A Journey Along The Old Silk Route
The climax of our old Silk Route trip happened when we started our journey from Zuluk to Gangtok along the old Silk Route. The astounding beauty of the Mt. Kanchenjunga with the zigzag roads, lakes, and valleys created a perfect culmination of exploring the hidden gems of the old Silk Road. Here, the treasure is not hidden. Nature unveils its curtain over its treasure. One, who doesn’t have the eyes to explore the hidden beauty, can easily enjoy this mesmerizing magnificence of the old Silk route.
The Old Silk Route:
The Silk route is the hotbed of trading silk between India and Chiana in the ancient time. The entire root covered Chiana, India, Persia, Middle East, Egypt and extended up to the Europian country. In India, it started from the pretty city Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim and heads to the Nathula pass and goes down to the Nathang valley of the East Sikkim and finally ends at Icche-gaon of West Bengal. This old Silk route took us to a dizzy height, from where we got a breathtaking view of Mt. Kanchenjunga.
Please read my previous blog posts of “Along the Old Silk Route” series to connect with the mesmerizing trip to Sikkim.
Along the Old Silk Route #1: Trip Plan
Along the Old Silk Route #2: Romantic Rishikhola
Along the Old Silk Route #3: A day at Aritar
Along the Old Silk Route #4: Mankhim
Along the Old Silk Route #5: Enigmatic Zuluk
How to explore the Old Silk route:
In the early morning, we departed from Zuluk towards the Gangtok. After an hour of the journey along the ascending roads on the zigzag way, we reached Thambi viewpoint. It’s the place where you can get a clear view of the Mt. Kanchenjunga (the Third highest mountain in the World.) and the zigzag roads of the old Silk route. Here, we found this crystal clear view of the Mt. Kanchenjunga with its ranges for the first time in our entire trip. The tricky fog played a betrayal game with us, as a result, we failed to see it in the earlier places on this trip.
It was an amazing experience. It’s hard to explain how I felt when I see it for the first time after a long waiting. My eyes got wet with a tremendous joy. I just felt that it was God who is standing in front of me. The golden glow of sunlight over the gorgeous white snow of the mountain peak in the backdrop of the clear blue sky looked like a paradise to me. Yes, I got a bit emotional (you can also say an over-emotional) at that time. I couldn’t shoot for some time. Somehow, I managed myself and clicked the following snaps.
Nathang or Gnathang valley is located at the height of 1300ft from the sea level. It is also called “Ladakh of the East”. Before coming to the Gnathang, we saw plenty of greens over the mountain ranges on our way. But, as we ascended towards the Nathang, the views of the mountain was getting changed. Here, the color is grey and it looks like a desert in the mountain. The red, orange and green colored mosses wrapped around the mountain body. It is the coldest place of this route. In the winter, the snow covers the whole area and it’s hard to connect to other parts of the Sikkim.
After crossing the Nathang Valley, we found a heart-shaped, crystal blue colored water body beside the roads. I don’t know its name. If you recognize it, please let me know. I took a top-view of the lake from the road.
Old Baba Mandir:
The sacred place in the name of Baba Har Bhajan Sing is located between Nathula and Jelepla pass at a height of 12,123km. Baba Har Bhajan sing was the soldier of the Indian army, posted in this border area of Sikkim. He died near Nathula while he was escorting a mule column from the Tukla valley during the time of heavy rainfall and landslides by an accident. His immense contribution was recognized later by making his Samadhi in that place and it is known as the Baba Mandir. It is said by the local people and the Indian army that the soul of Baba stays in that area and whenever anybody falls into danger, Baba comes to save him or her. The people worshipped him as God. In the temple, his cot, dresses, arms, chairs and other uses things are kept in a good condition.
This valley offers a majestic panoramic view of the Mt. Kanchenjunga. The whole valley looked red due to the growth of the local flowers, mosses, and lichens. The entire road from the Thambi viewpoint to the Tukla valley, Mt. Kanchenjunga will give you an amazing company.
After climbing up about 14000ft and struggling through the numerous hairpin bends, nature greeted us with the gleams of the dark blue spectacular Kupup Lake. In the winter, the entire lake became freeze and looked like a white elephant. This sacred lake is also known as “Hatipokhri Lake”. This is the most scenic high altitude lake of the old Silk route. The beautiful lake is accompanied by a stunning valley, known as Kupup village. The lake is situated at the border of Chiana, where the old Silk route of Indian territory ends at the Jelepla Pass.
Tsomgo Lake or Changu Lake:
When we came near Nathua pass (after Kupup Lake), we saw a big market area. Our driver Bhutia Bhai, told us that the market is dedicated to the Chinese items. People from Chiana used to come here to sell their electronic goods and to buy the Indian grocery items like sugar, tea, salt etc. But, after the political issues between India and China, the market is closed. The Indian army is very strict in this area to prohibit the entry of any foreigner in this zone.
After crossing the Nathula border, we reached Changu Lake or Tsomgo Lake. This holy lake looks amazing in the frozen condition. But, it was not frozen when we visited it. The area around the lake was mind-blowing. There was an option of Yak safari along the bank of the lake. You can enjoy the ride most in the winter when the snow covers the entire area.
Changu Lake is 40km away from Gangtok. After enjoying a Yak ride we took some hot momos from the nearby shops. On the way to Gangtok, we found a waterfall beside the road. The fall is simple but famous for the shooting of the Hindi movie, “Ram Teri Ganga Maiya”. In this film, the Bollywood actress Mandakini danced in this chilled water of the falls.
We reached Gangtok after 7 hours of amazing journey. We didn’t tired as nature refreshed us with its astounding beauty.
How to reach the old Silk route?
You can make a trip from Zuluk and return again to Zuluk after completing the trip. In my last post on Zuluk, I narrated all of it. Please follow the post to get details of the route.
- The old Silk route is the protected area under the observation of the Indian Army. You need to get permit fro Rongoli town for the entry into this restricted zone.
- There is no ATM in this route. So, you need to carry cash in your wallet.
- Carry an inhaler with your necessary and emergency medicines. If you have a breathing trouble you may suffer in this high altitude.
- You need to wear heavy woolens as the temperature is very low in this area.
The series, “Along the old silk route” ends here. But, our travel didn’t stop in Gangtok. It extended to Namchi and Ravangla of South Sikkim. Stay tuned for more stories and photos about that trip. Please feel free to express your opinion, experience, suggestions, and quarries about the old Silk route in the comment box.