Drive to Tsomgo Lake

The road from Gangtok up to Tsomgo Lake at 3780m altitude.

The distance is 38 km and the difference in altitude from Gangtok (at 1547 m) is about 2000 m. It's indeed an interesting two-hour drive, climbing all the way and passing by a seemingly infinite number of Indian army bases. Of course there was no end of army trucks since this is the way that goes to Nathula, the Tibet border - so China. That didn't make the driving any easier but the driver was good and we also had a guide since the driver didn't speak any English. The car was also a pretty big and sturdy 4-wheel drive.

Steep Himalayan mountain sides
The winding road on the hillside

There were plenty of yaks for tourists to go for a ride on, accompanied by a handler.

Yak, handler and tourists bargaining
for the price for a ride
Yaks, bazaar and one western tourist -
practically  no other Occidentals up here

We didn't find much to eat here and facilities are better not mentioned. But there were cute little metal Buddhist temples to buy and all sorts of things. An amazingly soft and fluffy yak tail cost about 30€, so we didn't get one. Most of the tourists were Asians, probably Indians who, like us, had a hard time making themselves understood, since they don't speak Nepali.

The road that goes on to Nathula and China,
closed to non-Indian tourists
View from around the pavilion back to
the way we had come

We took a walk around a big part of the lake, to a pavilion surrounded by prayer flags that sits on a spit of land sticking out into the lake on the far side from the touristy side. There are enormous numbers of rhododendron bushes above the hillside form the pavilion. They are said to bloom in February, which sounds strange, since that is the month when the snow starts. You can barely make out the pavilion in the left-side picture.

Windblown Siv next to the pavilion -
temperature about 5°C
A warmly dressed John by the pavilion.
 Prayer flags were seen in great numbers all
over. The order of the colors is important,
always blue, white, red, green and yellow.

Young man taking a ride on a yak. The boy
spoke  English well but the handler didn't.
Yaks and stands on the tourist side of the
lake - and, actually, one other western

A final view of bazaar, tourists and yaks with handlers

The lake itself wasn't really worth the trip but the drive up was. The yaks and the bazaars were quite an experience as well and the highly primitive conditions in general. We did find some chowmein to eat, but I wouldn't call the place a restaurant. A room inside the bazaar that was out in the front. One hard bench, one table and the very young daughter serving our food. Mineral water is always available though. And of course Coca Cola.

Go on to Gangtok Zoo

Back to India 2007