3 minute read…
Sikkim is a tiny Northeast Indian state. But this erstwhile Himalayan kingdom seems to always be in the news for the right reasons. Its location is strategically important, sharing as it does its border with China and while there is a strong military presence in the higher reaches, its stunning natural beauty is mostly accessible to visitors.
And so in November 2018, we set out, some eight members in all. Starting out from Siliguri, we halted at a town called Rongli where we were issued permits for restricted area travel. Padamchen was our first night’s halt, our accommodation being a cozy home-stay. Home-stays have become popular fixtures across the hills of Sikkim and West Bengal and even the government, in Sikkims’s case, has actively promoted them. The concept has successfully fuelled inclusive tourism and visitors have mostly positive experiences to narrate. We too were impressed at the service we received.
The second day’s drive saw us ascending along the picturesque switchbacks that lead up from Zuluk. There is but one little store along the way and we made sure to stop and encourage their grit in setting up shop on a lonely mountain. The Zuluk road does make you want to stop every so often to admire the mountains and since Nathang was only a short distance away, we drove on leisurely. As we ascended beyond the tree line, shrub jungle adorned the landscape in different hues of reds, brown and orange.
Nathang was a pretty hamlet with very basic services. Here too, we were booked at a home-stay but this one was a little too rudimentary. Our expectations are not sky high but accustomed as we have become to certain luxuries, we did feel a tad uncomfortable. However, this was the only minor glitch in what was also a most memorable evening. A wizened old man ran a little drinking joint and he was completely unaffected by business development mantras. He served up good old rum and charged prices that made us wonder if we were in 2004. We did leave him a generous tip though.
Day three took us along one of the most scenic routes I have had the privilege to drive on. Elephant Lake came into view, set in the foreground against a dramatic backdrop of mountains. We then came to the mainstream tourist circuit of Baba Mandir and Changu Lake and then descended towards Gangtok.
The Zuluk Road is steeped in history since it formed a part of the Silk Route. Traders travelled over the Jelep La pass and Kalimpong, back in the day, was an important business hub. We invite you to join us on this short trip which we are certain you can make time for. Schedules will remain busy, deadlines will always have to be met but memories too have to be made. So work an extra shift here, defer a meeting or two there, because opportunities such as this are going to be very rare!