Gangtok: rafting, HMI Darjeeling, Tsomgo lake & Nathula pass

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Sikkim, though a small state is full of natural landscapes ranging from green river teesta, reserve forests and lower Himalayan ranges to Indo-China border.

River Teesta in Sikkim

How to reach Gangtok?

New Jalpaiguri is the major railway station nearest to Gangtok. New jalpaiguri, in short, called as “NJP” connects Bengal and Sikkim to most of the India. There are many trains coming to NJP everyday from around the India,

Fare NJP to Gangtok, how to reach

*Prices are indicative and keeps on varying according to weather, road conditions and tourist seasons

Note:
1. Prepaid & Private taxis are available at Bagdogra airport, Siliguri and in front of NJP railway station.  The prices are fixed and keeps on varying according to the weather, road conditions and diesel pricing.

2. Private taxis range from Alto (4 persons) to Innova (7 persons). On the other hand, a Jeep can accomodate 10 people on shared basis.

3. Prefer a vehicle with Sikkim registration becasue vehicle with West Bengal registration drops Deorali taxi stand near Gangtok which is about 2kms below the town center due to restrictions in Gangtok for non-state vehicles. From Deorali taxi stand, one needs to take a local taxi to reach hotel. Charges would be around Rs. 200 – 300 depending upon the location.

 Bus services to Gangtok:
Bus service is there between Siliguri and Gangtok operated by Sikkim Nationalized Transport (SNT). The bus terminal at Siliguri is situated on Hill cart road, close to the Tenzing Norgay Central Bus Terminal. From NJP railway station, one take an Auto Rickshaw to reach the bus stand in about 10-15 minutes. However, buses also drop Deorali stand in Gangtok.

Contact number: Sikkim Nationalised Transport: (0353) 2517528, 2511496, 2432751

What to see and what to do?

Along river Teesta in Sikkim:

River Teesta on the way siliguri to GangtokRiver Teesta

A tributary of river TeestaRiver Teesta in Sikkim

River Teesta in morningRiver Teesta at sunrise

River rafting Teesta, SIkkimRafting in river Teesta


 For more information about river rafting in Teesta, Click here


 Adventure at Himalayan Mountaineering Institute:

Building crossingCrossing Building on rope

Rapellingrapelling

JumaringJumaring


For more information on HMI, Click here


Rope sliding or zip line Zip line

To Changu (Tsomgo) lake:
Changu lake is situated at almost 12000 feet, not so far from Nathu la pass, Indo-china border. The lake gets frozen in winter and considered as sacred by the local people.

Tsomgo also called Changu lake oval in shape, dripping water over clouds


 For more details on Changu lake, click here


Partly Frozen sacred Changu Lake also calles Tsongmo Lake

To Nathula pass:

Nathula pass is one of the three passes of India situated on the old silk route in between India and China. One can see the border and soldiers standing on the border under frigid temperature.

A chinese soldier at the Nathu la pass borderA Chinese soldier at Nathula pass


For more details on Nathula pass, click here


A Himalayan Peak seen from Nathu La

A Himalayan peak from Nathula pass


 

Rafting in Rishikesh & River Ganges

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Holy river Ganga has been a perennial source of spirituality for Hinduism since eternity. Visiting Haridwar, Rishikesh, and Dharmapuri on different purposes of MahaShivaRatri, rafting, and sightseeing, has always inspired me to write something about this holy river and today I am finally going to write about this holy river Ganga and its course from Dharmapuri to Rishikesh to Haridwar.  

Rafting in Ganga near Rishikesh

Ganga at Dharmapuri:

Dharampuri is a location famous as a mark of rafting beginning point along Ganga. Dharampuri lies a few miles ahead of Rishikesh along Ganga and a few rafting course which are mediocre in length and rapids start here.
The Ganga at Dharampuri is cold and the currents are very rapids which make it an ideal location for rafting. Besides the rapid currents, the water tastes sweet and camping sites along the river use this water in daily life.

Meditation time beside GangaApart from that, taking a dip in cold water and sitting on the fine white sand along the rocks just gives a heavenly pleasure. Here, the Ganga surrounded by the hills and it runs and flows along the valley. Along the same course of Ganga, highways to Badrinath from Rishikesh, follow it.

Ganga and white sands near BrahmpuriThis picture along the flow of Ganga. You can see the white sands and camping sites in the right side of the picture. When the rapids gets over and river Ganga widens herself nearer to Rishikesh, in absence of rapids, the body floating over hundreds of feet in cold and sweet water is fun for the rafting people.

Usually the rafting ends on the stairs of the Ghats of Rishikesh. The rapids on the course are given name like “Double trouble” or “whirlpool” and the name of the rafting companies are motivated by the name of the rapids along the course of river Ganga. You can also see the famous ‘Laxman jhula’ in the background and the Ghats of Rishikesh.

Holy river Ganga in Rishikesh gets wider because of the flat lands and the width of the river is relatively larger when compared to the width in the upper of course of Ganga. Here the Ganga takes a huge shape and you can see a series of temple on the opposite side Ghats of the Ganga.

And the hill in the Background is ‘NeelKantha Mahadev’ hill on which temple of lord Shiva is situated. By road the temple is almost 14 Kms. There is also a trail to the top fo the temple. On Mahasivaratri, a huge queue forms outside the temple.

Ganga before flood in rishikeshWhat you see in the picture is history now. Most of the buildings in the picture were washed away by the great flood of Ganga in June-July 2013. Local religious say that people encroached too much on the course which finally river Ganga took it back. 

Rafting Experience Story in Rishikesh:

Scene 1 (If you could correlate it with ‘Saving private Ryan’):
“Gulp”.

“And the world is so silent inside water. Eyes almost letting away the vision underwater”
“You are into underwater never-land”

Scene 2:
“OooooooooO”

You inhale lungs-full and push your head out.

The world above 6 inches of water is so different. Ridges sliding behind. And you realize your temporal and spatial existence in this vast universe; feel your presence as a very small entity and there is so much remaining to explore. The water is cold and sweet. Sip them belly-full. People say that holy water has the power of providing immortality and washes away intrinsic and extrinsic sins. Agreed!

“Forward”!
“Stop”!
“Forward, forward”!
“Relax”!

Yup! this is how, in sync, oars kiss the water and raft moves ahead. The summer in North was high. A walk, for a couple of minutes in sun, was enough to soak you up.

OK. So when we landed in Rishikesh, we were skeptical about getting an on-the-spot spot in rafting. Luckily, we encountered an auto-driver at Rishikesh bus stand and he took us to the rafting booking center.

My advice: Though we were lucky to get a nice auto guy but most of the times it’s opposite is true in North India. so, to book a slot for rafting, go to Laxman Jhula / Ram Jhula and book yourself.

The white sands and  the camping site beside Ganga, Brahmpuri

 Having booked an on-the-spot slot, we were made to leave our bags behind at the store itself at Rishikesh. We were, however, asked to carry our purse, camera and mobile phones with us.

Wow! The Ganges had trillions of gallons of water and I had gallons of adventure rushing inside my veins. When I walked down and stood beside the Ganges, It reminded me of Justin Timberlake’s “My love” song, always reminds me of a nostalgic relationship.

Remember? The “toe in the sand” lyrical line of the song. So, it took me months to convert a lyrical beauty into heavenly pleasure and to see it for myself.

Ganga towards Rishikesh

  • Deadly and sharp ridges
  • There was a song in the air and I fell in love with mother Ganga and her beauty of white sand
  • The spine-chilling cold water of Ganga; white sands; sweet water (It was unbelievable)
  • Out of world
  • That was a perfect camping site with every element of heavenly pleasure said above.
  • So, our day started with a briefing about rafting and its technicalities.

The lesson I learned: Rafting though seems easy but is not easy. There are very deep technicalities:

  • how should the oar be rested in lap safely?
  • how to sit when you are sitting at various positions?
  • how to row with synchronized body movement?

Though the briefing was not a brief, it was more like a verbose description but I, personally, liked the so many hidden secrets of rafting getting revealed.

A raft in GangaRafts full of foreigners in the Ganges

So when I landed on the cold white sands after babbooning over hot rocks, my feet looked up to me and smiled at me. The imagination and excitement that was built inside was almost going to overflow out of my brain. Oh my small brain. After the briefing, it was time to jump into the raft. Bloated rubbers. The guide was being over-descriptive. Anyway.

The first rapid called “Initiation”:

“Forward guys, forward”.

Muscles came into action and the raft gained momentum. I, sitting at front, was  feeling luckier than anyone else in the world. Wanna know why? I would be the one who shall be facing each rapid first. There were plethora of zeal heaped inside me since my last rafting in Sikkim at Melli.

I could see the rapids amidst rocks and our raft was approaching there with high speed. “Splash” and a head on collision on of water with raft defying all the laws of physics and drenching the humanity for years.

Even a bigger Splash. we got shifted from our seats. messed up configuration. We gained our senses and re-figured our configurations. We were soaked and cold water dripped down our body. Everything happens in flashes of seconds.

Life stops when huge waves of Ganga approach us and when water collides head-on with raft. The potent of life, for a moment, leaves our soul and goes onto mercy of Ganges.

Everyone was mesmerized and awed with the beauty of rapids. The “initiation” rapid was over and everyone was hailing its heavenly pleasure. The life on mercy of Ganga was back into our hands safe guarded by life jackets and expertise of guides and your swimming skill.

With in-the-meantime commands of “forward” and “relax”, we were rowing ahead. Still the second rapid was far away. We glanced at guide and “go ahead and jump for body floating” was communicated with flashes of eyes.

“whoop”, for a sec or two you are on to scene one. It was cold but sweet. It looked scary but it was beautiful like the golden hen which would lay a golden egg once on hundred times and you still hope for that each time.

Floating in Ganga? I had never imagined floating above hundreds feet of deep water. People say one dip into Ganga washes away all the sins and here, I was almost immaculate then. Scene one and scene two were on vicious cycle realizing me my existence and the small part, I share in this macroscopic universe.

Body floating in GangaBody floating in Ganga

Currents in Ganga were hard and fast. There was absolutely no need to try swimming. Just float and keep moving with the currents. Sometimes, I would float looking at the sky. Sometimes, Looking at the rocks, moving behind.

The world moves behind.
Shout like a kid;
close your eyes and float;
look at sky;
look at those sitting in the raft;
feel lucky;
take a dip and again emerge out.

This is what I call “living the moment”.“Guys, return. Second rapid is not so far away now”.
Returned to raft.

Rafting in cold gangaDouble-trouble washing machine: the second rapid

Rocks amid river; whirls and twirls.
Whoosh!! the first hit of raft with water.

– Water splashes and we are soaked.
“Forward” – Shouts the guide.

Not finding the proper way to propel the raft. Everything happened just before our eyes lucidly and gone in seconds.
Heart thumped, breath stopped, eyes were closed and everything regained its normal shape. “Guys! you can float”.

Body floating in cold ganga at rishikeshAha.
My favorite time again. It’s time to wash away all the sins. We jumped into the water. The same cold water. The sweet water. My nose was already running by then. But who cares. I began floating at my back looking at the sky. Water filling my ears and sometimes vacating it were giving me feel of “saving private Ryan” feeling.

I was on mercy of Ganga and as well as on mercy of life jacket. It was time for break. almost 1.5 hours were spent rafting. It was cliff jumping point as well as snacks point. There were also few small waterfalls around. Who cares for snacks; lets go and enjoy in the waterfalls.

Under the waterfallUnder the waterfall

We spent much time under the waterfall. Water was warm and coming out of chilled Ganga and sitting under warm waterfall was soothing. We sat there for minutes, taking water directly above our head.

What I felt?
I know it would be little personal and you might feel like I am extrapolating the things. I felt the abstinence and living my life. 
The purpose of my life. The actualization of my small presence in this Karmic world. I fruited the destiny I was looking into cold water.

DSCF5460Kids Enjoying in waterfall

Soon, we were called on to the raft. Thank god! we are safe: the third and the last rapid. This was not much of a big rapid. Or you can say, having crossed two bigger rapids, this one could not earn much weight into our eyes.

Handled well and we crossed it well too. Half an hour more and we would in Rishikesh. City was approaching. People looking at us from Ram jhula and Laxman jhula and so, we were feeling special being center of attraction. Even few were capturing our shots too. We reached at our destination. It was time to bid nostalgic adieu to the raft and step out.

after rafting at the bank of rishikesh Rafting was over. We were standing at the bank. Soaked. Did not come out of the mood set for the water. We sat there for hours at the bank. beating the heat. Finally, we left for Delhi. In a nutshell, the whole rafting and submerged body experience was out of world experience. Given a chance, I would prefer to float again in Ganga above every other adventures.


Ganga in Haridwar:

As river Ganga proceeds from rishikesh towards Haridwar, due to uneven topography and valleys, it gets divided into four to five distributaries which again join together later in the medium course of her flow. To facilitate the public for holy dip. The concrete and solid Ghats are made along the Ganga and the flow of Ganga is controlled by the channeled gates installed at the beginning of Haridwar while coming from Rishikesh.

Ganga ghats in evening, HaridwarGhats are on the both sides of the river. Usually the main Ghat, on the temple sides, are more crowded. There are small gut-markets along the river for offerings and small things. and the Ghats are equipped with iron chains to facilitate in a dip against or along the currents.

A statue inside Ganga in HaridwarThere is a famous bridge which connects the old Haridwar with the new Haridwar and is mostly crowded. The river Ganga is not only the holy dip place of humans but for idols and statues of the Gods & Goddesses and cremated people too.  

Dip in Ganga in Haridwar

As the evening falls, The Ganga starts getting colder and changing her color. But the crowd of the believers never subsides until evening Aarti at 7 everyday.  

Ganga aarti in evening at Haridwar

For local people from Haridwar, it’s a daily business but in the eyes of a tourist, it’s a magnificent show of faith and religion. People chants the hymns and praise the river for her holiness and greatness. Even the bridge gets crowded to see the view of the evening Aarti at Haridwar. Evening aarti lasts for around half an hour.

People offer offerings to river Ganga in Haridwar on leaves. The leaves are folded in special way to float over the holy water and some flowers and incense sticks for some moment gives the true meaning and authenticity to the existence of Haridwar as being “The Gate to the God”.