Can I just say I am a bona fide travel addict. I just need to travel every 3-4 months and start getting withdrawal symptoms resulting in crappy behavior if I dont.
So how could I pass an opportunity to visit Nathula pass? Nathula connects India to China controlled Tibet and was a part of the ancient Silk Route. Our Journey started in Gangtok after waking upto view Kanchendzonga at 5 AM. And was it cc.ccc..ccoolddd..brrr..
We started of for Nathula at around eight-ish, our permits safely tucked in. Stopped on the way to stock up on wollens-gloves, caps etc when we saw the first snow.
It was the first time I had seen snow in my life. Need.to.control.self.from.rolling.and.eating.snow.
Our guide had to pry us from the snow and after multiple assurances there was more snow ahead and that the Pass will close at 11 did we continue ahead.The climb to Nathula is steep and the one vehicle road almost disappears in many places. Our progress was super slow.As you move to higher altitudes, the lakes you encounter are frozen, the sub tropical vegetation you encountered in Gangtok is replaced by Tundra type shrubs, and the only living beings you encounter are yaks and army jawans.
At around 11 we reached the Indo-Chinese border pass. We were at Nathula-14140 ft above sea level. Our faces were frozen, hands numb, gasping for oxygen and in my case fighting a bursting bladder.
My friends were busy clicking, chatting up the jawans and generally being super excited.
I on the other hand was trying to hold it in. All the loos at Nathula were snowed in and shut. People may have frozen to death at 14000 ft, may have fallen to death, may have fought to death, maybe have even died of oxygen deprivation. But I was sure I was going to create a record.
I was going to die at 14000 ft due to a burst bladder.
Till a jawan came to rescue and showed me an improvised loo-3 corrugated tin sheets to protect modesty and 2 concrete slabs to perch your feet. So my dear blog readers I was forced to show my bum to natural elements and use an open toilet at 14000 ft. Me with my OCD of loos. If thats not an emergency I dont know what is.
Now relieved literally and figuratively I could appreciate the views much much more.
Like our national flag against the blue sky.
Or that Chinese border was a barbed wire away and that we could literally rub noses with Chinese soldiers.(Not that they would see any point in rubbing noses with freezing, loud Indian tourists)
Soon it was time to pump some hot coffee off the stove into our mouths and descend. The descent was scary with such low visibility that we were not being able to see our hands if held before our face. On this hilly curving road it was entirely possible to simply drive off the road and be discovered as frozen mummies when winter thawed.
Needless to say heart was in mouth all the time.
We stopped for a while for the mist to clear (using that opportunity to snow fight and generally roll in snow and behave like complete idiots)but the weather worsened-it began snowing and cold wind bit our faces.We were forced to continue. We did make it back. Did see Tsogmo or Changu lake and Baba Harbhajan’s temple. Did stuff ourselves with momos and WaiWai till we could puke.
We were totally drained by this but did cajole ourselves to a walk in the super cute MG Marg in Gangtok. Devoid of vehicles and with cobbled streets this was a relaxing warm break. We couldnt find the 100 year old Glenarys Cafe so settled for Bakers Cafe and the calorie bombs there.
Our first day In Sikkim was over and Yumthang Valley and Gurudogmar awaited us. Or so we thought-till we met our travel agent.
More of that for the next time-till then hold on to the thought that the Cafe had teddy bear shaped cup cakes. Whatay no?