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A Walk In The Clouds...
Dec 19, 2011 08:15 PM 21813 Views


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I'm not into adventure sports but I'm sure as hell into adventure spots. I say this because my recent tour to Yumthang was nothing short of adventure. Earthquake-ravaged back-breaking roads, dozen-a-day Landslides, sub-zero temperatures, biting winds and last but not the least some of the most breathtaking landscapes I'll ever live to see.

Yumthang is a modest 14k feet above sea level, which isnt exactly good enough to put the fear of God in you but good enough to qualify as a serious "hill station". The place presents a contrasting picture in winters and summers. While it is green and flowery during summers, during winters it transforms into a desert of stone and ice. Dark and temperamental, white and gray all around with glimpses of gold when the sunrays manage to touch land. The Sun always plays hide and seek hiding behind clouds and coming out at random to create fantastic shapes/patterns of rays.

Layers and layers of metamorphosed stone blocks, folds, faults, exfoliated walls, fast streams, eroded beds, flora and fauna all make it a Geologists' delight. And guess what best thing is that the rocks keep changing faces thanks to high levels of Geological activity rampant in these parts.

Yumthang can touch you in more ways than one. The peace, tranquility, pristine beauty, the 'sounds' of gushing streams, the peaceful coexistence of the Sikkimese folk with Mother Nature, etc can really make you believe that Life is one long celebration. On the other hand the cold, dark, unpredictable, mighty, ruthless and unforgiving mountains can induce fear/foreboding of the risks of playing with Nature. A couple of days without the Sun can also trigger serious bouts of melancholia. Looking at the Young Himalayas, you can delude yourself into thinking that Mother Nature is most partial, heavily favouring the young over the old. Why should beauty be vouchsafed upon the young only ? Dont the Old deserve it too ?

~sigh~ Let me cut the philosophy before I get overboard.

Yumthang is about 150 kms. from Gangtok. Normally the distance is covered in 4.5 hrs but due to Earthquake and landslides, the roads have deteriorated beyond imagination. It currently takes about 6-7 hours to cover the distance. Booking taxis (usually Sumos/Max) will cost you at least 7-8k while shared taxis (carrying 10 passengers) will cost 1.2-1.4k. Both the options are inclusive of overnight lodging and a couple of meals. The lodging will usually leave much to be desired but the fooding in most cases will be tasty and fulfilling even if simple.

A trip to Yumthang is at least a couple of days. Since traveling is allowed only in broad daylight, on Day 1 distance of 120 kms. to LaChung is covered where the overnight stay is arranged. On Day 2, one can start early (around 7), proceed to Yumthang and be back by 12-1 pm for return journey to Gangtok. Before you begin make sure you are adequately prepared :-

(1) If you go during Winters like I did this time, you need first-rate protective gear for cold. In fact if you own gear that you are doubtful about, a visit to Yumthang will really help you tell the real McCoy apart from junk. Woolen socks/mittens, leather shoes (preferably boots), thermals, sweaters, heavy duty jackets/overcoats, gloves, woolen caps/mufflers are a must.

(2) Everywhere you go, table water will have visible suspensions/impurities unless you carry your own mineral water. Mineral water isnt recommended as the native water is really fantastic for your digestive system and has curative properties. A better option is carrying a bit of Potassium Permanganate in case you find the suspensions worrying.

(3) Always carry a bottle of Rum/mixture. You can get seriously frost-bitten and rum is the best tonic to get the blood flowing and putting color back to your frozen cheeks.

(4) If you are into Photography, this place is paradise. (A few of my snaps uploaded at . A small video clip is also attached in case you still cant make up your mind !) It'll test all your lenses. So no suggestions on what to take and what to leave. However, if possible take fast lenses (preferably f < 2) since a lot of shooting will be low light/dark.

(5) Dont forget to carry a hair dryer. Dont worry I'm not asking you to take a bath. The dryer is meant for a host of other uses including drying damp/wet clothes, warming your hands/feet when they become unbearably cold, keeping food warm, etc.

As with all outstanding but difficult tourist locations, Yumthang is fast losing its virginity and getting overcommercialised. The Hotel/taxi rates are skyrocketing (Hotel Yarlam charges an exorbitant 7k/night for modest services) fueled in part by foreigners who throng the place even during winters. Quality of food is often a major concern. The never-ending caravan of jeeps keep throwing black soot all around the place. It may not be long before Yumthang is reduced to another hackneyed Mussorie.

So if you are interested in making a trip to Yumthang, the Time is Now !! Go there before its too late and the soot changes the color of ice to gray !!

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