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Name : TOMOSHA BHATTACHARJEE  [On Sep 08, 2012]

State : SK


Article :

I had visited Sikkim twice earlier but I hadn’t gone beyond Pelling. So the major part of Sikkim still remained unexplored .This was my third visit to the fast developing tourist hub .Though my visit was an official one I decided to make a heady cocktail of office work and pleasure trip and enjoyed every moment of it.

What I realized was that one had to go beyond Gangtok to get to know the real Sikkim. Gangtok has little to offer except for NathulaPass and ChanguLake, so I decided to visit Yungtham, a popular and frequently visited tourist spot. The very name ‘valley of flowers’ conjured up an image of a lush green Vale carpeted with small exquisite flowers which made my heart flutter with excitement.

I first made a few preliminary enquiries regarding the road conditions which had been severely damaged by the earthquake which had struck Sikkim in September last year. The feedback I got was that though the road conditions were poor, Lachung was open to tourists. Keeping in mind the old proverb ‘no risk no gain’ I decided to take the plunge. I utilized the resources of a sub staff of our office who made all the necessary arrangements for us including one night’s home stay at Lachung and a vehicle which would take us there. All this for an amount of Rs 3000.

The weather was rather inclement the day we set out and by the time we got our permits ready it was already 10 am. Half way to Mangan it started drizzling steadily. A drive through the mountains in the rains is always an enriching and educative experience. The mountains resplendent in their flora, whether be it the variety of ferns, musk roses, orchids, yellow poppies or the unknown jungle flowers growing in luxurious abundance - the pleasure they give is everlasting.  Though the rain had slowed to a slight drizzle the ominous clouds fore boded the fact that the day belonged to the rain gods.

Mangan is the district headquarters of north Sikkim; it is 67 kms from Gangtok and is rather different from the capital from what it offers by the way of sight ‘and sound. By the time we reached Mangan it was already 2 pm. We grabbed a quick lunch at a road side restaurant---a word of advice to all tourists while in Sikkim stick to a veg  diet, avoid chicken at any cost- coz chicken is served here without being skinned. When we boarded our jeep again it was pouring in sheets. We were lucky to have a cautious driver who did not take any unnecessary risk in the blinding rain.

The next leg of our journey happened to be the most thrilling and adventurous. During my entire visit to the mountains I have never set my eyes upon such breathtaking water falls as I did on my way to Lachung. The rain water added to the force of the water falls which came cascading down the mountains flooding the street and went thundering down the gorge as if showcasing the power and might of nature. Keeping in mind the danger of shooting stones, vehicles crossed the waterfalls one at a time. We passed the first waterfall quite safely. While crossing the second one our driver was extra cautious coz this one looked ferocious and fascinating at the same time. The water roared terrifyingly as it gushed, splashed and whizzed down the boulders drenching the passing vehicles. At a safe distance from the roaring lengths of water we stopped our vehicle to click some photos of the cascading water-when all of a sudden I saw Sonam-our driver (who had gone near the water fall to have a close view of it) running towards us flaying   his hands in the air; what I saw nearly took my breath away, an enormous boulder loosened by the sheer force of the running water was hurtling down at rocketing speed .My jaw nearly fell open at this stunning sight ,the boulder which could have easily crushed a passing vehicle hurtled down the mountain slope into the  deep gorge. That was a close shave indeed. The sight of the shooting boulder haunts me till date. Throughout the rest of our journey we couldn’t stop about crashing boulder and our lucky escape.                               

By the time we reached Chung thung the epicenter of September earth quake it was nearly evening. The road leading to Chungthung has been severely damaged by earthquake and it requires massive investment for quick repair As our driver negotiated the narrow uneven and slushy road we felt faint to look down at the deep gorge on our right The devastating effect of the fury of nature could be seen on the other side of the gorge. Many houses were flattened and the roads badly needed repair. While talking to the locals in Chungtuam I learnt that the government had not done enough for the earthquqke affected Sikkimese which was quite obvious- the roads, the houses, bore testimony to it.                                 

We preferred a home stay rather than a hotel in Lachung. I in particular was happy to have made such a choice because the house where we put up offered an astounding view of the towering snowcapped mountains which surround Lachung.  This small village nestled in the midst of mountains had the most idyllic set up with its cherry trees and a variety of rhododendrons. Everything seemed alive but still. The husband wife pair of the home where we put up made us really feel at home after the long tiring journey. As we sat near the fire place shoving logs into the crackling fire our host recharged us with hot Sikkimese tea.  Sikkimese girls are very hard working and self reliant. I was surprised to learn that the parents usually stayed out on business purpose during peak tourist season leaving the two teenaged to fend for themselves during that period. After enjoying a hearty meal of chapattis chicken dal and cabbage we went off for a good night’s sleep.                                                                     

Early next morning we set off for Yungtham I had longed to see this valley which I heard is carpeted with flowers in April -May. Yuntham for me was a big let down ; not only did we fail to find the beautiful flowers in full bloom we were also not able to reach zero point A fresh spell of snow had blocked the road l Most of the trees drooped . Much to my disappointment I found most of the rhodos layered with snow.

I had expected a colorful vibrant valley but the continuous snowfall dashed my hopes. However I seemed to be the only one disappointed, the other tourists frolicked in the snow with gay abandon they seemed determined to make most of their visit to Lachung. After spending near about an hour at the spot we returned to the village. I reiterate that Lachung is a must for all travelers to Sikkim. The back drop is just perfect for tourists wanting to spend a day or two in a tiny Sikkimese village. There are a couple of hotels situated in hilltops which offer a spectacular view of the sprawling village the LachungRiver the snowcapped peaks And the Gompha. Lachung is mostly inhabited by Lepchas and Tibetians. There seemed to be a strong bonding among the villagers happily going on with their daily chores paying scant attention to the influx of tourists. While leaving Lachung at about eleven in the morning I made up my mind to stay in one of the hilltop hotels on my next visit to Lachung.