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Tour @ G@ngtok,,,,,Nathula Pass(India China border) Feb 24, 2012


It was a beautiful, sunny day, with bits of clouds hovering around. Nothing really threatening. It promised to be a great day. So we started out. The highway does not have a great reputation. That was evident right from the moment we drove into the Jawaharlal Nehru Marg, the highway from Gangtok to Nathula. It was narrow and in tatters. We crossed the 3rd mile police checkpost that led us out into the great Himalayan wilderness. The Himalayan landscape spread out before us in all its splendour. Unlike the western Himalayas, it was well forested and with hardly any civilization, except for military stations along the highway. This was probably necessary, given the security concerns in these parts. The mountainside was lush green. In the distance, the clouds played hide and seek with the hills; sometimes enveloping them, then revealing them. It was as if a magician was performing the disappear/ reappear trick. The highway was in a very bad shape owing to the road widening work being carried out by the Border Roads Organisation. The road was completely washed away in long stretches, replaced by slush and loose rocks. It was treacherous to drive in such conditions. An ordinary car could never survive such conditions. The terrain gradually changed from lush green, subtropical to tundra type, consisting of only shrubs. The mountainscape was extremely rocky and steep as in really, unimaginably steep. We came across innumerable waterfalls on the way. A number of streams ran across the road. It was a miracle that a road actually existed under such conditions. In the distance, the road appeared to cling like a thin thread to the mountainside, as if for dear life. On one side was a sheer drop, and on the other was a steep, rocky mountainside. It was a welcome sign of habitation in an otherwise bleak, inhospitable landscape. One by one the military stations rolled past us. 5th mile, 7th mile, 10th mile, 15th mile, 17th mile and so on. As we gained altitude, it became colder and colder. It became more and more difficult to keep the window open, but I had to in order to take photographs. But I loved the cold wind against my face. 

The only town we crossed was Kyongnosla, at 10000 ft. Thereon, the terrain changed drastically to a rocky one. We crossed the snow line. The snow lay in bits and pieces along the road, and the pieces grew bigger as we climbed. The slopes on the nearby hills were covered with dirty snow. Immediately after Kyongnosla, we crossed Tsomgo lake at 12000ft. This was one of the tourists spots that we were to cover on the way back. It was a huge glacial lake with crystal clear water. Numerous yaks lazed by the banks. These were decorated and meant for yak rides. We gradually reached almost the same height as the nearby peaks, a sign that Nathula was nearby. 6 km before Nathula, was a town called Sherathang. This was a cross border trading town. Merchants from China crossed the Nathula for cross border trade. Today, the town appeared to be shut. Thereon, I craned my neck to catch any signs of Nathula.

Finally, a bright red coloured building drew into sight. Our taxi stopped near a stairway that passed through a gate leading to the red building. We had reached Nathula. We climbed the stairs to reach the red coloured building. The red building was our border post. Right behind the red building was an equally impressive Chinese border post. A barbed wire separated the 2 buildings. We could walk right upto the barbed wire. Across the wire lay China. 3 chinese soldiers guarded their post. The Indian army soldiers kept a strict watch on the teaming crowds, warning everyone to stay away from the wire. The entire place was covered by a thick layer of snow. One slip here and we would fall inside Chinese territory. On one side of the building was the border gate opening into Tibet. The gate was shut, and deserted. Unlike our side of the border, the Chinese side was quiet and deserted. No tourists there. At other places, a huge wall separated Chinese territory from India.
 And finally we left Nathula. 

The next destination was Baba Mandir. Baba Harbhajan Singh, an Indian army soldier lost his life while leading a mule column in these parts in the 1960s by drowning in a nullah. He was 22. Legend has it that baba effected a few miracles that saved lives of many army personnel immediately following his death. He appeared in the dreams of one of his colleagues and demanded that a Samadhi be constructed for him. These instructions were followed and a mandir named after baba was constructed. Baba is said to be the guardian angel of the Nathula pass, and would warn Indian troops 3 days before a Chinese invasion. Baba mandir lay in a picturesque, grassy valley close to a military helipad. The mandir was small and crudely built. It had a garlanded photograph of baba and his office and personal effects. Baba is considered to be on duty and is treated as a serving army soldier.
And finally some random photos taken during the trip :) 
We cannot direct the wind but we can adjust the sails.

We cannot direct the wind but we can adjust the sails.

perfect blend of beauty and elegance.

Beauty is a manifestation of secret natural laws, which otherwise would have been hidden from us forever. 

It's a Changur lake ...... Where the beauty freezes the melting flux of nature


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