Memencho Lake

A sensory visit to Memencho Lake (audio)

Author: Lily Shanker
Date: 2022-03-03

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We’re heading to Memencho Lake today, the source of River Rangpo, the third largest river of Sikkim. 

Located at an altitude of 13,900 feet, Memencho Lake is on the way to Jelep Pass, a high mountain pass that connects India with Tibet. 

The atmosphere in our cab is giddy with excitement. A visit to Memencho Lake has been on all our bucket lists for a very long time, like a simmering kettle left on the stove, long forgotten in the busyness of life.

En route is Changu Lake (Tsongmo Lake), where brightly adorned yaks wait along the lake’s periphery, ready to take tourists around the glacial lake. I’m excited to have my first encounter with these gentle Himalayan creatures but it’ll have to wait till our return.

20 km ahead of Changu Lake is the new Baba Mandir. It’s from here that you need to drive down a narrow rocky road that takes you to the lake.  

Yaks at Changu Lake

Yaks at Changu Lake

It’s late November, and the landscape is warmly draped in fall foliage. There are a few dwarf pine trees, still green, mixed in the array of amber and russet hues of low-lying shrubs. 

On the road to Memencho Lake

On the road to Memencho Lake

As we draw closer to the lake, sunlight dabbles through the tall pine trees, with promises of a splendid spectacle of a shimmering lake. 

We park the car at a clearing and walk down, past an old guest lodge with a naturally weathered façade of wood and stone and a tin roof. Speckles of blue and yellow paint on the tinted wood provide a nice contrast to the rust-colored shrubs and pale moss surrounding it.  

A pretty old guest lodge on the way to the lake

A pretty old guest lodge on the way to the lake

The air is heady with the woody fragrance of winter warmth. There’s a gurgling stream to our left, which impatiently flows to meet the lake ahead. As we walk on, the lake suddenly comes in view—not because it’s shrouded by the trees but we’re too busy looking down, trying to dodge large spiral-shaped black dung that dots the narrow path. From a roaming yak perhaps?