Sunday, 22 April 2018

Sandakphu-Phalut Trek

Not a very popular trekking destination but I thought to go for it. I had done a couple of treks before in the Uttarakhand region, and this seemed a bit different. Sandakphu is the highest peak in West Bengal, and it offers a grand view of the world's tallest peak - Everest (8,848 m), Kanchenjunga (8,586 m), Lhotse (8,516 m) and Makalu (8,463 m). Moreover, it gives an opportunity to cross the border and continue trekking in Nepal for half the duration making it an international trek (Haha!). I had enough reasons to finalise it as my first excursion in the Year 2018. 

I began my journey on 30th December 2017. I reached New Jalpaiguri next morning from where my pick up was scheduled for Jaubhari - the base camp. I joined other trekkers, and we were briefed about high altitude treks, the village, and Project Green Trails. I had a good night sleep and was mentally prepared for the challenges from next morning. 

We started early morning, and our destination was Tumling. The distance we had to traverse was 11 km with an altitude gain from 6,400 to 9,450 ft. Our first halt was Chittrey where we stopped for a quick tea break and roamed around a monastery. The journey continued, and I encountered India-Nepal border stone - a good photo opportunity and I took some time to click pictures. We continued to Lamaydhura where we stopped to catch up with the group while enjoying Tibetan delicacy from a local shop. The trail from Lamaydhura continued to Meghma, and on the way, we crossed SSB check post. Not very far from here, we stopped for lunch in one of the tea house. It took us another 45 minutes of flat walk (right next to the motorable road) to reach Tumling. It marked the end of our day's trek, and we were greeted to the views of the Sleeping Buddha. 

The Sleeping Buddha (also called 'Sleeping Shiva') is the name given to the Kanchenjunga cluster for its appearance. Mt. Kumbhakarna forms the head and face of Buddha, while Kanchenjunga forms the upper body. The other peaks that make up The Sleeping Buddha are Kokthang, Rathong, Frey, Kabru South, Kabru North, Simvo, Mt. Pandim, Tenzingkhang, Japanu, Narsing. 

The day began with an exhilarating view of Mt. Kanchenjunga bathing with first rays of the sun. Such a glimpse pumped us for our today's trek that was supposed to be challenging. Our destination was Kalipokhri, and the distance we had to traverse was 13 km with an altitude gain from 9,450 to 10,400 ft. We discarded the motor road and followed the hiking trail. It took us to Gairibas where we halted to catch our breath. Gairibas is a small village and marks the beginning of Singalia National Park. Our next stop, Kaiyakatta, was not very far but the trail included a steep climb. We had our lunch here! The difficult part of the trek was over, and we slowly moved to Kalipokhri. It is said that the Kalipokhri (black lake) is the footprint of Lord Shiva. The darkness soon engulfed the place as we reached our homestay. 

The next day's trek was not long and only slightly steep. Our destination was Sandakphu, and the distance we had to traverse was 6-7 km but with an altitude gain from 10,400 to 11,950 ft. As we reached here, we spotted a glass house near the cliff, and it gave 180-degrees panoramic views of the Himalayan peaks. While some of us sipped tea and coffee inside the glass house, I just walked around contemplating yet another Himalayan summit. 

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