In the shadow of hulking high peaks lies a wonderland of snow, giant glaciers and a trickling stream, where time seems to be frozen in a pristine white frame.
It is exhilarating experience to drive through the high mountain passes of Sikkim. Landscape changes in every hair-pin bend. Jeep cuts through the chilled morning winds, climbing high, high and higher through the ribbon like path, grey swirls of clouds, fog obscured our vision, flecks of snow scattered here and there. We started rubbing our hands, pulling our shawls to escape shivering skin-deep cold. The patches of snow started spreading and soon covered the mountain walls, carpeted the surroundings. We entered into the country of clouds, snow and fog. The milestone read: Yumesamdong - Zero Point, 15500 feet altitude in the North East state Sikkim (India). We saw a few elated tourists playing with snow. But our Bolero MAX started chasing the winds on the highland pass with more speed, almost gliding through the icy treacherous road and our excitement infused to nervousness.
The road took a turn and then all of a sudden, dramatic change of the panorama - pristine, white snow land shining underneath indigo blue sky, surrounded by the sky high mountain peaks. An Aquamarine stream trickles down the mountains with its own rhythm. The sharp bright autumn sun set everything sparkling. If there is a heaven on earth, then this is it. The place is cocooned by a soothing calmness. Completely absorbed by the aura of this heavenly beauty, we walked, slipped and hurled snow at each other and took some snaps with tight hug, a frame forever.
We also entered no man's land, which basically shares border with China and is heavily patrolled by the Indian Army. We also saw a few bunkers here and there. I don’t know how they keep themselves so alert at sub-zero temperatures, where survival is near to impossible. Thanks to our guide/driver who guided us in this terrain. At an altitude of over 15,000 feet, it is hard to speculate change in weather, and we witnessed this when suddenly the clouds started coming in and covered the blue sky. The driver immediately asked us to sit back in the jeep and drove us back to safety.
No, we are far away from the 'Zero point' and back home. “Alice" is back from the Wonderland.
Important travel tips
Easiest way to go is to book a tour. Most packages offer a Lachung – Yumthang Valley – Yumesamdong tour. This also includes a bird's eye view of the Teesta Valley at Singhik, an evening on banks of river at Lachung, and a visit to the Ymesamdong-Zero point. For more details of Yumesamdong check my post on my blog: http://travelingisbliss.blogspot.in/2013/06/zero-pointyumthung-valley.html
For visiting Yumthung Valley, you have to book either 1N-2Day or 2N-3D package from Gangtok. I personally feel 2N-3D package is best for covering Gangtok–Lachung–Yumthang Valley. Do your research before finalising. If you book a Gangtok–Yumthang Valley package, you will have to pay the driver extra to take you to Zero point.
Best time to visit Yumthang
In the winter Yumthung Valley gets carpeted by thick layer of snow. Skiing, which has recently been introduced at Phuni (close to the Sangri pass in the valley) at 11,500ft, is the highest and most extreme skiing you’ll find in the country. During the spring months, the area blooms with rhododendrons, primulas, poppies, iris and many more and hence it is known as Valley of Flowers.
Where to stay in Yumthang
Hotel Le Coxy is good place for comfortable stay. Situated at an altitude of 9,600 ft. and at a distance of about 117 Kms from Gangtok. This entire distance is generally covered in about 06 - 07 hours and road condition is very bad at some points. Better not to travel with kids below 10 years.