Washing your face seems impossible, here you will be required to fathom the scenario, when every time water comes in contact with the skin it gives you a sensation of numbness and being cut in a slow and steady pace, due to it being just too close to the freezing point. This exactly was what I had to go through on my struggle to freshen up, and this freshening up was done after witnessing the awe-inspiring view of the golden rays of the rising sun kissing the Himalayan range, from Sandakpu. Such extremes were the experiences I had, and if given a chance of revisiting the place? Any given day would be a big YES!
I term myself ‘lucky’ to have the same school bunch as my group even after 6 years of having done with schooling, though we tend to get busy dealing with our own lives we make sure the get-together we have should be one which will have its sweet memories for years to come. Similarly this time we planned a trek, some adventure, yeah! Being born in the hills, adventure is an inherent character trait of ours. Trek was decided, this was easy everyone agreed to it but the main problem that arose was deciding the place. Finally after about a month-long debate, over the place and the condition required, the place decided was Sandakpu, which was the nearest and the easiest of all the other options. The date to the Trek decided was 16th November to 20th November. Six of us were all set to leave everything behind and ‘live the moment’, six days of pure adventure and nature at its best! The blog rather than providing a detailed guide is more of a narration of how the first trek to Sandakpu feels like.
16th of November 6:30 am, Darjeeling Taxi stand was the rendezvous. All with a rucksack and a sleeping bag, unanimously agreed on the condition of not taking a guide, it would be just us. A taxi from Darjeeling to Maneybhanjyang, 26 km away and the gateway to the trek were booked. Maneybhanjyang, a small town called for a tea break and a final check on the requirements for the trek, we were set for the journey, I was the most enthusiastic of the lot, as I had been waiting for this moment for a long time. It was at 9:00 am our trek uphill started, first two kilometres till Chitrey was steep and we were slower than expected, trying to find a shortcut gave us the chills of being lost on the very first day of the trek, after which we kept ourselves to the main road. Gairibas 20 km from Maneybhanjyang at a height of 8600ft was our first day’s destination. Several areas were selected for our photo-shoot, something we failed to notice at first was too many stoppages makes you more tired, and leave you with a greater distance to cover on the latter half of the day, when you are actually tired. Driven by hunger and with nearly a quarter of the total photos of the entire trek we reached Meghma, which is just 9 km away from Maneybhanjyang, it was 1:00 p.m. and decided a halt for lunch at the place, without any hesitation we devoured through the toothsome feast as we had a greater distance to cover, the owner of the shop was kind enough to guide us regarding the shortcut leading to our first day’s destination. The time, as it passed by triggered a decrease in temperature, the condition was such I had three layers of clothing and a rucksack weighing 8 kilograms, was sweating from inside yet it was cold, keeping that aside, trekking through rocky roads, with few scattered houses on the scene, seldom barking of dogs and the pure and organic music of nature soothing to the soul was the tranquilizer, the feeling of ‘mental high’. However, something that bothered was how much more for the destination to arrive as we just had a few hours of sunlight left. What we had feared was to walk in the dark with no house on the scene and here we were living our fears. The clock had struck 6:30 pm when a light brighter than our flashlights at a distance appeared on the scene, it was a dwelling, our destination Gairibas. The first house itself that we enquired had a dorm on offer and the booking of 6 beds were done straight away at a price of 250 per bed. To be honest, the place that we booked was not that great considering the food and the service provided, would have gone for other better option, but everything was compensated by the quality of sleep. The first day to the trek made me look forward to days that would come.
The sun was out, embellishing the marvellous scene, it could not get any better. We stared with some fresh apples that we had carried along, noodles, and butter toast which we ordered there itself, a perfect morning.
We left the place at 8:45 am, the destination to reach was Sandakpu the booking for the night had already been made at a cost of 200 per bed. The distance to cover however was just 12 km, but the climb from 8600 ft. to 11,929 ft. made it challenging. The route was steep, and the addition of heavy rucksack made the climb tougher. Kalipokhari fell on the way demanding us to stop and admire the lake, we took a break as it was already 11:30 am the decision made was to start after lunch. Lying there in the grass observing the clouds, as we waited for the lunch to be prepared made me realize I had never been so close to the clouds, it felt like I can almost extend my arm and get hold of those white ‘cotton candies’ that were just floating above me, at that moment all I could wish for was the time to stop, I would have happily embraced that feeling forever. There is something about nature that I have experienced, the more you lean towards it the more it calls for you. Though we were hungry the call for the lunch was an interruption. Lunch on offer was noodles and Yak meat, since being a vegetarian I stuck to the noodles. 6 km more of a climb to go and with every decreasing kilometre milestone, the sense of achievement was getting stronger. Resting in some places, capturing our moment together and feeding ourselves with protein bar we continued towards our destination. The clock had struck 5:00 when finally, we stepped our foot in Sandakpu. The feeling can’t be jotted down, yet giving it a try, it felt like I Just scored the only goal, on the 90th minute of a football final, leading my team to victory, something out of this world. Sandakpu the place has half of its area falling in Nepal and the other half in India, the National flag of both countries stand tall at the respective parts, since the place is such, we had the experience of dining in Nepal, and resting in our room in India. A game of UNO, in our room, concluded our second day.
Cracking of the dawn shading its path rich golden with the entire Himalayan range to be seen as simply a treat. After watching nature’s time-lapse, the toughest job was to freshen up, as the water was just above the freezing point. The Day had to be started early as we had to cover a distance of 21 Km towards Phalut. Unfortunately, two of our friends could not proceed with the trek any further, due to a sprained foot, and a bad cold caught, emerging into a snag. Reduced to four an unenthusiastic act of helping them back to Darjeeling in a taxi from Sandakpu had to be performed. We however continued, Phalut awaited us with a room booked, here again, we paid an amount of 200 per bed. We started towards our destination at 9:30 am. Sandakpu the particular area, can be sketched as a bit commercialized one holding few shops, therefore the scenic beauty, what we actually seek is towards Phalut, everyone thinking of this trek make sure Sandakpu to Phalut is included as well. The advantage for the day is the route, which was not steep allowing us to cover a greater distance at a lesser time. We walked through the path, appreciating what the place had on offer, not a single human soul was seen for the first 8 km. We took a couple of breaks, our body started demanding proper lunch, after about 15 km with no sign of shop visible, a break was taken to have what we had brought with us, nuts, chocolate, protein bar, the weather too was not in our favour, there was a rapid drop in the temperature, a thick mist had us covered blocking the visibility of even the route in front of us, let go of the view, it was freezing and we were left with the only thought of reaching Phalut, the sooner the better. I still can frame it, none of us uttered a word for a few kilometres, waking like a robot just programmed to reach Phalut, and the first question asked was how much more to go? The daylight started to cease topped with the mist getting denser, our flashlights had given up on trying to cut through. Hands and the exposed part of the face were freezing, yet on the inside, I was sweating, due to the layers of clothes I wore and the rucksack I carried. It was unexpected, but candle lights just in front of us, and here it was Phalut, which has just one guest house and no electricity. It was 5:30 pm, the first thing we did was went to our room and threw our rucksack after which we changed and drove ourselves towards the kitchen basking us to the firewood that was lit and the best thing, our food would be prepared in that firewood. Sharing the guesthouse was a couple from Mumbai and a group of friends from Kolkata. The day though totally different from the other days was concluded in a similar way, a good cosy sleep.
The day was to be spent travelling towards Gorkhey which was the final destination where we would spend the night. The distance to say was 15 km, but since it was downhill we felt no pressure at all. After devouring ourselves on chapatti and ‘alu dum’ we bid farewell to the people and started at 9:15 am, the trek downhill was easy and flawless, and with no breaks at all, the destination was reached at 12:30 am. The view was somewhat hypnotic, hence I fell in love with the place, we booked a homestay, which consisted of two double rooms, at the rate of 600 per room. Into our rooms we went to freshen up and change since we had the entire afternoon, we decided to rest for a while after our lunch. It was late afternoon, and we started to explore the surrounding. The homestay was a beautiful one with a big lawn, outdoor sitting, and a place for a bonfire as well, the hosts were equally good. The dinner was a leisurely one with much chitchat and laughter. Since it was our last night together, we decided to sleep a bit late, being close to nature and away from technology, surely fixes our biological clock, sleep and wake up cycle is set perfectly. The sleep was just awesome.
Honestly, I was happy the trek went on good, yet sad it was the day the trek would conclude. I wanted it to go on for a few more days. We started at 8:30 am towards Sirikhola, from where we would take a cab back home. The route was again a climb but was not steep. We took no breaks, and the destination was reached as early as 11:30 am, the site of proper road, car, and network in our phone, was some different feeling at the moment. Waiting for the cab called for a snack break. If given a chance of revisiting the place? Any given day would be a big YES!
NoteFew things to keep in mind for all the first time travelers are as follows:-
- Try to make the baggage light.
- Try not to take frequent breaks.
- Take an extra set of warm inners especially during winters, no matter how cold it is you will sweat.
- Snacks are available till Sandakpu but will be expensive.v There will be no proper network throughout the trek.
- Book the place beforehand for Sandakpu and Phalut at least.
- Plan your trek properly.
- For all non-local tourists, taking a guide is compulsory.
- Carry a garbage bag along, as frequent snack break tend to litter the place.v Enjoy your trip to the fullest.
This post was originally posted here.
I am very happy that young folks are exploring in and around Darjeeling. However, while we explore we have to be sensitive towards the nature and culture of the areas that we explore. Sandaphu is rich is flora,funna and wildlife so I urge all visitors to be respectful towards it.
Also the Singalila ridge is inhabited mostly by Buddhist so you have to repect their culture too.
I urge the publisher of this article to remove the image just above “Day 1” where the young lads are sitting on top of mani stone. These are not just carving on stones but, has deep religious meaning.