Nestled in North East India, Sikkim boasts mountainous terrain that attracts tourists aplenty. For those harbouring an adventurous streak, trekking is an excellent proposition. The Goecha La circuit is a well known one and this trek must be undertaken at least once in this lifetime.
Yuksom is a sleepy town in West Sikkim and it is from there that the trek begins. Assisted by a support crew of a guide, cooks and herdsmen, we set out with open minds and minimal expectations. Only essentials such as water, snacks and rain gear were carried in a day pack and with a confident stride, we set out for Sachen. The first night required familiarising ourselves with sleeping in tents but soon it was second nature. Tsokha was our next stop and we were thrilled at the first glimpse of Mount Pandim.
A play in three acts
An early start on day three took us through rhododendron forests and some six hours of walking later, we reached Dzongri. There, it was decided we would halt for two nights in order to acclimatise. The following morning required an early start towards Dzongri Top; a steep climb that offered unobstructed views of the Khanchendzonga. The picturesque sunrise was described by one group member as being as dramatic as a play unfolding in three acts.
Thangsing was our next camp site and were we ever delighted when it began snowing in the evening. Much as we walked, the fatigue seemed only temporary. Perhaps it was the crisp mountain air or the extraordinary vistas but we only seemed to yearn for more. Lhamuney was the highest campsite at approximately 14,000 feet. It was at Mount Pandim’s base and the surrounding beauty was simply inexplicable.
Perhaps experiences form the purpose of existence
The trek commenced at 3:30 am on day six and we reached the first view point at Goecha La about three hours later. The mighty Khangchendzonga was barely 100 metres away and only a gorge stood in between.
It is perhaps moments such as these that are befitting of superlative expressions, what with the ethereal spectacle that we were privileged to witness. As I stood there awestruck by the grandeur, the one thought that overcame me was that this was perhaps a manifestation of the Supreme Being we worship. The realisation I came away with is ’if it isn’t for experiences such as these, what else could possibly be the purpose of our existence? ’
Samiti Lake was a visual treat and the reflection of the surrounding mountains on its waters was a photographer’s delight. A herd of blue sheep was spotted and it was almost grudgingly that we began the descent towards Lhamuney and onwards to Cockchrung. No great story is complete without folklore and legend has it that the trekkers hut at Cockchrung is haunted. Unfortunately, we encountered no spooky thrills. Day eight entailed a trail through dense forests towards Tsokha.
Trekking is an exercise in conditioning one’s mind
It was with heavy hearts that we began the final descent towards Yuksom on the ninth day. The experience was overwhelming and we felt a sense of accomplishment. We were definitely not looking forward to regular life and as we walked, we discussed the next possible trek. Yuksom soon came into view and the initial sight of a car was discomforting and the buzzing cell phones, cringe inducing.
The Goecha La circuit is rated as medium to difficult and physical fitness is emphasised upon to undertake the 100 kilometres or so of walking. However, it is perhaps more an exercise in conditioning one’s mind and it is possible to keep walking by sheer strength of will alone.