North Sikkim has two main towns – Lachen and Lachung. To go to both places you need to head north from Gangtok and reach a place called Chunthang. There the road forks into two, the left leads to Lachen and the right leads to Lachung.
To reach the Gurudongmar and Tso Lhamo lakes you need to take the road to Lachen. After visiting the lakes we decided to explore the Lachung side of North Sikkim. But the weather had taken a turn for the worse the previous day and we got news that the tourist taxis were stuck at Yumthang, a valley after Lachung. Our plan was to ride via Yumthang to a place called Zero Point, which was basically the end of the road, and then turn back to spend the night at Gangtok. But it became evident that we would not be able to do that.
Instead of skipping Lachung and returning back to Gangtok, I remembered Karma Tenzing’s recommendation to ride to a Domang, a valley north east of Lachung. I had saved Domang as a waypoint on the GPS and I started to lead the group there. I expected to find a bad road leading to a beautiful place. Instead I was surprised to find a brand new smooth tarmac road weaving its way through a breathtaking Alpine forest. It reminded me of my ride to the Swiss Alps a year ago.
We reached Domang and found an small village with Army camp. We still had quite a bit of daylight left and didn’t want to return to Gangtok just yet. At Domang I noticed a milestone on the road with the name Chubakha painted on it. According to the milestone Chubakha was 14 kms away. I checked my GPS and couldn’t find any reference to Chubakha. I checked Google Maps and couldn’t find it there either. In fact the maps on my Garmin GPS and my phone indicated that the road ended at Domang. And yet there I was standing at Domang next to a milestone on a beautiful road begging me to ride another 14 kms more.
I announced to the group that we were going to head to Chubakha. I had no idea what was there. But we were going to find out. The road started climbing uphill from Domang. We rode through some more beautiful Alpine forests. With every passing milestone the distance to Chubakha reduced and the altitude increased. Soon the inevitable happened. We hit snow on the road. But thankfully there were tracks made by four wheelers. So it wasn’t much of a problem. The road wasn’t fully covered in snow. Just the sections which were in the shade and didn’t get a chance to melt.
Eventually we reached Chubakha and found an Army camp there. A couple of soldiers stopped us and asked us where we were going. We had reached Chubhaka, a place that wasn’t on any map and I hadn’t the foggiest idea what lay ahead. I wasn’t even sure whether we were supposed to be in this region. We hadn’t come across any tourist taxi or even a private vehicle. It was quite obvious that nobody lived here and that this road was pretty new.
Without a better answer in mind, I said to the soldier, “We are going to the end of the road.”
He looked at me puzzled and replied, “The end of the road is 33 kms away and its a pass on the border with China. From here the road climbs up even higher and is covered with snow. You better go back.” He noticed the disappointment on my face. But before I could protest, he continued, “The sun will set soon and the snow and water on the road you just rode on will turn to ice. It will be dangerous for you to ride your motorcycles back.”
We agreed that it was sound advice and decided to turn back. We chatted with the soldiers for a while, asked them to take a few pictures of us and then started our return journey.
Chubakha was a hidden gem of our North East ride. We didn’t plan to ride there. We didn’t even know that it existed. Garmin and Google still don’t. 🙂