Sunday, June 9, 2013

‘Y’ for YAK! Elsie Gabriel

‘Y’ for YAK!

Elsie Gabriel
After an overnight train drive from Kolkatta to Jalpaiguri, we eventually leave behind the  West Bengal flat preamble in the east. We drive down by car, the hills leading out from New Jalpai Guri to Sikkim abruptly change into two beautiful but distinct landscapes, rounded  mountains  thick in evergreens  and some sharp mean mountains ribbed with rocks. A tangle of winding mountain roads lead towards the extreme North East of India, lower Himalayan ranges  and away from the base.
Oh, to just drink in the pure air of the mountains, perfumed with the breath
of pines and mountain ferns, and a thousand aromatic shrubs and plants that render every hillside ever green from base to summit, is being truly a blessed traveler.
I could feel myself laying aside the bondages of social conditions, and getting back to nature, pure and unadorned, except with nature's charms and graces.
The road is a narrow zigzag, making an ascent of 4000 feet in a distance of three to four hours depending on traffic around the mountain roads. It starts with the North Bengal forests and then onwards to the road alongside the mighty aqua marine coloured Teesta River. Primula flowers and other alpine plantations are a special feature of the beautiful vegetation leading  closer up  to the top ,to  this magnificent Changu lake in Sikim.
Be warned of the narrow turns which are so short that a long car like the Innova is compelled to back up to negotiate with other vehicles.. When the top is finally reached, the view of the surrounding country is simply beyond description.
Changu Lake known as the ' source of the lake' in Bhutia language is located around 35 kms away from Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Steeped in holiness, the Tsomgo lake or more popularly known as Changu lake is a popular tourist destination,if you ever visit the North East of India. Nestled on Gangtok Nathu La highway, the lake towers to an altitude of 14,400 ft. Numerous devotees come here to worship the lake. The beautiful towering jaggered mountain terrains surrounding the peaceful lake add more charm to this massive water body. Placid water, cool breeze and picturesque location make it an ideal picnic spot for people.
Thousands of tourists flock here to experience the peace and tranquility. The lake is held in high esteem by both the Hindus and the Buddhists. Kyonqnosia, Kyonqnosla Alpine Sanctuary, Tseten Tashi cave, Nathula pass, river Lungtze Chu and a little Shiva temple are some of the other added attractions close by the lake which may want to visit.
Enjoy watching or even riding the Yak around the lake, fury mountain buffalow like animal which is a big attraction with kids and adults alike. Seeing the Yak for the first time brought back childhood memories of ' Y' for Yak! It is a gorgeous fury creature which lives only in regions which have temperatures below ten degrees.
There is a beautiful temple near the lake . It is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The melting snow from the mountains surrounding the lake is the source of water for this lake. Tsomgo Lake gives birth to a river called Lungtze Chu which meets the river Rangpo-chu further down its way. It is said that Lamas used to make predictions about their future by studying the colour of the lake. The dark colour of the river used to indicate problems in future while light colour reflected peace and happiness. But fortune favoured me on this trip to the Eastern Himalays and I was gifted with this wonderful rainbow just above the lake which was mesmerizing!
Being located in the restricted area of the Indo China border, the Tsomgo Lake can be visited only by obtaining Inner Line Permit from the Police through the Tourism Department,your taxi driver or travel agent. The best time to visit the lake is from March-May and October- December.
Some of the other major attractions of Sikkim are Orchid Sanctuary, Yumthang Valley, Pemayangste Monastery, Rumtek Monastery, Pelling, Khecheopari lake, Yuksom, Namchi, Tashding, Dudbi Monastery and the adventure sports, waiting for you to explore every aspect of Sikkim.
Gangtok city is a perfect example of synchronization between traditions and modernity. The discotheques, fast food outlets, posh markets and other modern amenities gel so well along with some of the important Buddhist religious sites.It is heady mixture alright, and sometimes you wonder if you are in India or else where at this heavenly adobe.
Your Changu lake trip can not be complete without eating 'Maggie' or noodle soups on your way downhill, from all those stalls lined up by Bhutanese people. Ofcourse snowfall greeted us to a wonderful surprise on our descent downhill and I couldn't resist having a snow ball fight with my children, husband in tow, making life time ‘mountain’ memories forever.