Getting up at 3:30 in the morning at cold temperature is not fun. Body and mind asks to get into the comfort of the blanket and bed. But the pull of Gurudongmar lake overcomes the luxury of bed and we slowly get ready to start our journey. With layers of clothing, we hope to ward off the cold in those high altitude areas.
We had reached Lachen on the previous day. It was a long journey that had taken 6 hours. Lachen is 120 km from Gangtok but the road conditions make the journey longer. We had finished our dinner at 7 PM in the friendly guest house kitchen hosted by Tibetan family. Well, there was nothing much to do in Lachen after sunset.
We start at 4 in the morning. It was still dark and all we see is few meters of road in the front by the lights of the car. Gurudongmar lake is about 67 km from Lachen. According to out driver Sonam, it should take about 3-4 hours to reach the lake from Lachen.
There was nothing much to do apart from watching the vehicle moving in the dark. Somewhere up in the hill, we could see the lights of the vehicles moving up. “They started at 3 AM”, Sonam told. Sonam was in aggressive mood that day as he overtook many vehicles. The journey was still slow as the road was bad.
At the break of the dawn, we reached a small village of Thangu. We had already gained significant altitude by climbing series of hairpin curves. Army camps were present all along the way thanks to the proximity of Tibetan border. With sunlight coming in, the surroundings became clear. It was time to appreciate the beauty of Himalayas.
|First rays of the sun|
After about 3 hours of journey, we reached the last army check post. According to me, we still had about 15-20 km to cover. But Sonam mentioned that it would take about “20-25 minutes” to reach the lake. That was strange.
|Smooth roads and the snow mountains|
The reason was known shorty later. The road roads gave way to the newly constructed asphalted road. Sonam just pressed the gas and the car touched 100km/hour!! We were now in high altitude plains with scenery similar to Ladakh. The last few km of journey was just amazing with great roads, beautiful scenery and clear weather.
The Tibetan border was very near as we could see the army bunkers on top of the hills. Soon we deviated from the asphalted road to climb a small hill. In couple of minutes we were in front of Gurudongmar lake.
|The clear waters of Gurudongmar lake|
Words cannot describe the beauty of the lake. It was so serene, peaceful and clear. Most of the lake was still frozen as the summer had just begun. Since we were one of the first people to reach the lake, we had the luxury of “exclusive rights” over the area for some time. My daughter walked on the frozen lake with great energy. The altitude of 17,000 feet was having effects on her but for time being she seemed to enjoy the place.
The lake has religious significance for Buddhists and Sikhs as it is linked to Guru Padmasambhava and Guru Nanak. More information can be found here.
If there is one place in Sikkim that should not be missed, it is Gurudongmar lake.
It is ideal to start early from Lachen as it takes 3-4 hours one way to reach the lake. Also, weather in general would be clear in the morning and deteriorates during the day. So, normally people come back to Lachen by noon and then proceed to Lachung. There is no option to stay at the lake. Food (Noddles and Momos) are available at Thangu village which is midway between Lachen and Lake.