Monday, September 24, 2012

Monsoons of Sikkim - Photos of Nature Extraordinaire

Following the monsoon photo essay series, today I bring you a photo essay on the incredible monsoons of Sikkim. The earlier posts are here - Monsoons of Maharashtra and Monsoons of Karnataka. Little was known about travel to Sikkim in monsoons, I was discouraged by almost everyone to head there in the rain but with no where else to go, on an impulse I booked my tickets in July and a week later I was there witnessing something so exquisite it will take a lot of effort to put down in words. I am not going to use superlatives or adjectives here. But just know that the two weeks spent in Sikkim were beyond belief and incredibly beautiful. 

Mist in the Forests around Darjeeling
The road to Gangtok was closed due to massive landslides. So we spent a day in Darjeeling. Although the pretty hill station itself looks very dirty, the location and the area surrounding Darjeeling is out of this world. This view was right next to HMI Darjeeling. Thick forests, incredible greenery and mist everywhere characterized the scenery for the next few days.

View from Gangktok
The next day when the road opened, we took a taxi to Gangtok. It has to be one of the cleanest hill stations I have ever seen in India so far. Monsoons meant no tourists, so there wasn't any buzz in town either. The locals were going about their business as usual, I was sitting in a cafe sipping coffee and enjoying this view!

Waterfall by the road side
No sooner we entered the realms of North Sikkim, the charm of monsoons became evident in the form of delightful waterfalls just by the road. Not to mention the greenery and complete lack of another tourist vehicle in the vicinity. 

Seven Sisters Waterfall, North Sikkim
I have always loved visiting waterfalls in monsoons to witness their true beauty, seen here is the gorgeous Seven Sisters waterfall raging amidst thick greenery. There are seven levels of drop on this waterfall, 3- 4 of them can be clearly seen. We were headed to Lachen, to visit Gurudonngmar, but we got a call here saying there has been a massive landslide near Chaten blocking the road. So we changed plans to go to Lachung instead. Keeping buffer days and a very flexible plan is absolutely necessary to visit Sikkim in monsoons!

Evening mist engulfs all
As we moved further up North, villages were seen few and far between. The roads got scarier and slushier. But the views never ceased to amaze. We were deep inside mountains now, climbing up and down, driving through valleys and the giants played hide and seek with the clouds. The idea of North Sikkim might sound very remote, but in reality that is not the case. The beautiful mountains are scarred with signs of civilization and nature's wrath. But the monsoon clouds covered all the nasty marks, keeping the magic alive. Of pristine mountains and remote valleys.

Early morning drive to Yumthang Valley
Early next morning, we started from Lachung to visit Yumthang and Yumesamdong. Needless to say the morning brought dense mist as its companion. Yellow wildflowers made their appearance and never left side, for a long time. The valley was resplendent and the rain created a magical atmosphere. One where waterfalls can heard but not seen and one where mountains cannot be seen but felt. Visibility was as low as 3-4 meters.

Zero Point covered in mist
Surrounding the Zero Point are high peaks and vast mountains. But today we see nothing more than mist and the stream. It was surreal setting, bearing the bone chilling cold, wandering alone by the stream, the constant drizzle and the mysterious mist. We reached here with much apprehension and had to head back before more stones fell onto the road. In the rain we drove back to Yumthang and headed to Chungthung. 

Pretty Waterfall en route Lachen
Once at Chungthung, we convinced our reluctant driver to take us until Chaten to see if the landslide was cleared. This route was even better than the previous day's. The waterfalls took a more beautiful form in these mountains and this side was much more wilder and remote. 

clouds meet the Mountains, en route Chaten
Lucky for us the landslide was cleared within minutes after our arrival. The clouds kissed the mountain tops and I watched with mouth wide open!

Mist covers the Valley, North Sikkim
The next morning, the views kept getting better. The scale of the scenery is not easy to comprehend in the photos but everything was huge and we were a small speck in the big picture. The waterfalls were huge, so were the mountains and the river. 

Huge mountains and raging stream, North Sikkim
Beating the sound of the engine, I heard a huge roar. We stopped the vehicle to check what it was and to my surprise it was this huge stream tumbling down with a thundering roar. We thought we wouldn't stop anymore to take picture so we have enough time at Gurudongmar but with views like this, it was hard not to. 

Yellow flowers between a Glacial Stream, North Sikkim
After crossing Thangu, on the way to Giagong, we drove above the treeline and the scenery changed accordingly.  It also marked the return of the wildflowers!

Gurudongmar Lake
For the two weeks that I spent in Sikkim, never saw sunshine, except for this one hour, near Gurudongmar! The army deemed us extremely lucky, they hadn't seen sunshine in ages apparently. But today was a glorious day to spend by the glorious Holy Gurudongmar @ 17000ft! The green grass was a monsoon special of course.

Desert Valley before Gurudongmar Lake
We enjoyed the sunshine for few more hours in the barren land before the clouds took over. The journey back to Gangtok had its own share of adventures in the rain, on the road and in the night. But the incredible journey to North Sikkim came to a good end at Gangtok. 

Clouds over Mountains as seen from Ravangla
The next morning I left for a small hill town called Ravangla. The route had many more pretty waterfalls by the road side and once I reached the town, these were the views that welcomed me! I spent two days in this otherwise busy town which was completely calm because it was off season.

Prayer flags on the way to Khecheopalri Lake
Two days later I moved to another hill town called Pelling. Had my share of adventures here again while I visited some places near by. By now I was so used to greenery and the rains, it almost felt impossible to live in a different world. But two days later I found myself sitting in the airport reliving the dream through the LCD of my camera. That's how I spent two weeks last year, soaking in the monsoons of Sikkim and having the time of my life!

25 comments:

  1. Amazing photos you take. I went to Pelling and other parts of Sikkim many years ago but didn't have a camera back then unfortunately. Love your posts and the photos you take. So inspiring.

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    1. Thanks, the places are so beautiful I have to try really hard not to get good photos. :)
      I have one more monsoon post in store, the last one in the series for this year. Hope you enjoyed the monsoon magic series!

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  2. Excellent photography, I esp loved the ones with mountains covered in fog! Great sights to give memories of lifetime!

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    1. Thank you! For two weeks I only saw mountains and mist, we were tired of saying wow all the time and ran out of adjectives right on day one. Definitely memories to stay for a lifetime.

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  3. Wow !!

    That's just great. It's kind of sad that since I am not an Indian, I am not permitted to enter Sikkim.

    Anyway, I have always been a great fan of your write ups and photography. I hope you will never cease to amaze me :)

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    1. That is not true, foreigners are permitted to most areas save for areas very close to border. Meaning you could've seen all I have seen here except for Gurudongmar Lake and Zero Point probably. Lots of foreigners visit Sikkim every year. And thanks! :)

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  4. Misty, wet and green. You cant have a better blend than that. Awesome photography as always, Neelima.


    www.rajniranjandas.blogspot.in

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    1. Agreed! Mist, rain and green, best combination ever. :)

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  5. I visited Sikkim towards the end of the monsoons, two years ago - the views were so stunning that I put away my camera knowing I would not do justice to them. Thanks for these gorgeous pictures. And yes, having no other tourist around is a boon!

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    1. I know, it is difficult to capture the feeling in either words or pictures. Those who have experienced it will know the awesomeness of Sikkim in monsoons. :)

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  6. amazing photo essay! I almost felt like being in Sikkim!

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  7. Thank you Neelima. This is something! I know what I'm doing next!
    BTW could you please tell me how many days was your plan to Sikkim? So that I get an idea to look for a possible Weekend-Holiday-Leaves combination.

    Wishing you more travel lessons and experiences.

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    1. I was there for about 2 weeks. And I traveled majorly in North Sikkim and West Sikkim. Didn't go to East Sikkim. If you are planning to cover all of Sikkim, it will take more than 2 weeks.

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  8. Love your photos!!! They are just awesome.... Keep traveling...

    manuponnappa.blogspot.in

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    1. Thanks Manu! Glad you enjoy my photography.

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  9. Awesome snaps . Hope i could have visited it :)

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    1. Thanks Kulwant, maybe next monsoon, you should plan. :)

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  10. Beautiful capture! north east has been in my radar since i got married to a nagaland girl. But as always i'm deferring the trip there keeping an intention to drive. Somehow don't want to waste the opportunity of driving to the heavenly land. but certainly will plan a visit sometime soon.

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    1. Wow! So you have someone to show you Nagaland like a local! :)
      The roads are plain crazy there, but if you love adventure I think it will be fun. Do plan your trip soon and tell us how it went later.

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  11. Absolutely stunning.. I cant believe that its the same SIKKIM that i visited in December...Its heaven and the people are the most friendly i have come across. Gurudongmar is a bliss..it looks so different in monsoon...

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    1. Well, yes, that's the beauty of off-season travel. Every season brings its own charm to a place. :)

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