It was in the year 2014 and I still had not decided where to go along with my family for Puja vacations. “Gurudongmar” my colleague whispered in my year, “have you been there?” he asked. Honestly, I had been thinking about it for quite some time but the thought of climbing up to an altitude of 17,800 feet gave me cold feet knowing that during my Nathula Pass trip which was at around 14,000 feet I had acute altitude sickness. After a lot of convincing I finally booked a trip to North Sikkim covering Lachen –> Gurudongmar Lake –> Lachung –> Zero Point.
Going to these places would mean lots of permits and the best way is to go through a travel agent, I managed to track down a good one for whom I had heard a lot of praises from other friends who had availed his services. His office was quite near to my office thus during a lunch break managed to pay him a short visit.
The bookings were done and it was a complete package the kind that I was looking for. The package would include a Mahindra Maxx Jeep on exclusive basis taking me to all the spots and also include hotel and food. Additionally, he also booked the hotel in Gangtok as that would be our base while going and returning.
The day finally came for our departure from Kolkata and my anticipation was really high so was my worry about altitude sickness. With advice from my colleague, I had taken Coca (Homeopathic) medicine which is supposed to help with altitude sickness but still the scare made me nervous sometimes.
From Kolkata, we took a flight to Bagdogra and from there booked a car to Gangtok. As usual, SpiceJet was heavily delayed and instead of reaching by noon we reached Bagdogra at around 4 PM. This delay critically delayed our arrival at Gangtok and by the time we reached Gangtok it was around 9 PM. After a quick dinner, we went off to sleep as our long journey was supposed to start the next day.
Next morning after a quick round of breakfast we left our hotel and took a local taxi to a taxi stand from where all vehicles bound for Lachen and Lachung depart. It took just ten minutes and we were there at the taxi stand. The local travel agent met with us and handed us the permits and took the rest of the payment in full and gave us the telephone number of the driver who would take us next.
In the next ten minutes, our driver finally arrives with his Jeep we finally load our luggage in the back and set on for our first destination of Lachen. I could see other vehicles bound for Lachen loading up and those were all shared ones. Up to ten passengers plus drivers were stuffed per vehicle and viewing that I thanked my stars that I had over my head to book an exclusive vehicle.
The driver of our car was very friendly and often gave breaks so the journey seemed very comfortable. We had a brief stop at Butterfly Waterfalls. This was more sort of refreshing break and the best thing is that this place has clean toilets. Considering the next stop would be for lunch this was much needed.
The waters of Teesta are green in this stretch almost transparent and looks lovely with the blue sky up above. Our jeep cruises around Teesta towards Tingchim.
For lunch we stopped at Tingchim, this lunch was a part of our package and we were provided rice, lentil, mixed vegetables and chicken curry. The taste was not that good but considering the place that we were it was a real luxury. There is some major dam construction going up ahead thus there is a steady flow of truckers who stop by this place for food.
This part of the world sees many landslides and we saw many portions of the road completely damaged. Luckily the BRO (Border Road Organization) constantly repairs any damaged stretch and they also help in managing the traffic in these junctions.
Next, we stopped for a break at Naga Waterfalls, these small breaks are important as its gives much need break for your back and with a toddler daughter, these become a mandatory.
At Toong Check Post all our travel documents were checked and registered in their log book these are important since we are actually travelling near international border areas.
By the time we reached Lachen village it was evening and the temperature was also touching the zero figure. The sun feels super-hot in this altitude but in shades, you start to feel the chill instantly. Since our package included hotel and food thus we were directly taken to our hotel and assigned rooms. It was comfortable and luckily it was on the ground floor so we did not have to climb the stairs.
Lachen is a mountain village and its picturesque to the power of infinity, it’s a small village with tourism as its main business. The village is dotted with hotels all around and small shops selling biscuits and warm clothes like gloves and caps. Please note that the options in the shops out here is very limited and don’t expect exotic stuff. Most of the villages out here are self-sufficient thus what you have for lunch and dinner are mostly from the village itself. We wanted to buy some butter to feed our daughter some buttered rice but the butter that we got was pure yak milk butter which is a bit smelly.
After unpacking I went for a short walk around the village, due to the high altitude a short walk can also be quite tiring but it’s important that you stretch yourself a bit to acclimatise. Don’t run but take short steps and feel the fresh air fill your lungs.
The sun had set beyond the hills and the tiny village of Lachen looked gorgeous with a blue hue and green hills in the backdrop. All the villagers were returning back from their daily wage work and the beautiful hairy mountain dogs were also returning back to their owners. I was so engrossed that I had actually walked quite a lot and finally sat on a pile of wood to sit and think about the day’s journey. All the weeks of planning and finally I was here in Lachen all set for tomorrow’s mammoth journey towards Gurudongmar Lake.
By the time I returned it was dark and the only light that helped me walk back to my hotel were the dimly lit lights of the small village shops. We had an early dinner with roti, egg curry, daal and fried potatoes. We were advised to go to bed early as we planned to start our drive towards Gurudongmar Lake early next morning.
Ending my Lachen blog here will continue this in the next blog about our trip to Gurudongmar Lake, one of the highest lakes in the world at a height where a plane flies.
Destinations covered on this trip:-
Other locations around Sikkim covered in my blog:-
Nathula Pass Day Trip: https://indianvagabond.com/2016/07/19/nathula-pass-day-trip/
Lachen – Lachung Driver: Suraj Lama – 94749 81411
Bagdorgra / New Jalpai Guri to Gangtok Driver: Glorious Minj – 96792 77580
Kolkata tour operator: Endeavour Tours (Mr. S. K. Bhaumik) 98303 06159, 84204 96704
Gangtok tour operator (for Lachen / Lachung local coordination): Mystic Himalayan World Travels 94347 22166
Gangtok Hotel: Hotel Norbu Gang 99330 04494
Approximate Cost: – (as on October 2014)
Bagdogra to Gangtok = Rs. 2,200* (Toyota Innova) * Return will also be the same
Lachen & Lachung Tour Package = Rs. 18,000* (2 nights and 3 days inclusive of food / transportation / lodging) * Rs. 2,500 will be charged additionally for Zero Point or Katao (this needs to be paid directly to the driver)