Thursday, October 25, 2007


One can never tire of the pristine beauty of North Sikkim. Most of it is untouched by the vagaries of civilization. But to experience it, arduous treks over high passes and fording rivers have to be undertaken. One such trek takes you from the verdant green Lhasar valley across the barren Sebula pass and on to the hotsprings of Yumey samdong. The army had once upon a time thought of putting up a firing range in this area to test their big guns but mercifully this was shelved due to a public outcry.
Our trek commences at Thangu at a mind boggling altitude of 13500 ft. Situated on the banks of the Tista, Thangu, which is about 30 kilometers north of Lachen by road, has a sizeable military presence and also a thriving civilian population. It is an important takeoff point to the Cholamu plateau, Muguthang in the Lhonak valley and the Lhasar valley. Intense Ultra-violet rays and relatively good sunshine at Thangu coupled with good quality of soil result in the local vegetables especially radishes and turnips assuming huge proportions each sometimes weighing upto a kilogram.
It is a warm autumn morning and having had a nice night’s sleep at the PWD Bunglow, we are all well poised to move. We walk in the north easterly direction and a moderately steep climb of three hours takes us to Phalung . From here the view of the Lhasar Valley about a thousand feet below is breathtaking. Through the Lhasar valley, the green river coils in a series of switchbacks, almost stagnant like a snake, until slightly further down it strikes straight and falling and changes colour to a white cresendo and bashes into the Lachen chu (Tista) at Thangu like a drunken pugilist. There is a plan to harness the Lhasar river by establishing a micro-hydel project to meet the energy needs of Thangu.
The Lhasar Valley abounds in alpine vegetation and medicinal plants. The valley is also home to semi-nomadic yark-herders during summer and autumn. These herdsmen move up to the plateau during the winter and spring when the valley becomes snowbound.
A further downhill walk of about an hour takes us to the abandonded clubhut of the Survey of India at Chechung Lakha. In the north, the Kanchengyao at 22600 ft is resplendent in a mantel of snow. On the right, is the Sebu-la pass, that leads to the Yumey Samdong Hotsprings at the upper end of the Yumthang valley. After partaking to lunch, we walk a few kilometers north to reach the base of the mountain that separates the Lhasar valley from the Lachung valley. We pitch our tents here for the night. Early next morning we.negotiate a three kilometer steep climb takes one to Sebu-la at 17000 ft. The pass is narrow and treacherous. As we catch our breath, resting on this pass, I see a vulture just above me in the sky which remains suspended in the air without moving or flapping its wings for a full five minutes. While I am wondering what are the laws of physics that enables the bird to perform this gravity defying feat my porter reminds me that it is getting late and we are set to move on.
From the Sebu-la pass a knee-wobbling steep trek over glacial screes and we are at Sebu-Tso lake surrounded by mountains of Changma-Khang that seem to touch the skies. Medium sized, this lake is the source of the River Sebu-chu. We trek along the Sebu Chu on the banks of which are hundreds of Rhubarbs about five feet in height. These are perhaps the largest biggest concentration of Rhubarbs one can get to see in Sikkim: in contrast the ones in the Lachen and Lhasar valley that hardly grow upto 3 ft and are far and in between. Half an hour later we are at a wide flat valley about half a kilometer wide in which the river Palo Chuuthang meets the Sebu Chu. We ford across the river Palo Chuuthang and leaving the river behind begin the gradual climb to reach a mountain top strewn with huge rocks and stones. This is the most difficult part of the journey. Jumping from rock to rock we takes about an hour to traverse just about a kilometer. A wrong step and you can land up with a fractured leg. The prayer flags that mark the Hot springs of Yumey Samdong can now be seen far below. We negotiate the steep downhill walk to the wide river valley below. The Sebu Chu reappears as a thundering waterfall almost 200 ft high on the left. We ford across an un-named tributary of the Sebu Chu and are at the hotsprings of Yumey samdong. Unlike other hotsprings in Sikkim which have one source, Yumey samdong has four or five hotsprings. People spend about a fortnight in the springs to get themselves rid of skin diseases, arthiritis etc. But we do not have that much time: being urbanites we are as usual in a terrible hurry. But we spend about an hour with our tired feet dipped in the soothing hot water sipping tea. I feel that this route can definitely be developed for trekkers visiting North Sikkim who want to try something more adventurous and venture into off-beaten territory.
A walk of another one kilometer and we are at the road side where our vehicle is waiting. The driver starts the vehicle and switches on the cassette player . The strident noise of a Hindi remix tells us that we are back in civilization.


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