Road to Paradise (Part II): Exploring North Sikkim-Thangu Valley & Gurudongmar Lake

Tripoto
Photo of Road to Paradise (Part II): Exploring North Sikkim-Thangu Valley & Gurudongmar Lake 1/15 by Champak Sharma
Gurudongmar Lake

So here I continue from my previous post of the trip…

The roads re-opened and we left for Chunthang. After a quick lunch there we started off towards Thangu Valley. The roads were damaged for most of the journey and covering the 60 km route took almost 3 hours. The place housed a few cottages and it was evident that the population was very thin. At 1300 ft, visitors usually acclimatize before they proceed to Gurudongmar Lake. It was already getting dark and we took a quick stroll around the valley.

Photo of Road to Paradise (Part II): Exploring North Sikkim-Thangu Valley & Gurudongmar Lake 2/15 by Champak Sharma
Photo of Road to Paradise (Part II): Exploring North Sikkim-Thangu Valley & Gurudongmar Lake 3/15 by Champak Sharma
Thangu Valley
Photo of Road to Paradise (Part II): Exploring North Sikkim-Thangu Valley & Gurudongmar Lake 4/15 by Champak Sharma

A small but cosy homestay at the hamlet was to be our last night-stay during this trip. Dinner was served by the owner’s family at their home. Rice, vegetable and lentils, simple yet to be savoured in the freezing temperature. And for those requiring a room heater, rum and whiskey were available to rub off the cold. The night echoed with a distinctive chaos as each one of us tried to give a shot at singing. It was evident that we were the only outsiders in the small community that night– and that had a good feeling of its own (off season to be exact because people avoid these terrains during the rainy season). We went to bed around midnight, but I did not have proper sleep with the layers of heavy jackets bearing down on me. Unable to sleep, I got up from the bed around 4 am and went out to the balcony. It was dark but the snowy mountain peaks were shining bright in the moonlight. I decided to explore the area and went back to get my camera. A local canine decided to give me company and I was more than happy to have him by my side (Yep, am not that much a brave heart :P )

Photo of Road to Paradise (Part II): Exploring North Sikkim-Thangu Valley & Gurudongmar Lake 5/15 by Champak Sharma
Night View, Thangu
Photo of Road to Paradise (Part II): Exploring North Sikkim-Thangu Valley & Gurudongmar Lake 6/15 by Champak Sharma
Dawn
Photo of Road to Paradise (Part II): Exploring North Sikkim-Thangu Valley & Gurudongmar Lake 7/15 by Champak Sharma
My companion of the night stroll

At daybreak, we had a quick sip of tea and light breakfast and headed for our final destination. We initially drove past mountainous terrain with a few army bases – Indo-China border was close. Then we entered a vegetation less plateau scattered with small and large stones. Snowy peaks marked the horizon. At times multiple tracks appeared ahead confusing even Thanga Daju, Sonam’s cousin who was behind the wheels. What added to the confusion was the absence of signboards except the ones which read ‘Restricted Area’. The land rose and fell in stretches- giving us roller coaster rides. We got lost in between and went towards a restricted area and made a hasty retreat after reading the signboard (Sonam and her Aunt, who volunteered to get down from the vehicle to get a better view of the board, literally ran back!) After a two-hour drive, the shrine appeared at a distance. Moving ahead the crystal clear waters came into our view – it was a pristine blue spread partially covered by ice.

Photo of Road to Paradise (Part II): Exploring North Sikkim-Thangu Valley & Gurudongmar Lake 8/15 by Champak Sharma
Photo of Road to Paradise (Part II): Exploring North Sikkim-Thangu Valley & Gurudongmar Lake 9/15 by Champak Sharma
Photo of Road to Paradise (Part II): Exploring North Sikkim-Thangu Valley & Gurudongmar Lake 10/15 by Champak Sharma
Photo of Road to Paradise (Part II): Exploring North Sikkim-Thangu Valley & Gurudongmar Lake 11/15 by Champak Sharma
Photo of Road to Paradise (Part II): Exploring North Sikkim-Thangu Valley & Gurudongmar Lake 12/15 by Champak Sharma
Photo of Road to Paradise (Part II): Exploring North Sikkim-Thangu Valley & Gurudongmar Lake 13/15 by Champak Sharma

At an altitude of 17,100 ft in the northeast of the Kangchenjunga range, the sacred Gurudongmar Lake of Sikkim is one of the highest lakes in the world . It is believed that during his visit to China and Tibet, the first Guru of Sikhism Guru Nanak Dev Ji visited this place. The saint was approached by the local yak grazers with a request - they did not find water in winter as the freezing temperature froze the water bodies around. The Guru hit the snow-covered Gurudongmar Lake with his stick and the ice melted giving way to crystal clear water. Legend has it that since then the lake has never been completely frozen.

Reflections of the distant snowy peaks added to the majestic view. The Gurudwara stood on a mound beside the holy lake. Colourful prayer flags fluttered in the crisp mountain breeze. I climbed down the slope to reach the lake – a number of piled prayer stones of different heights marked the place. After offering my prayers at the shrine I sat beside the azure expanse. The swaying prayer flags seemed to exude a mystical energy and a divine tranquility hung in the air. I felt a blessed feeling within, and wished to stay there forever.

Photo of Road to Paradise (Part II): Exploring North Sikkim-Thangu Valley & Gurudongmar Lake 14/15 by Champak Sharma
Photo of Road to Paradise (Part II): Exploring North Sikkim-Thangu Valley & Gurudongmar Lake 15/15 by Champak Sharma

Travel routes and necessary details are already published in my previous post :

https://www.tripoto.com/trip/road-to-paradise-exploring-north-sikkim-yumthang-valley-zero-point-5911a9972c8e8

In case you want to know more about the trip, please feel free to reach out to me at champographie@gmail.com

https://champographie.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ChampakJS

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