Monday, December 22, 2008

Menmaichhu Lake

Another day, another picnic, another beautiful locale. Having heard a lot about this lake, my expectations were rather high and, as is becoming regular with Sikkim, I was far from disappointed.

Menmaichhu Lake is about 2.5 kms away from the new Baba Mandir. It doesn’t seem to be a tourist hotspot just yet, which is just as well – the place is pristine, quiet, and absolutely spectacular.

Of course, the approach road leaves a lot to be desired. This probably deters people from making the trip too often. We were driven down in the Army Gypsies, and the ride was rather similar to sitting on a bucking bronco. The road is steep and is made of nothing but boulders. I was spared somewhat, being snugly sandwiched between two other ladies.

After gratefully scrambling out of our bumpy rides, we walked another half kilometer or so. There was a thick mist that lifted just about a foot or so as we approached, revealing clear sparkling water. The weather gods were in a jolly mood apparently – the mist soon disappeared altogether and the sun shone down, setting the water all a-twinkle.

Maintained by the state’s fisheries department, the lake is completely unspoiled. There are rainbow trout in the lake – although we didn’t get a good look at the fish, we could see bubbles rising every once in a while and a slithering form beneath the clear water’s surface.

A well-laid stony path allows one to walk the entire perimeter of the lake – this took us a good hour or more, including breaks for dozens of pictures. In some areas, it was difficult to believe we were in India. There wasn’t a soul besides us in the area and nature shone in all her glory – the crystal water reflecting an aqua sky and the thickly wooded perimeter battling the onset of winter. At the far end, the water escapes down a rocky path over which the authorities have constructed a little bridge. This provided yet another photo op!

Once done with the trek around the lake, we headed back on our bucking broncos for lunch at the Army Hut at Baba Mandir. The walk had made us ravenous. The Pav Bhajji on offer was delicious and we stuffed ourselves to the gills. This time, the souvenir shop was absolutely empty and I got a good look at everything. I picked up a little Buddha head made of fishbone that is supposed to bestow health, wealth, and prosperity – I figured a good dose of each could do us no harm!

On the way back, we stopped off at the war memorial that is a tribute to all those soldiers who gave up their lives during the Indo-China conflict at Nathu La, post 1962. The marble tablets with the list of martyrs’ names are as much a record as they are a reminder of the families those great men must have left behind when they put country before self.

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