The diary of a few rides and clicks!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

On 6:53 AM by Yashwanth Rao   6 comments
Day-3 : Gangtok - Mangan
We had a pretty good sleep at Gangtok, and the next morning began with us standing in the queue at the permit office to get permits to enter North Sikkim and to Nathu La. Before that,, we had a nice hot bath there, which would be our last for many days! We had many photocopies of all the required documents. All of us carried many copies of our Driving Licence, PAN card, Insurance, Passport and many photos. When we filled and submitted the form, we got to know that we also had to get an approval from the Secretariat office. So we went there and waited for the chief officer there. But, it was a holiday season all over. All government offices were closed. However, luckily for us, since tourism is an important part of Sikkim, it was still open that day. We also met our friend there, Tashi, who came in a CBR to help us out in the tourist office. We were glad to have gained a new biker friend there. The officer came at around 10.30. His name was Mr.Pulgher. He was glad to hear that we have come from Karnataka and will be heading in bikes. It took around 2 hours there to complete all the formalities. We had to write a letter there requesting for permits as well. Finally, by around 2pm, we had all the permits acquired. We then had a light lunch there and left towards Chungthang, which was supposed to be our destination that night. 

Then, on the way we visited the Tashi viewpoint. It did offer a good view of some mountains all around. We bought the good luck flags there and put it on all our bikes. We spent around 20 minutes there. 

And again, my CBR was attracting interests of many passers by  One guy came and asked me again, 
"Kahaan se aaye ho? Kerala?"
"Nahin, Karnataka".
"Wahaan se chalaake aaye ho?"
(Well, this was the 20-30th time we were asked the same question already! So We had new answers ready  )
"Haan.. Udhar se hi chalaake aaye hain hum!"
"Kitney din lage?"
"3 din  Idhar se Gurudongmar road kaisa hai?"
"Road toh karaab hai. Dekh'ke chalna".. and it continued for another 2 minutes. 

Here onwards, we were used to think that we had come from Kerala, as it is more famous than Karnataka, and we rode all the way, as it would prevent us from explaining all the courier details :P

From this place, our biking in bad roads would begin. As soon as we rode for another 10 mins, we had to cross a bridge, and were greeted with a sign that read, "Welcome to North Sikkim". And from there, the roads turned from normal to bad. There were no tarmac roads here onwards and the roads were totally narrow, with many potholes and all. I couldn't even shift to 4th gear from here. All the way we were riding at speeds of just 30-40. 

However, we even got some stretches of tarmac roads also in between. We realized here that we cannot cover more distance everyday. After riding for around 60 kms, we reached this place called Mangan. It took us around 2-3 hours from Tashi view point. And the sun had already set by then. We had come across very bad roads by then. At some points, we had to even ride in 1st gear, cross streams and all. At Mangan, we came to know that it was the last petrol bunk we would come across. And we had to cover around 350 kms or so, by the time we come back to Mangan! We called it a night, filled our tanks and also carried around 8 ltrs of spare fuel. We spent the night at Mangan only. 

We had a good dinner there and the entire area is surrounded by mountains. We got a good view of many more villages in the hilly areas all around. We also came to know that one more group of bikers have rode towards Yumthang the same day morning. This day, we visited only one tourist place - Tashi view point, and the entire day was spent in just permit formalities and some biking. We were not too tired also. We had a good sleep, planning to get up and leave at around 5!

Day-4 : Mangan - Chungthang - Lachung - Yumthang - Zero Point 

From this day, our real Sikkim expeditions would begin. We got ready and left Mangan at around 6 am. There was a chill in the weather at the early morning, which kept us in a fresh mood. At mangan, we visited a view point. It was a beautiful view with sun rays falling over the snow capped mountains and we could see a river there at the valley as well. We spent around 10 mins there and left to Chungthang. 

Chungthang was around 30 kms far. The road was bad, and we had to cross some streams again. But the waterfalls we came across in this route were beautiful. We had many photo sessions all along the way. 

After many photo breaks and GoPro video breaks, we reached Chungthang after another 2-3 hours. In these roads, covering 30 kms would usually take around 90 mins, and it usually drains you out, as the roads are bad all the way. And this led to our first problem during our trip - Puncture!  

The pulsar had a puncture here, and we had to blame ourselves, as we didn't carry a tubeless puncture kit! However, we managed to ride till Chungthang, where there was some dam construction going on in the interiors. And the local people pointed out that the construction company people had a mechanic out there, who has an air pump! We had to ride down in very bad slushy roads for around 20 mins to reach that place. And the roads were too bad! It was one of the worst slushy roads I had ever seen!  

However, after reaching there, he said he didn't have a puncture kit, but filled air into it. So we thought we could manage for another 30-40 kms in that condition and search for an air pump at the next village. We had a nice Maggi at Chungthang for breakfast. Here onwards, we would get only Maggi and Rice with Dal for breakfast/lunch/dinner all the way! And here, after our breakfast, we met some people who later learnt that we were from Kerala and we rode all the way in 3-4 days to here!  

The next main village we came across on the way to Zero Point was Lachung. There was a checkpost here, where we had to show our permits. After the formalities, we left towards Yumthang. On the way to Yumthang, we came across some very beautiful sceneries and we didn't miss a chance to take some good snaps. 

Once the rhododendron sanctuary at Yumthang started, the roads were covered with huge slippery rocks. We had no choice but to ride very very slowly. 

Yumthang is also known as the Valley of flowers in Sikkim. So we could usually cover just 10-12 kms in an hour. But it was off-season when we went there. By the time we reached Yumthang, it was afternoon already. But the valley at Yumthang offered a very very beautiful view. We were totally drained out of hunger by this time, and even though it was just around 2-3pm, all tourists were leaving back and all the shops there were getting closed! We learnt that after 4pm, the place will be very very cold and it may rain as well. However, we ate some biscuits, chocolates and dry fruits there, enjoying the view and spent nearly 20-30 mins. 

Our initial plan was just to go till Yumthang and ride back. However, after talking to some taxi drivers, we realized there is a place called Zero point another 30 kms away from that place, where we could play in snow. We were running out of time, as all the tourists were heading back. Still, once you go till Yumthang, you just cannot go back without going till Zero point! We didn't want to miss it. So, we started to ride there as fast as we could. The road from Yumthang to Zero point was actually good. It was a tarmac road as well! We assigned the duty of taking as many nice pics as possible to the pillion and started to ride, with least possible breaks. There was another checkpost at Yumesamdong. There, he told us that we actually had permits to just go till Yumthang and we had no permits to go till Zero point. However, he was glad enough to let us pass, after listening to our Kerala and riding all the way story  He asked us to come back within an hour and let us go, after keeping our original documents. 

The road was beautiful, and it was too cold. I would say, around 1-2 degrees, as we were surrounded by only snow and snow capped mountains everywhere. And the altitude was getting higher as well. We had started to feel the lack of abundant oxygen as well. We met a group of bikers, who were returning from that place. We gave them a biker hi-5 and didn't stop, as we were running out of time. After another 30-45 mins, we reached Zero point. It was a beautiful place, and we ran towards snow and just fell down over the snow to rest for a while. We were all shivering, but with excitement! We had seen one of the beautiful places in Sikkim by then! We took many more snaps, and then left back. 

We were the last group of people who visited Zero point that day. It was around 4.30 by the time we left, and the sun was running fast towards the west. Our 4-5 layers of thermals+jackets and our biker gloves couldn't protect us from the shivering cold chill out there. Our hands were numb already, and it was getting much colder as the dusk approached. Classic 500 was carrying a pillion this time and the other 3 bikes, we were riding alone. After riding for around 30 mins, we stopped, as we couldn't see the classic following us. We waited there, keeping our palms closer to the exhausts of our bikes. We had carried ample gatorade sachets with us, and we filled water in the bottles wherever we could. So here, we prepared some gatorade and drank it to get some energy. After waiting for another 20 mins also, the classic didn't show up. The sun had almost set and we didn't know what to do then. We were totally drained out, and the thought of riding back in search of the classic made us shiver more in that cold conditions! We decided to count till 10 and then ride back towards Zero point, praying in all ways to hear that thump again! 1..2..3..4..5..6..7..8.. Wait! We thought we heard the bullet sound somewhere! A little smile came across our faces. After another 30 seconds, we could see them again in those upward hilly curves! Thank god for listening to us!  When they finally came down, we got to know that one of their mobile had fallen down at zero point while playing and rolling over the snow! So after riding for 7-8 kms, they had to go back again, search for it and come back!  We scolded him properly for the carelessness and started riding again. We almost didn't stop anywhere else, after collecting our original docs at the check post. Even that guard was a little bit worried as we didn't come back early. We then called it a night, after reaching Lachung. We stayed there overnight at a pretty decent lodge, and were more than happy to eat the hot meal, sipping hot tea! We deserved that good meal after our coldest day so far! 


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  3. Now they have made the bridge also to increase the beauty... :)

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