The Convincing Phase:
“Abey chal na yaar” ,”Abey yahan baith ke dass jaega, chal na be” – Both Priyanshu and Shivam had made it a point that they’d not let me watch the Friends Show peacefully, without convincing me to come along with them. Normally I’d say yes to such plans, but this time I had some pretty important stuff to do during the holidays so was in a dilemma of either leaving all the work and going to the place I wanted to visit since a long time or do my work like a sincere child.
Obviously I chose the former and this post is all about that decision. The decision didn’t come off as smoothly as it looks like, it was more like First a Yes, then a No, then a Yes again a No and finally a Yes. I had made sure that I’d teach both of these guys the art of convincing, and they finally had passed it. Yes, I was on-board.
The Journey Phase:
All four of us met at the Subansiri Bus Stand from where we took the IIT Bus to Guwahati Railway Station. The train was right on time contrary to the normal scenario but since our seats were in the Sleeper Compartment they were already occupied with strangers. Since Shivam was travelling in train for the first time, he felt it really odd that despite of booking the seats someone else was sitting on it. The rest of us were just laughing and enjoying the constant whining and complaining Shivam did. Although the journey overall was a good one, there were little instances when a trans would come by and demand for money. At one such instance, when Mukul tried to ignore the trans, the trans reiterated with a little act of love. I have a slight feeling that he enjoyed it too.
With stations passing by every hour, and little cups of milk less tea we completed the journey in almost no time. Of course to pass the time, we had bought cards from a local shop which had pictures of bikini models on both the sides. I am sure that the manufacturer too had been a mechanical engineer at some point of time. Shivam being a typical Delhi guy didn’t know to play any card game except of course “Poker” .
So finally we reached NJP Station, and thus began a series of constant bargaining with the agents. Given the history of my last interaction with the agent during my trip to Darjeeling, I was very sure that this time we were not falling in the trap again. So despite their sweet words and threatening that no hotels would be available at Gangtok we decided to just take a shared cab till Gangtok. Amidst of all this, since it was the time of Durga Puja, celebrations were on its peak with everyone drinking and one such group of young people went beyond control and started fighting at the local restaurant. I wanted to enjoy that with other local people but Priyanshu didn’t let me.
At about 3 AM after waiting for the other passengers, we finally started our not-so comfortable journey to Gangtok. By the time we reached Gangtok, it was already morning and since we hadn’t booked our hotel, Priyanshu and I started checking hotels.The other two lazy lads were made in-charge of security of our luggage. After going through almost all the hotels we finalised on one- Hotel Ben which was right in our budget.
Two hours after we found ourselves at the Agarwal’s Sweet Shop ordering Jalebis and Chola Bhatura. Little did we know that, this place would become our spot for the next seven days. We decided to take a 11 Point tour of Gangtok City which actually no one was interested to see since all of us were pretty tired from overnight travel. The only point where we had some fun was at the Waterfall. The water was icy cold and thus refreshing. In that moment, we all could sit there till eternity and enjoy the cold water rushing through our feet. But we decided to carry on to the next point which was a Monastery. The little kids in their traditional monk-like attire were playing football with a woolen ball and it tempted me to play with them. But low on energy, I dropped that idea and instead decided to take a short nap in the monastery. The floor temperature was perfect, with sunlight coming through the windows providing appropriate warmth and a pin drop silence.
After covering all the 11 points we decided to take a proper sleep in our hotel so that we could roam around the MG Road in the night.
After waking up, we paid a visit to The Bakers Cafe where we ordered Caramel Coffee, Mocachino Cold Coffee and Hamburger. I had ordered Caramel Hot Coffee owing to my bad throat and was happy with my decision. Mukul also made us buy a Garlic Bread which according to him was edible but later we found out that it had to be prepared before put to use.
For further journey to Lachen and Lachung, the hunt for agents and the appropriate plan began. Again after a lot of search and negotiation, we finalised on one and there only met one of the couples who would be accompanying us.
After finalizing on the agent, we took a dinner at Parivar Restaurant which although filled our tummies but our wallets surely felt lighter. After roaming for a few hours on the MG Road, we decided to call it a day and went back to our Hotel.
The next morning we woke up early packed our bags for our journey ahead after taking breakfast at The Agarwal’s – Yes Jalebi again ! There at the taxi stand we met the other group who were also supposed to be in our cab. So finally our cab structure looked like this: A Couple (Just Married, I guess), Four to-be Engineers (Us) , three to-be doctors and an avid trekker/solo traveler. I was a little hesitant to pay the full amount to the agent before the journey and thus there we wasted a little time. Plus the solo traveler wanted to sit in the middle and we were also determined to not give up our seats. Finally we won with some help from the doctors.
The one day long journey finally ended and we reached our hotel in Lachen. The room was pretty big for four people and probably the best in all the other hotels I checked. The hosts were also awesome and treated with all the love and affection. To get a taste of the local beverage, we started to look for bars and restaurants. Fortunately, we found a restaurant cum bar offering the local drink- Thumba/ Tongba -Hot Millet Beer. It was prepared by putting fermented millet in the traditional container and pouring boiled water from above. A fine bamboo straw is inserted into the container to suck out the warm water and alcohol from the millet grains. More hot water is added as the tongba becomes dry, and the process is repeated until the alcohol is exhausted.
After having the thumba, we headed back to our hotel for dinner. The dinner although being simple was tasty. We also had the Sikkimese Bamboo Pickle as suggested by Subrata (The solo traveller) but it was awful. Earlier he only had suggested to try Thumba so we kind of banked on him and tasted it.
The temperature was low and it was raining outside so it was an appropriate time to have hot noodles while playing the card game which sort of had become a ritual that time.
In the night, the temperature had actually dipped to almost zero or atleast it felt like zero to me. Actually Priyanshu aka blanket roller had rolled all the blanket on his side and wrapped himself up leaving me with nothing to cover on. Later when the temperature and chilly winds became intolerable, I had to wake up in the night to wear my jackets and socks for a peaceful sleep.
Next day we started early morning with a cup of tea to visit Gurudongmar Lake. At around 7-8 AM, snowfall started and we stopped to have our breakfast – Bread, Jam and Tea. As all four of us were experiencing the snow for the first time, we decided to cut short our breakfast time and enjoy the snowfall.
After a while, we sat in our rather uncomfortable seats again for the further journey upward. The view on the way was breathtaking and the air fresh and cold, no amount of words can express that feeling. The whole journey upto gurudongmar lake still resonates in my mind.
Unfortunately our car broke down just about 500m before the lake. We all got out of the car only to realise that the oxygen level was too low and that everyone was filling dizzy. The only lady in the car started vomitting and his husband decided not to continue the journey further. Since our car also was not with us during the moment, we were in a dilemma as to what to do. Meanwhile, one of our man too -Priyanshu fainted. Luckily we had three doctors with us who helped and guided us to get the situation in control.
Finally after a little while, we decided that the doctors be sent to see the lake as they were very keen to visit it and we would stay till some other car came to pick us up. All the cars that were going were already full so we again changed the plan. I, shivam and
Mukul decided to trek our way to the lake while the couple and Priyanshu would wait for us till we came back. It was not even 5 minutes since we started the trek, I also started feeling dizzy and thus lied on the grass with my legs up so that there was enough blood circulation in my brain. Seeing me do weird things at such height, a car stopped by and offered – Popcorn and water. Those popcorn had some magical powers which gave all of us the energy to continue the trek. But as soon as we started the trek, we saw our car coming from the back and in no time, we boarded it. So finally after a lot of ups and downs, all 10 of us were there at the Lake and believe me all the pain was worth it.
We could be there only for about 10 minutes due to lack of oxygen and thus started our ride back down to the base-Lachen. The return journey was a smooth one with everybody falling asleep in no time.
After reaching our hotel, we took our lunch and then again started our journey to Lachung. We reached there at about 7 PM and checked in at the hotel. Lachung was way smaller than Lachen in terms of size. We again went looking for drinks to warm our bellies and found a restaurant nearby. There we ordered the local beer- Hit and Dansberg. Both were mild but had a unique taste which sort of went well with the food there. I also tasted the Yak Meat for the first time and it was amazing. Since I am a vegetarian and taste non-veg just for the sake of experience, we made a Kurkure Salad (A mix of kurkure, onion, chilly and Chaat Masala). It turned out to be very good and hopefully we gave that small restaurant a new dish for their customers.
After playing a few round of card games we decided to call it a day and went to sleep. Next morning we woke up early to visit the Yumthang Valley and Zero Point. Both were a disappointment as there was no snow which was the primary motive of going there. We actually took boots and jackets for rent hoping that there would be ice on zero point.
This disappointment faded away as soon as we stepped out of our car when a cold dry wind touched our faces. After clicking a lot of pictures, thanks to Junaid and Anvin Bhaiya (the to-be doctors), we decided to have brandy shots which went through our foodpipe like honey and gave a warm sensation to our belly. The “Hot Chana Chole” prepared by the beautiful lady tasted awesome and with that we finished our last point too. During the evening we traveled and finally reached back to Gangtok.
Now since we hadn’t booked the hotels, the search for hotels began again. I and Priyanshu went looking for hotels on one side and the doctors on other side. As destiny may have it, we found a very good hotel with a reasonable price but the other guys had already booked one. So we had to leave that hotel and stay at a dingy place. Nevertheless we were tired and thus went to sleep in no time.
We still had a day left to explore sikkim but we decided to stay and relax in gangtok as everyone was tired of travelling. So we went back to that hotel again and booked a room. A warm water bath was what everyone needed. After that we played cards till we again felt a need to fill our stomach. After a lot of dicussion, we decided to go to Parivar but a few pretty girls made us change our mind and we went to Dominoes.
Next day I was told that I had missed a rather exciting episode of Crime Patrol which I
still regret. Since it was our last day in Gangtok and our wallets had still some cash left, we decided to pay a visit to all the restaurants and cafe we had gone before to. It started with having Chole Bhatura and Jalebi at The Agarwals, then to Baker’s Cafe as Priyanshu wanted to drink Irish Coffee and it ended with Paneer Paranthas at The Parivar.
Afterwards we checked out of our hotel, hired a cab to NJP for catching our train back to college. The train was running late and we decided to play cards at the station. Just as we were becoming comfortable with the fact that we were playing cards sitting on the floor of a railway station, the train came and we boarded it.
Again, there was someone else on our seats and they seemed like the people with whom you wouldn’t like to mess with so we settled in a nearby compartment. What followed was a whole night of playing cards with me and Priyanshu defeating Shivam and Mukul’s team for the Nth time.
Finally to complete the journey, the trans came again asking for money and we decided to give them money as we all were pretty exhausted to mess with them plus we all remembered their stint with Mukul.
It looked like the IITG Bus was waiting to take us back to our lovely college and thus was already there at the Bus Stop. In no time, we reached our college back and decided to head back to our hostels.
Well, as I write this post I revisit all the memories, that of Gurudongmar lake, the snowfall, playing card, the Agarwal’s and I not even for once regret the decision I made before starting the journey.
Thanks Priyanshu and Shivam for constant persuasion and not giving it up on me!
We followed the following Itinerary for your reference-
Day 1- Guwahati to NJP to Gangtok
Day2- Local Sightseeing in Gangtok
Day3- Gantok to Lachen
Day-4 Visit to Guru Dongmar Lake. Then Lachen to Lachung
Day-5 Visit to Yumthang Valley and Zero Point. Then back to Gangtok
Day-6 Whole day Rest in Gangtok
Day-7 Gangtok to NJP to Guwahati