It was always a dream for the two of us to make it to Sandakphu by trekking and we did it this time during the November. We have been planning to execute the Trek since we made our first trek to the Valley of Flowers, that if we can do the Hemkund trek then we can plan out something by the end of this year. We did as per plan and started our journey on the 16th of Nov 2019 and booked the Darjeeling mail.
This time we went with a group as now the charges of porters and guide are must and you ought to hire them. Hence we thought otherwise and joined in a group with HIMALAYA TREKKERS. We never felt that we were out home , the trekking group was always in touch with us Specially our leader Avirup. We were pretty tensed as to what the situation would have been as we never ever went in group but things turned around well and we got wonderful companion of 8 people all from different parts of India. Our team Comprised of Anindu, Junaid, Avirup, Tanmay, Shradha, Suranjana, and the two of us, me and my wife. We all met at the NJP station and started our journey.
Day 0: Howrah – NJP (89 M): We boarded the train at the scheduled time of 2230 and after taking dinner we went off to sleep. The same was scheduled to reach NJP at 0825 hrs. But was late by 15 minutes and we reached around 0840hrs and met with our trek mates.
Day 1: NJP (89 M) – Chitrey (2542 M):
The train was on right time and the car for us up to Chitrey was also on time. The first day was a cab ride via Mirik – Pashupati Phatak – Manebhanjan – Chitrey. Our first stop was around 1.30 hrs after we started our journey from NJP and we had bread butter omlet and tea. We easily coped up and also came to know each other a little bit. Anindu came from Tripura and was professionally an Accountant and had done several courses of Mountaineering and was a champ. Junaid was from Mumbai and he too loves travelling and has done many day treks in Maharashtra and is professionally working for International SOS which is an offbeat Job and is the coolest persons ever met. Tanmay and Avirup are from Kolkata and are Doctors by Profession and they were the best persons to trek with and personally enjoyed each and every moment shared or spent with them. They are in their early 20’s and are literally care free birds just going by the winds and enjoying whatever are coming their way. Suranjana also in her early 2o’s is the most gutsy girl I have ever met and why that I will came into latter she is professionally a software Engineer and also in from Kolkata. Shardha was very quiet in nature but was never shy in sharing thoughts and also Gelled with us very well she was banked by profession and was also from Kolkata and the two of us I an Electrical Engineer and my wife with an interesting job of Content coordinator in the National geographic Channel from Kolkata.
We reached Chitrey around 1400 hrs and reached Hawk’s Nest and was welcomed by the owner my Phuntshuk who runs the business traditionally and has turned the same into family business. The afternoon was covered with intense fog and the visibility was merely a 100 meters. We dumped our luggage and organised ourselves, we got three rooms named after the Mountain Peaks (Mt. Everest, Mt. Makalu & Mt. Annapurna). The three ladies got into one room Junaid and Anindu into another and Avirup, Tanmoy and Myself into the other. We were pretty hungry and the welcome tea was not enough to fill even an inch of our stomach we ordered Egg noodles and literally jumped on to the foods and the hot wonderfully served noodles was finished with in a blink of an eye. We also had tea and decided to troll here and there just to explore the place a little bit.
The dense fog also was not able to stop us from exploring the place and we went to the Chitrey Gompha downside and after visiting we came back to our homestay taking a less explored path and we all felt good about this small thing. Snacks and tea were served to us and after our snacks was completed we all to a single room and started playing cards and gossiping around. At 1830 the hotel owner came and said that dinner will be served around 2000 hrs and that we should be present by that time in the dining hall . The temperature was quite low close to 9°C. In the mean time we asked for porters and managed to get two porters for the eight of us. We Avirup and Tanmay shared one Porter and Junaid and Shardha took one. We enjoyed our hot dinner and after that went to sleep with dreams that the trek starts well and the view gets better.
Day 2: Chitrey (2542 M) – Tumling (3048 M):
You may call it Bad or Good Habit but my body has been well toned with it and I can’t sleep after 0430 hrs while travelling to Hill Stations and here also I woke up and to my utter surprise the sky was painted with red orange and yellow colours. My eyes were in total surprise as that colour seen can’t be described in words. After attending to the nature’s call we went outside to enjoy the beauty of the nature. And after few hours the skies got totally cleared and we got a glimpse of the Mighty Mt. Kanchenjunga. After our breakfast we packed our luggage’s and got ready for our trek. Our Trek Guide Ram Bhai and two of our porters had already arrived but they were late by half an hour from our scheduled departure time. Today we were trekking till Tumling which is 9 km away from Chitrey and should take around 6 hrs. The road till Tumling is very picturesque and we were adjusting ourselves with the climate as well enjoying the beauty of the nature with sweet chirping of the birds. We were sometimes travelling via Nepal and sometimes through India there is no boundary and it’s amazing. We started trekking with full gear on and after few minutes of trek when we were at Lamaydhuru just few meters away from where we started we started to loosen a bit and also shredded a bit of our clothes. After 1 hour of trek we halted for some relaxation but our guide was against it as our body will become used to rest and will stop functioning. Our team was well mixed with each other and we were becoming an excellent group and were enjoying each other’s companion. We four (Me, My wife, Avirup & Tanmoy) were more close to nature and were trekking slow enjoying the Mother Nature and venturing the nature’s beauty. Anindu and shradha were professional and they were just walking by the roads and turns and were the first to reach any destination. Junaid was in the middle of the two extremes and was enjoying in his own way. And Suranjana was carrying her own backpack and supposedly was the last to come at any halt. By some time we reached at Sherpa’s Tea Stall and after having tea we went further till Meghma to a century old Canteen which was previously run by the British and now serves the ongoing trekkers with snacks and lunch. We were served with hot food including local lentils and mixed vegetables along with fried papad and also filled up our water bottles. As mentioned earlier there were two Docs in our group and while on our way to Meghma they helped a photographer who had come to take pictures of the Red Panda has dislocated his shoulder and our team Docs did a wonderful job by fixing it to its original positions and was applauded. They did a wonderful job. After having our lunch we started our journey to tumbling which is 1.30 hrs away and this time our trek was through the Nepal side and the feeling of entering another country without any border or boundary was amazing. The road towards Tumling was totally off road with boulders and pebbles paving the Trek Path and interestingly we found one stream passing by a small Buddhist Gumpha with the prayer wheel attached with a bell and the same ringing by the force of the flowing stream. We four again were the last to reach our homestay and around 1530 hrs we reached our destination at Tumling. The road though reaches tumbling via Tonglu another beautiful destination but the trek route is a bit different from the metaled road. We off loaded our luggage and freshened up and after a bit resting we went out to explore the place. We were staying at Siddhartha Lodge and the view of Kangchenjunga was just in front of our room. This time we got two rooms one for boys and one for girls. We were welcomed by welcomed Organic Tea and enjoyed the beauty of the nature though we were deprived of the view of the mighty Kanchenjungha as the weather again became cloudy but we got glimpses of the same for bout 5-7 mins but that did not feel up my Mind. There were many birds and we saw quite a few species. At around 1700 hrs we were informed to come down to the dining to enjoy hot soup. The warmth with which we were greeted was extremely nice. After our soup time we were asked to come down at 2000 hrs sharp for our dinner. At Dinner we had roti rice vegetables papad local dishes and everything was unlimited. We really enjoyed our dinner and after a bit of Strolling outside we went to sleep around 2130 hrs. The network here is very weak and only BSNL and Airtel works. Vodafone sometimes stays but is not steady. The temperature was quite low as low as 6°C. And we had to use two thick quilt to counter that.
Day 3 Tumling (3048 M) – Kalipokhri (3170 M):
As per my habit I woke up around 0430 hrs and freshened up and around 1700hrs I was geared up to have a view of the sun soaked Kangchenjunga. The Kangchenjunga Soaked in Soft Sunlight was looking like Gold Platted Chain of ornaments and the peak of the Kangchenjunga was glowing like diamond. The view was mesmerising and a treat for eyes. We all were jumping with Joy and the long hidden wish to see the Kangchenjunga in soft sunlight was fulfilled. At around 0630 hrs we were asked to be ready by our Guide Mr.Ram and we were scheduled to leave Tumling and head towards Kalipokhri which is around 12 Kms and will take around 6-7 hrs.
We started our trek keeping Mt. Kangchenjunga on the right. The road till Singhalila National Park was known to me and my wife as previously we had come but that was by Land Rover. The thrill to trek is something different where your body pains but you will not feel it while trekking because of the heart felt joy. After trekking for 40 mins we reached the entrance of the Singalila National Park and specially me and Avirup was extremely excited as we were in the living habitat of the Red Panda. The trekking speed was as usual and Anindu and Shradha were always in front of us as if they were to achieve something and we were all relaxing and enjoying the nature’s beauty. The Path from the entrance of the National Park to Gairibas is the best known path where you can spot the Red Panda and the path is almost 1.30hrs long , we tried or heart and soul out to catch the glimpse of the animal but it was hard to spot as they are very shy and are quite lazy. We even entered into the bamboo forest to spot them but were really scared as mean while I and Avirup was totally isolated from the group. Our guide was saying that you should not get isolated as there are several wild elephants which can be very dangerous. The Beauty of the trekking path was something that can’t be described in words. The trek was sometimes steep sometime quite sloppy and sometimes we got valley full of flowers and medicinal plants. Our search for the panda’s continued and mean while we reached Gairibas. The trek from Gairibas to Kalipokhri was very steep and extremely tiring. Our trek was for almost 1.30 – 2 hrs more and after that we were supposed to get lunch in a very small village which becomes totally isolated after the month of Nov due to extreme weather conditions. The location where we came is in Nepal and place is Jamuna close to “Habre Nest homestay“ which is one of the famous home stays and from this place the path divides into two that means if you want to go to Kalipokhri then you can opt for any one .
The path straight from Habre Nest is through Nepal and path to the right is through India. The road condition very bad and is full of stones and pebbles. It took another 2hrs for us to reach Kalipokhri. The Kalipohri Lake is related to history in its own way. The word, “Pokhri” means “lake” and “kala” means “dark” in Nepali, and the village is named after a local lake with dark waters or a lake whose water is dark in color. Kalipokhri is so named because of a pond or a water tank filled with black water. The word Kali means black and pokhri stands for water area. However the black color is not due to pollution, it’s muddy and the water never freezes. The small lake is considered sacred by the local villagers. Due to all-time water availability, a small village settlement has taken place in this area (about 100 yards ahead at a higher level). This is where all private trekker’s huts are also located. We reached here around 1630hrs and today’s trek was quite strenuous and we all felt it. Here the temperature was even lower than Tumling around 3°C and we were staying at Kanchenjungha Home Stay. This part of the homestay was also in Nepal and the warmth of the hosts was very appreciable considering the situation and climatic condition. There is nothing here and the habitats really struggle hard for living.
We got two rooms one for boys and one for girls we were provided with 7 cups of organic Tea and one cup of warm water for Shraddha as she did not consumed Tea or Coffee. We were also provided with snacks and considering the climatic condition we were in everything seemed wonderful. The rest of the evening was spent playing cards and gossiping about the trek path what to do tomorrow and also pulling each other’s leg. We were asked to gather for dinner 2000 hrs at max and we were served with hot Rice Dal Sqaush Vegetables papad. The food was not that good but again considering the conditions it seemed awesome. We did not even stroll as we were extremely tired and slept around 2100 hrs .There is no mobile network and only Nepal Sims were working. We bid goodnight to each other and went to sleep.
Day 4 Kalipokhri (3170 M) – Sandakphu (3636 M):
Today to our utter surprise when we woke up we saw the roof of the homestay the courtyard and the roof of the car as well as the tins and cans were all covered with snow. The temperature was as low as 2°C and our Homestay Owner came with a hot cup of organic tea a perfect timing. There was no attached toilet to it and there was two common toilets for the homestay outside. It was pretty chilling and it was quite a challenging task to accept the natures call. We were offered with pan cakes and egg for breakfast. We would be travelling to our ultimate destination SANDAKPHU today which is a trek of 4 hours with distance of 6 km. Today’s trek is the toughest and also the steepest.
We all started at around 0800 hrs and it was quite chilling as well as windy. The road towards Sandakphu we were trekking through was through Nepal. After 2 mins of trek we were to buy Passes from local authority for entry till Bikeybhanjan. The road till Bikeybhanjan was mixed with gradual slope and stiffness. It took 40 mins for us to reach Bikeybhanjan and we stopped for a few minutes to refresh ourselves. The tough and extreme stiff road starts from this region, there is a tower here from which you can get a mesmerising view of the Mighty Kangchenjunga as well as the villages of Nepal on the other side. Here there are two options one you can avail shortcut stairs from here or you can take the road which is full of pebbles and large stones. If you avail the road then you have to have patience as the road is somewhat km . more in consideration with the stairs. While when you take stairs you will be able to cut short few km. As well as have to take lesser turns and bends but you have to physically and mentally strong as the path is real scary with thin and narrow passage in some places but you will enjoy it. We enjoyed 10 mins rest every time we took the short cuts and it gave our lungs strength. After considerable amount of short cut it was time we got a valley and there we meet some Nepalese who were selling momo’s and thukpa’s of their own style with red chatni but some of them were drunk and were asking trekkers to take selfie with them. First time in the whole trek we found un-required Nuisance and we thought of not caring about them and moved through our path. Here in the same path if you are not travelling in a group then there are high chances that you will get lost as there are no signage’s and there are two paths one through Nepal and one through India. The locals guided us for a short cut which was worth taking but there were huge risks involved in it. Here we met many foreigners and they were all praising the beauty of India and were telling that it’s far better than what they have in their country and is totally fresh and vibrant. They were from Holland USA and Russia. Then there were another group from Australia and New Zealand. The path from here till 1 hr is through the forests and is totally steep with flowers blooming throughout the valley. From here we reached a point where taking shortcuts might prove risky and so we were informed to take the next 3-4 bends by the road. This stretch was totally exhausting and we were thinking when our destination will come. Finally we saw a milestone which stated Sandakphu 0 Km. We were totally delighted and were extremely happy. We were so excited that we thought we have conquered Everest and our joy was out of bound. We have now to take 2 more short cuts to reach Sandakphu and we did it. Our guide Ram Bhai was waiting and showed us the shortcut paths which we gladly took but after few meters again there was a deviation and we had to choose amongst the two luckily we choose the right one and here we were in Sandakphu.
As usual Anindu and Shraddha and Junaid were all up their Avirup and Tanmoy were a little behind as they got down to find some of their belongings which they dropped during our uphill trek. And Suranjana with her Back Pack was right behind us. We were guided by the ones who reached earlier about our stay in Homestay’s. We were assigned to stay in Hotel Sunrise one of the best hotel’s in Sandakphu with the best view of the Mt. Kanchenjungha and Mt.Everest. We reached around 1300 hrs. And we were extremely hungry and after offloading and taking rooms we were all ready for our lunch.
For lunch we had Mixed Chowmein, Veg fried rice, Soup and gravy. After eating voraciously we started strolling here and there and found out that there is a top from where we can have the best view of the Kanchenjungha as well as the Mt. Everest. But here we found out that Our SSB Jawans were asking us not to go further as that’s a disputed no man’s land and that there was a spat between Locals of Nepal & India. So the situation was a bit disturbed though under control. We also had a lot of discussion with the Jawans about the weather as the weather was clear but a bit foggy and we were not able to see the Sleeping Buddha. But they assured that same will be cleared once sun comes out as weather was fine for the last 15 20 days. And that today itself it has become partially bad. We started gossiping and after few hours we found out that Kanchenjungha and Partly Sleeping Buddha was becoming visible and the Sunset was a treat to watch. It was soothing for the eyes that we even forget that we were at such a height with such extreme climatic conditions. We were jumping with Joy. After half hour we went to our respective rooms Me, Avirup & Tanmoy were together. The girls were allotted with another room and Junaid & Anindu were allotted another room. At around 1700 hrs we were asked to come to the kitchen for snacks and tea and we all met a special person the Chef of the hotel who was also a Bengali and was extremely good in his profession. The environment was so nice and the dining was so cosy that we thought of going to our rooms only after dinner. The temperature outside was freezing and it was extremely windy. We saw the barometer and it stated 0°C. We were just awwwwww. At around 2000 hrs we were offered with dinner and we enjoyed the hot dinner with Rice Chapati dal Cauliflower sabji Papad salad and sweets. We were also offered with Special Nepalese Chicken and it was extremely tasty. There was slight snowfall outside but we could not feel it as it was more like a light drizzle. The weather had become again foggy and visibility was very low. We hoped against hope that weather could get cleared tomorrow and was assured by the Hotel Owner that it will definitely get cleared tomorrow and wished us Luck. We gossiped for another half an hour and slept around 2130 hrs. The alarm for tomorrow was set at 0330 hrs. One hour before the Schedule as we did not wanted to miss even a single frame of the sunlight falling on the Sleeping Buddha.
Day 5: Sandakphu (3636 M) – Timburey (2250 M):
We woke up around 0345 hrs and after freshening up we were up there in the terrace of our hotel which had the best view of the Sleeping Buddha as well as the Everest. It was literally freezing and the temperature was close to -2°C there were snow everywhere and it was heavier than that we saw in Kalipokhri and it was windy as well. The terrace top was full of snow so was the barbeque oven placed outside. We were not in a position to miss even a second so around 0430 hrs.
We were all up there and the sky was becoming reddish and we saw a wonderful sight of the Sleeping Buddha with each of the peaks distinctly clear and visible. The sight can’t be expressed it can only be felt and we were out of words. I am a big fan of the Mt. Kanchenjungha and have been attracted to her a lot and have seen her in lot of phases and transition but this beauty was something new to my eyes and I was just enjoying. The cold and the tremor was all gone by the excitement of what I was seeing and what more was to come. Everything from Kumabhakarna, Kabru north, Kabru South, Mt. Kangchenjunga Peak, Goecha Peak, Forked Peak, etc. were clearly visible. We were all thanking God for cleaning out the clouds. Everyone was clicking pictures of the Sleeping Buddha. Credit goes to my wife who irrespective of the chill was clicking with bare hands in order the picture becomes perfect. It was an amazing feeling and we were on the top of the world. Slowly as the time elapsed the Everest range was also becoming Visible and Chamlang, Chamlang East, Lhotse, Nuptse, Everest and Makalu was becoming visible. In naked eyes it seemed that Makalu is taller than Everest but that’s not the case.
The sky was so clear that even the Three Sister was clearly visible. And we could get a picturesque image of the Himalayan Range. We all were extremely happy and there was only one more wish that if we could please have a view of the red panda. Our guide Ram bhai was asking us to get down as we were getting late for today’s trek which was longest but was fully downside. We were not in mood to come down as we just wanted to have a view of the beautiful peaks and just sooth our eyes. Ram bhai extended our view by bringing the breakfast to the terrace and we were overjoyed. The tea became tastier with the view of the Kanchenjungha and also the bread omelette. We even had upma while coming down and we were totally full and so we had to as we had to trek 16 km more. Today we were to trek to Timburey via Gurdum village and it was trek of 16 km with approximate trek time of 8 hrs. We bid adieu to our favourite spot with heavy heart and were on our way to Timburey. We were asked to be in close perimeter of each other and not to be far apart as there might be few Wild animals and the trek was amidst the jungle with bamboo trees every now or then and we were very excited to spot the Red Panda. The route was beautiful and would suggest everyone to have a hike through the jungles to Timburey with birds chirping all around with melodious Sounds and we were totally lost.
But our search for The Red Panda continued and specially I and Avirup never gave up and was very hopeful to find one. We trekked for almost 1 hour and took rest for some time. Likewise we reached a point from where Gurdum village was only 4 km apart, same was communicated by Ram bhai and we were very excited that we were close to completing a trek which we longed for so long. But there was a twist these 4 km were the toughest as descend was extremely steep and the full toil and pressure was on the knees and the toes. The road condition was horrible full of sharp stones with no space on either side but it was a great feeling. It took us almost 3 hours to trek down to Gurdum village and the thighs hips and knees were paining and body was totally down. I could literally feel my body telling that enough is enough and that it could not take more. I and my wife were the second last to reach the village where we were supposed to have lunch and as usual Anindu da and Shraddha were first to reach next was Junaid and after that it was the turn of the doctors last reached Suranjana with her large Backpack. We all were extremely tired and same can be judged by seeing each other’s face. At one time I even felt my legs shaking any ways there were 2 more Kms to cover and we also had to have our lunch. The lunch was delicious and we ate as much as we could as we were extremely hungry. After a break of 1 hour we were again back on track and as guided by Ram bhai he asked us to wait for him whenever we reach a spot which had multi direction. We did as directed and after his direction we started it was nice route but our legs were paining but heart & mind were saying that we can easily make it. Ram bhai made way and guided us to a proper route and embarked the path with arrow signs referring our travel path.
The path or rather the trekking trail was awesome with path through the midst of dense forest and river flowing by the right hand side of the trek route. We crossed the Gurdum River Bridge and entered Timburey on the other side. The road was bit upside and we had to trek uphill for about 300 meters more but it took me almost 30 minutes as my body was not in good shape and each step was aching my thighs cuff muscles and the toe. After 300 meters we reached a descend down sides and that was more painful than the uphill trek as downhill your body needs to be in perfect shape as the whole load of your body is transferred to the front and you have to balance well. It was few hundred meters more and we could see our homestay in Timburey.
The location was just jaw dropping and home stay also had beautiful rooms with nicely decorated kitchen and dinner. We off loaded and after 10 -15 minutes while enjoying the fresh cold breeze we were offered with welcome drinks which included masala organic tea and it freshened ourselves. We were allotted Three rooms one for the ladies next was bit bigger one in which I, Avirup & Tanmoy got adjusted and in to the next one Anindu da and Zunaid got settled. Everyone freshened up and we enjoyed the snacks. We decided that as it was last night together we would spend lesser times onto the cell phones and would rather give each other more time. As now we could communicate with the outer world the weather was also nice and the temperature also has risen a bit and it was around 11°C. We Played cards and relished the time spent together. Our dinners were ready by 2000 hrs and were provided with the second best dinner of our trip and we really enjoyed it.
Second best as Tumling was having critical climatic and remote geographic condition. We also asked our homestay owner to provide us car for our next day drop to NJP and she said that we should not worry about it and same will be available on the other side of Srikhola Bridge. Today we gossiped till 2300hrs and we were scheduled to leave for tomorrow by 0900hrs as tomorrow we had to travel 110kms and it would take minimum of 6hours to reach NJP. We were tried as well as sleepy and our body was specially the lower part of the body was paining. The temperature dipped a bit and it was close to 8°C.
Day 6: Timburey (2250 M) – NJP (89 M):
Today was the last day of our togetherness and everyone was a bit down that our wonderful Trek will end today and only memories will remain. We woke up late today around 0630 hrs and after freshening up we did a light walking towards the Sri River which was flowing besides our Home Stay. We were offered with hot tea along with biscuits. Today we would be trekking for 40-50 minutes with all our baggage’s / Back Packs as we have released our porters. My body rather legs muscle was paining and had become extremely stiff and movement was very hard or rather painful. We after a bit of morning walk by the banks of Sri River packed our back packs and were ready for the last phase of the trek. The breakfast was also lovely with local handmade sweet bread along with Sabji and boiled eggs. We took photographs with the owner of the homestay who were very good at heart and extremely soft spoken.
Our trek started and we were trekking en-route the forests and accompanied by river. We walked through the roads and after 20 minutes of trek we finally got the view of Srikhola Bridge from where our 6 hrs journey by car will start. We walked by village where we saw beautiful home stays we also passed by a part of Rimbik and also came across a trekkers hut which the locals referred to as being built by the Britishers and is still in good shape and well maintained.
Our search for the Red Panda was brought in curtains as we crossed the bridge and we were a bit down as that was the only thing we missed and hopefully that will be the major attraction which will again bring us here. We got into the car and Shraddha and Suranjana became the DJ’s on wheel and were playing lyrical music from the driver’s self-made playlist. We were still in hallucination of the beautiful view of the Mighty Kanchenjunga and we were literally Day Dreaming.
Today we were to cover the same equal distance that we have trekked for 4 days which sounded pretty interesting and we were laughing at each other. We halted at Rimbick to haave a “Chaye Break” and were mesmerised by the beauty of Rimbick. Then enroute we passed Maneybhanjan (where we dropped and bid good Bye Junaid), Sukhiapokhri, Pashupati Fatak, Simana, Mirik to NJP. Around 1430hrs when we were somewhat 1.30 hrs away from NJP we thought of filling our belly and again started our journey around 1510hrs. We reached NJP at 1730 hrs and our lovely journey with Wonderful Trek mates came to an end. We gathered for last Bye Bye Selfie and headed towards the retiring room form where we were to catch our respective trains. We bid good bye to each other with memories to be lasted for life time. Extremely Grateful to Such wonderful persons whom we met and really enjoyed their companion. We hoped to meet each other soon and relished our Stay Together.