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Sandakphu



After doing several hikes in Sahyadri range in Maharashtra, I decided to start hiking the Himalayan Mountains. After searching for few treks in Himalayan range, I made a decision to summit the Sandakphu which is the highest peak in West Bengal at the altitude of 11,950 feet’s from the sea level. The best part about choosing Sandakphu Trek is that one can see the summit point of the Mt. Kanchenjunga (The Sleeping Buddha range), Mt. EverestMt. Lhotse and Mt. Makalu from the Sandakphu peak.

The Team

Day 1: New Jalpaiguri to Jaubhari (Altitude of 6,400 ft)

The journey started from New Jalpaiguri Railway station, from where pickup arranged for Jaubhari which was our base camp for this trek. We, 6 guys, took accommodation in Siliguri so we started our journey from Siliguri instead of New Jalpaiguri Railway station. The journey from Siliguri to Jaubhari was amazing with a beautiful view of Pine forest on our way. Jaubhari is located at the altitude of at 6,400 ft.  As long as we moved ahead on our way, the climate started getting colder and colder. Our cab stopped at Mirik which is popular tourist place and famous for its Mirik lake. The lake is surrounded by huge Pine trees which is a very good place for photographers. We spent almost an hour at Mirik lake with the spicy taste of Momos. After our Mirik lake visit, we stopped at one restaurant for lunch where the remaining trek team was already present. We introduced our self to each other and left for Jaubhari after our lunch. We stopped in between at the place from where we had a beautiful view of Kanchenjunga. Nearly at 5:00 PM we all reached our base camp at Jaubhari. Our trek leader Sushant introduced us to the whole trek plan along with some instructions for trek during our Soup session. After dinner, we all get into our rooms with the huge excitement of next day trekking.

Day 2: Jaubhari to Tumling (Altitude of 9,450 ft)

We started our journey at 8:30 in the morning. Before starting the trek, Sushant introduced us to two local guides from Jaubhari who were going be with us during the whole trek. Mr Buddhaji and Mr Gopalji. Mr Buddhaji always led us from the front and Mr Gopalji from the back.

With Mr Buddha ji and Mr Gopal ji

It was about 3 km of ascending through the forest which took us about 2 hours to reach Chittrey, which was our tea point. Just beside our tea point, there was small monastery with Buddhist flag. From Chittrey we continued our trek towards Meghma(Mother of clouds) which was our Lunch point. Chittrey to Meghma is about at 6 km of distance including ascending through forest and the motor road. Before reaching to Meghma we registered our names in SSB camp near Meghma. It is always important to register our self in the SSB camp as we were walking on the International border of India and Nepal. Nearly at 2:30 PM we all got done with the lunch and continued to trek towards Tumling which was our campsite and at 2 km from Meghma. Meghma to Tumling was flat walks ascend on the motor road. This motor road was not as flat as we trekkers had imagined. The road had so many rocks in between. It was looking simple but was very difficult to climb. After the 1.5 hours of walk, we reached to our Second camp i.e. Tumling which is at Nepal side. Tumling is located at the altitude of 9450 ft. We had a beautiful view of Kanchenjunga from Tumling campsite.

Kanchenjunga view from Tumling campsite

After some stretching lessons from Nilesh and Narita we had our Soup session where Sushant instructed us with next day’s itinerary. We played few group games before our Dinner. We ended our day with little chit chats and in a better hope for next day trekking.

Day 3: Tumling to Kalipokhri (Altitude of 10,400 ft)

We started our trek at 8:30 in the morning. After walking at few distance we officially entered in to the Singalila National Park. It was majorly descend of 5 km through the beautiful bamboo forest trail, some meadows and some motor road walk till the Gairibas SSB camp. Gairibas was our tea point where we had spicy taste of Momos. The whole descend has so many beautiful views to enjoy on our way specially the bamboo forest trail. After Gairibas we had 2 km of steep ascend which took us at Kaiyakatta which was our lunch point. This ascend was quite difficult as it was fully steep climb. At some points we faced the cloud. The weather was cool which didn’t let us feel sweaty and tired. Nearly at 12:30 PM we reached at Kaiyakatta for our lunch. After lunch, it was 4 km of level walk through the motor road. We were been instructed by our lead Sushant to be quiet on our way as we could spot the Red Panda. Singalila National Park is a famous place for spotting Red Pandas. As it was too cloudy weather so there was no chance to spot Red Panda for us. Hard Luck!! On our way we met few Army Jawans who were refilling there water canes.

A conversation with Kalipokhri SSB camp Jawans

We had very good conversation with Jawans. In return they offered us to have a tea in their camp. We were thankful about it but we refused for tea as we wanted to stick with our trek group. Nearly by 4:30 PM we reached our campsite at Kalipokhri.

Kalipokhri lake

In Nepal Kala means Black and Pokhri means Lake. This village has black lake which is surrounded by waving Buddhist prayer flags. That is why it is known as Kalipokhri. Kalipokhri located at the altitude of 10,400 ft. After some stretching exercises from Nilesh we went for our Soup session. Sushant instructed us with next day’s itinerary along with some good information about few Himalayan mountains during our Soup session. Rohit, one of our trek member, also shared some useful information about mountains. After some group games and dinner we headed all the way to our bed.

 Day 4: Kalipokhri to Sandakphu peak (Altitude of 11,950 ft)

Sunrise view from Kalipokhri campsite

I had a beautiful sunrise view at 6 AM from our Kalipokhri campsite. Today was our summiting day for Sandakphu which is the highest peak in West Bengal at the altitude of 11,950 ft. Kalipokhri to Sandakphu is at about 6.5 KMs of distance. We started our trek at 8:30 AM. The trail was full ascend of 6.5 KMs including zigzag climb on motor road. From our campsite at Kalipokhri only we could see Sandakphu peak. We took some rest at Bikheybhanjang for some time on our way to trek. I and Mayur, one of our trek member, got a chance to take some photos of a small Nepali temple at Bikheybhanjang. Bikheybhanjang is also known as Valley of Poison because of poisonous aconite plant which grows here. After Bikheybhanjang the climb became slight tough. We took few shortcuts other than climbing through motor road and which was quite difficult and challenging as well. We could see the Sandakphu peak throughout the trail. By 11:30 AM we reached at the summit point of Sandakphu. It was awesome feeling!! I took some tea and sat alone for a while to enjoy the achievement of summiting Sandakphu. After spending some time at Sandakphu peak we moved towards our campsite which was at 1 KM away from Sandakphu peak. When we reached at our campsite, we all amazed with the beautiful view of Kanchanjanga. The Sleeping Buddha was looking amazing. On the left we had the king of the mountains, Mt. Everest. The campsite was itself a beautiful place above the clouds.

Kanchenjunga from Sandakphu peak

Mt. Everest from Sandakphu peak

Campsite at Sandakphu peak

Sunset from Sandakphu peak

We went to one hillock which was nearby to our campsite. We got lucky to have clear and beautiful sunset view from there. During sunset The Sleeping Buddha became golden by the sunlight. I was wishing to stay there for a long time even after sunset as I didn’t want to move my eyes from The Sleeping Buddha. But due to extreme wind-chill it was not possible to stay long at that point. In our soup session Buddha ji sung one beautiful Nepali song. Neither of us understood the words of the song, but we definitely felt the emotions behind that song. We also had some mountain ghost stories told by Sushant which made us all little frighten for that night. After dinner I and my tent partners Mayur and Abhishek had a Retro singing session of Kishore Kumar’s songs. That was the most memorable part of this trek. The Sky was covered fully with the shining stars. It was so beautiful star view, but due to extreme level of wind chill one cannot stand more than 5 minutes in open. It was just for couple of minutes I enjoyed the stars before the good night call.

Day 5 Sandakphu to Sabargram (Altitude of 11,807 ft):

Sandakphu to Sabargram is 15 KMs of distance. We got a packed lunch in the morning before starting our trek. We started our trek at 8:30 in the morning. Initially, it was motor road walk including small ascends and descends for first 5 KM. Sleeping Buddha was playing hide-n-seek with us throughout on this trail.

Sandakphu to Sabargram trail with beautiful Kanchenjunga

Sandakphu to Sabargram trail with Mt. Everest

Meadow trail from Sandakphu to Sabargram

After motor road trail it was an awesome meadow walk including small ascends and descends. The meadow trail had some breathtaking views of Mt. Kanchanjanga and Mt. Everest. Though it was difficult to walk through the meadows due to extreme wind chill, we all made it with the full enthusiasms and the hiking spirit. After completing meadow trail we took a halt at one place for our lunch. After lunch, it was 3 km walk on the motor road to our campsite at Sabargram. The whole trail during our trek was sharing the International border of India and Nepal. And we all had huge excitement to walk on this kind of trail. We reached our campsite by 3:30 and as per daily routine, we all had stretching session. After walking for long in hiking it’s always better to do stretching cause it will loosen the tight muscles and helps muscles to keep relax and increase blood flow to nerves. After tea we 5-6 people went to hillock nearby to our campsite to have the sunset view. The Sleeping Buddha becomes golden by the sunlight during sunset. After sunset Buddha ji explained us some of the respectful information about the Buddhism and few places associated with it. And then it was time for some group games along with our dinner. And then we had a good night call.

Day 6 Sabargram to Gorkhey via Phalut (Altitude of 7546ft):

We enjoyed the beautiful sunrise from our campsite at Sabargram. As long as the sun was rising up, slowly slowly The Sleeping Buddha was also started showing his beauty. Sabargram to Gorkhey is about 14 KMs, but if we go to Gorkhey via Phalut then it will be 21 KMs. The weather was clear so we got the call to reach our Gorkhey campsite via Phalut. So today was the longest day throughout our trek. We had to cover 21 KMs for today, so we started our trek early by 7:30 AM along with our packed lunch. Sabargram to Phalut was about 7 KMs. This trail includes a walk through motor road and a meadow with small ascends and descends.

Sabargram to Phalut way

We saw one small water stream on our way which was completely frozen into ice from its upper side. Just like yesterday’s trail Sleeping Buddha was playing hide-n-seek with us today as well. Just before reaching the Phalut we had our tea halt at one trekker’s hut. From there Phalut peak was at just 1 KM of distance.

By 11 AM we reached the top of Phalut peak. And the view from Phalut peak was breathtaking. Phalut peak gave us the best view of The Sleeping Buddha during whole Sandakphu trek. You can have the closest view of Sleeping Buddha. And just turn your head to left, little far but clearly visible, Mt. Everest. Everyone was busy in taking photograph. But I just wanted to enjoy the view. So I went to one of the cliffs nearby and sat down. There were some tears in my eyes of Happiness and the achievement for summiting Sandakphu and Phalut and having an amazing view of the world’s tallest mountains i.e. Mt. Kanchanjanga and Mt. Everest. After spending some time at Phalut peak we moved towards Gorkhey. Phalut to Gorkhey was about 15 KMs and the trail goes through the beautiful bamboo forest. The trail had the level walk with steep descend before reaching the Gorkhey village.

Phalut to Gorkhey trail through the Bamboo forest

Gorkhey village is surrounded by mountains and located at the bank of Gorkhey River. It was very beautiful village we visited during our trek. We few people went to Gorkhey river in evening to have some fresh air. During our soup session, Sushant distributed the Trek Completion certificates and each trekker shared their experience on this trek. At the end, Mr. Buddha Ji gave us the farewell speech. And the day ended with the feelings of achievement.

Day 7 Gorkhey to Sepi (Altitude of 6,234 ft):

In the early morning, we 3 trekkers went to explore the Gorkhey village and we ended it by visiting the Pine forest area which is attached to the Gorkhey village. We started our trek by 7:30 in the morning. Gorkhey to Sepi is about 15 KMs. The trail was gradual and steep ascents through a forest from Gorkhey to Ramam. Ramam was our tea point where we all reached by 10:30. After Ramam, till Sepi it was full level walk descends through the forest. I enjoyed playing football with few kids at one of the villages came on our way. As it was the last part of the trek and that too with the beautiful descend, everyone was enjoying and excited to finish this trek. Just before Sepi we crossed a hanging wooden bridge where lots of Buddhist prayer flags were fluttering in the wind.

The hanging wooden bridge just before Sepi

After crossing the bridge it was flat motor road walk for Sepi. The left side of the road is fully surrounded by the mountains. I stop at one place and let the other trekkers move ahead and set down at the mountain side edge of the road to enjoy the view and to feel the peace. It was one of the best peaceful feelings I ever had. After spending some time at that place I joined the last group of trekkers to finish the trek. After just 15 minutes’ walk from there, we saw the restaurant which was our finishing point of the trek. I started running towards the restaurant just like I have participated in the race and just about to win it. We all greeted each other for successful completion of the trek. After giving goodbye wishes to each other, we all started moving towards our comfort zone, Home.

24 trekkers from all over India and other countries came together on this beautiful trek for 7 days and went with the beautiful lifetime memories.

What I learned during this trek is, how to push yourself beyond your limitations, how to challenge yourself. In life, we all come across those hard situations where we almost think to give up. But all that matters is the Next Step. Your Next Step either will give you the lifetime regret or it will fill you with the beautiful lifetime memories. And we all know that Memories are always better than Regrets.

Author:-
Ketan Patoliya

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