The Enchanted Lake
We started the final section of the journey to Gurudongmar. This place becomes very windy with advance of the day and there is danger of falling rocks. The best time to visit is the morning hours when the weather remains relatively calm.
Suddenly, the scenery changed. The rocky surroundings were all covered with fresh snow.
The Lachenchu stream on the right had become a mere narrow stream. Most of it was frozen, with little streams making way among the frozen ice and boulders. We halted at an army check-post where the permits were checked. The army soldiers were happy to see some human faces at this desolate place. They invited us inside their shelter and offered a much needed mug of hot tea. We had a charming and merry group traveling with us. The only problem was some of them took this trip as a picnic and were traveling in flipflops and fancy clothing suited for a beach holiday. One of them fell sick and had a medical check-up by an army doctor. The presence of friendly army personnel in the middle of this bleak and deserted landscape was very reassuring.
Until now we were traveling up along steep winding mountain road to gain altitude. All of a sudden the world became flat, well almost, at an altitude of about 17000 ft.
Final stretch to Gurudongmar along path of Lachenchu
Last few kilometers of the journey was almost on level ground, amazing at such an altitude. There were a few humps here and there and occasionally these humps grew into snow covered mountains. Geographically we had reached the southern parts of the Tibetan plateau and the driver enjoyed the luxury of driving on a level road.
There was no road to follow. We were merely following the tracks on snow left by preceding vehicles.
We took a left turn across the white snow and the car halted on a small elevated hump with a flat surface.
Car halt hump at Gurudongmar
We had reached the Gurudongmar lake. Wherever you could see, it was all white and covered by fresh snow. Just below the hump was the Gurudongmar lake. On the right side of the lake, stood the majestic Gurudongmar peaks which seemed to grow out of the lake shining against the deep blue sky punctuated by sporadic white plumes of cloud.
Colorful Lepcha prayer flags were fluttering along the lake. On one side of the hump was a small temple the Sarv-Dharm-Sthal (the shrine of all religions) maintained by the army.
Sarv Dharm Sthal at Gurudongmar
This lake is sacred to both the Lepchas and Sikhs. There is a stairway down the hump reaching the lake. There is a pathway around the lake used by devotees for circumambulation. Some parts of the pathway around the lake are bordered with a fence. The pathway was mostly covered by snow.
Stairway down to the lake with cairns below the water
We went down the stairway and crossed a small wooden bridge crossing a small stream coming out of the lake. The bridge was covered with snow and very slippery.
Small bridge leading to the lake, Sarv Dharm Sthal above the hump
We had finally reached the sacred lake. We went a little down and touched the holy water. There was complete silence all around and tiny waves rippled on the clear blue water. There were many cairns (piles of small stones) built by earlier devotees on the boulders inside the lake marking the place as very special and sacred. We stood by the lake spellbound by the beauty, splendor and enormity of the whole scene.
Suddenly, white snowflakes started fluttering in the air and the mountains across the lake became covered with haze. It was time to leave.
Gurudongmar panorama (Click on the image to enlarge)
Note: Below are the detailed photos that made up the above panorama.
Gurudongmar lake looking from right to left 1
The picture above was taken from the hump. Note the fencing of the pathway around the lake.
Gurudongmar lake looking from right to left 2
There was lot of fresh snow probably during the bad weather that we faced at Gangtok.
Gurudongmar lake looking from right to left 3
We were very fortunate to get such a nice weather at Gurudongmar. The snow mountains looked standing at a touching distance.
Gurudongmar lake looking from right to left 4
There were ripples in the water of the lake with a gentle breeze.
Gurudongmar lake looking from right to left 5
The shores of the lake when not covered by snow looked brown, being formed by fine sand and crushed rock through hundreds of thousands of years. This is a place where time stands still.
Gurudongmar lake looking from right to left 6
Left side of the lake. Observe the pathway for circumambulation around the lake.