Thoughts On The Himalayas

After returning back from Chubakha in North Sikkim, we spent some time exploring the beautiful Domang valley on the way back to Lachung. We went off the tarmac and rode through a few streams till we reached this beautiful camping spot, right in the bosom of Mother Nature.

I think Sikkim is hugely underrated. Everyone rushes to Ladakh to experience the Himalayas. After visiting Ladakh three times using different modes of transport (motorcycle, tourist taxi and SUV), I can tell you that there is much more to the Himalayas than just Ladakh. Last year, we experienced a totally different side of the Himalayas when we rode our motorcycles around the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. And this year, we experienced yet another side of this majestic mountain range in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

The “problem” with Ladakh is that the mountains are too high. I mean for most of the time you are above the tree line, the altitude beyond which trees can’t grow either because its too cold or snow covers the ground for most of the year. As a result in the summer when the passes open and the tourist season starts you end up seeing a barren landscape all around you. Different regions of Ladakh have different rock formations and that breaks the monotony to an extent. But a the end of the day you are seeing barren mountains most of the time. Some may like this. But truth be told, I got bored after riding my Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350 for a couple of days on my first trip to Ladakh.

The nice thing about the Himalayas in Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Arunachal is that the mountains are not that high. As a result you are below the tree line for most of the time and that results is absolutely awesome and breathtaking views. It’s a absolute joy to ride a motorcycle in these parts of the Himalayas. This is also what makes the Alps in Europe beautiful. You have a nice mixture of snow and greenery on the mountains.

Another thing is the food. In Ladakh the menu usually starts and ends with Maggi noodles. If you are lucky you may get momos. That’s because the roadside restaurants along the tourists routes aren’t where the people live. They live in far off villages and come to run the restaurants only during the tourist season. As a result their menu is limited. But that’s not the case in Nepal, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. I remember in Nepal, a lunch break was a good hour and a half. That’s because when we gave our food order, the cook strolled into the garden to pick the vegetables and then caught up the first chicken loitering around the compound. When we left the place, there was one less chicken in the household. That’s how fresh the food was.

The point I’m trying to make is that if you have been to Ladakh already, maybe you should look at visiting the other parts of the Himalayas. The mountain range runs for 2,400 kms and spans Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan and China. And according to me the best parts are not in Ladakh.