Trekking through the great mountains rejuvenates the mind and the soul in a way that no other activity can. From the wonderful views to the thrilling new avenues, it gives the body a purpose to walk forward and challenge itself into taking these treks.
I have always been a fan of trekking while walking even to my nearby grocery store seems like a pain to me, but trekking unleashes my hidden power and allows me to relax even when my adrenaline is pumping.
In my life, I have been through several treks, yet there are some treks that open the mind and make you want to go there again and again. It makes you a better person and shows you what you are capable of. While such treks are rare, where your whole personality undergoes a beautiful change, but they are impossible. I had such an experience when I trekked to Sandakphu.
Sandakphu is said to be the highest region, about 11,914 above sea level in the West Bengal Region. What makes this trek thrilling is not just its staggering height, but also the flora and fauna that is spread across the journey. The moment I started with my trek I noticed how wonderfully the lush green evergreen forest is complemented by the white coloured snow-capped mountains.
This trek took me through the borders of India and Nepal, and I got to experience not just the natural beauty but also the distinct culture of both these countries.
Jaubari: My trek started from the wonderland of Jaubari, which is in the Darjeeling district. This is the base camp of the trek. My trekking group had about 10 people, and all of us were more nervous than excited. The trek is known to be daunting, but the reward for greater than that subtle discouragement that was revolving in our minds.
My day at Jaubari started with a magnificent sunrise. I got excited and hastily got ready to get dressed into the trekking outfit.
The trek started, and we all huddled together motivating each other. The weather was great, and so were our spirits. As we started with the trek, the wonderful natural surrounding was hard to miss. At first, I was having trouble breathing, but as the trail became easier, so did my breathing. This helped me to fully appreciate the beauty that lay ahead of me. This picturesque route then takes a route down and up to a few hills, till we finally reached the sleepy hamlet of Tumling, which is about 10,000 feet.
Tumling is a beautiful hill station that provides some magnificent view of Sandakphu or the Sleeping Buddha as it is fondly called. There are many park benches that one can sit on and gaze at the wondrous mountain peak, and pray to reach the summit successfully. The town is specially made beautiful by the small tinned roof houses which are ever so colourful.
We decided to rest in the wonderful town of Tumling. As we gazed at the stars we waited in anticipation for this day to end, and the next to begin so that we could continue on our quest.
As the second day fell into the horizon, all of us had fallen into sync. We knew the pattern by now, and our walking had acquired a more determined rhythm. The trail from here is mostly downhill, which allowed me to catch my breath and helped me relax my body and my legs. This part is not strenuous, but it can be a little risky, with the sloping roads and the slippery surface.
The trail continued on a downhill trek till we reached Gairibas. This little place was only a kilometre away from the famous Singalila National Park. This is the stage of the trek, where permits suddenly become necessary. We obtained our permit from the main overarching gate of the National Park and proceeded to walk inside the Park.
This is where the trek got exceedingly beautiful and everything was diverse and serene. There was so much unseen and in heard of flora fauna all around me. It gets very hard to take your eyes off the epic and resplendent nature that surrounds you. This part of the trek literally takes you through the lap of nature. I looked around to find all kinds of different flora and fauna like- ageless Oak, Pine, Silver Fir, Birch, Magnolia and several variants of Bamboo trees, besides more than 500 kinds of orchids, several variants of Primulas, Geranium, and Rhododendrons that add a vibrancy in the two blooming seasons of the region.
The fauna here is equally rewarding. From the elusive red panda to the Himalayan Black Bear, if lucky you can spot all them here at the Park. While this is a detour if you have the time you should certainly make this a pit stop.
This is the part of the Trek were it gets really daunting and at times terrifying. Kalipokhri is a quaint little village in both India and Nepal. The little village is partly in Nepal and party in India which makes this place fascinating. After reaching Kalipokhri, we decided to make it our next stop before we proceed to the final ascent from here.
This little hamlet has the confluence of both cultures and it is really beautiful to see this unique merger of the cultures. There is a small lake in this town, where the water has an eerie blackish colour. The locals told us, that this water doesn’t even freeze during the winters.
We were greeted by warm and sunny weather the next morning. This brought great pleasure to all of us, we were getting ready to conquer the last stretch. The hike from Kalipokhri to Sandakphu is merely 6 km, yet this is the most excruciating, steep and part of the trek. It takes even the seasoned trekkers sometimes before they take on this mammoth of a trail.
The very first difficulty that hit me with getting fervour was the air thinning. The moment one crosses 10,000 km, the atmosphere gets thinner, and breathing difficulties start hampering the journey.
The path from Kalipokhri starts with a little steeping hilly road, and there is a stop after 2 km at Bikheybhanjan. One can stop here, sip a little tea, gaze at the daunting road ahead and think of the conquest before proceeding. We were too excited to stop anywhere. We passed Bikheybhanjan and continued on to complete the rest 4 km. We were going very slow since the steeping surface was made even difficult by the slippery snow that covered the whole road. As we took our baby steps, we started realising that we were really close to our goal.
It took us nearly 2 hours, which is the average time taken to cover this 4 km to finally reach the peak of Sandakphu.
As we caught our breath we looked around and were left aghast by the beauty that engulfed us. The beautiful nature unfolded around us as if this was our great reward after completing an exciting yet exhausting trek. Sandakphu itself is resplendent in all its glory. Lined with wonderfully green evergreen pine trees, and a breeze so pure that it can heal any soul, this little place is paradise on earth.
We had to sit down for some time, enjoy a little bit off chai as we gazed at the marvel that was around us. What really makes this place special is seeing the great Himalayas rise above the clouds and stand tall against the gorgeous blue sky, that seems pleased with the presence of the Himalayas. There is also a sunrise point about 1000 meters from the famous Sherpa Chalet.
If you have the time, then make sure to gaze at all the other peaks of Sikkim like Kabru, Kumbhakarna, Simvo, Goeche, and Pandim, all of which are visible from Sandakphu.
The hike to Sandakphu is surreal and memorable for more reasons that one. May it be for the great views of the Himalayan Range, or for the wondrous everlasting Winter Wonderland in Sandakphu, or for the thrilling journey that we undertook to reach our destination. Everything is perfect and the trek takes you to a different realm altogether. There are many routes to reach Sandakphu, but this is the most popular one chosen my relatively less experienced trekkers.
The journey from Sandakphu to Phalut is another wondrous journey which deserves its own blog.