above sea level
a trip to the world’s highest motorable road to a mountain lake
Two tired bikers pushing a 140kg FZ, up to the last 200mts from the Gurudongmar Lake!!
Avik : Chharo Tanny, bike ta ekhanei thak, hete baki ta uthe jai!! (letz leave the bike here and walk up the distance)
Tanny : Arrey!! We’re almost there; your bike deserves to see the Lake…
Avik : (no reply)
He cranks the engine, but there’s no compression yet
Tanny : Chalo Avik da, the last push, we’re 50mts away from the top!!
At 17,200ft above sea level, we are now at the world’s highest motorable road to a mountain lake.
Act I, Scene 1: Lonely Rider’s Journey
Avik da reached Siliguri on 4th October 2010, after a 600kms, 13:30hrs endurance ride from Kolkata. I and Santanu da met him at 11:10pm at night, and the joy of meeting likeminded people is evident from the way time passes by. We chatted till 12:30 and finally Avik da took his well deserved rest at my place.
Next morning we went to xKmph workshop (Bikezone) and Avik da’s bike was refilled with new engine oil & engine oil filter, and basic check-up was carried out. After all the checklists were ticked it was time for Avik da to hit the roads towards Sikkim. At 11:50am, he set off waving his hands to the members who came to wish him luck. I was still counting my days to follow his footsteps. It was just 3days from then when me and Arghya would be making the same journey.
Act I, Scene 2: Two solo riders become a team
Destiny can be cunning; hardly 1hr from Avik da’s departure Arghya called up to notify that he is down with a very bad fever and all his chances for making the trip are now distant. The news hit me like a thunder-strike; I was almost clueless for a moment. But I had fantasized too much to withdraw from this trip. At first I decided to go for it solo from 8th October as it was planned, but after a while options seemed to open up as Avik da reached Mangan and called me up. He confirmed that my permits can be prepared for the day after and I could join him. So that was it, it would be me and Avik da a team of two riding together from Mangan!!
Act II, Scene 1: 6th October
It rained all night, and the anxious butterflies in my stomach kept me awake. I hit the road by 5am, and the chill in the wind was giving me goosebumps as I hurried out of Siliguri to reach Mangan as soon as possible. Post monsoon the road to Gangtok was in a poor condition and the conditions got worse when I took the shortcut to Mangan through Singtam. It was more like a dirt-biking experience as the bike would go for a skid on every tight corner. Though a bit tiring, I enjoyed this to the fullest as it was the first day. At around 10:10am I was at Mangan, and Avik da was waiting!!
Act II, Scene 2: Permits
The most restrictive issue of a visit to North Sikkim is getting a permit. You need to get an inner-line permit to enter N.Sikkim from the District Magistrate’s office mentioned with all the places you are visiting. However, if you are an xKmph-ian you can have a proud smile next to your lips. Getting a permit was easier than getting a railway ticket. Xkmph member from Sikkim Santosh bhaiya got our permits done on Suman da & Santanu da’s recommendations within an hour, and we were ready to hit the roads by 12noon.
Act II, Scene 3: Off we go
Our major target for the trip was, not making any fixed target. Our choices were dynamic and we agreed upon riding with the flow rather than riding to cover distance. We headed for Lachung at 12noon. The road would take us through Toong, Chungthang and then to Lachung.
The 29km stretch from Mangan to Chungthang was an off-road mishap and certain parts of it were almost a washout. However, the scenic beauty that we were subjected to was enough to make us ignore the pain in the ass. Photography stops were pretty frequent as the landscapes at every corner seemed better than the last one!!
Chungthang is the meeting place of the two confluences Lachen Chu & Lachung Chu which combine to finally turn into the mighty Teesta. The roads from Chughthang diverge into two; one of them leads to the Chopta Valley (lachen, thangu, gurudongmar) and the other to the Yumthang Valley (Lachung, Yumthang, Zero point). The road from Chungthang onwards was a dream, and the 26km ride to Lachung was simply a biker’s treat as cutting through the corners was a piece of cake here. Apart from the amazing sight of the open valley in front of us and the super smooth tarmac with sharp hairpins, the road up to Lachung has numerous waterfalls and you will find every one of them so very unique.
After lots and lots of photo breaks, we finally reached Lachung at 4pm. We took a leisure walk around the town and at every junction there were some Sikkimese people helping us out; people out there are extremely helpful. We took shelter in a wooden cot called Alpine Tourist Lodge which looked very obscure under a huge cliff. At night the caretaker lit up the fireplace for us, and we went off to our first sleep at an unknown land with the sweet music of Lachung Chu River singing a lullaby to us.
You need to submit a copy of your permit at the Toong checkpost. While returning back again, the original copies are to be submitted to this checkpost itself. The road is under construction after Toong and most of it is heavily landslide affected. The last 7-8 kilometers into Chungthang will be very perilous if the conditions are muddy, following the truck tire marks would be clever. From Chungthang to Lachung you dont need to worry, roads sing a song here. Bur ride safe !!
At Lachung, you will find numerous hotels and homestays to rest your back. They are very economic as well. The one we stayed charged us Rs 600 for accommodation + veg dinner + tea + firewood. Thats damn cheap, right ?. But if you can not live without non-veg stuff, make sure you carry some egg or raw meat to Lachung as most of the caretakers dont stock these but will cook them if you are carrying some. You will also find some small shops that will serve you delicious maggi soup at very reasonable rates.
Thats it in Part1. I would take you to Yumthang and then to Chopta valley and further in my next part.