Lake Cholamu : A Fiasco's Tale

Kangchenjunga from Darjeeling Himalayas
                                   Kangchenjunga from Darjeeling

Well… “Life is not about winning all the possibilities but about losing few (may be more or may be all) and most importantly it’s about relishing those losses”….. : Some Stranger Somewhere……

January 2010: I was going through some manuals on highest lakes of the world and surprisingly I was not able to see Himalayan lakes topping the list. It was a bitter truth and disappointment to my feelings (Misconception) because I am madly in love with this remarkable mountain series and found it disheartening to see it loosing at any front. But sometimes these losses infuse you with the strength to knock down the doors to unknown. Quivering feeling in the abdomen and sleepless nights certainly leads to a path to new experiences (Don’t get into particulars whether those would be good or bad) ….
Sukna Wild Life Sanctuary Near Siliguri
                               Sukna Wild Life Sanctuary Near Siliguri
Cholamu Lake is the highest lake of India and it falls in northern Sikkim near China border. Cholamu Lake is believed to be the origin of river Teesta, the main river flowing through Sikkim. Traveling to the highest lake of the world was not affordable considering our budget and savings so we decided to witness Cholamu Lake in the inclement winters of high Himalayas. North Bengal is the gateway to the Sikkim so I took a flight to Siliguri and stayed near Sukna wild life sanctuary (Mahananda National Park) that is famous for gigantic elephants. I roamed around the forest but could not view any elephant in the wild. I also wandered in the bustling city of Siliguri. I tried my bargaining skills in a market known for illegally transported cheap foreign goods.
City of Gangtok Sikkim
                                         City of Gangtok Sikkim
Living alone in the forest was an alleviating experience away from the comfort zone of life in a metro. I landed there with my tent and other trekking accessories in a hope of tenting somewhere in the snow. After couple of days my friends joined me at Siliguri and we headed to Darjeeling to start our journey to Cholamu Lake. Sometimes you get a hunch derived from your sixth sense that something is wrong somewhere…even before we started from Siliguri, I got a mild feeling that we will not make it to Cholamu Lake this time although we had been to more difficult terrain in worse climate. Darjeeling was colder than the foothills and mercury went below zero in the night but our shelter was blessed with a room heater and a fire place so we escaped a bit from shivering till the bones. Next morning we witnessed one of incredible view of Kangchenjunga range. Sun was rising from the east and was shining on the peaks making those glitters like gold but soon after dark clouds enveloped the distant peaks and left the hazes to settle in our memories. We were not supposed to overstay at Darjeeling so we left for Gangtok.
Thangu Valley near Cholamu lake North Sikkim
                                   Thangu Valley near Cholamu lake
Gangtok is undoubtedly the most organized hill town of India. Its rich infrastructure can suffice the need of any traveler for his/her tranquil time in deep Himalayas. Nice book stores, delicious food, coffee shops even multiplexes and malls too. It was my second trip to Gangtok and I fell in love all over again with the aura of this town.
Thangu Village with partially frozen river Teesta North Sikkim
                            Thangu Village with partially frozen river Teesta
These beautiful distractions at Gangtok could not divert us from the real mission of reaching Cholamu Lake. Even at Gangtok, locals were unaware of this lake. They were confusing it with much popular Gurudongmar Lake so we had to explain the situation explicitly. Finally a taxi driver was ready to go with us (when we lured him with extra cash) but did not committed that he will take us all the way. Taxi driver was also a bit apprehensive about the snow fall in north Sikkim which sometimes blocks the connectivity. Next morning we started very early to North Sikkim, more precisely to a place called Thangu which is some 40 km before Cholamu lake. We were driving through the backdrop of massive Kangchenjunga range on the left and following the river Teesta all the way. The journey was bit tiring and we had our lunch (fresh vegetables with rice, No wheat so no Roti) on the way.  Reached Chungthang in the evening and by the time we reached Lachen, Sun set down somewhere at distant horizon leaving us in utter darkness. From Lachen to Thangu, The road was covered with snow and it was a steep drive uphill. We were approaching elevation of 13000 feet and Thin Air made breathing bit difficult. We reached Thangu at around 9:00 PM in the night; mercury dropped sharply and reached way down zero and river Teesta was partially frozen on the banks. Thin air was the worst challenge that we faced yet we roamed around in the vicinity of Thangu in that chilly night and captured some good pictures of Thangu Valley. We could not sleep entire night as it was freaking cold with no source of heat in the room [except a burning candle].
Returning back from Thangu Village North Sikkim
                                       Returning back from Thangu
Next morning was the D day of our mission to touch Cholamu Lake and coming back. I almost drown myself in the freezing water of Teesta while brushing my teeth. Driver was reluctant to drive further up because of treacherous road condition. We insisted a lot and convinced him that we will help him out in case his vehicle gets stuck. We started and road was now covered with black ice so driving a vehicle was a tough job. There was thin ice layer on the road and beneath that melted water was flowing. Finally after driving some 20 km, wheel got stuck in the ice and vehicle was not moving at all. Driver became paranoid and started to blame us for this predicament. From my entire experience in Himalayas, he was the most timid driver I ever came across. Luckily we got some help from an army truck to move out the vehicle from that mess.
Prayer Flags at Yumthang Valley North Sikkim
                                      Prayer Flags at Yumthang Valley
Now there was just one option…. walk till the lake at that unfavorable altitude. We did not take that risk as driver was also not ready to wait for us… and distance was also some 20 km one way….


 We drove back to Thangu, then to Chumthang and headed to Lachung. We were extremely disappointed with our failure for not making till Cholamu Lake. It was not too much we asked from life. We rested at Lachung for one night in a decent hotel and roamed around the pristine surroundings. Next morning, our driver took us further north till Yumthang valley where you can rub your shoulders with many honeymooners.  Despite of emotional turmoil and mental disturbance, we enjoyed the journey, landscape, terrain, people at Yamuthang.
Yumthang Valley North Sikkim
                                  Yumthang Valley North Sikkim

Soon after in 2 days, I was back to Siliguri following the same route in reverse, talking some more people, witnessing more flora fauna….  I would not be honest to say that I was devastated but I was deeply saddened… I took a flight back to Delhi…

I reconciled myself to the idea that I would not see her any more. Her image receded into a misty haze till it became a memory... a very sweet memory….

cant wait to live my

cant wait to live my experience... Fingers crossed to accomplish visiting these destinations..
Nevertheless am sure the journey will be mesmerizing Smile

It would be for sure...

It would be for sure...

The journey is more important

The journey is more important than the destination. I appreciate your grit and spirit to pursue the goal against all odds. Keep it up.

Thanks for dropping by...

Thanks for dropping by... will be glad to see you more often at thinking particle...

Hi! I appreciate your blog writing!

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surprised !!!!

so finally credit goes to the last 2 lines of the travel blog... Laughing out loud

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