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When all trees have been cut down, when all animals have been hunted, when all waters are polluted, when all air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money. - Cree Prophecy

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lachen / Lachung

Two quaint places in two parallel valleys in North Sikkim with rivers of respective name traversing the valleys. These two rivers meet at Chumthang to become the lovely Teesta river. Lachen chu (chu is sikkimese for river) begins at the Gurudogmar lake and seems wider and more cheerful than the Lachung chu.

Of the valleys, the area around Lachung is so varied and beautiful.Lachung valley is a straight cut paste from swiss. We found lots of similarities – scattered houses, neat small roads, imposing moutains on all sides, 24x7 noise of the river, courteous n friendly locals.. The whole valley was very impressive. We were told the whole valley is soaked in snow in winter (so next visit shud be in march/april). No mobile phones work there, so ideal for holidays:-0..One can forget all else and stay for how ever long here! W said if she were a nomad and roaming to find a place to settle, she wud for sure choose this place to settle! I seconded that! (rare concurrence that)

We were lucky to see the fall colours, unlucky to see vast stretches of Rhododendron shrubs with not a single sample flower in sight. April is bloom time for the Rhododendron, and there are 24 varieties in 7 different colours apparently. Climbing through the winding roads of the Rhododendron sanctuary, we reach the beautiful Yumthang valley. The river bed of the Lachung chu has thousands of red coloured rocks which in the mid morning light looked glorious and almost ethereal. The red colour is from algae our well informed driver told us. He drove us further north, up beyond the tree line, past cleverly camouflaged army bunkers, to a place aptly called Zero point. This zero point comes next only to the 'once in a lifetime experience' like the walk I had on Glacier 3000 in CH! The "Hindustan road" to quote our driver ended right there. Further north was Tibet and some Himalayan peaks in their snow covered glory. The gurgling of a snowmelt stream that went on to become the Lachung chu and the whistling of the wind were the only sounds. This was kind of similar to the cold desert leading to Gurudogmar lake and kind of different. We traced back our path barely an hour later, but the Yumthang valley was now shrouded in fog and looked completely different and more ethereal. Dakbang another secluded place with dense pine trees by the Lachung chu was out of the world. An army truck headed straight into the woods unmindful of the fact that our flimsy vehicle was bouncing along on a semi paved road!!
As we were proceeding towards our hotel we gave lift to an army man, who apparently was the only survivor from a trekking team in that avalanche of 2005! he had more stories to tell and typical of all fields sighed about how mountaineering too has changed with time and how there is no 'season' these days, etc..u never know how interesting each turn in north sikkim can be!
The manager (santosh) of the hotel we stayed (Fortuna at lachung)was a very interesting person and who wud take us in to the woods for an interesting walk or to the secluded river side to experience the silence amidst just the river noise or for a sooper drive to off beat peaks..
No end to fun at lachung!

Lachen is just a small village but at 10000 feet is brought to life only by the tourists who stop the nights before hitting Gurudongmar next day.Its quite chilly with rustic comforts and simple food but tons of hospitality helps one overcome any other shortcoming.

for photos go here
Rating – Great
Will I go again- yes! Again and again…dont besurprised even if i settle there:-)
Best time to visit – Oct / Nov. and i u want snow- april/may and for the flowers - may-july..

Note: though brevity is not my cuppa, I refrain from writing more on the mess created by our travel agent like screw up in schedule, hotel etc at a couple of places..inspite of him and his mess we enjoyed, that’s the point

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