Our first day at Yuksom began quite late. Perhaps it was from all the traveling we did from the previous night that wore us out. We woke up to a refreshing 5 degree celsius morning air knocking on our windows. I don’t remember ever feeling that kind of cold; it was so cold I could feel my insides shaking, even the still air felt like ice on my skin. We bundled ourselves with several sweaters, gloves, socks and beanies and headed for breakfast.
Rani Limboo met us with a bright smile and her palms pressed together in greeting. “Hello, namaste, good morning. Aap breakfast karoge?” (“Hello, namaste, good morning. Will the both of you have breakfast?”)
I stared in shock as I saw Rani and her girls going about their daily work wearing only one woolen sweater. It’s obvious that they were used to the weather, Yuksom being at 5,000 feet elevation, the 5 degrees was more like a normal winter morning for the locals.
“Hum ko aadat hai.” (“We are used to it.”) everyone we met told us, when they saw shivering in spite of all those layers.
After breakfast, we headed towards the Khecheopalri Lake. It is about an hour’s drive away from Yuksom town but we took our time getting there, stopping every ten minutes to admire the view. It felt heavenly because Naveen and I were the only ones there.
At that moment it was just us and the beautiful mountains covered with dense pine forests.
When we reached the lake, much to our displeasure, we weren’t the only ones there. We were met with a swamp of tourists, either getting ready to enter the lake or just hanging out by the small souvenir shops. But no matter the number of people you are surrounded by, you will find peace at the lake.
Khecheopalri Lake is a lake of many myths and legends and so, it is considered to be a sacred lake by the locals of the place. Once you pay a nominal entry fee, it is a long winding road to the lake and along the path, you will find prayer flags tied to the trees and prayer stones stacked up one on top of another. But it’s not just that, you will feel it, in your mind, in your heart, in your breath. Calmness that surprises you like a cool breeze.
The lake sits surrounded by the mountains and prayer wheels. Tourists have the option of entering a sacred prayer room and lighting a candle as a prayer offering or simply just take off their footwear and walk up to the lake and feel the good energy in the air.
The prayers offered there hangs on every flag that is tied to the lake, it circles with every prayer wheel that is spun, it’s dissolved into the very air with every candle that is lit. There is nothing but a sense of hopeful thoughts and peace in the air and on your mind.
We stayed there till the sky started getting dark and even as we walked away from the lake, we carried with us a sense of irreplaceable zen.
We reached Yuksom a little before seven and as expected, everyone in the town was packing up their shops and stores and calling it a day. We retired to the Limboo’s and enjoyed a quiet, home cooked dinner.
We wanted to hit the sack as early as possible seeing how the following day we had planned to go for a trek up the mountains, venturing into thick forests.