This is adjacent to the main village thoroughfare of Nathang in East Sikkim. It falls along the historic Silk Route. This was an ancient trade route that led all the way to Europe. The preceding generations of several present day Marwari traders in Sikkim recollect regular trips to Lhasa for business. The preferred route was via Jelep La and although it is higher in altitude than Nathu La, it was less rugged. When Jelep La was open, it had also led to Kalimpong in West Bengal becoming a flourishing hub. Unfortunately, the mountain pass was closed in 1962 in the aftermath of the Sino-Indian conflict.
A sombre minder to keep away from areas that have been marked as mine fields. Land mine usage is now forbidden under international law. Many unfortunate individuals in several countries continue to be maimed and killed by land mines that were planted eons ago.
The Indian army has a strong presence in these areas. As the crow flies, China (erstwhile Tibet) is only a few kms away. The Nathu La pass is also in the vicinity and hopefully, we will, one day, be able to drive into China just as we can into Bhutan or Nepal. The Indian army also enjoys access to what is possibly the world’s highest golf course. Called the Yak Course, its layout was initiated in 1972 and is located at just over 13,000 feet in Kupup.
Elephant Lake is located at 14,000 feet along the drive from Nathang to Kupup. Beyond Kupup is Tsomgo Lake and one can proceed onward to Gangtok, Sikkim’s capital city. Along the way is also the Baba Mandir. It is essentially a memorial that is said to be still ‘inhabited’ by an Indian army jawan who was killed while leading a mule expedition. The memorial is a revered site and is popular with visitors to Sikkim.