Exploring the Old Silk Route in 6 days

Tripoto
4th Dec 2016
Photo of Exploring the Old Silk Route in 6 days by Soham Chakraborty
Day 1

It was the end of one heck of a semester in college, and we wanted a break like anything. We boarded Padatik Express from Kolkata and reached New Jalpaiguri in the morning. We bought all the stuff that we required and withdrew cash as we were unsure of the availability of A.T.M.'s ahead. Once we were all ready, our vehicle was ready and we took off for what would be a a trip to remember forever!

It was a long ride of around 90 kms. We reached Kalimpong in around 3 hours, and the last 25 kms after Kalimpong took us another couple of hours. The last strech to our destination: Sillery Gaon is pretty bad. Sillery Gaon is located at an elevation of 6000 ft but it was December, hence it got extremely cold already.

Photo of Sillery Gaon, West Bengal, India by Soham Chakraborty

We went out to explore the little village in the lap of the Himalayas. There are only a few houses, with extremely welcoming people! It was foggy and we went on to a nearby forest trail before getting back to our homestay.

Photo of Exploring the Old Silk Route in 6 days by Soham Chakraborty

Sillery Gaon will make you feel like a fairytale: spend a couple of days here far from the hustle bustle of the cities and it will make you feel the peace that is such an inherent part of the mountains. We spent the rest of the evening enjoying by the campfire and went on to sleep early as we had long distances to cover in the next few days.

Photo of Exploring the Old Silk Route in 6 days by Soham Chakraborty
Day 2

The next day we were off from Sillery and we began travelling in the Old Silk Route. We crossed over from West Bengal to Sikkim and were on our way to Mankhim, our destination today. We stopped on the way in the beautiful Reshi Khola. Reshi Khola was comparatively warmer due to the the lower altitude, moreover it was pretty sunny in the morning. We went down from the main road to the bank of the river and spent some time enjoying the warmth!

Photo of Rishi Khola by Soham Chakraborty

Sllery to Reshi Khola is about 30 kms and took us a couple of hours. It was around 12 pm and we decided to leave as we had to cover another 15 kms to reach Mankhim, where our homestay was located. On the way we also stopped at the spectacular Pedong Monastery, also known as the Sangchen Dorjee monastery.

Photo of Exploring the Old Silk Route in 6 days by Soham Chakraborty

It was around 4 pm when we reached Mankhim, it got late visiting the monastery and we had our lunch on the way. The homestay greeted us with a few buckets of warm water which was a delight in this weather! We explored the place after reaching. Mankhim is located at 6500 ft. From a view points, you can get amazing views of Kanchenjunga on a clear day. On the other side the Aritar Lake is clearly visibe. It is a beautiful place to stay enroute Zuluk or Gnathang Valley.

Photo of Mankhim Top View Point, Aritar, Sikkim, India by Soham Chakraborty

It got late and started getting dark. We spent the evening inside our homestay playing cards and other games. We knew that the best was yet to come and excited, we all went to sleep.

Day 3

The next morning we woke up early and rushed to the view point to catch sunrise. We were a bit late sadly and missed the sunrise. However we captured some amazing 360 degee views from the point which were rather surreal!

Photo of Exploring the Old Silk Route in 6 days by Soham Chakraborty

After spending some more time here and a thousand more photographs, we came back for breakfast and got ready for today's journey: a whoopinf 75 kms all the way to Gnathang Valley.

Photo of Exploring the Old Silk Route in 6 days by Soham Chakraborty

We had to take the first stop at Rongli, the district headquarters and the last town that we were going to encounter. We had our lunch here and we had to make our permits before entering Gnathang Valley. Foreign nationals are not allowed beyond this point. Rongli itself is a beautiful town surrounded by mountains on all sides.

Photo of Rongli, Sikkim, India by Soham Chakraborty

We left Rongli at around 11 am. On the way there were some spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, waterfalls and breathtaking bridges like the one below!

Photo of Exploring the Old Silk Route in 6 days by Soham Chakraborty

At about 2 pm, we reached Zuluk. Zuluk is located at an altitude of 10,000 ft. and is the last village before Gnathang. We were pretty excited to experience the very famous view of the winding roads and hairpin bends of Zuluk. The bends were quite an experience and you just go dangling from one side of the vehicle to the other! Once you are done with the hairpin bends, nature has a marvellous surprise for you in the form of the Thambi View point, which gives you a stunning view of the portion you just completed.

Photo of Zuluk, Sikkim, India by Soham Chakraborty

A couple of kilometres after Thambi, comes the Lungthung view point: another spectacle that you must not miss on the way to Gnathang.

Photo of Exploring the Old Silk Route in 6 days by Soham Chakraborty

The views from these two places are amongst the best I have ever witness in my life. It amost feels like you have left the earth and are on the stairway to heaven! It was time for the sun to set as we reached Gnathang Valley at 5 p.m. At an altitude of 13,800 ft, Gnathang Valley is another world altogether. I remember us speechlessly staring at the mountains when we reached. All the expectations about the temperature turning low started haunting us soon as it started getting really cold. I got this snap of the sunset before quickly going in to save myself from the cold.

Photo of Gnathang, Sikkim, India by Soham Chakraborty
Day 4

The night was extremely cold and uncomfortable. The temperature got to -9 degrees and most of us could not sleep in the freezing cold. It was one hell of a night with tonnes of adventure! Anyway, we survived the night and at around 4:30 a.m. we went out to the Sunrise point to catch the sunrise and its reflection on the Kanchenjunga. The sight was outerworldly and unforgettable. I managed to get some photographs even when I almost froze to death and was suffering from breathlessness after a night without sleep.

Photo of Exploring the Old Silk Route in 6 days by Soham Chakraborty
Photo of Exploring the Old Silk Route in 6 days by Soham Chakraborty

After being mesmerized by the sunrise, we were back to our homestay for chai and breakfast. We roamed a bit around the stunning village of Gnathang Valley as the Sun was shining brightly and this was probably the only time in the day when you could go out and take a walk down the village!

Photo of Exploring the Old Silk Route in 6 days by Soham Chakraborty
Photo of Exploring the Old Silk Route in 6 days by Soham Chakraborty

Today we were to leave the Old Silk Route and travel all the way to Gangtok travelling a distance of 65 kms. We left Gnathang with heavy hearts and the first stop was the absolutely gorgeous Kupup Lake, also known as the Elephant Lake. The lake was completely frozen as temperatures were almost near zero.

Photo of Kupup, Sikkim, India by Soham Chakraborty

Next we stopped at the army camp near Old Baba Mandir, a temple that worships Harbajan Singh, an Indian army officer who was martyred here and is believed to protect Indian army from the evil intensions of the enemy. We had some chai and snacks here at the army canteen.

Photo of Exploring the Old Silk Route in 6 days by Soham Chakraborty

After travelling for a few more kilometres, we reached the Tsongmo Lake (popularly known as Changu Lake). It was my third time here but Tsongmo looks as fresh and beautiful as ever! A couple of my friends took yak rides here while I was tried to get some nice photographs of this wonderful place!

Photo of Tsongmo Lake, Sikkim by Soham Chakraborty
Photo of Tsongmo Lake, Sikkim by Soham Chakraborty

We reached Gangtok at about 2 p.m. and checked in to a hotel at the mall road. I've been to Gangtok before and it is one of my favaourite hill stations. I absolutely love the aura here and we spent the evening in some cafes refuelling ourselves after spending the last few days in remote areas. Gangtok was comparatively much warmer and we got the much needed comfortable sleep!

Day 5

Today we woke up a bit late and were headed for the Fambong Lho National Park and wildlife sanctuary. Fambong Lho, near Gangtok is a wonderful place to spend a day in serenity extremely close to nature. We reached Golitar, the place inside the sanctuary where a log house is located, which was going to be our destination for the night. The locals practice various kinds of organic farming here and the views are pretty spectacular too!

Photo of Fambonglho wild life Sanctuary, Dikchu - Rang Rang Rd, L. Mangshila, Sikkim, India by Soham Chakraborty
Photo of Fambonglho wild life Sanctuary, Dikchu - Rang Rang Rd, L. Mangshila, Sikkim, India by Soham Chakraborty

Kanchenjunga is visible from almost everywhere here! We spent the rest of the day exploring some hiking trails in the sanctuary and clicking photographs.

Photo of Exploring the Old Silk Route in 6 days by Soham Chakraborty

The night was equally beautiful. The sky full of stars, a campfire and a glorious view of the city of Gangtok from the sanctuary: everything contributed to an excellent end to our trip. All of us were pretty sad about having to return the next day. We all have to return to our bondings in the world, but there's this faint little ray of hope in your heart: a will to return soon to the lap of Mother nature, to be in unison with the mighty Himalayas!

Photo of Exploring the Old Silk Route in 6 days by Soham Chakraborty
Photo of Exploring the Old Silk Route in 6 days by Soham Chakraborty
Day 6

The time had come to say goodbye. We started from Phobong Lo and returned to Gangtok. After some breakfast here, we got a shared vehicle to return to New Jalpaiguri from where we had a train back to Kolkata tonight. It was and end to a magical trip, one that will always be etched in my memories. Silk Route is a relatively unexplored part of Sikkim and is not as congested as the other parts. So I definitely recommend you to go for a trip to this spectacular place and come back with memories to cherish forever.

Photo of New Jalpaiguri Jn., Nayapara, Siliguri, West Bengal, India by Soham Chakraborty
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