Remember the fight between mountains in The Hobbit movie. It felt that. WE WERE DRENCHED top-toe. Luckily found a place to stand and met one of the nicest person on Earth - at the right time. Our luck, he got his Royal Enfield instead of his car.

If the above doesn't give you a hint: we were shit scared. We were like why did we even plan such a trip. Thoughts of our daughter, the plan, the ticking time bomb, pitch dark, barf ki baarish . I can't tell you how it felt.

After an hour or so, when it was 'just' raining, this nice person decided to leave. We had no other option to go ahead with him. The road was steep and due to this heavy downpour, the mountain mud was on the road. At one point, our bike (RE Thunderbird) skid and I somehow/barely managed to control it. We didn't fall. pheww..

Photo of Travel to Sikkim (PEAK COVID- WAVE 2) - HAiL, thunder and snowstorm during our road trip. by Rohit Baheti

This person was right behind us the whole time. We parted ways some 10 kms away from Gangtok. Thanked him and drove further. It was still raining, my fingers were numb - had that pinching affect whenever I tried changing a gear or use front brakes. We managed to reach our hotel at around 8:30 PM, dried our clothes with room heater, had dinner - room service, skeptical about our trip - slept like a log.

So plan was, reach hotel by 5-6 PM and go to market area at night. Have some good food and rest. You see what happened! Don't trust Google Maps always. (Tip:add buffer time +1/2 hours extra).

Day 2

After a good sleep, little scared and little hopeful, had our Breakfast (with a view of Mt. Kanchenjunga), got ready for our next destination, picked our passes from our agent and headed to Lachen. Thankfully, the journey was smooth this time.

Roads are decent and the view... WOW!

Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Rohit Baheti

Our Stay- Sonam Delek (Gangtok-Day1)

FLASH NEWS- Weekend Lockdown in Sikkim :-( effectively implemented)

Day 3

We started 9 AM and reached our destination at around 4-5 PM. Dinner time, we meet the other guests. Greetings exchanged, we decided to tag along with them (keeping a day before's experience) and luckily they agreed.

Started at 7 AM to Gurudongmar lake. The travel was smooth and the views were breathtaking. Missed this experience on bike:-(. On this journey from Lachen (2,600 ft) to Gurudongamar Lake (17,800 ft) - we saw - Indian Army Base camps. (that is reason you need permit to visit and only Indians  can visit). Soothing purple flower bloom all over, snow capped mountains, rocky roads, beautiful view and what not. Huge respect and proud for army people after visiting this place.

https://youtube.com/shorts/Tvl0FTrczfI?feature=share

Photo of Lachen, Sikkim, India by Rohit Baheti
Photo of Lachen, Sikkim, India by Rohit Baheti

With this increase of altitude, it was getting coooollllld. I wore a pair of jeans, shirt and a jacket. Shravanti(my wifey) wore a dress. So for us, it was doubly cold. I shit you not but do you know what saved me from this cold?

RAJNIGANDHA  PAN MASALA (Not joking). For many, they say popcorn works.

Gurudongamar Lake - one of the highest lake at 17,800 ft. Oxygen there is luxury and we had one oxycup with us :P (We were rich). I am telling you, nothing can express how that place feels. On one side, you have this beautiful lake and further are snow capped mountains. And on the other side of us is just plain sand spread till the horizon.

Shravanti had breathing issues in under 10 minutes we reached the placed (reason - she wore a dress guys). She stayed inside the car after taking our one memorable picture (below).

The 'car park' is at the top and you use stairs to go to the lake. The lake has a pathway that leads you towards the mountains. With Shravanti ill, I descend down and sit for some time near the river , click few photos and return.

Climbing those ~20 stairs up to the parking area felt like I had run a 10 kms stretch. I couldn't breath through my nose. I was panting.

Imagine this - Shravanti is in the car, covered with two jackets, a blanket and is using oxycup. I don't know if this was serious but I could only console her. One can only bear that cold and stay near the lake for maximum of 15 minutes. Anything beyond that is not recommended and people usually can't. We were seeing people out of their car and back in 15 minutes and leaving and here we were - waiting. We had not other option but to wait. Even the driver was worried. After about 45 minutes, they (the other couple) returned and we started our journey back.

Surprise - Snowstorm... Yup. Till Gurudongemar Lake from Lachen, I was sad that I couldn't come here on my bike. And on my journey back to Lachen, I felt relieved.

Reached hotel by 3.30 and had no stamina to start to our next destination...it was still raining..decided to drop the plan and extended our stay in Lachen.

Expected plan for the day: The next day's plan was to start early and reach Gurudongamar Lake, travel back to Lachen, pick our luggage and head to Lachung by 5ish.

It was chilling cold and this dress was not at all enough..carry more layers of clothes

Photo of Gurudongmar Lake, Sikkim by Rohit Baheti

Our Stay at Lachen -Lhakhim Homestay was worth every rupee. From home made food to the location to everything perfect was just on point. Dhatup even cared to keep a hot water bag for our sore muscles.(JIO doesn't work there, trust AIRTEL)

The view from our hotel room.

Photo of Travel to Sikkim (PEAK COVID- WAVE 2) - HAiL, thunder and snowstorm during our road trip. by Rohit Baheti

Day 4: We woke up, had our breakfast and started to Gangtok from Lachen.

Day 4

With no time crunch, we leisurely and safely reached Gangtok and checked in to our hotel Treebo: The Nettle and Fern Hotel by 2:30 PM. I'd say - what a place. Hassle free, spacious, really really nice and most importantly - budget friendly. There was only one other room in the entire hotel that was occupied.

Hungry, we started looking for places and found this gem - Lounge 31A. The view was good from up top. Had some good food and headed to MG Marg - the shopping arena.

Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Rohit Baheti

You come to Sikkim and go without eating Momos? No right. We ate at Taste Of Tibet in MG Marg, bought a few items, reached hotel and slept.

Day 5

Day 5- Our next destination was Darjeeling and we did reach there. I won't say smoothly. I won't/can't forget that one hilly road to Darjeeling that one has to take if they are coming from Gangtok (shortcut that Google baba showed-Never Take that road). The road was at a 60 degree angle. I was either on first or the second gear the whole 20kms stretch. I still have dreams where I am riding on that road.

The place we stayed was initially a restaurant. With demand comes supply. SuzAm's started a one room with shared bathroom. It's a 2-storey building with bathroom in cellar, room on ground floor, their room on first and 2nd and rootop - the restaurant. Food is to die for but I wouldn't recommend the room. It has a partition on one side - not wall. Bed was comfy though. Do visit their restaurant.

Checked in, ate there and headed to? Shopping. We were tired and really didn't have a knack of exploring places now. A little homesick, missed our daughter badly. The moment she saw us on a video call, it took an hour or so for our parents to handle her. The first day when she didn't see us beside her and on a video call from Kolkata airport, she had that face that I can never forget. Shravanti and I were literally crying.

Anyway, back to the story. Did I tell you that I love momos. If not, I love momos. So our first stop was Kunga Restaurant. I'm drooling just thinking about them. Post that, bought some souvenir and back to our place.

SuzAm's had closed but Abhishek (the owner) helped us with tea. Abhishek makes fabulous tea. With music in the background, twinkling lights on our head and Darjeeling city below us, we sipped our tea and called it a day.

Photo of Darjeeling, West Bengal, India by Rohit Baheti
Day 6

Last day of our trip was to travel back from Darjeeling to Siliguri and then Board our flight to Hyderabad.

Had mouth watering food on our way to Siliguri - Sandy's kitchen

Photo of Siliguri, West Bengal, India by Rohit Baheti
Photo of Siliguri, West Bengal, India by Rohit Baheti
Photo of Siliguri, West Bengal, India by Rohit Baheti
Photo of Siliguri, West Bengal, India by Rohit Baheti
Photo of Siliguri, West Bengal, India by Rohit Baheti

Prerequisites:

1. RT PCR report- Honestly, it was peak season but it was all empty during that time..we got lucky.

2. Bike was Rs. 1000/day from Darjeeling Riders. Trust me, you want to go with this guy only. The cost is Rs. 1200 but Amit was nice enough to bring it down due to the pandemic. he provided protective gears, helmet, extra clutch cable and tools and cloth hangers for luggage fastening.

Amit arranged for our entry pass to Gurudongamar Lake area and Zero point. It is mandatory.

3. If you've not read anywhere already, there's no petrol station post Mangan. So carry petrol from here to Lachen and Lachung.

4. Last but not the least: GUTS!!

Takeaways:

Plan should've been for 10 days or less places. Not both.

Had a Great experience to cherish throughout our life. Will surely visit again.