Goecha La - a soulful trek in the Himalayas

16th Apr 2017
Photo of Goecha La - a soulful trek in the Himalayas by Asmita Bhattacharya

Mountains have always charmed me since my childhood. But visiting a hill station as a regular tourist was never going to be enough for me and soon, I developed an intense liking towards trekking in high altitude.

Where is Goecha La? And why is Goecha La important?

Goecha La (La means pass - like Nathu La, Bomdi La, Parang La etc.) is a Himalayan pass at an altitude of 15,100 ft in Western Sikkim between India and Tibet. It provides access to the Southeastern face of Mt. Kanchenjunga (28,169 ft), the third highest peak on the earth.

The Plan

I had just completed by MBA and I had more than a month free before joining work. I am quite a restless soul. Hence, staying in home for an entire month was never really an option. I had saved some money from my pre-MBA job and was barely left with much remaining in my account. Treks are always a good idea when you are tight on budget, but you do not want to compromise on the travel part. So, I looked for the available options with one of the popular trek organizers and decided on Goechala. Based on the reviews from other trekkers, it looked like a decently challenging trek which covers a variety of terrain and could easily consume half a month of my available time.

Day 0

The trek organizer had arranged the trek from Siliguri. There are two major ways of reaching the place - by train (till New Jalpaiguri) or by air (to Bagdogra).

I took a train from Kolkata to arrive at New Jalpaiguri station by 4 in the morning.

Day 1

Siliguri to Yuksom (5,643 ft)

My train started late from Kolkata and reached New Jalpaiguri (NJP) station almost 4-5 hours late. However, as we were expected to report at 10 a.m. for the vehicle, it suited me perfectly fine (I always make it a point to include buffer time in my travel plan to tackle things beyond my circle of control).

I got acquainted with the 12 other fellow trekkers at Siliguri, while waiting for the cabs. Most of them were traveling solo & all of them, were friendly and easy to get along with.

We were supposed to report at Yuksom, West Sikkim (which is a culturally rich town). The duration of the journey was approximately 6 hours. The route was scenic and the conversations with the newly made friends never let me have a dull moment during the cab ride.

We stopped at Jorethang, Sikkim for our lunch break and filled our hungry stomachs with a delicious assortment of local cuisines.

On reaching Yuksom, we rested for a while at the Guest House & met our trek leader and the guides. They soon briefed us on the trek and the necessary information.

In the evening we ventured out and saw the most beautiful night sky- full of stars, which is an impossible sight from our polluted cities. I even spotted some shooting stars and got a good feeling about the trek (not that I am superstitious).

Day 2

Yuksom (5,643 ft) to Sachen (7,200 ft)

We started early from Yuksom towards Sachen. It was going to a 8 km long trek through a dense forest. We were warned of leeches and wild animals (like bears).

We entered the Kanchenjunga Biodiversity park and after that the entire trail was way too surreal for most of us to worry about the distance.

Photo of Yuksom, Sikkim, India by Asmita Bhattacharya

There were beautiful bridges along the way decorated with prayer flags which not only pleased our eyes, but also our souls.

Photo of Goecha La - a soulful trek in the Himalayas by Asmita Bhattacharya

On reaching Sachen, we setup our tents. It was a beautiful location - surrounded by dense forest, away from the tents of other trekking groups.

On returning from our acclimatization walk, we started playing games like Dumb-charades and Mafia. As we got to know each other more, we realized that we were a crazy bunch of super-fun people (including our trek guide). Most of us stayed awake till late night and discussed all sorts of conspiracy theories around aliens, AI and what not.

Day 3

Sachen (7,200 ft) to Tshoka (9,704 ft)

It was a 7 km long trek. We crossed the last iron bridge on the way. We spotted a few red colored rhododendrons along our path.

Photo of Sachen, Sikkim, India by Asmita Bhattacharya

We took our own sweet time and reached Tshoka after enjoying the views throughout the trek.

We had a peaceful evening after meditating in an old Monastery in Tshoka.

Day 4

Tshoka (9,704 ft) to Dzongri (13,024 ft)

It was a 9 km long beautiful stretch filled with Rhododendrons of many different colors (Red, Pink, Yellow, White).

Photo of Tshoka, Sikkim, India by Asmita Bhattacharya

We had our packed lunch at Phedang (10,500 ft). Post lunch, due to a major altitude gain, many of us started feeling a mild headache.

On reaching Dzongri, two of our group members had their Blood Oxygen levels less than the ideal. Shortly after that, they started showing some of the symptoms of Acute Mountain Syndrome (AMS) - like nausea, headache, loss of appetite, vomiting etc.

Day 5

Rest day at Dzongri for acclimatization

Most of us woke up in the morning and went to Dzongri top to a get a view of the splendid sunrise in the Himalayas.

Photo of Dzongri, Sikkim, India by Asmita Bhattacharya

After getting a good night's sleep and taking proper care, both the unwell members had recovered from early-AMS.

We had a very easy going day - interacting with the locals, catching glimpse of a rare bird, playing Mafia and sharing stories about ourselves.

Day 6

Dzongri (13,024 ft) to Thansing (12,946 ft)

We had to cover around 10 km this day. We descended till Kokchurang after which we gained altitude while passing through an enchanted looking forest.

Photo of Dzongri, Sikkim, India by Asmita Bhattacharya

By the time we arrived at our campsite, it was raining heavily. Our group decided to rent a dorm room and spend the night there as it was quite cold outside.

The campsite directly faces Mt. Pandim here, which looked intimidating to us human forms.

Day 7

Thansing (12,946 ft) to Lamuney (13,743 ft)

This is easiest day of the entire trek and is just 4 km long. Lamuney is a rocky site with very high wind speeds which can make the temperature feel colder than it actually is.

Day 8

Lamuney (13,743 ft) to Goecha La (15,100 ft) & back to Kokchurang (12,000 ft)

We started in the dawn to begin our 18+ km long journey. We crossed Samhiti lake, when it started to snow, and reached View point 1 to get a panoramic view of the Goecha La. However, within seconds a dense fog whitewashed the view. Because of snow leopards in the vicinity of View point 2, we were not allowed any further by the forest officials.

Photo of Goecha La, Sikkim by Asmita Bhattacharya
Photo of Goecha La, Sikkim by Asmita Bhattacharya

While returning back, we spotted a rare variety of a blue Himalayan bird near the Samhiti lake.

Photo of Samiti Lake, Sikkim by Asmita Bhattacharya

The journey back to Kokchurang (a riverside campsite) was long and tiring.

Photo of Kockchurang Trekker's Hut, Yuksom, Sikkim, India by Asmita Bhattacharya
Day 9

Kokchurang (12,000 ft) to Tshoka (9,704 ft)

We took a direct route avoiding Dzongri, till Phedang, where we had our packed lunch.

The descent trek to Tshoka took a toll on one of my knees. But I still managed to limp my way to the campsite.

Day 10

Tshoka (9,704 ft) to Yuksom (5,643 ft)

We started on our 15 km long trek for the day through the same dense forest and reached Yuksom by evening.

On our way back, we went inside a haunted house which was quite exciting for me.

Photo of Tshoka, Sikkim, India by Asmita Bhattacharya

On reaching Yuksom, we tried the locally brewed Chang (hot water + fermented barley) along with Thukpa and momos.

Day 11

Yuksom (5,643 ft) to Siliguri

With a rejuvenated body and mind, filled with memories to last a life-time, bidding goodbyes to the wonderful friends made along the trek, it was time to get back to the routine.

I am glad to have undertaken this trek and I would recommend the same to you all. But while you do so, please take conscious efforts to not pollute the fragile Himalayan ecosystem. Also, do appreciate the hard work put together by your trek staff. These amazing mountain people value nothing more than your love.

"Good things are not meant to last forever, but their goodness remains till eternity." - Some awesome personality (who happens to be me)

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