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West Bengal: Trekking in Sandakphu
The name Sandakphu (‘Height of the Poison Plant'), the crown of the Singalila Range, is the culminating point of many trekking routes in the region. Trek to Sandakphu starts from Maneybhanjan, a very small town near Darjeeling. The town has shops, hotels and temples depicting local Buddhist culture. Last minute arrangements and shopping have to be done from Maneybhanjyang itself. Trekking will take 10 to 12 hours time in 2 days to Sandakhphu from Manebhanjang and it is important to take a guide alongside you. The sensation of the shades of Rhododendron, Magnolia and Pine forest on the way will be startling along with the singing of more than 600 species of birds. Sukhia, Jorpokhri and Mirik can also be visited making Maneybhanjyang the originating point.
At an altitude of 3,636 meters, Sandakhphu is located at a distance of 58 km from Darjeeling. Sandakphu looks like a dignified body standing tall with its prolonged ranges and frozen peaks. Nature here is at her best. Watching the panoramic view at the top is an experience which can dismantle all your hardships of trekking through the uneven hilly roads. Paradise of Trekkers, the Sandakphu peak is a vantage point where from tourists can enjoy the vista of four highest peaks of the world- Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalu and Lhotse.
On the 2nd day start walking at 6 a.m. At a distance of 8 km, at an altitude of 2895 meters, the Buddhist monastery depicts the culture of the Buddhist village Meghamoy. From Meghamoy heads to Tonglu. Tonglu, at an elevation of 3070 meters, is the highest peak of Singaleela. Tonglu is famous for the view of the snow-capped peaks of the Singalila range as well as the Kanchenjunga range. Joubari, situated on the way, crossing Tumling, can offer you a much waited lunch break. Tumling can be a spot for a night halt with its assortment of lodges in its demure green vicinity. Gairibas, 2 km away from Tumling, at an elevation of 2682 meters, also has many hotels for night stay.
The next day's trek from Tumling or Gairibari is very rewarding for nature lovers with an extensive diversity of flora and fauna. Singalila National Park is the next destination after watching the natural beauty of Gairibari and Kalpokhri. The distance covered from Gairibari to the national park is full of adventure and trekking through the uneven surface is a lifetime experience for the trekkers. But the beauty of the nature can be cherished to its fullest while going through the dense forest of Rhododendron, Magnolia, Oak, Burch and orchid. Besides wild life animals like grey leopard, red Panda, and Himalayan black beer, different colorful birds also are the examples of the biodiversity of the opaque forest. The trek route passes through the Indo-Nepal border. Bikebhanjan, lies 3 km from Sandakphu on the way, is the last spot to serve you some refreshment after a very tough road. Now that you reach Sandakphu, it’s time to enjoy the triumph of a tedious journey and it’s pretty obvious that the natural splendor of the surrounding locale will gratis you from your fatigue and monotony.
Even though the astonishing natural beauty will try not to let you leave the place, still the time acts as a constraint. While trekking down to Rimbik, at a distance of 16 km from Kalpokhri, you will not be able to spot any shops to collect food or any other necessary stuff. Although hotels like forest bungalow and trekkers hut are present in Rimbik but it’s better to travel 2 km higher up, at an elevation of 2286 feet and stay at Shiva Pradhan hotel. The Rimbik River, the city of Darjeeling, and icy Nowlekh are visible attractions from Rimbik. Rimbik is wonderful and picture perfect city with its locality and residences, built on the slopes of the pebbly Mountains. Srikhola, 7 km away from Rimbik, is situated along the banks of the river called Khola. The wild streams Khola River looks really astonishing while it is engulfing the green valley covered by the forest of Oak, Burch and Utish, at an altitude of 1900 meters. Jorathang of Sikkim can be accessed after crossing the nearby river Rammam. You can spend a night in hotels like DGHC lodge, trekkers hut, and hotel shovraj in Srikhola. Tourists, who are not engrossed to witness the vista of Sandakphu, should save some time for them to visit Rimbik and Srikhola to complete the experience of hill trip.
On the 4th day, take a bus from Gumphadara, situated at a distance of one and half km from Srikhola, to reach Maneybhanjyang or Sukhiapokhri. If the weather is not that pleasant then it’s better to stay overnight at Meghma or Joubari or Kalpokhri on the way back.
Trekkers, who wish to trek to other places around, have an option to trek all the way to Singtham Fhatak crossing Jhepi and Bijanbari. Bijanbari is coming up as a tourist spot. Nature lovers can go to Kaijlia, 8 km away from Bijanbari on the way to Darjeeling, to get the pleasure of a walk inside the stunning and colorful forest of Rhododendron, Mandar and Chimal. Many peaks of Himalayan range also look very pretty and satisfying from Kaijlia.
How to reach: Maneybhanjyang can be reached by bus directly from Siliguri. But not many direct buses are available. Siliguri is very well connected with bus route and rail route from Kolkata. It is better to reach Darjeeling and take a bus or hire a car to go to Maneybhanjyang. Interested trekkers can trek to Sandakphu and cars are also available for those who are unwilling to trek.
Where to stay: DI bungalow, Darjeeling Improvement Fund Department, Forest Bungalow and other private hotels.
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