The Draw Of Gurudongmar

The alpine lake is amongst the major sources of the Teesta River
The alpine lake is amongst the major sources of the Teesta RiverPhoto: Shutterstock

I have just returned from another phenomenal motorcycle trip across Sikkim, and it has got me reminiscing about why this small part of the country holds such a special place in my heart.

I first travelled to Sikkim in 2017. I was on a solo motorcycle ride without much of a plan. I was not well informed and did not have high expectations. This meant that I often found myself in a pickle, but there were also a few times when the places and experiences I discovered left me spellbound. Gurudongmar Lake, in specific, was one such instance.

Considered sacred by many, Gurudongmar Lake, at 17,100 ft, is one of the highest lakes in the world. I, of course, did not know any of this the first time I rode there. Inclement weather, the absence of roads and a famously unreliable motorcycle made my journey to the lake a story in itself.

My first attempt to reach the lake failed when, after slipping and sliding over snow for nearly four hours, a few key components of my motorcycle simply fell off. It was like my bike threw up its arms and gave up on this seemingly pointless pursuit. Left stranded and freezing amidst snowfall, I was just about able to salvage the situation and make my way back to the nearest town, Lachen. With the weather showing no signs of abating, I made peace with the fact that my visit to Gurudongmar would need to wait for another time.

And then came mother nature’s curve ball.

I woke up to bright sunshine and clear blue skies. There was no trace of the chaos and terrible weather from the day before. This had to be a sign, right?

Within 30 minutes, I was back on my bike and riding towards Gurudongmar again. A few hours of sunshine had changed everything—the landscape and terrain were entirely different now that the snow and ice had melted away. With some persistence, I could successfully make the climb this time, and as I rode over the crest of a steep hill, I caught my first glimpse of the lake.

It has always been hard to find the right words to describe the moment, the lake or the experience because nothing would truly do justice. But, to say the least, it was magnificent, majestic, tranquil and breathtaking.

What surprised me more is that when I returned to Gurudongmar last week, the emotions it evoked were very similar. The climb was easier this time, the weather and the roads were better, and I was on a better motorcycle–a lot less drama overall. But the experience was not diminished in any way.

The draw of Gurudongmar, for me, is just as much about the journey as it is about the destination–a peaceful penance that leads you to a vision of what I imagine to be heaven!

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