Close to Changu, the landscape suddenly changes as snow appears first in pockets and then in large patches, till everything around us turns white. The suddenness of this change is both startling and mind blowing!
|Yak, Yak, Yak!|
Tsomgo means above the water in the local Bhutia language, and the lake derives water from the melting snow from the surrounding mountains. As we were visiting in early May, snow practically covered every inch of land around us. As the snow begins to melt, it is said that a variety of flowers bloom around the lake.
Most visitors who make the trip up to Changu then go to Nathula Pass and Baba Mandir. The former is a Himalayan Pass that connects Sikkim to China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. Located at 14140 feet above sea level, we gave Nathula a skip as getting a permit for my mother to visit given her age was difficult. We did do the drive up to Baba Mandir and how spectacular it was!
|And the snow had begun to melt|
For 17 km the road snaked around slopes carpeted in snow and everything was a pristine white as far as the eye could see. Built in honor of an Indian Army soldier who died in Nathula Pass, Baba Mandir has many interesting stories attached to it. For me, it was the drive getting there and back that was absolutely worth it.
|A carpet of snow|
A story about Tsomgo Lake:
The name Tsomgo or Tso Go meaning above the lake was given by the yak herders. The old folktale says that the lake was in a place called Laten in olden times and the place where the lake is today was actually a “Goth” (cattle shed) where the herders kept their yaks. One night an old woman in her dreams was asked to leave the place soon as it would be filled with water. The next morning she warned all the other herders but they refused to believe her. She left the village and as she was leaving she saw a lady with flowing hair, believed to be the guardian deity of the lake and enter the valley and soon the place was filled with water and Tsomgo lake was formed. The herders who had stayed behind perished along with their herds of yak.
– The lake is open to both Indian nationals and visitors from other countries, but the latter have to be in a group of two or more and have to apply for a visitor’s permit through a registered travel agency.
Indian nationals also need a permit which can be easily arranged by your taxi operator or travel agent. Carry photo identification like your Aadhar card or PAN card as well as some passport size photos as these may be required.
– Go adequately covered. The winds drastically reduce the temperature around the lake.
– Hire gum boots / snow boots and gloves from the shops near the lake. These are very useful and by doing so you are supporting local business.
– If you are prone to motion sickness it might be best you take some medicine before your journey as the road to Changu is both winding and bumpy.
– Carry minimal disposable material with you and its best you bring it back and dispose it in the city.