Sandakphu is the highest peak of West Bengal towering at 6000 feet. It is however, famous for the famed views it offers of 6 tall peaks including the mighty Mount Everest. The view is only reserved for a lucky few who dare to wake up early in the morning braving the biting cold. The sun rays hit each of the 6 peaks one by one, bouncing off of them to give you a spectacular view of the Himalayas. The color spectrum you get to see there can even give a fashionista a run for her money.
Every year the YHAI organizes the Sandakphu-Gurdum trek. The base camp for the trek is Darjeeling. Darjeeling is known as the queen of the hills. Its natural beauty and its vast tea gardens are a treat for eyes. Surrounded by the lofty Himalayas, the Kangchenjunga better known as the sleeping Buddha is a constant and is omnipresent. It is a beautiful place which still holds an old world charm with many boarding schools.
Joey’s Pub: The place is filled with nostalgia. Joey’s serves drinks and is a place to meet/greet people. Another special mention to Gleneries. It serves home style desserts and fresh bread, steaming hot coffee with an amazing view of the Sleeping Buddha.
Jeep ride to Dhotrey – Tonglu (lunch point)-Tumling:
The trek starts at Dhotrey, which is a 2 hours’ drive from Darjeeling. The drive is refreshing and you get to see the little shops and houses lining the road. From Dhotrey the trek starts off, the first few kilometers up to Tonglu can be a little tough for beginners. The path crosses through grassland which serves as a playground for the local kids. The crisp air helps you keep awake and lets you enjoy the beautiful views. Tonglu serves as a halfway point. It’s windy and cold and a wind breaker is a must. The walk from Tonglu to Tumling is simple and can be covered within 2 hours.
Tumling – Kalipokhri:
This trek takes you through the Singalila National park. The park is a popular destination for bird watchers. It attracts a large number of birds during the blooms. The walk down to Kaiyakatta is an easy descent. Kaiyakatta serves as a lunch point; from here it’s a constant uphill for 5 kilometers. The route to Kalipokhri is almost always dripping with mist. Kalipokhri is named after the pond located at the entrance of the village. The pond is black hence the name. It is sacred to the locals and is believed to never freeze. The temperature at Kalipokhri dips in the nights, and it is advised to pile on the layers and keep warm and take adequate rest for the next day.
Kalipokhri – Sandakphu:
This 6 kilometer trek is the toughest. The terrain changes from flat paths to some very steep climbs. The rhododendrons are beautiful and add the much needed color to the drab grey surroundings. As you move closer to Sandakphu the poisonous Aconite plants become more prominent. The 1 meter high plants are very attractive, but they are extremely poisonous. Hence, refrain from touching the plant. The final 2 kilometers of Sandakphu are extremely steep and require some effort.
Sandakphu – Gurdum:
Nights at Sandakphu can be extremely cold and the temperatures can drop to negatives. There is scarcity of water and it is very expensive to buy water too. An early morning at Sandakphu guarantees a view of the 4 of the 5 highest peaks in the world, Everest, Kangchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu provided the sky is clear. The trek from Sandakphu to Gurdum is a simple downhill. However, it can be a little tough for people with knee problems. From the trail we can see the villages in Sikkim. The entrance to Gurdum is marked by the sacred Mane (Buddhist stupa).
Gurdum – Rimbik:
Gurdum is a small hamlet with a few houses and vast agricultural fields. The village is surrounded by hills on all the sides and the view you wake up to is mesmerizing. The village is remote and is situated in the wilderness. Anyone who craves solitude would surely enjoy the stay here. On the road to Rimbik, you pass a little waterfall. From there on you are constantly in company of the Raman River. The gushing waters of the river slow down as you pass by Shri Khola. It serves as a lunch point from where the climb to Rimbik begins. The trek can be completed in a matter of hours and you can reach Rimbik in about 2 hours, early enough to catch the setting sun, sipping a cup of Darjeeling tea. Rimbik is situated right opposite Darjeeling and the city lights twinkle in the evening providing a perfect backdrop to end your trek.