Sunday, May 25, 2008

Day 7: 21st March 2008

I woke up at 1.30 am and was taking in the views of the ranges. It was looking beautiful. The skylight and the huge window had won my heart. I went to bed again and woke up at 6.30 am.

We ordered breakfast of toast butter & jam with coffee and packed a lunch of Puri and aloo bhaaji.

Our vehicle was to arrive at 9.00 am, meanwhile I got two bags ready with coats, mittens and a shawl, some chikki and chivada for munching and an umbrella just in case we needed it. We had been informed that the weather at Tsomgo lake was unpredictable.

We started our drive through the hills and were to go to a height of 12,800 ft above sea level. The first sight of snow capped mountains made me scream out loud. I started taking pictures crazily. The driver told me that it is in fact our destination. As we neared the snow capped ranges we saw a checkpost we were to go through a security clearance. The driver was carrying our permits. Yes it is a military area and even Indian citizens have to get permits to visit Tsmongo lake.

All the vehicles lined up for it.

As we stopped a woman came to sell chewing gum. I bought all three types she had. It was from Korea. This is a border area and Chinese and Korean stuff is easily available here. It cost me Rs. 40. I also asked for a water bottle. She asked us to give her Rs. 60 of which Rs.20 was for the bottle. She was gone for a long time and we the city bred assumed that she had fleeced us. As our driver came we told him about it. He promised to look for her as we drove, we would not be able to recognize her face as there were all chinky eyed identical faces there. We were sure we would have to forget about the water but we were wrong, there she was waiting and handed out the bottle to our driver. We felt ashamed, uncle M always said Himalayan people were very honest and hospitable.

Once past the check post at the Hanuman Tok we drove past the military camps.

Initially the camps were is green scenic environs but later as we neared the snowy peaks with scarce vegetation, I was tearful just thinking of the hardships our soldiers have to go through in these hostile environs. I was silent all the way as we cleared 2 more checkposts. The military trucks running past us.

We turned around a curve and in front of us was a plateau of snow at a lower level. I gasped at the sight. WOW! the snow glistening in the late morning sun. It was the Tsomgo lake frozen hard and surrounded by mountains. The vegetation is very scarce and only conifers could be seen. The military kept a close watch on the tourists.

My first reaction at the sight of Tsomgo (pronounced as Tchangu) Lake

There were many Yaks available for rides. The charge was exorbitant for it.

We did not go for it instead we decided to walk around the lake halfway. Dad slipped on the snow so we did not go deeper into fresh snow. I was worried about Dad and did not really get to freak out in the snow. May be the next time I should join a group of youngsters so I can have more fun and get to roll in the snow absolutely carefree.

I did make a snow ball and my hands turned blue and black. I was wearing thermals inside but now I needed the mitten and the overcoat too. It was 1.0 pm and the weather now was turning dark due to clouds pregnant with rain covering the peaks. Our chauffeur warned us that we must rush back or else the roads would be closed. He said Himavarsha would start now! It sounded musical Himavarsha of course and it did. The fresh fluffy snow hit on us and we rushed to the car. It was fun to see the snow collect on our windshield. We started driving down fast. As we came down by 2000 ft the snow was left behind and now it was raining. It was an amazing to experience, the ways of nature and how height made the difference to weather. The rain had brought along with it a fog and we cloud barely see a few feet ahead. The fog lights were put on and our driver being a local was an expert at the roads. He knew them like the back of his hand. I was happy I had taken a few pictures while going up else there was no opportunity for any pictures while returning.

On the way back we saw an senior army officer and his wife being led through the mountain ranges, with umbrellas held over their heads by a man Friday. Army royalty I thought! The army officers and their wives enjoy such treatment and they reciprocate it by caring for junior officers families like their own.

We reached back to Gangtok at 3.30 pm, took rest for an hour and then went to check out the market. Our throats were aching as we had come from the snow peaks so we asked for a flask of hot water and made coffee. Dad cuddled under the blanket for a while.

On our way to the market we got the pictures copied onto the CD and since we didn't have change the shopkeeper took just Rs.50 from us instead of Rs.60. The market was closed and we wondered why, then we spotted some kids with faces colored with gulal, only at that point that we remembered it was Holi today. We chatted up with some local women returning from the temple after Holika puja. We didn't spot any Holi pyres though.

My dad was missing holi now, oh but just for the Puranpoli. The market places is named after Mahatma Gandhi, It is quite uninteresting and irks me to know all prime locations to be named after the Gandhis and Nehrus. Why is this lack of creativity when it comes to naming roads? Were there no local heroes? Anyways.

The Flori show had done a lot of good, all buildings on the MG road were painted sea green and the road was converted to a pedestrian only area and was newly paved.

Dad overheard an senior couple talk Marathi and enquired with them whether they too were tourists. We found out that they had come with a group tour by Kesari. The package had cost them Rs. 12,000 per head ex-Kolkata. It was a reasonable price considering it included food too. Kesari had served them Puran Poli and gulabjamun on the occasion of Holi so they were happy customers.

We returned to our Hotel and ordered dinner of garlic naans, made extra crisp, stuffed tomato curry and dal makhani with jeera rice. We loved the food at Chumbi.

We retired early to bed only to wake up at midnight to watch the full moon. The hill were moonlit and the lights twinkled. It was an amazing experience to see hill range bathing in the moonlight.

I loved Chumbi and the lovely window that allowed us to enjoy all the moods of the hills. Sometimes the fog covered hills looked dreamy and and at times the sun shone bright on the hill range.


bee said...

what a beautiful experience this sounds like!

Anjali said...

Bee, Yes and my first experience of snow!

bee said...

come to my house. you'll have five months of snow.

Anjali said...

Yeah I loved the pictures you had posted of the snow in your backyard.