Goechala In December
Goecha-La, in West Sikkim, is hailed as one of the most thrilling Himalayan treks, and for good reason too. With enthralling views of the Himalayas, colorful flora, crystal clear glacial water, and a green carpet throughout, the trails seem straight out of a fairytale. Starting from the sleepy hamlet of Yuksom, Sikkim’s old capital, the trek traverses through the Khangchengdzonga (Kanchenjunga) National Park. One gets to experience different terrain and changing scenery every day of the trek. From the thick forests in Sachen to open flatlands of Thansing, from the cold and wet Dzongri to the coldest of ‘em all at Lamuney – Goecha La has it all. Paeans have been written about how romantic this trail is, with some extremely romantic adventurers suggesting this as a must-do with your partner. I second these authors and wish to add to their scorn-filled thoughts of doing the Goechala trek in any other season but Winter. Here are my top reasons:
1. Absolute silence: Yes. It is creepy. Imagine the mighty mountains, forests, frozen creeks all to yourself. The cacophony of crowded campsites missing, walking the trails in silence, enjoying the beauty around in peace – it is a dream come true for someone who’s looking to connect with themselves.
2. Shaky pictures: Because temperatures in the higher altitudes tend to dip significantly – as low as -200C, taking clear pictures gets a little difficult. But pictures aren’t the only problem. Water freezes to ice, food gets cold real fast, the sun sets on you like magic, the wind rips through your tent at night. Nothing can summarize this better than that feeling you get when answering nature’s call in the middle of your sleep when you’ve finally adjusted the sleeping position and warmed up in the bag – you have to answer nature’s call, makes you rethink the decision to do this trek in December!
3. No work for an eco-warrior: Although Sikkim is by far the cleanest state in India, trekkers and tourists can really up the junk game during the peak season. For the environment ploughs, the harvest aka trash sacks, Goecha la in December brings a rather low return. While finding energy bar wrappers, biscuits covers, wet tissues, toilet paper, beer bottles, cigarette packs, etc., has become the new normal in most of the Himalayan treks, December compels you to go back empty sacks (almost). Of course, it’s never 100% clean, but you get the drift.
4. Less adventurous: Trust me, avoiding man-made fecal landmines is a task during the peak season, almost an adventure! With the multitude of companies operating this trek, it is a rare sight to see (or unsee) clear pastures near campsites. And don’t even get me started on the toilet sheds. Believe me- I’m not making a mountain out of a molehill!!
5. Lack of sleep: If you have committed to the ludicrous idea of trekking during December, you might as well settle for some of the best views of Kanchenjunga, Mt. Pandim, Kabru peaks and the like. With little to no clouds in sight, daylight offers enchanting views of the Himalayan peaks while stars illuminate the expansive, clear night sky. The drawback though is that it keeps you away from sleeping early.
6. No New Year social-dos: Oh, and if you happen to do Goecha La towards the fag end of the year, you’ll definitely miss celebrating the new year in your crowded city pubs. Youths of Yuksom (the name’s for real) put up a beautiful New Year gala that the entire village participates in. This party goes on till the wee hours of the morning and will wear you out by the time it ends.
Trekking the GoechaLa is both an unforgiving and unforgettable experience if done in December, so please stay away. And before we end, you don’t actually have to ever do this trek. Just flip the old 100 rupee note. You are welcome!