The Nathu La expedition
This is a guest post posted by Nayan Agrawal – a finance student or you can say him a finance lover whose hunger for travel led on a journey to great heights. Nathu La expedition….
Imagine yourself cruising through the beautiful mountains of Switzerland on a brisk sunny day. Well thanks to Sikkim you can still experience the same and save a lot of travel. Yes, Nathu La pass the road to freezing Indo-China border on 14,000 ft is an experience of a life time. Travelling to northern Gangtok where most of the area is under military control one can experience not only the beauty of nature but also appreciate the efforts of the Indian Armed Forces in the area. It is almost 2 hr drive from Gangtok to the border when moderate traffic and if one wishes to be adventurous, visiting in December-January is the most appropriate time to experience the harsh winters. Truth be told temperatures can drop upto -10’C at 1 p.m. and worse in evening with winds being your worse enemy.
The journey begins with a check-post operated by the armed forces who finally give you the permission to enter. Planning the journey is itself a typical task as drivers need to first get a permit and based on the time of the year rates can go upto Rs. 12,000 per vehicle i.e. 11-12 adults+driver. My advice trust the hotel guy. Moving on the journey is full of twist and turns bumps and jumps valleys and hikes so it is indeed a great test of your tummy fitness. Although speaking about the scenic beauty in this area would next to speaking of diamonds, what is more commendable is how the armed forces and local residents have made the place more hospitable.
The road and infrastructure is majorly the efforts of BRO i.e. Border Road Organisation whose roads is better than our urban developers. What is more fascinating to witness is the way they have laid down the barracks, mess and sports facilities by carving the mountain at such high altitude.
It was very easy to spot a ‘dhaba’ or a food centre about every 4-5 km that served great tea, veg momos, maggi noodles, chips & biscuits and other food items. Each of these centres are also equipped with male & female washrooms to make your journey more comfortable. People are very helpful & welcoming and in case you are feeling the winters you can also shop for woolens.
Climbing up the mountains can be very nauseating because of the twisty bumpy roads but also reducing oxygen levels with altitude. It is advisable to carry enough camphor ‘kapoor’ for the trip as it helps regulating oxygen in the body. Also carry along some water and popcorn can be great travel-munchy.
Now the fun part begins. The more you venture through the pass you come closer to the clouds. The journey is I guess equivalent to going heaven, because on your way your will find frozen waterfalls, green & brown mountains, beautiful half frozen lakes like Changu Lake (image), Manju lake and of course the cooperating Yalks. It is an experience where you can literally run out of storage because their are too many moments to capture, my suggestion ditch the camera and cherish the moments. Once you reach the destination it is not permissible to take any photos at the border. Climbing up to the border or the spot can be treacherous and even if you don’t feel anything try not to run, save oxygen.
When one think of borders the first thing that comes to mind is the tank from movie border, but its like two homes separated with a friendly barn. The soldiers are very open to meet and even the Chinese guy was quiet friendly. The hike is totally worth it. At the point you can also experience the world’s only cafe at 14,000 ft and also get a certificate of visit. The cafe serves coffee, popcorn, brownie, momos and maggi at very affordable rates.
The adventure is itself a great experience and tiring. It will almost take a day. There are a lot of details i wish to share but will leave them for you to experience. Have a safe trip.