Back from Gurudongmar, on towards Yumthang from Lachung
Returning back from Gurudongmar we had a quick lunch at Lachen and continued the journey towards Lachung.
Morning at Lachung, towards Yumthang
I had visited this region about forty years ago. Then a bunch of college students, 6 of us hiked from Mangan to Yumthang in the month of October. Entry to North Sikkim was then restricted and we had to obtain permit at Gangtok. The beauty of the place mesmerized us. The trek was not difficult. We had to deposit our cameras at Chungthang check post as no photography was allowed beyond that point.
I realize now, when you walk all along a route, only then you can fully absorb the beauty of the journey.
I fondly remember the endless number of mountain streams coming down the lush green hills covered with forest. We stayed one night at Singhik. A mountain stream coming down from the glaciers of Kanchenjungha flows through a deep gorge and meets Teesta here. In clear weather one can see the Kanchenjungha group of mountain peaks dazzling white against blue sky. We were fortunate to witness a breathtaking sunrise over Kanchenjunga the following morning. Singhik has a nice tourist lodge and other accommodations now.
What I missed this time are the ingenious prayer wheels along the route. Buddhists prayer wheels are rotating cylinders on which prayers are inscribed. In larger monasteries the prayer wheels can be quite large occupying a whole chamber and are painted in vibrant maroon and gold. Often there is a row of prayer wheels near the entrance of a monastery or a shrine.
There are innumerable mountain streams of all sizes across the whole route. The larger ones come down as big waterfalls, sometimes creating a rainbow. Small prayer wheels with fins placed down a stream rotate all day adding to the karma of the whole community. I did not notice these charming contraptions in the present journey, or maybe I missed them while traveling in a car.
We traced the route back from Lachen to Chungthang and then proceeded left towards Lachung along the stream Lachungchu.
Chortens at Lachung, towards Yumthang
Lachung is a village close to Tibet border. It is situated at a distance approximately 110km from Gangtok and located at an altitude of about 9000 ft. The inhabitants are mostly Lepchas and Tibetans. The word Lachung means small pass. It was a flourishing center of trade between India and Tibet until the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1950. In his famous Himalayan Journal published in 1855, the famous British explorer Joseph Dalton Hooker had described Lachung as,
The most picturesque village in Sikkim.
Access to the place has now been opened up for tourists although one needs a permit to come here. Tourists stop at Lachung on their way to Yumthang valley, which is 25 km away. There is a beautiful Gompa (Monastery) at Lachung situated amidst apple orchards. The river Lachungchu flows through the village.
Prayer wheels at Lachung, towards Yumthang
We reached Lachung when evening was setting in. Due to the recent tourist interest, a few decent hotels have come up here. We were taken to a hotel by our driver. Like Lachen, the hotel had only basic facilities but was clean. We had a nice dinner with rice and chicken curry and went to sleep.
Sikkimese cooking is quite delicious. It is a beautiful combination of Tibetan cooking with a little touch of Bengali kitchen, maybe a little on the hotter side with generous use of chillies. Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare are available with equal flourish. There is a Sikkimese proverb,
Monkeys never fall down from a tree and Lepchas never die starving.
They can conjure up a good meal anywhere.
Next morning we started towards Yumthang.
A small shrine with prayer wheels at Lachung, towards Yumthang
We crossed a few chortens along the way. Chortens are Buddhist shrines. Occasionally, it can be the tomb of a Saint. There is a nice monastery at Lachung. We could not visit it due to shortage of time.
Lachungchu river with Lachung village in background
After crossing a bridge over Lachungchu river we proceeded towards Yumthang and took a brief halt at a Sikh Gurudwara along the way just outside Lachung. The morning was clear and the snow covered mountain peaks were shining in the morning sun.
Gurudwara outside Lachung, towards Yumthang
Lachung is an ideal place to spend a full day, if one has the time. You can go on small treks along the mountain trails.
Snow view from gurudwara at Lachung, towards Yumthang
You may like to visit the Lachung gompa on a hilltop across the valley. This gompa is one of the most beautiful monasteries in Sikkim and is about 30 minute walk from the village.
Snow covered mountain top Lachung, towards Yumthang
You may also like to roam among the apple orchards or simply relax beside the Lachungchu river and enjoy the stream dancing on the boulders.