Sikkim is, if I have not stressed it enough already, one of our favourite places to disappear when we need a break. The people, the land and the food, are all such welcome salves when you want to get away from the jaded city life. This is precisely what we were looking for on our trip to North Sikkim. Our destination after Lachen was Lachung.
The Yarlam resort is the best the village has to offer and we were booked for three days here. Just like the Apple Orchard resort, this one too might seem a little expensive, but considering the harsh weather and terrain, we were glad of the comfort they provided. We were greeted with tea and shown our abode. The room was all we could have asked for plus had a marvellous view of the mountains on both sides.
Since it had taken us a while to reach here, just like in Lachen, we decided to make use of the massage chairs [ at an extra charge] and some music that evening. We were informed by the hotel staff that the snowfall had been very mild here and that they had heard of the snow blanketing Lachen. I think the snow gods were pleased with us during our trip. We retired for the night and while we were snuggled in our heated matresses, there was a heavy snow storm happening all around us.
The next morning we started off for Zero Point but could only reach Yumthang Valley. The army had once again asked tourist vehicles to not go further ahead as the temperatures had reached – 16 and there was a lot of snow piled high on the road. The valley was blanketed with a thick white sheet of virgin snow. For someone like me, who had never set eyes on snow before, this was exhilarating. We could see quite a number of other tourists just as excited and soon almost all the snow which was easily accessible had been trampled on or played with. We were extremely thankful for our gloves, snow jackets and boots. Well, boots for one of us at least, I had only packed my trekking shoes and they were soon soaked through. The rented boot shops all around came in handy and soon I was back in the snow.
On our way to Yumthang, our driver had made a short stop to give a ride to a friend of his who had a vegetable stall at the market. The one thing that always makes me marvel is the hardworking locals who never seem short of a smile or a helping hand. And this seems to be true of all hill folk. Always stylishly turned out and cheerful and always ready to go the extra mile if theres livelihood to be made. We saw a few enterprising souls here too. There were makeshift stalls and small shops selling maggi and hot drinks on the road approaching the stop. There were also ladies selling alcohol but if you are not used to the altitude, it is best to stick to tea/ coffee or soup. We have seen people have shortness of breath and worse because of having a drink too many in the mountains.
I think it shall help you prepare better for a holiday in the mountains if you stick to what the locals ask you to do. Eat what they eat, sleep when they sleep and start the day when they do. There is a reason behind everything and at temperatures and altitudes that your body is not used to, it is best to heed people who are in the know. We tend to do just this no matter where we travel, and so, inspite of the sub zero temperatures, there was not a day we felt sick or did not feel comfortable. They made sure we ate right and kept us toasty warm all through our stay. The staff at Yarlam were the sweetest and right from making sure we drank only warm water to bringing hot puffed rotis to us every single time, they looked after us like we were home. Stick to the local vegetables and fruit not to mention the local cuisine. Tashi, Jeevan, Bhumika and Sangam were some of the most wonderful staff we’ve encountered. They came to call us out for a snow ball fight when it snowed the next night because by now they had seen how much I enjoyed it. Even though snow to them is a fairly normal event, they were as crazy as us and we had a fabulous time catching snow flakes on our tongues, making angels and having snowball fights.
Our time here passed quickly- taking village walks, buying essentials at the local store and taking pictures. We absolutely loved their heated beds and the heater which not only kept us warm, it also helped us dry out our socks and gloves. We found a locally made lip balm, which managed to do what all our branded ones could not in the harsh climes and we smiled with uncracked lips at the sheer relief. This was suggested by a lady who owned a store in the village. I had my doubts given that I had never seen the name before, but she insisted that this was just what we needed and we remain grateful.
We proceeded to Gangtok from here and had an adventure or two along the way. An extremely huge boulder missed us and a car that was coming towards us from the opposite direction as we made our way on the hills. We stopped at the same small eatery that we had on our way going up and fed about 29 [ Yes, you can trust me to count] dogs outside it. Mountain dogs are the most gorgeous with their beautiful fur and limpid eyes. As we sat outside with the sun shining bright, so many beautiful furries at our feet, full tummies and chatted and laughed with the locals, I silently thanked whoever it was that had watched out and saved us from a sure death.