Kolkata Dzuluk Gnathang Kuppup Gangtok: Xylo Rambles Along Sikkim's Old Silk Route


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For me, this was probably the most under prepared drive I have done ever. The plan for almost a year was to drive along the Ganga to the Gangotri and Nelong Valley. But last moments Son's health issues and professional commitments made me alter the plan 360 degrees and opt for a short curtailed drive.

The drive plan to Gangotri and Nelong was an ambitious one, so to replace that with another drive needed me to scout for a place at least similar in stature. And being in love with Gahrwal ever since I started my treks, I really could not find anything matching. It was not about the place, but about my mindset which was blocked. So instead of net searching, did a little bit of SOUL searching and then I knew the other things which too were close to my heart. And the first thing which came to my mind was the majestic Kunchendzonga the 3rd highest peak in the World and India's highest, and quickly followed the pristine green waters of the Teesta flowing relentlessly.

While all areas of Sikkim was covered by me multiple times, the Silk Route of East Sikkim still remained elusive for me. I had tried it once way back in 2012, but was denied permission in the route as the sanctioning authority was on leave then. So decided to attempt it again.

Some of my friends from the forum R.O.A.D Revv On And Drive were there to put me on to the right persons in Sikkim for required permits and itinerary. I got in touch with my friend who was to be with me for the trip and fixed up the starting date as November 1st 2017.

The major pull for the drive was the famous Zuluk loops. The road spirals itself up from the village of Zuluk to Lungthung and gains almost 3,000 feet vertically
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The first major attraction was Rongli a small village tucked deep inside East district of Sikkim. This was also the point where you get the innerline permits and permit for the car to traverse the route which is highly sensitive defence wise given its proximity to the China (Tibet) border.
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We also crossed the picturesque village of Dzuluk and took its famous loops.
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We rested for a night in the cold deserted windy heights of Thambi from where you only get to compare the beauty of the Sunset and Sunrise over the Kunchendzonga.
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We also halted in the icy heights of Nathang Valley
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And then while climbing up to Tsongo (Changu) Lake and down to Gangtok we crossed to snow covered village of Kuppup which boasts of the World's highest Golf Course though we could not spot it, being covered with ice..
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My friend and navigator/photographer/blogger for the drive was Sagar Sen. An avid traveler and a biker at heart he is excellent in photography and writing blogs. We were both connected for a few years through R.O.A.D and while I was busy behind the wheels for the entire drive he kept himself busy with the camera and jotting down navigational points and clicking all the way.
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And of course my trusted steed. At 7 years plus it has aged gracefully and sports the battle scars all over the body. A Road Warrior who took the highways on the plains with grace and agility, the hairpin loops with strength and power and the icey heights with calm and patience. The XYLO and ME inseparable as always..
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The Story continues..
 
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Re: Kolkata Dzuluk Gnathang Kuppup Gangtok: Xylo Rambles Along Sikkim's Old Silk Rout

Come on Man, don't make us wait so tantalizingly.. waiting eagerly for the continuation of such a scenic travelogue . its already to be given 5 stars without the rest of the journey. [clap]
 
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Re: Kolkata Dzuluk Gnathang Kuppup Gangtok: Xylo Rambles Along Sikkim's Old Silk Rout

A brief history of the Silk Route - The two ends of the Sikkim Silk Route has been Kalimpong in West Bengal and one side and Lhasa in Tibet (China). Starting from Kalimpong the route passes through Pedong, Rongli, Dzuluk, Lungthung, Tukla, Jelep La pass and on to Tibet's Chumbi Valley to Lhasa (erstwhile capital of Tibet). The famous silk route was open till a few decades ago before the Chinese invasion and was an extremely popular trading route used by many traders from both sides.

The major items that were traded were silk, fur and wool. The Jelep la pass at 14,000 feet used to be the window connecting India with Tibet but since 1962 war the pass remains closed and the only corridor into Tibet now is through the adjoining nearby pass called Nathu La..

The small villages like Dzuluk, Lungthung, Gnathang, Kuppup that lie on the way are extremely sparsely populated varying between 400 to 700 people. They are mostly Nepali and had migrated from far in search of better livelihood as this was a bustling trading route then. But with the closure of Jelep la things went wrong and with the soil also being infertile for agriculture the major livelihood is being part of the Road Construction works and the budding tourism.

Just sharing some priceless black and white photos which stand as timeless classics in our home stay in Gnathang Valley.
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Re: Kolkata Dzuluk Gnathang Kuppup Gangtok: Xylo Rambles Along Sikkim's Old Silk Rout

1st NOV - Kolkata to Siliguri
Any drive from Kolkata to North Bengal / Sikkim / North East involves the first day to be a bit boring drive and a day you need to dodge those traffic snarls, take calculated risks on the diversions, toss up between suggestions given by various drivers driven through these roads. And trust me writing about this day is also no less boring and I am sure reading might constitute the same too.

So I will just keep it to bare minimum and let the log do the talking. I promise to attach the excel log at the end of the story in my concluding post as it is yet to be transferred into the excel from the notebook writing.

We started from New Town in Kolkata at 6.30 am and the plan as advised by all was to take the Burdwan, Funtisanko, Kuli, Moregram and onwards. Accordingly we reached the Belghoria Expressway startpoint, but suddenly I had a strange urge not to divert from the NH 34 and take the Belghoria Expressway but to continue on the conventional Krishnanagar/ Behrampore Road. I looked at Sagar and checked with him and he also felt the same. Without a second thought he too agreed.

Road to Barasat was mild congestion and from there on to Ranaghat was fine 2 lane driving except bottlenecks at few places reducing the average speed. Reached Krishnanagar at stopped for a breakfast halt which turned out to be a semi lunch halt. A lovely egg curry and tawa roti greeted us.
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From Krishnanagar to Behrampore had plenty of diversions but at least we could see road construction work under way. In fact the narrow highway in Bethuadahori town was being widened and houses on either side of the road were being pulled down for this.
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While passing the small town of Debagram there was a zamindar style house which we always passed in our earlier drives but never stopped to have a look. This time we did. Later tried to locate the waterbody / river / canal in front of the house but it was never visible on Gmaps.
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We took the Behrampore bypass which was a breeze and allowed us to overcome the heavy traffic of Behrampore. Luckily the Bridge over the Hoogly was not congested. Beyond Behrampore was pleasantly surprised to see toll roads started. Though such roads had unpleasant breaks in between, but still far better than when I last went through them.

Farakka barrage crossing was slow but moving traffick. Faced some issues in Kaliachak but still managed to wriggle it out. Nearing Malda got a phone call from friend Koushik Roy (Calpu handle name in TAI). He too was driving to Siliguri in his Aspire and was following me an hour or two behind. He asked me to take the Malda bypass which was under construction but in non monsoon can be taken. We just missed it as it was not marked properly and ran into the jam of Malda. Within the town the Xylo did a hell lot of off roading in climbing footpaths and criss crossing dividers to get out of the mess. In 2 hours we had moved just 35 kms to be out of Malda completely and get into Jubilee Dhaba where Koushik asked us to wait for him. He took the bypass and reached very shortly. Had some tea together and then went off for the last leg.

Raigung was extremely slow moving and then we took the Botolbari Dhantalla road to bypass Dalkhola. It was dark by then but Koushik who is a regular here told me it was okay and he led the way on those narrow roads with the xylo struggling to keep up with the Aspire. But it was a smooth ride and reached Islampur in no time.

Hit Siliguri by around 9 pm and after a little difficulty found a hotel to rest our limbs.
 
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Re: Kolkata Dzuluk Gnathang Kuppup Gangtok: Xylo Rambles Along Sikkim's Old Silk Rout

2nd Nov - Siliguri to Rongli
It was a short drive for the day. So we took it easy in the morning and not jump out of the bed to hold the wheel. The distance to Rongli was 110 km but fully on the mountains except the first 10 km upto Sevok. Started from hotel at 9.30 am but stopped for getting my daily medicines which I had forgotten to carry from Kolkata and also to pick up some cash. Was also passing my office branch in Siliguri and found one of our team mates. So stopped to have a small chit chat.

By the time we hit the Sevok road and the jungles on either side it was well past 10 in the morning. As we reached Sevok and ready to hit the hills we made our last pit stop of sorts at the Sevok fuel station as the Xylo needed to be filled up to the brim.
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From here on to Kalijhora, Teesta Bazar, Melli and on to Rangpo was the normal routine road which I have driven or travelled earlier a million times. From Rangpo the road to Gangtok branches of to the left, but we took the steep, non tarmac broken road to the right which was to lead us to Rongli.

The road initially was extremely bad, but later we found the tarmac appearing and well laid out. We stopped at regular intervals to take pictures and enjoy the nature.
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At one such waterfall got down to fill some water and indeed it was very refreshing splashing them on the face
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Reached Rongli well before lunch time and finding Dilip Pradhan's house (Mangaldeep resort) was not much of a problem as it was well known to all locals. We had earlier spoken to Mr. Dilip Pradhan through our friend in R.O.A.D and he had promised us all assistance in securing innerline and vehicle permit to do the route. We decided to stay back in his hotel Mangaldeep as we were not exactly in a hurry to return to Kolkata nor to move on to other parts of Sikkim post concluding this route. Else others who come here need not break and can proceed to higher reaches on the Silk Route subject to securing permits immediately.
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The Xylo got its parking space under the Sun
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We were famished and went in for our lunch. It was out in the open under a canopy and delicious dal, vegetables and egg curry.
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Post lunch just lazed around and took the opportunity of catching up with life back in the metropolis as we knew for next couple of days we would be without network.
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The evening was spent on the balcony with the huge dark mountains in front, the faint distant electric light from the far away heights, a starlight sky and the Rongli River rushing below which could not be seen but just heard.

Next day we were to hit the more challenging heights and the steep hairpins.. The Xylo and me were just readying ourselves.
 
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Re: Kolkata Dzuluk Gnathang Kuppup Gangtok: Xylo Rambles Along Sikkim's Old Silk Rout

3rd Nov - Rongli to Thambi via Zuluk
Woke up early with a lot of old thoughts and skeptisism. It was in 2012 when I had attempted the Silk Route with the Xylo, but was denied permission under the reason that the SDPO was not available and can issue the permit only after 4 days that too if I can present mine and the Xylo's case well. Those days getting permit was also not as easy. I did not have the time to wait for 4 days so had left with a heavy heart. But we did have a lot of fun and enjoyment in Reshi Khola and Sillery Gaon so no regrets. In case anyone wants to check that drive here is the link
http://www.theautomotiveindia.com/f...ylo-takes-heights-north-bengal-himalayas.html

The thoughts were there at the back of my mind as we once again spoke to Mr. Dilip Pradhan but he assured that it won't be an issue this time and after breakfast he bade us goodbye and wished us a happy journey. He had assisted in all form filling up and told us the process which we need to follow to get the permit. It is important that the owner of the vehicle being given the permit needs to be in the vehicle. What I understood self drive rental vehicles were not being allowed. After breakfast we were ready to roll.
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First we went to the Rongli Bazar where we needed to get our passport size photographs and identification papers photocopied. Rongli was a small, laid back but bustling sikkim hamlet and all essentials were available in the market. Parked the Xylo and then did all the required things done at a shop which had facilities of passport pictures as well as xerox. In short they were equipped with the knowledge of the permit procedure.
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From there we went to the SDPO Office which was perched slightly higher on a different road but to our surprise when we reached there found it closed lock stock and barrel without a single soul available who could guide us. Sagar went back walking to from where we were coming and got back the answer that there was someone who was in the office but had left a little while back. It was around 10 in the morning and my worst fears of being denied permission this time also started surfacing on my mind
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Tried calling up Dilip Pradhan but phone was unavailable. It was Panchayat Elections and we were contemplating whether all Government Officials were on Election Duty or not. So we drove back to Dilip's Guest House but he was not there. But his staff immediately alerted him and he swung into action. Within 10 minutes we were told by his staff to proceed back to the SDPO Office as the concerned Officer is back. Even as we were driving back met Dilip Pradhan in his Swift coming from the other side and he reassured us that the Officer has been spoken to and is getting back to office. While we hit the office a second time around we were surprised to still find it closed but saw a man coming down the slopes whom we could actually ask. Later we found that he was the one who checked our papers (Car Smart card, Insurance, pollution, my driving license, my ownership over the Xylo) and stamped our papers and asked us to get 5 xerox of the stamped permit for us to submit in various checkpoints.

The entire process took not more than 10 minutes in that empty seemingly haunted huge building and I was extremely happy, relieved and all smiles holding the permit in my hand.
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We next checked on a tyre shop as I wanted to doubly be sure on the PSI specially in the spare one. The shop was at the end of the village but was on the way to Zuluk.
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Just as we started our uphill climb, we decided to stop and make a call at our respective home as we were not sure of telephone network beyonf this point. So we stopped in front of a Shiv Mandir and did our calls. The Mandir itself was a symbol of devotion and spirituality. It had a Shiv ji deity inside which we could understand as being worshipped regularly and Buddhist prayer flags fluttering all around it. A true confluence of Religious beliefs. Needless to say not a soul around.
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We did find the odd isolated Home stays strewn on either side of the road and all appeared neat and clean with a lot of warmth. One such big one did attract our attention as we stopped to click it.
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From here on it was just superb view all over and extremely enjoyable drive to the waterfall called Que Khola. It was picturesque and we too stopped for some pictures.
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It had a small tea shop serving snacks like boiled egg and maggi on one end and looked extremely inviting for me to have a cup of tea and an egg. There was a local middle aged couple in an Alto who were also sitting there enjoying the sun, the chill, the drink and the snacks. The Gentleman checked on me as to where I was driving from even as Sagar was busy clicking. He advised me to reach Thambi (Lungthung) our destination for the day as the higher reaches get engulfed in dense fog post 1 pm. It was almost 12 noon, so I threw caution to the wind and decided to sit and enjoy and encounter the fog if and when it came. After all it was not my first drive in some disturbing fog, though I was cautiously skeptical about it. The Gentleman offered me snacks which I took and drinks which I politely refused as I was on the Highways driving.

The road leading to Zuluk was very soothing with longish straights being suddenly intercepted by hairpin bends. The sky was blue, the mountains were green and we wasted enough time stopping and feeling the atmosphere.
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Dzuluk at a height of around 10,000 feet was around 32 km from Rongli which we reached less than 2 hours. This was the original major halt within the ancient Silk route. It was a small village scattered with a few huts and sheds. It has a big military base because of which we found photography prohibited. So the only picture is of a deserted football field with army trucks parked.
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From here on the road to Thambi (13.000 feet) was loop like with unending hairpins and steep haul. The Xylo though was pulling effortlessly much to my relief. The roads at places were not metalled too though was holding traction enough. The problem was somewhere it struck me that we were not getting the name of Thambi in the milestones but only getting Lungthung and the worst part is over stretches of 30 minutes we never found a person to ask or a car to stop and check. Finally we found a 2*2 feet tea stall which was open but no one inside. A honk by the Xylo and someone appeared from the slopes of the mountain and told us we were on the right direction and Thambi was just the name of the view point and the village 2 km uphill was Lungthung. Relieved we sat for a chat. The fog was passing on the road at regular intervals but never threatened to create dangerous situations.
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And just as we reached Thambi point which was not marked in Milestones but only here we realised our homestay (arranged by Mr. Dilip Pradhan) was further up as there was no hutment present here. But to our pleasant surprise we found our night destination within 300 meters tucked in the slope away from the visibility on the main road. The owner a lady and her daughter called Yamuna were waiting for us on the main road along with a couple of local gentlemen who specially came up from Padamchen (below Zuluk) just to make us comfortable and left after we packed into the room. The Xylo got parked in the main road as we made it down to the hut.
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Before entering the hut for a hot lunch, just came out to check the road we had already climbed. And there it was.
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The Sun was strongly out though a chill persisted. The Kunchendzonga peak was under a cloud cover. We decided to freshen up, have lunch and come out a fresh to check on the sunset and capture them..
 
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Re: Kolkata Dzuluk Gnathang Kuppup Gangtok: Xylo Rambles Along Sikkim's Old Silk Rout

Amazing travelogue as always with superb pictures! Eagerly waiting for the next part. [cheers]
 
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Re: Kolkata Dzuluk Gnathang Kuppup Gangtok: Xylo Rambles Along Sikkim's Old Silk Rout

Amazing clicks, hats off to the photographer. all the pics are so tempting.
 
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Re: Kolkata Dzuluk Gnathang Kuppup Gangtok: Xylo Rambles Along Sikkim's Old Silk Rout

Amazing travelogue as always with superb pictures! Eagerly waiting for the next part. [cheers]
Amazing clicks, hats off to the photographer. all the pics are so tempting.
Thanks for the appreciation. The pictures majorly taken by my friend Sagar who is a good photographer and blogger. Some pictures were taken by me whenever I was stopping the car.

It was indeed great to have Sagar along with me in the front seat as I need not required to bother myself on the photographs and notes to be taken for future reference.

Will continue with the story..
 
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Re: Kolkata Dzuluk Gnathang Kuppup Gangtok: Xylo Rambles Along Sikkim's Old Silk Rout

Lunch was deliciously hot and tasty. It comprised of a simple menu of rice, daal, vegetables, egg curry with onion salad. We were hungry and ate to our heart's content. Then came out and took the picture of the home stay.
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This was the Thambi View Point from our Home stay.
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We walked towards the view point.
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And once we reached the spot here is the Home stay from the view point. It was as close as this.
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Photographer Sagar went about looking for a spot to set up his tripod..
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And he seems to have found it..
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And the tripod gets set up to take a time lapsed video..
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On one side the Dzuluk loops could be seen
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The weather was extremely clear..
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Just on the view point there was a solitary tea shop which was shut lock stock and barrel. Probably its a busy place in the season time, but around this time it was just me and Sagar and no one else and the Kunchenjungha in front under a cover of cloud. The menu card would have been the most sought after thing in the summers but now it was lying unattended in one corner.
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The Sun was going down and was going down with a blaze and in full glory..
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The chill was setting in slowly and I could feel it. And the jacket head gear came out for me..
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And just before the Sun went down completely the majestic Kunchenjungha made its first appearance like a show stopper.
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We retired to our room by 5 pm and had some tea and snacks. It was a full moon night and we promised ourselves to make one more appearance to check out the Kunchenjungha basking in the moonlight.

Accordingly had a quick dinner of Roti and chicken curry which like in the afternoon tasted awesome. Then by 7.30 / 8 pm came out again armed with the camera and the tripod. The sky was clear and absolutely free of any cloud. The Kunchenjungha under the moonlight was mesmerising and mystic. The view is difficult to explain and we absorbed every second in our heart and soul. We did try to capture it in the camera but was not very successful. But pasting in one picture here as a proof of our braving the elements of nature and the chill and the wind to capture this.
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On the other side the lights of Dzuluk were burning brightly though the village would have been soundly sleeping by then.
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We were off to bed by 10.30 pm ready for Nathang Valley the next day.

The story continues..
 
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Re: Kolkata Dzuluk Gnathang Kuppup Gangtok: Xylo Rambles Along Sikkim's Old Silk Rout

4th Nov - Thambi to Nathang Valley
Night was cold but the room was warm and so were the bed and the quilt. So sleep was good until I woke up at 3.30 am with the realisation that though I am sleeping here comfortably, the Xylo was braving all the odds of nature standing on the open highway facing the cold wind and bearing the dip in the temperature to below Zero. Despite the moon the cloud cover made it very dark. I reassured myself that those heavy army vehicles and some construction equipment carrying trucks of "Man" would not be plying in the dead of night so the narrow road turn where it was standing would surely be traffic less. But nevertheless it was in the back of my mind that it needed to crank itself up in the morning and the Exide battery was more than 3 years old. Sleep did get disturbed but just around the time the Sun was peeping out, I fell asleep and so did Sagar.

It was well past 6 that both of us realised that we should have been out on the road and not on bed. We jumped out and the sight was one to behold. In our sleepy eyes we were confused if it was the risng Sun or the setting Moon. Checking the direction we understood it was the moon.

The tele lens was fixed on to my camera and the requirement was to get back to the normal 18-55 mm lens as the Kunchenjungha and the setting moon could have been framed in one picture. But our hands were numb with cold and the body and mind still in a semi sleep mode. So by the time we got the normal lens on she was gone. The moon did vanish very rapidly denying us a picture of a lifetime. But before it went the tele lens had captured them separately. So uploading the pictures separately as taken
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Next we climbed up to the high road and the Xylo was lazily waking up from its slumber and enjoying the Kunchenjungha. I decided to leave it alone for the time being and crank it up once the Sun fully came up.
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Slowly the Sun did show up and I removed my jacket cap as the wind had sort of relented.
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And here are the first rays on the World's 3rd highest peak and highest in India.
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We could have spent the entire day watching the might and the beauty of the mountains, but needed to move up to Nathang Valley which was only 12 km from where we were. We rushed into our home stay and checked on the spiral road climbing up behind us, the route we were to take.
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Grabbed a quick breakfast of Puri and Sabji. Yamuna and her mother did play a perfect host all along. They stay in Phadamchen which was 20 km downhill even below Zuluk on way from Rongli. They had come up just for us as they had taken our stay booking from Rongli. After we leave they too would go back to there home.
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Packing up did not take much time as we had hardly taken anything out.
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The Sun by now was fully out and the Kunchenjungha entire range was standing tall in full glory in front of us.
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Yamuna was there to see us off and we could not resist ourselves from clicking own pictures from the vantage point that she was sitting.
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Even as Sagar was pulling the luggage to the car I did crank it up. It skipped a beat annd so did my heart but roared to life in the very first attempt. I was relieved and let it rev freely even as we stacked the luggage.
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Lungthu was 5 km uphill and then on it was upto Gnathang Valley at heights of more than 13,00 feet.
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The journey continues..
 
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Re: Kolkata Dzuluk Gnathang Kuppup Gangtok: Xylo Rambles Along Sikkim's Old Silk Rout

We started from Thambi at 10 am and the only so called village/ hamlet/ defence outpost was Lungthu. The climb again was steep, but the Xylo was enjoying it. We did not have too many halts as the road was covered with morning clouds and did not allow too much of photography. It was around 10.45 am that we hit upon this huge construction out of nowhere. It looked a cafe though was completely deserted. It had a warm welcome feel all over and we decided to stop. Coffee was not in our minds as we were still full with breakfast, but decided to check on the way to Nathang as the non metal road bifurcated from here, one uphill and the one to the left down.
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Inside we found it to be a cafe with huge seating capacity, it doubled up as a local curio shop and prices were on the higher side and general items available. The entire space was empty with just 2 ladies being in charge of it. They also told me that they run a home stay in Nathang Village and if we would not have had a prior booking in Nathang they could have played host to their home stay which they claimed was the only British Bungalow in the village.
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Even as we entered a man from the para millitary force also walked in alone to check on some local stuff to buy. He was from Bengal and introduced himself to us. He told me that things were expensive here, but he had no other option. I also checked on some ladies "poncho" for my wife and sister and purchased them for Rs 300/- each. Took a picture of how to wear them also.
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Not that we required the coffee, but the big soft, cushy sofa s were quite unexpected at a place as remote and isolated as this. So to enjoy that hospitality Sagar and I ordered for a coffee and chatted with the owners.
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We were told that Nathang Village was a couple of km downhill on the left road. So we took that broken road and came up with abandoned army bunkers standing strong amidst the memories of a bitter Indo Chinese war.
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Reached the village by 12 noon. It was down hill from the cafe / curio shop but still was near 13,000 feet. At the busiest time in afternoon the village was lifeless and appeared deserted.
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The home stay we were to put up was right in the middle of the village and did not have much difficulty in locating. The Xylo got its parking space. Our room was on the first floor just above where the Xylo was standing.
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The room was basic, but cosy and spacious and much better than one can expect in these high altitude unfriendly terrain.
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We were the only boarders in entire Nathang that day. Went down to have some tea as the temperature was freezing already and some light snowfall had started. But the hostess told us that the snowfall won't intensify and true to her words it stopped in 5 minutes. The dining room was warm as it had a room heating blower. The tea was refreshing and soon lunch was ready.
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Post lunch instead of a nap, we just went to visit the monastery which was adjoining our home stay. It was closed and we were told that the Lamas were temporarily not present.
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We then went around the village. Roads were still deserted with not a soul in the vicinity, though the houses appeared cluttered together.
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There was a War Memorial and we went to see it. Unlike some more celebrated war memorials across the Himalayas, this one appeared to lie in neglect. It was a pre independence memorial where some of the soldiers from the British army lay in solitude and peace.
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Returned to our home stay and found the pug which grew quite fond of us. Even the street dog which was roaming within our cottage with quite an authority took a liking for us.
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As the Sun set in and darkness encroached we retired to our balcony and sat for a quiet evening to watch the entire valley lit up in front of us on a near full moon night. The sight was one to behold, but the camera could not capture the essence.

Sagar was not at his best digestive form and decided to skip dinner completely. But by then they had prepared the chicken ad rotis. So I had to double up on both our food but tasty as it was did not need to struggle to much to finish it off.

Temperature went to sub zero levels and at 10 in the night I decided to go down and crank up the Xylo and leave it on for 45 minutes for it to have a better morning start. By then the roof was already getting white with snow flakes.
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Came back to the room by 11 noon to find Sagar snoaring happily and without delay I decided to follow suit. The next day we continue on to Kuppup, the World's highest Golf Course and onwards to original Baba Mandir follwed bt Tsongmo (Changu) Lake and Gangtok.

The journey continues..
 
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Re: Kolkata Dzuluk Gnathang Kuppup Gangtok: Xylo Rambles Along Sikkim's Old Silk Rout

5th Nov - Nathang to Gangtok via Kuppup
Today was to be our last day on the Silk route. The plan was to climb further up to old and original Baba Mandir and then from there to Kuppup, New Baba Mandir, Tsongmo (Changu) lake and on to Gangtok the capital of Sikkim. We woke up early to the knocking on the door by the caretaker. He wanted us to keep the tap running as otherwise it would have frozen inside the pipe. We followed suit and found that water kept in drums and buckets had all frozen by then. The Sun was out early and getting strong. I was worried with the Xylo starting and wanted the Sun to heat it up as soon as possible. The previous night I had also changed its parking position and made it face towards the wal of the home stay to minimise the cold wind effect getting into the engine.
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Nathang Village still appeared sleeping and deserted.
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But this little one was up and ready for the day.
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We started around 9 am after settling all dues with the owner. We needed to climb 2 km back to previous day's Cafeteria point which was called Laxman Point. From here we needed to join the main road to Kuppup. The weather was freezing and the gear shift was not normal on the xylo. I had to wrestle with the gear lever and it was just not slotting into the desired numbers as it does normally. I decided to pull it on one side and let the engine idle for ten more minutes to get its blood running back to normal. It was a climb and did not want to risk with a half running engine.
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The place where we stopped overlooked the abandoned bunkers.
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As we resumed the climb the Kunchenjungha appeared on our side with some amazing views. We found a deserted roadside place of worship and stopped to take some pictures.
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As we reached the previous day's Cafe found it shut as it was too early for them to open. But the views of the mighty peak was something which we had missed the previous evening and feasted our eyes on it then.
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From here it was the Old Silk route once again but constantly climbing as usual. As we rose to greater heights the snow on the road started appearing slowly and we got a bird's eye view of Nathang Village.
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It was as if out of nowhere that we hit upon the Old Baba Mandir and his bunker. The 50 steps from the main road climbed up to where his bunker used to be.
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A brief history of Baba Harbhajan Singh as I have gathered from sources in the net -
Harbhajan Singh was born in a Sikh family on 30th Augus,1946 at a village Kuke in the district of Kappurthala of Punjab. At 20 he joined Indian army as a sepoy in Punjab Regiment in 1966 & died in 1968, only at 22. What happened to him ? The year witnessed a natural disaster in Sikkim; he was posted near the border. On a rainy day while he was escorting a mule column he slipped in a nulla which was in spate & drowned.He was carried away by the powerful current & his body remained untraceable for 3 days. Later his fellow sepoy was informed in dream his exact location where his body was buried under snow that he himself showed the way .Later he had a dream that Harbhajan expressed his desire to be cremated there. Everybody was surprised at this & believed the very existence of his soul. Accordingly a memorial was built there near his bunker and that is , today’s old baba mandir. Now he is called , “ Baba”.
Now on, he was promoted to ranks & ultimately he was promoted to the post of a captain. His salary was drawn on regular basis with all the benefits as available to his cadre & remitted to his mother . He was sanctioned leave for 2 months from 15 th September& he resumed duty on 15th Nov. As per rule he was to retire in 2005, however he was given an extension of one year &he retired from duty in 2006. But it is believed that the soul of immortal Baba still guards the border to protect his mother land. Today when a meeting is held between the two the army personnel on border, a chair is kept for Baba to participate.
Still today, it is believed, after 48 years of his death, captain Harbhajan Singh is on his duty and guards the border with China on horseback at night, also observed by the Chinese soldiers. -
sources from net

This is the entry to the bunker
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His chair in a makeshift office within the bunker and his bed are neatly kept and made. They say that the bed sheet gets crumpled by morning.
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Before his retirement when he used to avail his leave, a berth is reserved in a train for his village accompanied by two soldiers with his portrait & a suitcase in NJP Rlyway station A car was used from the station to carry them to the village and it was placed in his room followed by regular pujas. There was arranged a festival in the village and the entire village took part in the ceremony of home coming of Baba. His mother, now blind, boasts her son’s immortal career & getting her son’s pension every month. After retirement a shrine has been built in his village like the bunker & regular pujas etc are performed. - Sources from net.

This was the suitcase
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There was a Puja Sthal also inside.
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The inside of the bunker was dark and we came out to the bright sunlight.
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The drive continues to Kuppup and Gangtok.. Stay tuned
 
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Re: Kolkata Dzuluk Gnathang Kuppup Gangtok: Xylo Rambles Along Sikkim's Old Silk Rout

Amazing travelogue Chandra Da..Excellent Pictures. Was so engrossed in reading that time just flew away... Waiting Desperately for the remaining part.
 
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