Some journeys change the way you look at the world. And then there are some journeys which change the way you look at yourself. It was one such journey. It was the twilight of November 11, 2014. A day, I would not forget in the years to come. Shekhar bhaiyya, our driver, reluctantly asked us to hurry up after sipping one hot cup of chai. Yes, he was reluctant because it was 3 AM and it was the most strenuous drive of our trip. He obviously did not want to drive on that road. Oh! Well, there were no roads! It was just one broken, shoddy and tedious mountain climb on 4 wheels.
The magical drive in the twilight
We hurriedly gulped down the hot tea that soothed my sore throat in those freezing temperatures. Our woolens were on and I had worn 5 sweatshirts with two jackets! I was still freezing. Realizing that it the drive would mean bouts of throwing up, I chose to sit next to the driving seat with Shekhar bhaiyya. Srinistuff and our newly made friends on the trip- Raj and Chitra sat in the middle seat. Off we left! It was pitch dark and all we could see was the moonlit snow clad peaks. There was something beautifully scary about ascending those snow peaks. With the bumps and curvy turns, I assured myself. The only good news, if I die during this drive would be that, I would literally die in the lap of Himalaya! It was so scary!
First kiss of love- the sun rays with its first rays on the mountains
Soon as we drove an hour into miles of darkness, the sky slowly started lighting up. Quickly in a span of half an hour, the silverscapes that surrounded us turned half gold and half silver. The white silver coloured peaks now turned golden, as the sun kissed them. The first kiss of the morning set the peaks ablaze and the romance started blossoming as the first rays of sun came down caressing the peaks. Before we realized we were at an altitude of 12,000 feet for a quick stop at the Gurudongmar Cafe. Soon, Shekhar bhaiyya urged to us to wrap up with some hot maggi and tea! And “please take some popcorn”, he shouted. Surprisingly, the Himalayan lover @srinistuff began to feel the cold bite in his feet and for the first ever time he agreed with me “Let me buy some socks! It’s too cold.”
You just can’t stop clicking pictures of this snow white! 😉
Notice the colour of my hands? It turned white! 😀
After taking a few photogenic shots of the beautiful valley and some picturesque sunrise memories, we again resumed our journey onwards. By this time, I had started to feel the chill in the air and was praying voraciously that the sun beats the clouds at this hide and seek and would show some mercy on us! One quick tip here: “In cold, do not think about warm sun. Ever! It makes you feel colder. :-|”
As we continued, streams of Teesta rose at various levels. There were army trucks, green bunkers, army camps. At few places, soldiers were up running for their morning dose of exercise. Various posters and boards of army signs, battalion names were put up, along with the warnings of “Photography prohibited” sign ages, at some places. Carpets of barren land and snow capped mountains, far and near, kept on teasing us to click pictures. But the stony and broken mountain way ensured, we kept on missing those “bright postcard” moments and continued with our journey. By now, Shekhar bhaiyya was on a carnage. We were running a little behind schedule and we had to reach Gurudongmar by 9:30. By 10, the army men start asking people to leave because the weather can turn quite awful, with low levels of oxygen giving people serious health scares.
The prayer flags sing “Om mani padme hum” high in the mountains
Meanwhile, I continued to be worried about reading the classic horrible nightmares of people at Gurudongmar Lake due to low levels of Oxygen and freezing minus temperatures. But somehow, the calling and the excitement inside was very strong. It kept me on my toes, nuding Shekhar bhaiyya, several times during the journey asking him if we had arrived! And then the miracle appeared out of nowhere! The heaven on earth revealed itself to us. Without much ado, I will just leave you with the pictures of what we saw. ‘Cause that’s what I did. I fell silent, I fell in love, all over once again.. this time with GURUDONGMAR!
Serenity and calm all over
Posing with the Indian soldiers posted at Gurudongmar. Gurudongmar is the last lake in Sikkim before the border to Tibet occupied China, Bhutan and Nepal.
With a slice of heaven in our hearts and minds forever, we left Gurudongmar, popping packets of popcorn in our mouth hard. Shekhar bhaiyya’s trick to pop popcorn at 17,100 feet saved us from high altitude sickness and dizziness! It is indeed a memory etched one of my favourite travel memories! 🙂