By Krishna Prasanth:
There are two types of tourist destinations in this world. There are man-made destinations, places with historical monuments or modern-day marvels. The second type are places with natural marvels, with beautiful hills or sandy beaches. While it is up to the traveller to decide what he/she prefers; why do they prefer whatever they prefer isn’t hard to understand. It’s depends on what one’s mind and heart seeks. Man-made destinations are often sights that create a sense of awe, amusement, excitement or exhilaration.
They produce emotions, emotions that are positive, but emotions are all they create at the end of the day. You are at awe when you see the Taj, you are amused when you are in Disney Land and exhilarated when at the top of the Empire States Building. Meanwhile, places of natural beauty offer a different sense of happiness altogether. This happiness is that of peace, of trance and tranquillity and a state of no emotion. There is nothing artificial about what you are watching, and your subconscious almost connects with the surrounding and you realize deep inside that this is where you belongs. You realize that true life lies on the mountain ridges, in vast valleys, in the sunny beaches and not just in concrete jungles.
North Sikkim can be a great place for a close encounter with nature. The journey from Gangtok, the state capital, to Yumthang, a valley at the height of 11800 ft. via La Chung, makes for a very mesmerizing experience. Right from the beginning of the journey, one gets treated to green valleys with a river flowing ever so gracefully down in the gorge, with the road disappearing at regular intervals under little streams of water flowing down from the top of the hills. As the car makes its way over the water and the gravel along the hilly road, one can’t help feeling like a Discovery channel reporter.
And the hours pass by as the wind gets all the more chilly, the road starts winding up more than ever before, the clouds which were so high a few hours back are right beside you and suddenly you begin to spot a series of mountain tops with snow caps.
La Chung is generally the place where tourists put up in cottages for a night stay before making the final lap of the journey towards Yumthang. This place is no less breath-taking. With little cottages and a monastery adorning the hills, with a river flowing through the middle of this little village, one experiences the peace in life away from the bustling city.
And as the final lap of the journey resumes, one can spot Army camps and soldiers on the way, which are essentially regiments of the ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police). It is these army men who ensure food and water supplies throughout the year for people up in the mountains. Irrespective of the harsh weather conditions, they also work diligently and steadfastly to ensure that transport and communication services are functional throughout the year, including harsh winters. One realizes that modern life up here is perhaps impossible without the assistance of these men in uniforms.
Finally, as Yumthang approaches, one can spot a variety of exotic flowers, flowers of different colours, shapes and sizes and the human eye is treated to a pleasure beyond expression. It is these flowers which make the Yumthang valley famous. And as the valley finally arrives, one is treated to an expansive green pasture with horses grazing, with a river in the middle and mountains on either side. While the scene seems worth the gruelling and yet pleasant journey, one can’t resist making the trip to ‘Zero point’, where the road eventually comes to an end. This place is a few thousand feet further up, and perhaps makes for a more breath-taking experience than Yumthang itself. It, in fact is so high that oxygen level drops below normal level, so much so that it becomes difficult to breathe, let alone walk or run. The sight is beautiful, with snow and the river water at almost freezing temperatures, all of it in mid-summer!
A travelogue on Sikkim without the mention of Momos and Maggi is incomplete. In places as high as these, it’s only these two items which keep you going on the gruellingly long journeys here. Momos are essentially steamed buns with or without stuffing, served with a tomato based sauce. They are made of a simple flour and water dough. The stuffing could be anything, from chicken or mutton, to veggies and paneer. Hot and steamy Momos alongside some spicy Maggi makes for a perfect snack and keeps you hot inside in these cold and chilly places.
And on the return trip, the majestic mountains, the glossy rivers, the green lush pastures and the valleys, all of them retreating will leave you dazed. It isn’t just all of these that are amazing in themselves, but the thought that humans, no matter how ever ingenious and intelligent they are will never ever be able to replicate these wonders of nature is a feeling that makes one appreciate nature and its beauty a lot more .