[Kolkata- Sikkim - Gangtok & Extreme-Exclusive North Sikkim - Mandarmoni sea beach/Tajpur-on-sea]

Kolkata[20ft]-Gangtok[4715ft]-Lachen[8980ft]-Gurudongmar[18000-17800ft]-Chopta Valley[14000ft]-Lachung[8738ft]-Zekuphyak/Katao[14500ft]-Yumthang/Zero Point[13000ft]-Gangtok[4715ft]-Kolkata[20ft]-Mandarmoni/Tajpur-on-sea[0ft]-Kolkata[20ft].

All pictures are copyright of respective owners. Pictures by adc. Shot with Canon S3 IS Powershot

A Himalaya to Bay of Bengal journey - the last part was not planned - my younger brother, wife and their child came to Kolkata from Chennai, getting some holidays due to office break, and with us off to Sikkim, he was bored just sitting in the house, and as we came back the very next day we travelled along with his family for the 1-day sea beach travel.

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With the Leh tour absolutely ruled out due to lack of funds and everything, the closest that gives that remote Ladakh feel was in N Sikkim itself and still economical, but of course if one gets the elusive rare permits for the private car.

North Sikkim was always in my mind but things are totally different here. One cannot travel by their own car and the very few those who have, has had connections to avail the permit - bike permits are somewhat easier to avail though still elusive. It was an extreme thin chance for me to get the permits for N Sikkim [Gurudongmar, Chopta Valley, Katao, Yumthang, and Yumesamdong] as private vehicles are not given due to taxi drivers union and their exclusive right to drive. This also applies for travel to Tsongmo Lake and Nathula from Gangtok. But as luck would have it, after standing in front of the Sikkim Police counter for 2 days, by luck Sikkim Police got convinced, that we were more of an adventure seeking people and that I was the sole driver.

In these 2 days, standing among all the taxi drivers and tour operators at the permit counter, made friends with quite a few, they also used to listen to the my travel stories - in one word, some of the friendliest people in this country are in Sikkim - ever polite and helpful.

In a matter of around 10 days, the Safari VTT 2.2 travels from Kolkata at 20feet to 17000+feet and then back to 0 feet for a sea beach journey. Will never forget the sinister looking Chopta Valley - that picture is still etched in our minds, a snow hail chasing us and you can literally feel it on the rear view mirror and the dark ice mountains getting blurred fast. It is a cold and absolute desolate place - imagine seeing a waterfall frozen halfway down - it has turned to ice in the middle.

Safari Dicor 2.2 VTT-TMT - Aint Nothing to Mess With!!!

In all this 1.5-year, the VTT has seen some fantastic journeys, from the very next day North Bengal Forest and Hill tour, to the unknown interior Orissa jungles [Kuldiha & Satkosia], to the rural badlands and wastelands of Purulia and West Midnapur districts of West Bengal, to the 1-year ownership fantastic travel to Kinnaur, Spiti and Lahaul and going to some places were few tourists venture to, and then the amazing overnight journey across the absolute desolate NH6 towards one of most remote and part Maoist affected forest of Orissa [Sunabeda] and the unbridled joy of finding a hidden waterfall with blue waters and a white sandy beach in the middle of the forest, and lastly till this tour to the Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary in Jharkhand for some 2 days of zero population and absolute tranquility.

N Sikkim places [[Gurudongmar, Chopta Valley, Katao, Yumthang, and Yumesamdong] range from 14000 feet to 18000 feet. By itself these are energy sapping and test both the people and the machine to it extreme. Each place makes one climb from 8500 feet around to 14000-18000 feet in a matter of 5-6 hours. The vistas - absolutely breathtaking, few tourists - particularly from other states - venture to some of these parts. Whatever I write and how many photos I post, the words and images will never do justice to the landscapes that one encounters. And I wish big time that I had a DSLR rather than the 6 MP S3 IS camera.

Sikkim, as the rest of the country, had one of the driest winters but then suddenly like the Himalayan region it started having a lot of rain and snowfall for the last 1 month. As a result we travelled through some of the worst weathers, desolate places, and blocked and diversion filled roads. And again through all these the Safari 2.2 rode out these places without a hitch, issue, or whatever - It came brought the three of us[wife, 4-year child, and me] back safely from those fanstastic but dangerous [if you get stuck] lands each and every day. The ground clearance and the factory fitted tough engine guard of the Safari again proves to be a boon in this wilderness.

A few maps of Sikkim and particularly of N Sikkim were downloaded from the internet. Websites and articles on the net [though few] were consulted. No pre-booking of hotels were done, as we were going during the bad weather season and also just around the ending of the off season time. We just had a rough plan of being where on what day and modify our travel plan as per the situation - with spending 2-3 days in Gangtok to pursue the permit papers - or otherwise the plan was to go towards West Sikkim [Borong, Geyzing, Uttarey, Varsey etc.]

Again, with a child we were not taking any chances. The Safari was loaded at its back to the roof. Other than 3 bags full of clothes, we had a trunk full of blankets, a gas stove, a 5 kg cylinder, a sack full of utensils and food, and a 20-litre Kinley jar. Safari has a 65-L tank and so did not take any fuel cans - though as we later found a extra diesel was needed as we travelled extra kms in some of the places i.e. beyond what normally what tourists go.

Lets roll now with the travelogue....