ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Orchids, Strawberries and Yak Butter Tea

The Yumthang Valley in North Sikkim is the breathtaking abode of mighty mountains, orchids, strawberries, yaks and the elusive red panda.

A trip to Yumthang Valley, a veritable land of flowers inNorth Sikkim, in the months of April and May, is avisual treat. The bumpy road journey from Gangtok to the base area of the Valley—Lachung—may make you a little tired and even dizzy. After all, Yumthang means “deep gorge”. Don’t fall for the road sign which says Lachung is just 114 km from the capital. The drive will take a good six to seven hours, provided you are blessed with good weather. Despite the rough patches (which are aplenty) on the mountain road, one does enjoy breathtaking views of the mighty mountains, covered with myriad shades of green and the occasional brownish red, not to speak of the pristine rivers and waterfalls on the way. And the real surprise is the profusion of wild orchids—white, yellow and purple—peeping out from the trees in the forests. You see the first one, then a second, and a third … then you lose count. The orchids, they are everywhere.

On such scenic drives, a nice place to take a break for a cup of tea is a must. And Chumthang, a small hamlet, located on the confluence of Lachen and Lachung rivers, provides an ideal setting. Who knows, next time when you visit Yumthang, the Chumthang bazaar may not be there. People say that once the dam becomes operative, the whole bazaar will be submerged. The weather gets colder while we cross Chumthang. The landscape changes with the altitude. Suddenly, snowcapped mountains appear from nowhere. The Himalayas are full of surprises. Our driver, Chewang, a man from Lachung, stopped the car at two places where we could watch nature, undisturbed. He halted once to show us tiny little wild oranges. I had not heard of, or seen, such a delicious fruit; once you take a bite, a sweet aroma lingers in your mouth for a long time afterwards.

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