Sikkim | Window of Himalayas

6th Apr 2019
Photo of Sikkim | Window of Himalayas by Travel with Trinadh

Sikkim is a state in north-eastern India. It borders Tibet and China in the north and northeast, Bhutan in the east, Nepal in the west, and West Bengal in the south.

Sikkim is notable for its biodiversity, including alpine and subtropical climates, as well as being a host to Kanchenjunga, the highest peak in India and third highest on Earth.

The Kingdom of Sikkim was founded by the Namgyal dynasty in the 17th century. It was ruled by a Buddhist priest-king known as the Chogyal. It became a princely state of British India in 1890. After 1947, Sikkim continued its protectorate status with the Republic of India. It enjoyed the highest literacy rate and per ca-pita income among Himalayan states. In 1973, anti-royalist riots took place in front of the Chogyal's palace. In 1975, the monarchy was deposed by the people. A referendum in 1975 led to Sikkim joining India as its 22nd state.

Modern Sikkim is a multi-ethnic and multilingual Indian state. Sikkim has 11 official languages: Nepali, Sikkimese, Lepcha, Tamang, Limbu, Newari, Rai, Gurung, Magar, Sunwar and English. English is taught in schools and used in government documents. The predominant religions are Hinduism and Vajrayana Buddhism. Sikkim's economy is largely dependent on agriculture and tourism, and as of 2014 the state had the third-smallest GDP among Indian states,although it is also among the fastest-growing.

It is also among India's most environmentally conscious states, having banned plastic water bottles and Styrofoam products.

Day 1

Day 1 : Siliguri to Mangan

We were a group of 4 with 2 riders and 2 pillion riders and all amongst them but me were on their first bike trip. Since the trip was planned for the summer months of April and May, it was too much to ask for a first time rider to cover a distance of roughly 600 kms from Kolkata to Siliguri on his first day. So instead we decided to rent our bikes in Siliguri. On receiving our bikes, we realized there were a few minute repairs needed for the bikes and so we were delayed by a couple of hours. After the repairs we could only start from Siliguri at noon and by then the temperature was soaring but the thrill of the wild roads ahead kept us from feeling any adversity at this point. We decided to halt for our lunch in an hour's time and we chose the spot keeping in mind it's proximity to the point of our ascent which was about 10 minutes away. The route was picture perfect with the Teesta river accompanying us. The beauty of the place made the ride so enjoyable that we barely stoped for any breaks. But once we did, we were informed by the locals that the last stretch of 30-40 Kms were not something that travellers should venture in the dark. So we picked up our pace and tried to navigate through the increasingly beautiful, cold and serene mountains before we were welcomed by the dark. But thanks to our old pal Google Maps and a few hiccups on the road, we were quite literally lost in the mountains for an hour or two. They would have been quite a few thrilling hours had we not been on a mission to reach Mangan by dusk. But what is the point of a journey if not to get lost and a few thwarted plans. So we reached Mangan after treading the dreaded roads in the dark a few hours later. All in all it was abundantly more interesting and enjoyable a ride than we could have ever hoped our first day of the trip would be.

Photo of Siliguri, West Bengal, India by Travel with Trinadh
Photo of Siliguri, West Bengal, India by Travel with Trinadh
Day 2

Day 2 : Mangan to Lachen

The second day of the trip started for us with a lot of energy.

It was a 70 kms ride to Lachen from Mangan.

We could not start our trip as per the plan as Mangan is the last point where we have access to ATM’s or petrol pumpsand we were unexpectedly delayed at the ATM. After checking out from our hotel, we headed towards the petrol pump to fill our tanks and about 5-6 litres for the roads ahead.

And with this we started the most exciting and sought after stretch of ride of our trip, the ride to Lachen.

It was a pleasant sunny day with a slight breeze. The route towards Lachen was well laid. We took our first break near a waterfall which was scenic with the fall on one side and the Teesta river on the other. The environment was pollution free with a cool breeze and we could easily ride through these roads forever. We were also blessed with a slight drizzle once we started our journey after our first break. The ride through the mountains withrain and cool breeze made our day.

Photo of Mangan, Sikkim, India by Travel with Trinadh

But soon the light drizzle turned to a full blast downpour. Though it was a bit risky riding through the rain, we continued riding and reached the first check post where a notice informed us that Gurudongmar lake was closed due to heavy snowfall for the past 3-4 days.

But an Army Personnel posted there informed us that if the weather permitted the lake might be open for us to visit the next day. We had our fingers crossed and rode further towards Lachen after the customary checkings.

From this point we could feel the weather change every minute. All the cafés were closed due to the heavy rain and we could not find any place open for lunch. We had our backup plans and had chocolates as a temporary substitute.

We took some unnecessary risks of riding through the heavy rain with practically zero visibility but the weather was very unpredictable and we were not sure when it would let up so we decided against the odd of riding in the dark in the rain. We reached a check post few miles away from Lachen where we had to provide our permit copies. At this point we realized that our hands and feet were completely numb due to the extremely cold weather as by this point

the rain had turned into snow and though we had our rain coats on, it did nothing to ward off the chills from the snowfall that we were witnessing now.

Riding through the snow fall was a breath-taking and an unforgettable experience.

And although by the time we reached Lachen we were very cold and a little uncomfortable as the temperature had dropped down to -8°C, our souls were happy with the ride and we reached Lachen just before dusk and could finally get some light refreshments.

The view from our home-stay was mesmerizing with snow-capped mountains.

Day 3

Day 3 : Lachen to Lachung

Since Gurudongmar lake was closed due to heavy snowfall. We started our journey to Lachung which was a 70 kms ride.

Photo of Lachen, Sikkim, India by Travel with Trinadh

It was a bright day, but the forecast predicted rain in the 2nd half of the day. Lachung was also one of our main destinations. We took our sweet time to start in the morning. We lounged around our homestay and started the day leisurely. The ride was smooth with some spectacular views, so we were had to take short stops to click pictures. We took out first actual break near Chungthang, where we had some refreshments. The first 20 mins of the road from Chungthang was quite horrible but later we had smooth roads until Lachung. We reached Bhim Nala falls which is the biggest falls in Sikkim, clicked a few customary snaps and started riding towards Lachung. We reached the hotel that we had booked at Lachung at around 4 PM. And since the temperatre at Lanchung was also freezing and sub-zero, we ended up having some piping hot tea and snacks at our hotel, took the rest of the day off to rest and planned our to visit Yumthang valley and Katao the next day.

Photo of Sikkim | Window of Himalayas by Travel with Trinadh
Photo of Sikkim | Window of Himalayas by Travel with Trinadh
Day 4

Day 4 : Lachung to Yumthang, Katao

Photo of Lachung, Sikkim, India by Travel with Trinadh

We had a funny start to Day 4. We woke up early so that we could cover both the places Yumthang and Katao but the water in the pipes and water tank froze due to the temperature. We were unable to freshen up.

We waited for an hour and a half for the heater to work it's magic so that we could freshen up.

The ride to Yumthang is permanently etched in my mind forever... Do check out the video.

2-3 kms away from Lachung is an army check post where we had to submit our permits.

The houses in Lachung were slightly covered with Snow. But just after the army check post we had to ride on a road which was guarded by snow on both sides. Yumthang is completely white and was freezing but we were riding until an army personnel stopped us saying it is not safe to ride further.

We parked our bikes and started walking. The view from this point was unforgettable. It was completely peaceful, pollution-free. All we could hear is the sound of the cool breeze.

Time has come for us to leave Yumthang. We started riding back to Lachung. I was physically moving away from that place, but my mind was stuck in Yumthang.

Photo of Sikkim | Window of Himalayas by Travel with Trinadh
Photo of Sikkim | Window of Himalayas by Travel with Trinadh

We brought a few souvenirs for our loved ones and started to Katao. Katao is also known as the Switzerland of Sikkim. The ride from Lachung to Katao is approximately 25-30 kms. The weather started deteriorating pretty quickly. We had to ride quickly. Clicked a few snaps and were lucky to reach the hotel before we could witness huge downpour for more than 4-5 hours.

As per our plan we had to ride to Gangtok, which was approximately 120 kms from Lachung. The ride was completely downhill so the expected time to ride was not much.

We started riding after our breakfast, reached Chungthang which was about 25 kms from Lachung.

Day 5

Day 5 : Lachung to Pelling

Photo of Lachung, Sikkim, India by Travel with Trinadh

All around the table there was only one thought going on in everybody's mind ' why not visit Peling instead of Gangtok” . there were 2 reasons for this. Firstly I had already been to Gangtok ,but the main reason was the fact that my friends wanted to visit Pelling.

We started checking routes to Pelling, which was approximately 200kms. Since the temperate was cool, we had no problems to increase ride by about 80kms.

We had to take MANY diversions since few main routes were closed due to landslides.

This made our ride even more lengthy. Due to the diversions taken, we could not find any decent place to eat as well, could not take the risk of street foods since we had a long way to go.

We filled our stomach with pahadi chai, dryfruits and chocolates now and then.

After riding for an hour or two, we realised that we still had a long way to go, and the diversions which we took have increased the ride by more than 60-70 kms

We had to ride without taking breaks- not even short ones.

Luckily the roads were superb for a stretch of 30-40 kms and we could cover much more distance than expected.

It started thundering, we are still ~70 kms away from Pelling.

It was getting dark and the weather was deteriorating, so are the roads. I would say this was the WORST part of the road which we faced during the entire trip.

Since it was getting too late, we decided to reach Ravangla as soon as possible and then decide if we could ride further or halt at Ravangla for the night. We reached Ravangla at around 7/7.30 PM.

A police man was helpful enough to let us know the shortest route to Pelling which was about 40 kms and he also told us that the roads are in excellent condition, which made us rethink our decision to halt there and ride further.

Things started to get scary, we however reached Pelling past 9.30 PM. This was the longest ride of the entire trip.

All that we were waiting to do was to crash on our beds.

Day 6

Day 6 : Pelling

Though Pelling couldn't give us the view of the snow capped mountains, the place was beautiful. We did not have full day plans, just planned to visit 2-3 places and relax the rest of the day.

The first place we visited in Pelling was the Sangacholi sky-walk. The sky-walk was not too high,but it was a quite unique experience since it was my first time to walk on a bridge like this. Just beside the sky-walk was the Chenrezig Statue, which is among the top 5 tallest statues in Sikkim.

Photo of Pelling, Sikkim, India by Travel with Trinadh
Photo of Pelling, Sikkim, India by Travel with Trinadh

Later, We headed towards the Singshore Bridge, which is a 198 metre suspension bridge located approximately 25 kms from the Chenrezig Statue . This is the highest bridge of Sikkim.Though it was a bit scary in the beginning, we spent quite a bit of time clicking pictures

Photo of Sikkim | Window of Himalayas by Travel with Trinadh
Photo of Sikkim | Window of Himalayas by Travel with Trinadh

This was the last day of our trip in Sikkim, the next day we headed towards Siliguri to return our bikes, and then back to Kolkata.

Though we could not visit the Gurudongmar lake(our main destination), This was one of the most memorable trip in my life.

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I have recorded few moments of my trip, you can watch the clip