Non seasonal snow on Sikkim’s Silk Route
Sikkim’s Silk Route
Encountering a non seasonal snow
“But from Rongli they climbed steeply out of the tropical forest into the zone of flowering rhododendrons…..To flower lovers, like Howard Bury, Mallory and Wollaston, these were perpetual delight. They were all the more appreciated because they would be almost the last sign of luxuriance and grace they would behold before they to face the austerities and stern realities of rock and ice and snow, and the frosts of Mount Everest.”
Sir Francis Younghusband, The Epic of Mount Everest
Malory and his fellow mountaineers followed the route through Rongli and then across the Jelep La and on wards to Tibet to reach the base of Mount Everest in 1921, 22 and 24
Almost a century later we started off along the same route in the dead of night, but our destination was not Mount Everest but Sikkim’s Silk Route.
The Silk Road or Silk Route was an ancient network of trade routes that were central to cultural interaction through regions of the Asian continent connecting the West and East from China to the Mediterranean Sea. [Source: Wikipedia]
The original silk route connected China with Mediterranean and past north of the Himalayas, but there were several other routes, which connected the Indian subcontinent with the main silk route. One such route passed through North Bengal and East Sikkim and entered Tibet via Nathu La or Jelep La.
In recent years, this area has developed into a major tourist spot, with thousand of tourist thronging the area for spectacular high altitude lakes, amazing views of Kanchenjunga and the feel of the ancient trade route.
But the history of the Silk Route (also known as the Old Silk Route) in East Sikkim, is not restricted to the silk trade only. The high altitude rugged mountains was also the battleground between the Tibetans and the British in 1888.
This was also the route, which Mallory and his fellow mountaineers took, during the Mount Everest expeditions of 1921, 22 and 24.
Rongli & Aritar in East Sikkim and Pedong & Ichegaon in North Bengal and a few more places have become lunch pads for this high altitude tour.
There are a different types of package depending upon the travellers time and budget. Starting from a single day hurricane tour to three day two night leisurely package ending at Gantok.
A 3 day & 2 nights package of Silk Route, East Sikkim can be as follows:
- Start from Rongli & Aritar (East Sikkim) or Pedong & Ichegaon (North Bengal)
- Quekhola Falls
- Phadamchen (Night halt 1)
- Thambi View Point
- Lungthung Sunrise Point
- Nathang Valley (Night halt 2)
- Old Baba Mandir
- Menmecho Lake
- Jelep La
- Tukla Valley
- Kupup / Elephant Lake
- Kupup Village (Golf & polo ground and ice hockey rink)
- Nathu La
- New Baba Mandir
- Tsomgo Lake or Changu Lake
- Gantok (night halt 3)
On 15 April 2016, Koushik of Supreme Tours & Travels started off from the Mangaldeep Resort in Rongli at 4:00 am. It had rained all night in Rongli and we expected snow in the upper reaches of the Silk Route.
Our driver drove us through complete darkness and negotiated every hair – pin bend with remarkable precision. We passed Phadamchen, when it was still dark and reached Zuluk just before sunrise.
Zuluk served as our breakfast stop and we did spent some time in the small but beautiful village, which had a number of home stays. After Zuluk the road ascends steeply following a series of hair pin bends. This complex series of meandering roads is locally known as bhulbhulaiya, meaning the maze.
As we ascended via the bhulbhulaiya towards the Thambi view point we were greeted by patches of snow. By the time we reached the Thambi View Point, the patches of snow have grown considerably but the road was still snow free.
Thambi View Point, named after the civil engineer, who constructed the road, offers a extraordinary view of the Kanchenjunga and its sister peaks. But the view of Zuluk along with the meandering road with its innumerable hair – pin bends is no less an attraction. Sadly the summer haze obstructed all views of the snow peaks.
About a few hundred meters from the Thambi View Point it was just snow , snow and snow all the way, something quiet unlikely in mid April
Car could no longer make their way through the deep snow, so Koushik and I decided to walk to the Lungthung Sunrise Point, about a kilo meter away. By the time the sun have gained altitude and it was nothing better than enjoying the snow under the bright sunlight.
The snow was less than ankle deep was walking was not much of a problem and we continued our walk in the company of gazing yaks and occasional military personnel guarding the boarder areas.
Sadly the haze prevented any good views of the snow peaks from the Lungthung Sunrise Point. Finally we retraced our steps back to the car and headed back to Rongli. A non seasonal snow prevented us from covering the whole of the Silk Route but still we returned happy and with a dream of coming back again and exploring the entire Silk Route of Sikkim.
- The Silk Route can only be done on a hired vehicle and can accommodate a max of 8 person per vehicle. Cost amounts to about Rs 3800 per day inclusive of drivers expenses.
- Home stays are available en route and costs amounts to about Rs 1000 per head per day and includes all four meals.
- A permit is required so please carry a photo identity and a copy of passport size photo. The hotels will do all the necessary arrangements.
- For Silk Route Package booking contact
- In Sikkim: Mangaldeep Resort, Rongli Bazar, East Sikkim, Sikkim. M: +91 9933873291. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.mangaldeepresorts.com
- In Kolkata: Supreme Tours & Travels, 15/17, Sourin Roy Road, 1st Floor,Behala Tram Depot, Kolkata – 700034. Tel: +91-33-23981233 M: +91-9830070515 24X7 Helpline: +91-8820038205 Email: email@example.com Website: www.supremetoursntravels.com