THE JOYS OF SANDAKPHU&PHALUTTREKS
Trekking into sandakpu starts off from an altitude of 1,524 meters giant (5,000ft ) and gradually climbs up through forests of rhododendron giant magnolias, spruce and other trees of sub alpine region and not to mention, more than 600 varieties of orchids the largest to be found in one geographical area in the world. For flora worshipers, 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 sandakpu is unsurpassed by any other view anywhere. Where else can be seen 180 degrees of snow – capped mountains which includes Everest, Makalu, Lhoste, kumbhakarna, Kanchenjunga, chomolhari in one single stretch of snows –an ethereal beauty. It is easy to understand why people leage 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.
THE 8 DAY TREK
FIRST DAY: BATASIA --- BARAHATTA (1,744 METERS or 5,725FT)
It is a two hour drive from Darjeeling to Batasia, the starting point of the trek. The first two hour’s trek is a slow ascent up the dirt and trail to dhodre, 2,438 meters (8,000 ft) where it is time for launch and a short rest. It is then down hill all the way through forests and streams to palmauja 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 hill sides.
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 majority. The Rimbik forest Bungalow provides a good view of Darjeeling .Ad mist 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 8,000ft)
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 colourful Himalayan Monal, the Emerald Dove, the Maroon Orile 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.
Fourth 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 forest glimpse 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 site 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 the house of Sikkim on the other,the vegetation is of the alpine class an undulating ripple of dwarf rhododendron bushes and shrubs or poisonous aconites. Forming the
junction of Nepal, Sikkim and west Bengal, phalut along with pamyangchi and sandkhaphu, is considered one of the most rewarding places to visit.
Peeled summit or denuded peak
The top of the mountain is bare of forests, hence the name Phalut. Kanchenjunga 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 arm of chair of the snow. A favorite with the trekkers and nearly all treks pass through. To the phalut Ridge for a one – night stop.
The Government now working on a project to improve communication between sandakpu and phalut through the forests roads and the aerial rope way. Someday, a possibility exists of holding winter sports there as well.
SIXTH DAY: MOOLLE – SANDAKPU (3,638 METERS OR 11,929 FT)
It takes a full day’s walk along the ridge to sandakpu – the culmination of the trekking adventure at its highest. At a distance of 58 km from Darjeeling, sandakpu 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 the sunset over the mountains is a spectacle, one cannot afford to miss.
The deadly aconite plant grows thick just below sandakpu, 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 calm and but for a stray shepherd, not a soul can be seen.
As one approaches sandakpu, the wild elemental grandeur of the snows begins to assert itself till the climax is reached at sun rise, 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) on the right and Makalu (8,482 meters’ or 27,824 ft) on the left.
Sandakpu is a trekker’s paradise; the narrow road leading from Darjeeling is jeep able to maneybhanjang, about 26 km from the town and 11km 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 oak bungalow crowns the summit of the peak. The trekkers proceed to sandakpu 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 oak bungalow or youth hostel, afloat in the clouds.
Seventh day: sandakpu --- tonglu ( 3,070 meters or 10,074)
It is a pleasant day’s walk descending slowly through villages, the population 01 which is mostly Sherpa--- the hardy, generous and famed people people steeped in Himalayan lore fortheir indispensable role as fearless guides. After stopping for lunch at one of the Sherpa villages, Tonglu is reached by evening.
EIGHTH AND FINAL: TONGLU- MANEYBHANJANG
(1,969 METRES OR 6,458 FT)
The final descent to maneybhanjang takes only three hours, passing an old monastery which is worth visiting for a look at the Tibetan statues. From maneybhanjang, 26 km from Darjeeling transfer by jeep to hotel. It has been a rewarding venture brimming with scenic delights.