Tue, 20 June 2006. Read in news paper (Times of India) that come 6 July 2006 and Natu La will be re-opened. So another item being added on my TODO list.
Checked out in LP, there is a road from Gangtok to Natu La (4,210m) via which one can enter China. The road to Natu La also features a ride through Jelep La (4,040m) with Tsomgo Lake on left side of the pass. Must be another paradise (read Wikipedia, below, for more motivation, if one needs).
Nathula Pass (also spelt Ntula, Natu La, Nathu la, Natula) is a pass on the Indo–China border connecting the Indian state of Sikkim with South Tibet. The pass, located at an elevation of 4,310 m (14,200 feet) above mean sea level, forms part of an offshoot of the ancient Silk Route.
The route leading up to the pass is one of the world’s highest navigable roads, and is maintained by the Border Roads Organisation, a wing of the Indian Army. On the Pass the Indian army and the Chinese border guards are within touching distance of each other. To visit the Indian side of Nathula, a visitor’s permit must be made one day in advance, which is done by any travel agency.
The pass is 56 kilometres east of the capital Gangtok. Although just 5 km north of the Jelepla pass, the Nathula pass is not navigable in winters as it receives heavy snowfall. Temperatures in Nathula regularly dip to -25 °C in winters. The pass is open only to Indian nationals on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. On other days is it in use for exclusive military use. A no man’s land is absent, and the border consists of a barbed wire fence. Every Thursdays and Sunday post between the two nations are exchanged, a tradition dating back many decades.
The road leading to Nathula from Gangtok is a scenic one and the scenery changes from sub-tropical forests to temperate to wet and dry alpine to cold tundra desert devoid of vegetation. On the way one passes the refulgent Tsongmo Lake. Yaks are found in these parts, and in many hamlets are the beasts of burden. On the Tibetan side the pass leads to the Chumbi Valley of the Tibetan Plateau.
During the 1962 Sino-Indian War, the pass witnessed major skirmishes between the two armies. Shortly threafter it was closed and remained closed for more than four decades. With the recent thawing in relations between India and China, the pass was originally scheduled to be opened on 2005–10-02, but was postponed due to last minute infrastructure problems on the Chinese side. It’s re-opening, scheduled for July 2006, is expected to create an economic boom for the region, and also bolster Indo-China trade, which amounted to $18.7 billion in 2005. Iron ore, livestock products, wool and electric appliances are among the products that may be traded through Nathu La.