Sikkim is an incredibly beautiful state and every place here exudes an enigmatic grandeur. One among them is Zero Point. Husband and I were eager to visit this place as we were intrigued to know how it feels at the last outpost of civilization in knee deep snow. Since my late father-in-law had served in NEFA valley, his son wanted to see a similar place where he was posted. Zero Point undoubtedly topped the list. This is an ode to the Indian Army at Zero Point, Sikkim which operates in harsh conditions, guarding the Indo-China border 24*7.
Permits and restrictions
Mind you, foreign nationals require Restricted Area Permit (RAP) to visit any part of Sikkim including Gangtok. This permit is also called Inner Line Permit (ILP). However, Indians do not require this. Instead they need Protected Area Permit (PAP) which allows them access to a particular (protected) destination. A day before your visit to Zero Point or Yumesamdong, your driver/travel agent would have submitted your documents for PAP which are checked on the day of visit.
Zero Point is usually not included in North Sikkim itinerary and travel agents charge Rs 3000 extra for this trip, clubbing Yumthang Valley with it. Your homestay would provide you with packed breakfast (usually bread butter/jam) since you would have to leave early morning.
The distance from Lachung to Zero Point is 51 km and roughly 30 km from Yumthang Valley.(We first went to Zero Point and stopped at Yumthang Valley on returning from Zero.)
The journey: Unsettling but bewitching
Hilly topography, harsh weather and proximity to China perhaps made it impossible to build roads. You would experience sharp turns and jerks throughout the road journey. Nonetheless the beautiful untouched nature around makes up for painful ride. The breath-taking sight leaves you mesmerized. After all its the journey that matters.
As you ascend higher, vegetation starts diminishing and rocky terrain becomes more prominent. The roads tend to get very slippery and extremely dangerous during snowfall. Ask your driver to drive slowly and very carefully on this route even when not snowing. Rash driving is not an option here. Give way to Army trucks whenever you see. Army personnel wave at passing vehicles as a gesture of wishing happy journey and making you feel good. Waving back to them is a nice gesture.
On the way, don’t forget to stop at ‘Jalebi Point’ for yummy snacks which are made by Indian Army personnel. Their motto is to bring a smile to faces and not let anyone go hungry.
P.S– Food items at Zero Point are expensive and the hygiene is not really trustworthy. Advisable to refuel yourself at this stop. Hot samosas and jalebis felt absolutely amazing as we famished. (Remember our breakfast was just bread butter?)
The super bouncy ride comes to an end at the Zero Point Parking. At 15000 feet above sea level, the place is covered in snow most of the year. When it hasn’t snowed, it would be biting cold.
PS.– You have to wear warm clothes and have waterproof arrangements irrespective the weather you visit in. Children below 3 years of age must not be taken here.
We were at loss of words with the exhilarating beauty of the place. The Sun hid behind the greyish clouds and the chilled winds kissed our skin. Wood-fire at a nearby tea stall made us feel colder and we pulled our jackets tighter. The white blanket of snow seemed to beckon us as our body tried to adjust in the sub-zero temperature. Thankfully we did not feel uneasy because oxygen level isn’t low here unlike Gurudongmar Lake. While we felt ecstatic being surrounded by snow wondering what was China doing behind those gigantic mountains, our heart went out to Indian Army that braves these challenges everyday just to keep us safe. A heart-felt thanks and grand salute to them.
Enjoy hot snacks at the little shacks here, get crazy with snow, enjoy nature at its “whitest most” and take home good memories. A usual protocol is to leave within an hour lest the parking should be full or weather conditions worsen. Avoid Zero Point during rainy season.
Overall the place has nothing except for being an important landmark before China. However the exotic beauty and the beautiful journey keeps you charmed.
A change of perspective
Travelling to such places often changes your perspective about life and lot of things. The distance between life and death could be a thing as small as a over-speeding or stepping on a loose rock. We could somehow re-live the conditions what dad had endured during his service in NEFA. Our trip to Zero Point was also in his commemoration.
P.S– This trip of ours was in October 2018. In case you have queries on planning your trip to North Sikkim or Zero point, feel free to drop in the comments below.