Situated close to Pelling, West Sikkim, at an altitude of 1,700, is the foot-shaped Khecheopalri Lake. The Lake is surrounded by a lush green forest and countless legends, this lake is best visited in the morning, when the tourists are yet to arrive and the birds are at their chirpiest. However, before you embark on the short walk towards the Lake, I recommend having a good breakfast. Why? You will find out soon enough.
We reached Khecheoparli Lake at around 9 in the morning. It was the perfect time. With the exception of a few locals out in search of wood, there was barely any human presence. There were birds, cicadas, and a couple of dogs to keep us company. Overall it was a great beginning. But we made one mistake. We went there on an empty stomach.
But first, let us talk about what went right. The walk leading up to the lake is mesmerizing. The noisy cicadas barely let any other sounds filter through. Even the high-pitched bird songs are muted here. The heavy vegetation on both the sides and the pretty prayer flags set you in the right mood. And the occasional locals that you pass, smile at you.
When you finally get to the Lake, you can experience ecstasy or mild disappointment, depending upon how many high-altitude lakes you have visited. The Lake itself isn't too serene or beautiful, unlike the Kartok Lake, but there is a jetty with prayer wheels on both the sides that leads to the water, which can provide a good photo-opportunity.
There are other interesting aspects of the Lake. For example, it is said that no leaves are allowed to float on the surface of the lake. The sentries who ensure this are the birds who swoop down and pick any such errant leaves as soon as they fall. I did not witness this sight, but it sounds pretty incredible. The other aspect is the footprints of Macha Zemu Rinpoche, on a stone close to the lake. Another interesting aspect is the presence of Cobra Lily (Arisaema Utile), a rather intriguing flowering plant, the flower of which is shaped like the hood of a cobra. This is NOT a carnivorous plant, though it is often confused with the carnivorous pitcher plant. Like the pitcher plant, Arisaema also attracts insects, but only for reproductive reasons.
Once you are done exploring the lake and its surroundings, you will notice a board that indicates a path that leads to the lake view point. We decided to head that way. What we didn't realize then is that this was a steep trek through the woods, without any paved path, and though it is only about 600 m up, it is a touch trek, especially if you haven't eaten anything for 12 hours. There were several points during this trek, when we felt like giving up and heading back, but we persevered. On the way, we spotted a beautiful chameleon and listened to bird songs.
At the end of the trek around Khecheopalri Lake, is a dainty little canopy offering a great view of the lake. Right next to the canopy is a little kiosk that sells water and some snacks. We had water here and some chips. They proved to be life-saving. This kiosk is manned by a local family that has its home right next to the Kiosk. We spent some time chatting with the family who owned the Kiosk. The man inquired about our political inclinations etc. The woman, in the meanwhile, was up to something very interesting. She had just washed her Pomeranian - it was sitting - almost dripping wet near the shop. Now she was in the middle of washing two guinea pigs. Several hens and cocks were casually strolling about. It was a wonderful place to discover.
Anyways, we said our goodbyes and headed back to the taxi stand. The way back was much easier to navigate. It passed through a village and here we got to see several beautiful little houses. It was a wonderful walk that led us almost directly to the taxi stand. By the time we got there, the tourists had all arrived and our driver was wondering where we had vanished. We had been gone for almost 1.5 hours. Apparently not too many people head to the view point, much less the tourists.