Part VIII in a series on Sikkim
If you’ve been following my Sikkim journey, you’ve already traveled from Gangtok to Gurudongmar Lake to Yumthang Valley and back with me. Now join me on Day 5 as we once again set off in the mountains to see another elevated water body, Tsomgo Lake.
We wake up refreshed from a long night’s sleep, but ensure we have a light breakfast all the same, since we have a 3 hour drive ahead of us. We are hoping to return in 6-7 hours in time for lunch and to spend some leisure time at MG Road, trying local food and picking up a few souvenirs.
8:45am: Sanjay, our driver for today, has come in a fancy new Xylo, which looks like a lounge after the basic Sumo we have spent the last three days in! This time, for safe measure though, I take up the seat in the front beside the driver, since it tends to be more comfortable than sitting at the back. The road to Tsomgo and Nathula is broad and well made in most parts, except for a few patches in between. Sanjay is a young boy from Gangtok; he won’t be older than 25. He says he has been driving for 3 years now. The Xylo is his wife’s car (his wife being from Lachung).
The day we have chosen to visit these places is not the best, since it’s a very misty day. But since we’re traveling to Darjeeling tomorrow, this is our last possible day to visit the area. As we ascend, the fog only thickens, and at times, the visibility is only a few meters. At some parts, we wonder how Sanjay is driving since we can’t see a thing! He assures us that he has done the route over a 100 times and is very familiar with the curves and bends. Despite the poor weather, 107 cars have gone up ahead of us. We learn this when we stop to show our permits and get a slip with 108 written on it.
11am: We arrive at Tsomgo Lake. Sanjay parks and points to a set of stairs that goes through a mini-market area up to the lake. This place is very commercialized and we find ourselves swamped by people desperately trying to get us to hire snow boots, snow coats and yaks. They assure us that we are under-dressed, our shoes will get drenched and we won’t be able to walk on the snow unless we park ourselves on their yaks! Having been up to Gurudongmar Lake in the same woollens and shoes, we are skeptical about their hard-selling and decide to try to walk-up just the way we are.
The ice does make the stairs slippery, but when we reach up, we know that we are perfectly fine in our jackets and shoes and are glad we didn’t hire any of their stuff unnecessarily. The yaks are dressed in a showy manner, with jewellery loaded on them and even their horns are decorated! Disapproving of the treatment meted out to them, we refuse to be a part of the same and don’t opt for a yak-ride.
As we walk towards the lake, we realize that the fog has let us down completely. We are standing at the edge of the lake and can’t see it!! Some cars are trying to venture up to Baba Mandir, but we have had enough and decide to head back to Gangtok. The trip is wasted since we didn’t get a single view throughout the entire drive, nor could we see the lake.
Tip: If it is misty in Gangtok, no point heading up to Nathula/Tsomgo, because you’ll end up spending your time and money, but wouldn’t sight a thing!
2pm: We arrive at MG Road, only to see the market shut and discover that it is closed on Saturdays. However, some shops selling souvenirs and local dresses as well as restaurants are open. We head to ‘Taste of Tibet’, which had come recommended by Emmanuel and Khum-sum for local food. We walk-in to find a very basic, dhaba kind of a place. Service is average, hygiene is suspect, but prices are moderate. We order some Thukpa and Momos, and in all honesty, don’t really enjoy the meal!
We spend a while on MG Road, picking up small little gifts for friends and family back home. Next on cards, is fixing up a cab to take us to Darjeeling the next day. Someone suggests we try in Pelling Stand, which is just below MG Road. We are quoted Rs 2500 for a Wagon-R or Alto (petrol) and Rs 2200 for a Sumo (diesel, hence cheaper). We finalize an AC Wagon-R at Rs 2500 and head back to our hotel by 6pm for a last leisurely evening.
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Piyushi Dhir is the author of 'In Search of Love', 'I'm Yours, The Next Time', 'Silent Promises' and 'Enmeshed Evermore'. She is a contributor in 'Nineteen Tales of COVID-19', a collection of short stories. A voracious reader, a keen traveler, a businesswoman and a mom, Piyushi currently resides in Canada. A nomad at heart, she loves to discover new places and capture the hues of life with her pen.