Shivers would pass down my body whenever I would see pictures of this euphoric lake. I envied everyone who visited Gurudongmar and would later post pictures of it on various social media platforms. I would always wonder when would I get a chance to visit it.
What was holding me back?
Yes, that’s true fear of high altitude was holding me back. Lame as it sounds. There’s actually a reason behind this fear. As a kid, I had once visited a high altitude place and I had a terrible time there. I could not breathe well and for some reason, I had immense pain in my chest. I ended up ruining the entire trip for my mother. She had to spend the whole time with me rather than enjoying the view and snow outside.
My friend stumbled upon a great package deal for visiting North Sikkim on Facebook and enthusiastically gave me all the details. On hearing about it I instantly got excited as well as scared. At that very moment, I decided that I would go and fight my fear because as Will Smith said, “The best things in life are on the other side of terror, on the other side of your maximum fear, are all of the best things in life.” And man every word of it was true. Visiting North Sikkim and experiencing the peace, the purity, the silence, the calmness was beyond the fear I was holding.
Gurudongmar Lake is one of the highest lakes in the world, located at an altitude of 17,800 ft (5,430 m) in the Indian state of Sikkim. It is a lake which is considered sacred by both Buddhists and Sikhs. It is named after Guru Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, founder of Tibetan Buddhism who visited the lake in the 8th century.
Gurudongmar Lake is among the top 15 highest lakes in the world and is the second highest lake in Sikkim as well as in India, the first being Tso Lhamo lake at a height of 18000 ft, also situated in Sikkim which is a restricted area. Being the second highest lake in India, the panoramic and scenic beauty of the place is beyond imagination. The view of Mount Siniolchu and Khanchendzonga is breathtaking from that point.
Legend has it that, Guru Padmasambhava (also known as Guru Dongmar), touched and sanctified the lake, and thus, even in extreme winter, a portion of the lake does not freeze. The lake is also one of the sources of River Teesta, which flows through Sikkim, West Bengal and Bangladesh to merge with the Bay of Bengal.
As we decided on going, we spoke to the travel agent and booked ourselves the package. For some reason, my brother wasn’t fully satisfied with the travel agent and so he put thoughts in my head that he might just be cheating us. My brain started to think ten thousand thoughts. Being as cynical as possible, Me and my friend both started calling up the agent every day and started asking him a zillion question just to confirm that we weren’t being cheated.
Did it work?
A day prior to leaving for North Sikkim the agent asked me to make the full payment. I was highly sceptical, I decided on taking the risk. Once the agent gave me a legit receipt that is when I thought that it couldn’t be a scam.
A sigh of relief!
That is when all the excitement began and the feeling sank in that we were finally going. The next day we were all set to go stacked up with a huge bag full of food and warm clothes.
THE MOTION PICTURE –
The trip to North Sikkim requires two nights and three days. The destination for day 1 was Lachen (a town in North Sikkim located at an elevation of 2,750 metres. The town forms the base to the Chopta Valley and Gurudongmar Lake). It is small town amidst beautiful mountains. It took us around six hours to reach Lachen making several stops in between.
The next day we started at 4:30 am for Gurudongmar as it is again a 6-hour drive. I was petrified to death due to the height. I tried to show full excitement to my friend. As we started heading towards the lake the tree line started to reduce and hence there was a drastic drop in the oxygen level. To my surprise, I was totally fine when we reached the lake.
I was ecstatic. Just saying that the lake and the view were beautiful or magnificent would be an understatement. Just the feeling of being there was magnanimous. Thankfully the weather was kind to us. It was bright and sunny else it would be impossible to stay there even for five minutes. As I was going all bonkers with the view and the fact that I was fine, that very moment I started feeling some uneasiness within me. Few seconds and I was like, shit, this isn’t looking good.
What happened next?
I blacked out. Everything was spinning around, my stomach was churning, I desperately wanted water. At that moment I thought that I would be going back in a stretcher. I prayed as hard as I could. Thankfully the dizziness lasted for a whole of five minutes, but that five minute was agonising. It isn’t quite possible to stay there beyond 40 minutes. Every second of being there was worth the dizziness. There’s no word in the English Dictionary that can ever do justice to its beauty.
The destination for day 2- Lachung. It is located in the North Sikkim district near the border with Tibet. Lachung is at an elevation of about 9,600 feet and at the confluence of the lachen and lachung rivers, both tributaries of the River Teesta. The next day we were to go to Yumthang Valley from Lachung. The weather, not good, it was pouring cats and dogs and the visibility was almost zero. I was upset that I couldn’t really see the valley.
From there on we went up to Zero Point. It is the last outpost of civilisation. The road ends here. Peaceful valley and is quite windy – there was not much to hear but just stay there for some time to enjoy the beauty. With the majestic mountains and ice around – it was like being the only people in the world. Calm, quiet and a sense of insignificance – time seems to stand still here…. like nothing ever changes. To our luck we even experienced snowfall. There was nothing more left to ask from this trip.(Experience it through the pictures and videos below)
As we came down to the valley again, the visibility improved. I was enthralled by the beauty of the valley. All I could think was, can I just settle down here so as to wake up every morning and experience this every day for the rest of my life. That ended my three day trip to North Sikkim.
These three days has taken my love for mountains to another level altogether. It made me realise that I am the happiest when I am surrounded with mountains and where there’s no phone connection and we talk to real people for once. There’s nothing more to say or do than to just feel proud that I belong to a paradise called – SIKKIM.
P.S- The ride to North Sikkim is a BUMPY one. The phone network isn’t very strong out there, the only connection you find there is actual HUMAN CONNECTION.