Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga 

Tripoto
6th Sep 2017
Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga  1/2 by Sameer Wadhwani
Zero Point (Courtesy : Cravel)

The title has multiple significances, the most obvious being the picturesque location seen in the above picture. However, it can also be attributed to the partial-glimpse ('some'-things) of Sikkim out of the many that we had planned to cover during our trip owing to unapproved permits and also an uncanny resemblance to a certain popular publication where 3-idiots make a journey to discover their calling despite countless hindrances.

Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga  2/2 by Sameer Wadhwani
The Three-idiots!

Initially there were 4 of us who had decided to go on the Sikkim quest. But an unavoidable circumstance for one meant that he had to cancel, which left 3 people and only 1 bike (as the 4th person was going to get his bike to Sikkim).

So we had to arrange one more bike which we decided to hire from Sikkim itself. We could have rented the bike from Siliguri also where we were going to disembark from our flight, but then permit for hired bikes meant getting additional documents of authority transfer and getting it gazetted for which we were not willing to waste a whole day.

So on the appointed day, we reached Siliguri where one guy collected his transported bike and 2 of us took a shared cab which took 4 hours to reach Gangtok, our halt for the night.

Day 1

We woke up early morning and went to the only bike rental agency in Gangtok - BB Lines Tours to complete formalities for bike pickup:

Snapshot of Gangtok : BB LINE office on MG Road (Top Left). Stairs interconnects routes up and down the town at every place. Tourist Info centers available to help with queries

Photo of Gangtok, Sikkim, India by Sameer Wadhwani

We took the bike, deposited documents for permit (PhotoID, photographs, Bike RC, insurance and PUC) and left with our bike to get acquainted with it and discover some local places, starting with MG Marg where we had a delicious breakfast at Baker's Cafe:

Mornings be like this for the best start to day!

Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga by Sameer Wadhwani

Next we went to Bhusuk after crossing Chandmari Forest Checkpost where our eyes were treated to a spectacular waterfall:

Waterfall at Bhusuk Rd

Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga by Sameer Wadhwani

Relaxed a bit near the waterfall and returned to our Hotel Travellers Inn in Gangtok town for a early start to East Sikkim next day.

Happy end to Day-1 at Chopstick Restaurant MG marg, Gangtok

Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga by Sameer Wadhwani
Day 2

Morning 7 am, we collected our permits for Zuluk and Changu Lake from our bike rental agency (BBLine tours). We could not get permit to legendary NathuLa because of political situation and army movement, but we were excited to ride on the famous Silk route!

We went through Lingtam-Rongli route and decided to climb up the hairpins as people suggested it would be more fun and thrilling rather than going down via Kupup. The road meandered through beautiful villages and gave us a keyhole peak of the things to come.

Some scenes on way to Zuluk:

Bridge near Lingtam

Photo of Zuluk, India by Sameer Wadhwani

Rongli

Photo of Zuluk, India by Sameer Wadhwani

At Rongli, we encountered check-post where we had to show our permits. The officer pointed that there was printing mistake related to bike no. on permits because of which he won't be able to allow us to go further. We immediately called BBLines where Mr. Yadav, the man in charge helped resolve our situation by talking to police officer in response to which he manually corrected the error and put sign and seal on it so that we can move ahead and show it to other check-posts without any problem.

A few minutes later, we crossed our first water crossing for the day and we could not help but feel elated now that we were going through terrain that biker's crave for:

Water Crossing after Rongli

Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga by Sameer Wadhwani

As we were clicking pictures, heavy downpour started, so we had to pack our cameras and head out. We crossed 1 more checkpoint after that, where we showed our permits and continued to move ahead.

We reached Zuluk village around 6 pm and spotted this amazing army base where we stopped to click some pics and inquire about place to stay for the night:

Near Army base camp, Zuluk

Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga by Sameer Wadhwani

Meanwhile a family passing by spotted that we were looking for an abode and graciously offered us there place to stay. It was a blessing not having to search further in that rain so we scurried to their place at once. They offered us warm water and sumptuous food which felt very comfortable after being drenched in rains for so many hours. We quickly hit the sack after that calling it a night.

The family with whom we stayed in ZULUK

Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga by Sameer Wadhwani
Day 3

Early mornings are best to explore the place and spend some quiet time with yourself amidst the nature. I left for a walk at 5am in the hills of Zuluk to witness the sunrise.

Some views while I walked up the mountains:

Lone wanderer

Photo of Thambi View Point, Dhupidara, East Sikkim, East Sikkim, Sikkim, India by Sameer Wadhwani

Sunrise at horizon

Photo of Thambi View Point, Dhupidara, East Sikkim, East Sikkim, Sikkim, India by Sameer Wadhwani

The quaint village and lush green valley served as an exuberant start to the day. I got in conversation with a local who started telling about the place and his routine:

Met with a local : even at such age he was walking swiftly up the hill along with me

Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga by Sameer Wadhwani

After interacting with him, I returned to our home-stay where we geared up for the adventure that lay ahead.

With just 17 km to Thambi View point and a vibrant sunny day in sight, we accelerated our enfields through the 32 hairpin bends. They were a delight to conquer and we felt a victorious satisfaction going through every bend in the road. But while we propelled forward, so did the fog which was moving at a considerable pace hiding everything and as we reached Thambi View point, all we could see was the thick envelope of white fog everywhere. We could not even gather how high we were because the whole valley was hidden. We clicked few pics of the area visible:

Waiting LITERALLY on top of Thambi View point for fog to subside

Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga by Sameer Wadhwani

11200 ft! Always a delight to scale new heights.

Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga by Sameer Wadhwani

The glorious view of hairpins evaded us even while we waited for an hour at the peak, after which we finally decided to move on.

Next we visited Harbhajan Baba Mandir, a martyr's temple built for his contribution during floods and believed as safekeeper for army:

Harbhajan Baba temple

Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga by Sameer Wadhwani

We encountered more fascinating vistas on our way ahead of Baba temple:

Splendid Valley views

Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga by Sameer Wadhwani

Lost in the beautiful scenery

Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga by Sameer Wadhwani

Changu lake was next, where we halted for a while before rain poked us again to ride further:

Changu Lake

Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga by Sameer Wadhwani

We reached Gangtok in a couple of hours and had a celebratory dinner to commemorate our ride of the SILK ROUTE.

Day 4

The next morning arrived with doleful news that permit to Gurudongmar lake was not issued by State department owing to some ongoing court case. Still, we atleast had Yumthang Valley permits in our hand. Bear in mind, make enough photocopies of permits because its a pain to search for xerox in distant North.

The rain had reconvened with us to accompany the journey to North and we began slowly riding towards Lachung, our next halt. The roads are mostly good with some very bad patches of landslide struck areas where we had to carefully tread on.

Enroute we got to witness numerous army caps, a helipad, 30 story waterfall and glorious fog enveloped green mountains:

Midway to Lachung (near Mangan)

Photo of Lachung, Sikkim, India by Sameer Wadhwani

Sitting on the Helipad surrounded with greenery and haze

Photo of Lachung, Sikkim, India by Sameer Wadhwani

Gateway to NORTH SIKKIM !

Photo of Lachung, Sikkim, India by Sameer Wadhwani

A moment to relax and take in the gorgeous panaroma

Photo of Lachung, Sikkim, India by Sameer Wadhwani

This was a 30 storey waterfall of which I could capture only an eighth of

Photo of Lachung, Sikkim, India by Sameer Wadhwani

Captivating structures right besides the road to Lachung

Photo of Lachung, Sikkim, India by Sameer Wadhwani

We reached late in the evening, had maggi and retired for the night.

Day 5

We woke up excited seeing the sunshine filtering through the glass windows. Clear blue skies greeted us, so we quickly got up to head towards Yumthang Valley and Zero point.

Quick breakfast before the legendary ride. Local kid pointed us in the right direction & bid luck

Photo of Yumthang, Sikkim, India by Sameer Wadhwani

Legendary routes engulf you into an illusion of being teleported into a nirvana with its galore offerings. As soon as we crossed the first security checkpoint towards Yumthang, the scenery evolved into exquisite movie set designed by the most skilled artists and imagineers of the world:

Breathtaking Vistas

Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga by Sameer Wadhwani

No rains and sublime views meant we were stopping more than often to take in the scenery and capture it in our lenses:

X-mas trees all alongside the road to valley of flowers - Yumthang

Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga by Sameer Wadhwani

Bending the knee to royal mountain roads

Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga by Sameer Wadhwani

Finally - Yumthang 12000 ft

Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga by Sameer Wadhwani

After a brief halt at Yumthang, we proceeded for the highlight of the trip- Zero Point:

A Biker's dream Roads

Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga by Sameer Wadhwani

The occasional off-road stretches slowed us down a bit, but we continued soldering on the way up the hairpin curves of the mountains:

Taking it like a pro : Swooping curves leading to 14800ft (Zero Point)

Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga by Sameer Wadhwani

'No-road' surface stretches on way to Zero Point

Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga by Sameer Wadhwani

We reached Zero point at around 12 noon at which point the overhead sun made the blue waters glisten with its rays. The crystal clear water was so alluring that it made all the efforts, pains and mishaps seem worth this moment. We thanked the gods and Sikkim government to allow us passage to this unexplored and extremely wonderful land:

Gorgeous scenery at Zero Point (Mountain Yaks looking curiously at our photography equipment)

Photo of Zero Point Yumesamdong, North Sikkim, Sikkim, India by Sameer Wadhwani

Royal Enfields : The victory pose at Zero Point

Photo of Zero Point Yumesamdong, North Sikkim, Sikkim, India by Sameer Wadhwani

After couple of hours playing in the water, relaxing on the bridge and capturing the mountain yaks in our lenses, the clouds had started colluding to send the rains, so we bid adieu to the place and headed to our hotel in Lachung.

Day 6

Katao was the last on our list before we ended our tour. And as the saying goes, last but not the least, Katao proved to be the perfect closure to a short but an amazing trip. Katao mountains provided a glorious bird's eye view of Lachung. Its a place nestled close to Lachung with good roads upto summit and quaint surroundings:

Holy rays peeking through clouds

Photo of Katao, Sikkim, India by Sameer Wadhwani

Ride with biker buddy and perfect weather: what else does a biker want! Ride to Katao

Photo of Katao, Sikkim, India by Sameer Wadhwani

Its a good alternative in case permits for zero point do not get issued or time is a constraint.After just about 45 mins from Lachung, we reached the top beyond which point army restricts civilians from going ahead due to border rules.

Way to Katao Top

Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga by Sameer Wadhwani

Happy Ride

Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga by Sameer Wadhwani

Although mountains welcome everybody as their own child, I felt that we ourselves have created boundaries and restricted areas which leaves us asking for more. We were not able to cover Nathula Pass and Gurudongmar Lake in this journey owing to permit issues, but surely the enchanting lands of Sikkim have us hooked and will be prodding us to visit again to this mystical and fabulous land once again soon.

Until next time...eager to complete the Sikkim Saga!

Photo of Zero Point something : Sikkim Saga by Sameer Wadhwani

Trip Courtesy: CRAVEL

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