Stuck at Nathu La on a snowy afternoon | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Stuck at Nathu La on a snowy afternoon

I was on a tour to Sikkim with a group of fellow journalists. We made the most of our trip to the Himalayan state by mixing business with pleasure. In the last leg, we were scheduled to visit Nathu La, the mountain pass between India and China in East Sikkim.

chandigarh Updated: Mar 18, 2015 16:40 IST

I was on a tour to Sikkim with a group of fellow journalists. We made the most of our trip to the Himalayan state by mixing business with pleasure. In the last leg, we were scheduled to visit Nathu La, the mountain pass between India and China in East Sikkim.

We started early in the morning from Gangtok. As our SUVs left the capital city for the 52-km journey, we were soon traversing the narrow roads, a rule rather than exception in the hilly state.

As the altitude started increasing, we could see alpine flora and patches of snow in the distant mountains. As we moved further on one of the highest motorable roads in the world, cold and hunger assailed us. We stopped at a ramshackle shop that took care of both our needs. The woman at the counter had a tough time making sandwiches, omelettes and countless cups of tea. We also bought woollen caps.

As we resumed our journey, the snow-clad mountains came near. I had not seen so much snow in my life. Soon there was snow even on the road and our vehicles had difficulty in moving ahead. As the pass was barely a kilometre away, we had to halt as the vehicles skidded and refused to go further.

The party decided to go the distance on foot. But I was tired and decided to stay put rather than shaking hands with the Chinese soldiers. All others except the two drivers and yours truly started climbing up in thick snow.

Soon the only woman journo in the team returned as she repeatedly slipped and could go no further. The weather took a turn for the worse and a snowstorm seemed imminent. An army vehicle arrived shortly and advised us to move to a safer area. We were at our wits' end. It was scary, and thinking of my family sitting thousands of kilometres away, I, stuck in snow at a height of 14,000 feet, was kicking myself for having opted for the journey.

Suddenly, my colleague found difficulty in breathing and we decided to move to an army check post 2km downhill. There we took refuge in the small shed as it was biting cold, and were served tea. We had some anxious moments before the party returned. As the weather improved, we resumed our journey to another scenic spot nearby.

Two years on, as I write this in the comfort of my home, the mere thought of that afternoon spent a stone's throw from the snowy Nathu La sends shivers down my spine.

rakesh.chopra@hindustantimes.com

The writer is an assistant news editor with Hindustan Times