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INTRODUCTION:- Plenty of trekking routes have been opened in the Darjeeling area to savor the breathtaking beauty of the Eastern Himalayas. In the Darjeeling area, the summit of the trekking adventure culminates at Sandakphu-a summit at an altitude of 3,658 meters (12,000 ft) on the famous Singalia ridge. It is fit to make mention of a visionary and dreamy-eyed Jesuit Rev. Fr. MacDonald, who pioneered trekking as an organized holiday and sport in the Darjeeling and Sikkim area where hundreds of trekkers now cluster for its joys. Trekkers have virtually to just take themselves upon the mountains--the equipment, food etc, is shipped upon the climb site by the porters. In Darjeeling, trekkers who are too old or don't have the time to walk seven hours a day for the allotted time of five to ten days, can always trek upon Sandakphu by jeep or Land Rover. The journey is memorable and tests both the mettle of the driver and the intensity of the vehicle. The trek into the Darjeeling area can be undertaken by any casual walker.
Trekking into Sandakphu starts off from an altitude of 1,524 meters (5,000 ft) and gradually climbs up through forests of rhododendron, giant magnolias, spruce and other trees of sub-alpine region and more than 600 varieties of orchids-the largest to be found in one geographical area in the world. For flora worshippers, the months of April and May are the best time of the year for the trek while for those who have an insatiable thirst for a view of the mountains, the best months are in autumn. The view from Sandakphu is unsurpassed by any view anywhere. Where else can be seen 180 degrees of snow-capped mountains which includes Everest, Makalu, Lhotse, Kumbhakarna, Kanchenjunga, Chomolhari in one single stretch of snows-an ethereal beauty. It is easy to understand why people leave hearth and home, travelling sometimes thousands of miles to walk through ripples of terraced fields of maize, rice, millet and barley, leaving the last traces of civilization far behind.
Average distance covered daily: 15 km (10 miles)
Walking time, excluding stops: 4-6 hours
Lowest Altitude: 1,400 meters (4,400 ft)
Highest Altitude: 3,600 meters (1 1,900 ft)
First Day : Batasia-Barahatta (1,744 meters or 5,725 ft):
It is a two-hour drive from Darjeeling to Batasia, the starting point of the trek. The first two hour trek is a slow ascent up the dirt road and trail to Dhodre, 2,438 meters (8,000 ft) where it is time for lunch and a short rest. It is then downhill all the way through forests and streams to Paimajua from where after another hour's walk down-hill the village of Barahatta is reached. Here camp is set in the village school ground. The descent has offered lovely views of surrounding valleys and ridges and steep terraced hillsides. Second Day: Barahatta-Rimbik (2,286 meters or 7,500 ft):
After breakfast an early descent leads to crystal clear waters of the Lodoma Khola, where it is hard to resist a dip and a wash. It is a steady climb for the rest of the day through open country and field of millet, potato and corn. The Nepalese are in a majority. The Rimbik Forest Bungalow provides a good view of Darjeeling. Amidst the emerald green of the forest filled with several kinds of orchids and close to the bungalow is the site for the camp. Third Day: Rimbik-Raman (2,453 meters or 8,000 ft):
The day starts with an hour's steep descent to the Siri Khola (stream) through forests teeming with hundreds of species of birds, including the colorful Himalayan Monal, the Emerald Dove, the Maroon Oriole and others. After the river is crossed, begins the stiff climb through towering forests of exotic, moss laden trees- rhododendrons, silver firs, pines, spruce, chestnuts, oaks, giant magnolias and hemlocks as well as through open country fields. The camping site is near the forest bungalow at Raman. Forth Day: Raman-Molle (3,590 meters or 11,803 ft):
A pleasant three hour morning walk takes one to the top of the Singalila ridge, where a corresponding change in the vegetation with the altitude is discernible with the forest gradually giving way to the stark landscape of dead trees. A couple of hour's walk northward after lunch leads to rolling open country and the first glimpses of Everest and the Kanchenjunga ranges. The camping site is at Molle. Fifth Day : Molle-Phalut (3,599 meters or 11,811 ft):
Always in sight of the Himalayan peaks, an excursion to the northernmost point of the trek at Phalut and back, takes three hours each way. With the beautiful valleys of Nepal on one side on those of Sikkim on the other, the vegetation is of the alpine class-an undulating ripple of dwarf rhododendron bushes and shrubs of poisonous aconite. Forming the junction of Nepal, Sikkim and West Bengal, Phalut along with Pamyangchi and Sandakphu, is considered one of the most rewarding places to visit.
Phalut -- Peeled Summit (or Denuded Peak)
The top of the mountain is bare of forests, hence the name Phalut. Kanchenjuna is only 48 km away as the crow flies and bestows the honor of the best view on Phalut. Conquered Everest remains aloof and rarely designs to come out from behind the veil; it is however, hidden by the peak No. XIII, a mountain resembling an enormous armchair of snow. Nearly all treks pass through to the Phalut Ridge for a one-night stop. The Government is now working on a project to improve communication between Sandakphu and Phalut through the forests roads and the aerial ropeway. Some day, a possibility exists of holding winter sports there as well. Sixth Day: Molle - Sandakphu (3,638 meters or 11,929 ft):
It takes a full day's walk along the ridge to Sandakphu-the culmination of the trekking adventure at its highest. At a distance of 58 km from Darjeeling, Sandakphu is a window to one of the finest views of the snowy mountains from the mighty Everest in Nepal, to the revered Kanchenjunga in Sikkim and the legendary Chomolhari in Bhutan. Everest is 144 km from here as the crow flies. The sunrise and sunset over the mountains is a spectacle, one cannot afford to miss.
The deadly aconite plant grows thick just below Sandakphu, the loftiest peak of not only the Singalila Range, but of the whole district; it is there, it might seem, to protect this green tableland, from human exploitation. Indeed, all is quiet, all is calm and but for a stray shepherd, not a soul can be seen,
As one approaches Sandakphu, the wild elemental grandeur of the snows begins to assert itself, till the climax is reached at sunrise, when it soaks the snow laden peaks in crimson and mauve, orange and gold. Kanchenjunga and Everest are seen in all their glory against the background of an azure sky speckled with lazily floating, fleecy clouds. The whole snowy range of Bhutan, Sikkim and Nepal, about 320 kilometers in length, a wonderful square mass of mountains looking like a wall of snow, is visible, but the gigantic height and breadth of towering Kanchenjunga, with its attendant peaks, Karbu, Janu and Pandim dominates the scene; Everest, (8,848 meters or 29,028 ft) graceful and majestic, 160 kilometers away, soars above, peeping shyly from the northern horizon with Lhotse (8,500 meters or 27,890 ft) on the right and Makalu (8,482 meters or 27,824 ft) on the left.
Sandakphu is a trekker's paradise, the narrow road leading from Darjeeling is jeep-able to Maneybhanjang, about 26 km from the town and 11 km from Tonglu (37 km to the west of Darjeeling). Mules, hired in Darjeeling, carry the food and warm clothing to Tonglu from Maneybhanjang. After resting for a night in Tonglu, the Dak Bungalow crowns the Summit of the peak, the trekkers proceed to Sandakphu passing through magnificent forests of Oak, Magnolia, Chestnut and Rhododendron; woods, overflowing with a wealth of vegetation, abound in moss-covered and creeper bound giants of the forest, the dimensions of which inspire awe. The night is spent in a Dak Bungalow or Youth Hostel, afloat in the clouds. Seventh Day: Sandakphu-Tonglu (3,070 meters or 10,074 ft):
It is a pleasant day's walk descending slowly through villages, the population of which is mostly Sherpa - the hardy, generous and famed people steeped in Himalayan lore for their indispensable role as fearless guides. After stopping for lunch at one of the Sherpa villages, Tonglu is reached by evening. Eighth and Final Day. Tonglu-Maneybhanjang (1,969 meters or 6,458 ft):
The final descent to Maneybhanjang takes only three hours, passing an old monastery which is worth visiting for a look it the Tibetan statues. From Maneybanjang, you have a 26km ride by jeep to you hotel in Darjeeling. It has been a rewarding venture brimming with scenic delights.
Darjeeling-Maneybhanjang-Tonglu-Sandakphu and return by the same route -- 118km
One of the most popular and rewarding treks, it offers the traveler an excellent view of not only Kanchenjunga but also of Mount Everest and other majestic peaks.
and return -- 160 km
After seeing Sandakphu one might easily be tempted to go to Phalut (3,600 metres or 11,811 ft) and about 21 km away. The trek beginswith a sharp descent and proceeds at a fairly level stretch for 13 km. The last mile is a series of zigzags leading directly to the bungalow. Phalut, the tri-junction of Sikkim, Nepal and India, presents the same view of the snows as Sandakphu. The return journey to Maneybhanjang can be accomplished in a day if the physical condition permits, involving as it does an 8-hour continous march beginning at 7 a.m.; the journey may be broken at Tonglu, if time permits.
Rimbik-Paimajua-Batasia-Maneybhanjang-Darjeeling -- 178 km.
This is a trek for lovers of mighty Kanchenjunga. The trek follows the Route No. 2 up to Rimbik from where the road leads to Palmajua (2,210 meters or 7,250 ft) which is 14 km from Rimbik. Looming right in front is the mountain-the finest and most exceptional view one can ever get of Kanchenjunga.
After the exhilarating view, the traveler proceeds to Batasia (2,098 meters or 6,884 ft), 11 km from Palmajua. After ascending steadily to Deoraly (2,566 meters/ 8412 ft) it descends gradually for 6 km and then steeply till the Batasia Forest Bungalow is reached.
Jhepi-Bijanbari-Darjeeling -- 116km
The route follows Route 2 (above) up to Sandakphu, from where the distance to Rimbik is 16 km. The path to Rimbik bifurcates on the left, before Bikheybhanjang while returning from Sandakphu and passes through the forest of Rhododendron, Cryptomeria and Primulae etc. Then follow the Route No. 2. This is a route for flower lovers.
The Journey by car via Naya Bazaar covers a distance of
75 km. Standing at a height of 2,082 meters (6,840 ft) the small village,
presided over by the monastery, provides a panoramic view of Kanchenjunga,
glittering in the morning sun from 6 am to 9 am, which will be remembered with
pure delight long after the visit is over. Besides the monastery built in 1705
AD and presided over by the Royal priest who once performed the coronation of
the king, there is also a Tourist Lodge where one can stay the night before the
sightseeing in the morning.
Trek information was current at the time I did my research on this subject a few years ago.
Things may have changed since.
COPYRIGHT : SUVANKAR SANYAL,
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