Friday, March 23, 2012

Nathang Valley - East Sikkim: First trip after my marriage

Amazing Nathang valley during winter, East sikkim
Nathang Valley - East Sikkim, By Surajit Ray

This time I was extra cautious ... My first trip with my wife. First time I had to plan before I leave. I had called "Dilipji" (Dilip Tamang), my old friend and asked him to make the arrangements in Sillery Gaon for our first night. I wanted to travel along a known track. My friend Kaustav and his wife Sonia were my companions this time. Sonia did the reservation for us in "Darjeeling Mail". 16th March, 2012 is "The day we caught the train" from Bardhaman Jn. for a special trip what everybody reckons as our "Honeymoon".

nO One ... nObOdy - View my 'Nathang Valley - Silk Route' set on Flickriver

Day One: Back to Sillery Gaon
Silley Gaon Road: By my wife
Life is changing after marriage! I started my trip with shopping! My wife didn't have the necessary gear to fight the chill at high altitude. First thing I did is to buy a pair of shoes as she had only sandals with her. This time we had our lunch at Siliguri and left for Sillery around 12:30 PM.

We had booked a car - a diesel one, that was not good but cheap. The journey was pretty slow because of the vehicle. We didn't take a break before Algarah, only a few kilometers away from Sillery. After having tea there we started again. It is a bumpy 4 kilometers ride along the poorly paved road towards Sillery. Soon, it was clear to all of us, including the driver, that it is too big a task for our car to complete the journey in a single piece along that road. We left that car midway and I called Dilipji for rescue.
How to reach Sillery Gaon:
There are several options available from Siliguri.
1. Book a car, ideally an SUV, that will directly take you to Sillery Gaon. It will cost you 2500 INR approximately.
2. Go to Kalimpong by a shared Taxi and book a car from there. The cost will be around 1000 INR.
3. Go to Algarah by a shared Taxi from there you can trek (around 4/5 KMs) or optionally can book a car. Costing around 700 INR.
Flower, Sillery Gaon
We were enjoying that unplanned break while Dilipji appeared with a SUV. The driver was shouting "Welcome to Sikkim!", come-on! We are still in West Bengal! Within half an hour we were in Sillery, sipping hot tea with "pakoras". The weather was comfortable, not too hot, not too cold. I didn't even have to bring my sweater out. That evening, not many options were there before us to pass time. Dilipji arranged an old guitar for me, and I played that for a while.
It is after our dinner, when we started planning for upcoming days. I suggested we should stay a day in "Nathang Valley". It was my sweet memories of that place, from my last visit, that compelled me to take that decision. Everybody were in accord with my proposal. So, we just called Dilipji and asked him to arrange a vehicle for us.
Where to stay in Sillery Gaon:
No Hotel/Restaurant is present and the only option is a home-stay. Dilip Tamang leads the business while several others emerging out. The rate is 500 INR per person per day all inclusive. Contact Dilip Tamang - +919635005318.
Day Two: Nathang Valley, itz snowing man
Reshi Khola - By Sriparna Ray
It was a foggy day. I didn't feel any urge to leave the bed early as I was sure Kanchenjunga will not be visible until the atmosphere is clear. I just opened the window to verify ... I was right. Tea got served around 7 AM, and only then I lifted myself out of my bed. Kaustav and Sonia, already out there for a walk, were a bit upset as the view was not clear. We had planned to leave Sillery Gaon early, but the driver came late. He had a companion with him - his friend. After having our breakfast together we left for "Nathang Valley".
We got a TATA SUMO this time. Not in good condition though, the door locks were not working properly. But it was still manageable. We decided to go reluctantly, there was no reason to hurry. We had our first break in Reshi Khola. We spent good time there shooting photos and walking along the Reshi river bed.
Tin Chuley, near Sillery Gaon
Our next big break was in Rongli. We had to stop there to arrange the permit for Nathang Valley, Kupup, Tsomogo and Gangtok. Rongli is the last chance for you if you need cash on that way. There is no ATM available after that and all your credit/debit cards are useless after this point. Our wives went for some shopping there in the local "Haat". Sriparna, my wife bought a down jacket, that served as a real protector to her during our stay in Nathang Valley.
During journey- By my wife
When we had reached Dzuluk, we had a bad news waiting, that turned to be a good news for us. The driver was talking with a local person in Dzuluk and that person informed that due to heavy snowfall we may not be able to reach Nathag Valley. Our crew got excited. "Ahh! that means it is snowing". We were traveling along the famous zigzag road, it was not possible to see anything though as the road got vanished in fog. After we had crossed Thambi view point everything was covered with snows. Ours was the only vehicle in that road. It was first "snow" experience for Sriparna and Sonia.They got excited. We stopped thrice between Zuluk and Nathang Valley to feel the ambiance.We did slide over snow, threw snowballs, shoot pictures and did whatever we wanted to do. That situation brought out the child in us.
Nathang Valley- By my wife
Around 4 PM we had reached Nathang Valley. Again warm tea and pakoras were waiting for us. Everything was covered with snow ... the roads, the roofs, stairs. There was only another group staying in Nathang at that night. So it is obvious, Nathang Valley is not yet a very popular destination among tourist. But it should be because of it's breathtaking natural beauty. we opted for room heaters, and that is a good option to have. Nights in Nathang Valley are really freezing. We had a blanket and a bed-quilt to fight that. I had a wonderful sleep that night.
Day Three: Frozen Tsomgo (Changu Lake) on our way
Nathang valley
Near Kupup Lake - By my wife
I wake up early this time. Still it was foggy and no sign of Kanchenjunga. I left the resort with my camera, others from my team were getting ready. People from plane have great attraction towards snow. I am not an exception either. It seems magical every time. Gazing everything with my "greedy" eyes I was walking down the streets of Nathang Valley. That kind of atmosphere always brings out another "me" from me.

There is a war memorial in Nathang Valley carrying the memories of "Tukla War". It raises the question that how can a human mind even think about bullets and guns in such a place. But to face the reality, it is till a military zone. There exists a "Vishnu Mandir" and a "Buddhist Gumpha" in Nathang valley. That suggests people from both communities are living there. There is also a school in Nathang valley, providing education in one of the remotest part of India. Great efforts.

Lake Kupup, Elephant Lake
Kupup Lake - By my wife
After having breakfast we left Nathang Valley around 10:30 am. And at the very beginning we had experienced something that might have ended up as an accident. We were providing lift to some local people in our vehicle. During a stiff climb, while our driver applied break, the vehicle started sliding. Our driver was trying his best to control the vehicle but failed. The pedestrians joined the rescue operation. One of them threw a big boulder to jam the wheel, missed first time but lucky second time and he saved us! Our hearts were pounding heavily, but nobody really screamed or had shown any sign of panic. Real kudos! The road was so beautiful, soon tension and fear disappeared, and everybody became normal again. Soon we have reached "The elephant lake", popularly know as "Kupup lake". That was my second visit to that place and this time the lake was fully frozen. Our next major break was in "New Baba Mandir". We didn't spend a lot of time there but left for Changu.

New Baba mandir
Near New Baba Mandir - By my wife
When we had reached Changu, it was very cloudy and the temperature was falling. I only had a sweater with me and it was so cold that I had to borrow a shawl from my wife. A very common thing for the Changu visitors is to take a "Yak ride". But looking at the angry eyes of those creatures I felt it is better to trust my own legs.

It is not allowed to walk over the frozen Changu. I tried once, but as soon as I placed my feet over the icy surface, the security persons started shouting, so I had to give-up. After spending about an hour in Changu, we decided to return back. The journey was long and we were really hungry. We had our lunch with wai-wai and momo. At one point of time we become a bit restless ... "how long it will take? How far we are from Sillery Gaon"? These questions were arising inside our heads. Effect of a long journey. As I told, our car was not in good condition, the break was not working properly and in search of a short-cut route our driver ended up with a crash with another vehicle. Luckily nobody got hurt. It was 8PM when our journey ended in Sillery.

Day Four: Again Sillery Gaon

40 comments:

  1. hey surajit nice job on the blog man and nice article.i need a little favor from u.one traveler to another.can u please provide some info on accommodation at nathang valley,its real urgent so u can mail me at adityabiswas88@gmail.com ill be grateful :)

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  2. Nice write up. Please inform about accomodation at GNathang for us all.

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    1. I am glad that you like the post. There is a beautiful option to stay in Nathang Valley - Daftar bungalow. Somehow I have lost the contact number. But you guys can contact Dilip Tamang (+91-9635005318) of Sillery Gaon for booking. The cost is 600 INR per person per day.

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  3. we are going in march,do u have any idea whether we'll get snow at gnathang?

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  4. Replies
    1. Yes ... there will be snow during that time

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  5. Hey Surajit..this is great..help everybody to visit nathang valley...

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  6. great job..this is really helpful to everyone to visit Nathang Valley..

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    Replies
    1. Hey! I am glad that you find it helpful ... I can see you are passionate about photography. Nathang is a photographer's paradise. :)

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  7. Hello to all, for the reason that I am truly keen of reading this blog's post to be updated regularly. It carries good information.

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  8. bookmarked!!, I really like your web site!

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  9. ur blog is very effective to plan our nathand valley journey thru siliory gaun :).. m planning for 2n 3days trip...can we reach same day 2 nathang valley??we will reach njp at 6.30...plz suggest..as our time is bounded we are confused.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Samarpita ... Yes it is possible to go to Nathang Valley in a single day, but that will be really hectic. When you are leaving for Nathang? This is not the best time to visit Nathang Valley

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    2. than q for ur valuable comment :)..m reaching njp on 15th may and same day m going 2 nathang valley..nxt day i'll stay at silery gaun...i contacted Mr. Tamang..he is arranging the whole trip..

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    3. Happy Journey Samarpita :), I believe you will enjoy that tour. Don't forget to share your experience

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  10. Sikkim is indeed a very nice place to spend a few days. Lovely landscapes, mountains and the charming Buddhist monasteries. You've captured the beauty pretty well.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you sir for your nice words :). But most of those shots are actually work of my wife.

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  11. I had been to parts of Sikkim. A good read on it after years!

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    Replies
    1. :) ... that means you have a great collection of photos of that place

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  12. what about the weather during october?

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  13. Very nicely you express your views & journey . I have plan to visit Silk route during 25 th of December 2013, If you please send me the bellow details you have regarding Resort name in different places with contact number will be a great help for me . Please send me the same in suman_deysarkar@yahoo.in . Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Hi Suman ... I already have shared mobile no. of Dilip Tamang - +919635005318. You can directly contact him and ask him to conduct the tour. Happy journey in advance.

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  14. Hey, u r really too good in writing & describing things as u had felt. A great job done in this blog, very impressive writing & it's definitely encourage people to visit Nathang Valley. We were a group of 14 friends visited Zuluk & Nathang Valley in march, 2009 only (not overnight stayed, only took a day trip from Reshi). Nathang Valley is really awesome destination with full of natural beauties, the place is still remote & very less crowed as well that's really nice for the traveler like us. A big congratulation to u, ur wife & ur friends for choosing this place & completing the tour successfully. We are planning to visit this place in March 2014, so need little favor from u regarding the contacts for Daftar Bungalow if u have found the same. I will be grateful if u could please mail me - dhrub.mukherjee@gmail.com
    Thanks...take care!

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    Replies
    1. I am very sorry Dhrub for such a delayed response. I was too busy with my work, though that can't be an excuse.
      Things have changed a lot after that time, I will check for the new contact number and will send you that

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  15. Hi Surajit----- can u advise me to visit in 1st week of January with my family. What will be the temperature any idea ?

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    1. Hi Krishnendu ... my apology for such delayed response. I was too busy for a month.
      You can expect bone chilling temperature during nights, it should be around -5 C. That is not an issue though, because the rooms are really comfortable. If possible, carry sleeping bags and small oxygen cylinders for elders.

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  16. Hello Surajit, we are planning to visit the silk route with night halts at Dzuluk and Gnathang. Can you please let me know whether bookings can be made separately for accomodations or does it have to be a packaged tour?

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    Replies
    1. Yes .. you can book the accommodation separately and no need to go for a packaged tour.

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  17. Hey, It was not a very well planned trip.. but well done!! good work---by your wife :)

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  18. Hey we have recently visited the East Sikkim and covered all the places you have mentioned expect changu lake. It was closed at that time.

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    Replies
    1. I hope you enjoyed your stay there!!! Such a beautiful place is "Nathang Valley"

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  19. Well job Mr. Surajit by posting such a experiences along with the proper information and descriptions.

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  20. I am just feeling exited as I go through your journey experiance..
    I'm also planning for the silk route... my journey begans with NJP on 10th March'16 to ichhe gaon-selery gaon(11&12) then Aritar(13)- Zuluk(14) via Rongli- Nathang(15)-Gangtok(16) via changu-NJP(17th Dargiling mail towards Kolkata....
    We are 3 marraid couple..and a 1.5 years old baby...
    Now I've some question..
    1. Is March the idial time for this trip.. I mean whether roads are blocked or the permit is not availeable for the route...???
    2. Is Nathang vally make any trable to the baby...??
    Please reply. ..

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    Replies
    1. Yes .. March is the best time as you will get snow but it will not be that chilling. Again, it is not going to create problem for a baby but you will be staying far from a city and all the facilities that you usually get.

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  21. Hi Surajit. I am so glad to have come across your article. I wish to make a short trip to sikkim and plan on exploring East & North Sikking(specially Gnathang Valley & Tsomgo Lake and Lachen & Gurdongmur lake), would it be possible to cover all these in 5 days. If not what do you suggest? Please share your experience with me at hishikar.a@gmail.com
    I am really looking forward to have a conversation with you.

    Aparajita

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    Replies
    1. Hi Aparajita .. yes it is possible. Will send you one mail shortly.

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  22. Hi Surajit.. its a very interesting read. I have a question as a 5 day trip we are planning to visit siliaery goan , zuluk, night stay at nanthang and tsomgo lake. Will these be comfortable within these time period. We are planning a visit on this 6th of May. What will be problems faced in this trip? Should i be worrying aboyt breathing trouble. I want to state no such disease striken people are going, we all are aged 25 going in for this trip. Just one problem is one of my mate is obese. currently i am bit worried about this. So could you please help. My mail id will be mrinmoyghosh02@hotmail.com. KIndly drop me a mail please and thanks.

    Thanks and Regards,
    Mrinmoy

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  23. HI,SURAJIT,I WISH TO MAKE A TRIP TO SIKKIM AND PLAN ON EXPLORING NORTH SIKKIM(SPECIALLY ZULUK)..WITH 2 YRS OLD BABY..WHAT DO U SUGGEST?I AM REALLY LOOKING FORWARD TO HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH U..PLEASE SUGGEST

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