Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sikkim Trip : Changu(Tsomgo) Lake and Baba Harbhajan Singh Mandir

It was our second day in Sikkim and I was excited to see the snow. When the tour manager had come the night before to brief about the program next day, first thing asked him was whether we can witness the snow. Though he did not answer the question in the affirmative, he did hint that we may get to see some snow. How could he answer correctly, if he had not gone with the tourists. Yes, tour operators will not accompany you during the sight seeing citing extreme cold. So, the arrangement is between you and your driver for stops for having food or taking photos!

Delay in proceedings : We were asked to be ready by 8 30 am to begin our sight seeing for the day covering East Sikkim. Though the tour manager was at the reception by that time, we had to wait for our driver. We had booked our tour package through a portal. According to the driver, who came at around 9 15 a m, travel company outsources the local sight seeing. Local travel agency allocates the trip in the morning, each day. So, that gets the trip delayed. But there was one more thing, which delayed our trip further. Soon after we left from the hotel, the driver stopped the vehicle right after the town. Permits! They were yet to arrive. As we were heading close to the international borders, inner line permits were a must.
Changu(Tsomgo) Lake, East Sikkim
Changu(Tsomgo) Lake, East Sikkim
Changu/Tsomgo Lake and Playing with the snow : As soon as we got the permits, we left for Changu lake. As we moved, I could notice the roads, which were being repaired due to landslides. I was very surprised to see mostly women at work! I could also notice the rocky mountains smeared with snow. As we went up higher, snow on the mountains became denser and occupied a wider area. We then stopped briefly for some quick instant noodles. This was also the place, where we could buy warm clothes and gum boots, which the driver insisted to take on rent to play in the snow. We moved on and reached Changu lake but the driver told that we would not get down there. Why? Because we would go to the Baba Harbhajan Singh Mandir first and while on our way back, we could spend time at the lake. Moving ahead, negotiating curvy uphill roads, we reached a high point, which was full of snow, except for the roads.
Snow Covered Lands, East Sikkim
Snow Covered Lands, East Sikkim
From this point, we could see the Changu lake as well as the serpentine uphill road, we came through. It was an exotic scene. I got down from our vehicle for my first encounter with the snow. As I held the snow in my gloves, I could see a cluster of white crystals with the size of sugar crystals! Four of us, the visitors got excited and started playing throwing snow at each other. The driver, who was used to these things, asked if we wanted him to take photographs of us. When we said yes, he enthusiastically clicked few snaps.
Serpentine Paths, East Sikkim
Serpentine Paths, East Sikkim
Baba Harbhajan Singh Mandir : As we moved along, I could see few human settlements. Also, I felt the far away mountains so near! But it could take more than half an hour reach the point you might have guessed to reach in say ten minutes. Also, I could see lakes, which were not tourist attractions but nevertheless beautiful in their own right. At some point, I could see grass lands, where Yaks were grazing. Another fantastic sight was the contours formed by adjacent mountains! Awestruck and mesmerized by nature’s creation, I kept taking numerous photographs in the hope of getting that elusive best shot!
Contours of Mountains, East Sikkim
Contours of Mountains, East Sikkim
As we were nearing the Mandir, I saw a diversion on the left, which lead to the famous Nathu La pass, which connects Tibet. Indian flag was flying high at an altitude of 13,000 feet, when we reached Baba Harbhajan Singh Mandir. Built in memory of the late Indian soldier, Major Harbhajan Singh, who has been accorded Saint status here, the temple stands testimony to his valour. What caught my attention, when I entered the premises guarded by army men was the board, which had the pledge taken by every Indian soldier. Then, I was curious about the rack of plastic water bottles in the shrine, where Major Harbhajan Singh is worshipped. It is said that people who offer and keep the water bottle and collect it after a few days, get their wishes fulfilled, once they drink the holy water. Apart from the temple, souvenir shops were lined up for the visitors to carry the memories of exquisite land!
Water bottles kept in Baba Harbhajan Singh Mandir, Sikkim
Water bottles kept in Baba Harbhajan Singh Mandir, Sikkim
Back to Changu Lake : Our driver had instructed us to be back early. His point was to reach back to Gangtok early to avoid unpleasant weather, if any in the afternoon. I did not take his advice that seriously, until I witnessed the unpredictable mountain weather some time later. We spent more than half an hour near the shrine and headed back. As we proceeded, we could hear noises of objects hitting windshield and top of the vehicle. Hail storms! I could now realize the importance leaving the high altitudes early! After a while, we stopped at the same place, where we had played with snow. After a few minutes, we left the place to spend time at Changu Lake again.
Misty Changu Lake, East Sikkim
Misty Changu Lake, East Sikkim
When we reached the place, weather was clear. People with Yaks asked us to take photos sitting on Yak for Rs.50 or to take a ride on it for Rs.500. I was a bit hesitant to sit upon the animal, which looked scary to me. But the caretaker of Yak assured that it will do no harm. In the meanwhile, surroundings were getting foggy! In a matter of few minutes, visibility reduced drastically. By the time, I made my mind to climb the Yak, it was too misty to take a good photograph. Nevertheless, I posed for the rare photo! We roamed around a bit after that. At that time, I could observe a board saying ‘Do not walk on the frozen lake’. In winters, the lake completely gets frozen.
Yaks at Changu Lake, East Sikkim
Yaks at Changu Lake, East Sikkim
After that, we were back at the place, where we had rented the winter clothes and returned the items, we took on rent. The shop which rents winter wear had got a small eartery too. As it was time to have our lunch, we had the northeast delicacy – momo’s with spicy sauce and noodles(not the instant one)! As we descended further, I asked the driver to stop at a particular place which had a good view of coniferous trees. As I was taking photos, one of the house owners nearby called me. He told that I can take better photos from his terrace and invited me there. For a shutter bug like me, it was a happy moment! Needless to say, it was a great scenic view from the terrace!
Coniferous Trees, East Sikkim
Coniferous Trees, East Sikkim
Fast Changing Mountain Weather, East Sikkim
Fast Changing Mountain Weather, East Sikkim

4 comments:

  1. Looks like very scenic places... Nice photos too... This is becoming a very good travel guide for Sikkim trip...

    You have gone past 13k+ ft in height. Didn't you get AMS?

    Btw, did you have to pay for the guy who allowed you to take snaps at his terrace?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Manju... I didn't feel acute mountain sickness here but in North Sikkim, which I will explain in my upcoming post, Also, I dint pay anything for the man who allowed me to take photos from his terrace

      Delete
  2. So peaceful to travel in the mountains right?
    https://travelsoiled.wordpress.com/
    http://cutesmilealways.blogspot.in/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it is peaceful, if you respect mountain weather :)

      Delete

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