Pure “Nature” Magic in Northeast India • Tour Travel Hotels
It is said that rivers Rongnuy (Teesta) and Rangeet were in love and wanted to meet in the plains .. clandestinely and in secret. They decided to leave their homes and sink, free and free spirited. But Rongnuy arrived first and Rangeet, deceived by his guide, was late. When he reached the plains, he was furious to see his lover already there. He refused to meet her and stormed off and Teesta had a lot to do to calm down! Lover tiffs, I tell you!
Having said that, today both rivers are as beautiful, spontaneous and pristine as they would have been as young lovers many moons ago. We frolic in their embraces and re-energized our tired limbs and senses, more than once during our road trip – and we had just started!
Nestled in the mountains between India and Tibet, the culture of Sikkim has long been a blend of traditional animist beliefs, Buddhism – which became the dominant religion in the 8th century – and Hindu influences from neighboring Bengal and Nepal. .
Modern Sikkim is a tourism hub and our week-long trip just before India’s second wave of Covid lockdown was a welcome break for many known and mysterious reasons! We visited little-known places and left out towns like Gangtok, Kalimpong, and Pelling for a later period. And it was the best decision ever. The highlight, of course, was the snow in Zuluk – more on that in a while.
Let’s start with Rolep, a pristine hamlet nestled in the meanders of the Rongli River, because it truly is an exotic surprise. It’s vibrant and peaceful at the same time, which is sometimes cloudy with the gurgling of the river, the bark of the friendliest dogs, the cockles of a rooster or the strumming of a distant guitar played by Gurung music lovers, Bhutia, Chettri or the Rai communities who reside here. The trails along the river are immensely beautiful! There is an old suspension bridge, deep forests filled with mountain flowers and ferns, and several opportunities for “pebble throwing” competitions.
A little further from the village are the magnificent 40-foot Buddha waterfalls, quite secluded and mysterious. And private enough for the twins to engage in balance numbers to practice their karate kicks and positions. Roshan Rai, with whom we stayed, is a wonderful host. Her 14 month old daughter is the cutest little thing I’ve seen. Himalayan trout, not being available that day, Roshan fed us farm-fresh broccoli drizzled with mustard sauce and a delicious watercress salad for lunch.
Later that evening, when storm clouds darkened the twilight hours, not only did he serenade us with Sikkimese folk songs on guitar, but the dark rainy evening, brightened only by candle light. shaded, was devoted to talking about philosophy, religion, spiritualism, music, education. systems and its efforts to create sustainable and environmentally friendly tourism. This nestled in a spoonful of a village will be revisited. I’m going to sip a Tongba (a fermented millet daru ‘pahadi’) let off steam on the scent of mountain rains and soothe my eyes once again, enjoying the panoramic view of the Himalayan views. Soon.
The playful rivers are now giving way to more masochistic rugged landscapes, and we are now gaining altitude. I love to witness these changes of habitat and terrain with important markings that testify to what to expect next. As the roads still meandered and had gentle curves, the slopes of the mountains around us started to get stubborn. While the flowers of the mountain still stained the walls, small stumps of wild strawberries appeared next to it. Upturned bush leaves with budding rhododendrons began to appear. In a month, the mountains will turn crimson and beautiful, when wild strawberries and rhododendrons create vertical carpets on the mountain walls. All this, on our way to Rolep – to reach Dzuluk – the gateway to an ancient Silk Road trade route between India and Tibet. At 9,500 feet, Zuluk (or Dzuluk) is an isolated village buried in the majestic hills of the eastern Himalayas.
In the far corner of the Himalayas, renowned explorers had discovered the world’s very first information superhighway. This Silk Road has revamped the way people exchange cultural and business ideas. As it began to connect Tibet and India, other cities were also part of it, giving it the label of the world’s largest long-distance trade network. For the productive trade in goods, people began to trade in art and intellectual thought. India is that country where you can experience the quirkiness and unexpected possibilities of the world; this is the place where the roads are both historic and adrenaline pumping. Dip it in….
It’s an old saying that the best workouts in life are those that lead you to an everlasting sensory experience. You experience the same feeling if you are traveling from Zuluk, to higher elevations of the Silk Road. It’s not just an unreal race through the loops with thirty-two hairpin turns that turn out to be quite difficult, it will probably end up as the craziest and hardest race of your life! Zuluk’s roads make your heart beat faster, and how. Our destination was snow. Simple. We didn’t care how long we had to drive. We needed snow.
Vanilla ice cream like snow. And, we found it as soon as we started to reach Gnathang Valley, in Kupup, then approaching Tsongmo Lake, it was like we were in Arendale, with the magic spell “Frozen” of Elsa thrown at us constantly! We passed three beautiful lakes on the way – Kupup (Elephant Lake), half-frozen and immensely scenic Mememchuk Lake, and Tsongmo (Changu) Lake.
Tsongmo / Changu is breathtaking. Driving the cable car through 3 more mountains beyond, was by far the best choice we made – 3ft deep snow, amazing views and so much fun. This is where nature has its own version of a brownie sundae. Imagine ..Hershey’s syrup poured over chocolate chips sometimes or a dark chocolate brown fudge cake, then scoops and a dollop of Baskin Robbins vanilla ice cream in between. It was probably the closest I could have ever reached to Zen. In 2019, when I reached Annapurna Base Camp, I felt similar. Zen. But to that was added the euphoria and jubilation of accomplishment, for there was this singular effort of physique and mental resilience put to the test.
Disclaimer: If you take a road trip to Sikkim you might be well rested and mentally fresh, but the roads of Sikkim really have the last laugh – some stretches were a real nightmare. Gravel roads, potholes, soft ground – there is nothing you will not encounter on some routes when traveling through Himalayan terrain, even if you are in a jeep. But like any other trip, you come home with stories, experiences, and a lifetime of memories that would otherwise be impossible to create.