Goecha La Trek: Day 2 - Yuksom & Tshoka

Yuksom, from where the trek started is about 140 kilometers from Siliguri. We started on the National Highway 31A by about 11 in the morning. Most of the roads this part of the world is made and maintained by BRO (Border Roads Organisation) and they are in superior condition inspite of the heavy rains, snow and landslides. The route from Siliguri to Jorethang is quite picturesque and offers some beautiful views of river Teesta. We crossed over to Sikkim before afternoon and stopped at Jorethang for lunch. People are very musically inclined in this part of the world and the guy at the restaurant played some Dire Straits and Don Williams as we enjoyed the rice and beer. After lunch we continued our journey and reached Yuksom via Tashiding by 5 in the evening.

Yuksom was the first capital of Sikkim and is a beautiful and quiet village at an altitude of 1,750 meters. By 6 in the evening it was all misty and dark, giving us a taste of whats to come in the coming days. It was drizzling and we soon settled down into the travel lodge and regrouped after an hour or so for some hot coffee. We met Gajendra & Pradyumn, the two cooks who were to accompany us. We also got introduced to Wolfi, Zulu and Dusty, three of the six dogs who traveled with us all the way and back. There are two monastries in Yuksom - Dubdi & Mallu and we decided to take a walk to Mallu monastery in the dark. This turned out to be an adventure in itself as Zulu picked up a fight with one of the dogs at the monastery, exactly when we were taking a group photo in front of the temple. After pacifying Zulu with much difficulty, we walked back to the lodge where some hot food and Thongba was waiting for us.

Thongmba is a local wine made of millet seeds, which tastes much like Saki. The fermented seeds is served in hollow bamboo and hot water is added and stirred to make Thongmba, which you drink using bamboo straws. It gives a mild and slow kick and soon people started singing and dancing. It almost turned into a singing competition and Rinkesh, Pavan, Mahendra & Prasad all sang their hearts out. Alfonso & Marie also pitched in with some Mexican & French songs. Alfonso even decided to open a Thongmba shop once he get back to Chennai - Adayar Thongmba & Sweets! The revelry ended only when Tamal reminded us of the task ahead the next day - we had to walk almost 18 kilometers, gaining an altitude of 1,250 meters. All of us soon retired to our rooms for some much needed sleep. Kannan, Alfonso, Rinkesh & myself spent another hour or so talking about previous trekking experiences and life in general.

We woke up to some good rain in the morning and it was a depressing sight indeed. Soon we arranged for long plastic sheets to be used as ponchos, but by the time we finished breakfast the sun god was out, smiling in all his glory. Thankfully weather remained more or less pleasant during the next few days. The group had grown to about 40 by that time - 25 of us, 13 yaks, 3 horses and 3 dogs. The Yaks and horses carried the tents and food while we all carried our own backpacks and sleeping bags. The route to Tshoka is a pleasant walk through the Pine and Oak forests initially, with the stream Prek-Chu visible down in the valley. Soon we started the descend towards the stream and crossed it at multiple places via hanging bridges. After the fifth bridge, we stopped for lunch and then came the most difficult stretch - a 70 degree climb to the other side of the hill. En route is a small village called Bakhim where we met Eddie. He grows marijuana in front of his house and keeps chilled beer in his house just in case any of the trekkers need a morale boost. Mind you, the marijuana is for the Yaks, they are fed grass in case of stomach upsets! Eddie is the lone resident of Bakhim. After having a friendly chat with an already sloshed Eddie, we continued the climb along wild strawberry patches and finally reached Tshoka by 5 in the evening.

It was already getting dark and cold. The tents were pitched in no time and dinner was served quite early - rotis, rice and potato curry. We had walked more than 15 kilometers and gained about 1200 meters in altitude. To give our bodies some much needed rest we all retired to our tents quite early. There was a slight drizzle outside and with the thermals, gloves, jacket and the sleeping bag, I was feeling cold. But in no time I slipped into sleep and to some beautiful dreams!

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Day 1: To Yuksom
Day 2: Yuksom to Tshoka
Day 3: Tshoka to Dzongri
Day 4: Dzongri to Lamuney
Day 5: To Samiti & Kockchurung
Days 6 & 7: Back to Tshoka & Yuksom
Days 8 & 9: To Darjeeling

Pictures from the trek here

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