Diary 1: Sandakphu, West Bengal's crown jewel

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Photo of Diary 1: Sandakphu, West Bengal's crown jewel by Atreya Nath
Photo of Diary 1: Sandakphu, West Bengal's crown jewel by Atreya Nath
Photo of Diary 1: Sandakphu, West Bengal's crown jewel by Atreya Nath
Photo of Diary 1: Sandakphu, West Bengal's crown jewel by Atreya Nath
Photo of Diary 1: Sandakphu, West Bengal's crown jewel by Atreya Nath

You must have heard (if not then do hear now :P) of the "Toppers of The World" - The Eight Thousanders that have been saving this country from the evil cold winds of the North! They have largely impacted the woolen sector of our country's economy. Even though our Kashmiri Shawls are recognized globally for their quality we don't actually need them much in India. It is because of these "Toppers" that I have just mentioned.

The topper on the topper's list is Mt.Everest. Below it stands Mt. Kanchedzonga. Alongside these two heroes we have several other protagonists as well - The Pandim , The Three Sisters, The Lhotse and a similar sounding but somehow shorter Mt Nuptse. These heroes together form one of the most beautiful chains of mountain peaks. Ah yes, you can refer to them as the League of Extraordinary Peaks. And now let me come to that place that I was going to tell you about - Sandakphu.

Dearest Reader, the journey begins here. Tread on.

Day 1 : Destination-Maneybhanjang

You get down at New Jalpaiguri Station or Bagdogra Airport and proceed to Maneybhanjang.There are plenty of cars available(mostly 2WD with 4WD decals on them).The SUVs look new but dont glance at their wheels.The tires are the most woeful things that you have ever seen.The treadmarks have been long forgotten leaving behind trademarks of patchwork.But the tires are round and do their work.That means they take you upto Maneybhanjang without fail(ah they might get punctured though :P).Travel time a little under 4 hours taking into account one puncture and few other problems.Maneybhanjang is a quaint little hill town that has somehow been able to cling onto historical Land Rovers of the Fifties. This town falls inbetween India and Nepal.A part of it is included in India and the remaining part has sided with our neighbour , Nepal.Staying options are plenty.We stayed at Hotel Pradhan.It wasnt much but for a one night's sleep it is okay !So this is what Maneybhanjang looks like -

Day 2 : Destination - Gairibas(Via Chitrey-Tumbling)

The actual trek begins on a fresh morning from Maney.The first stop is Chitre.its a 3 km uphill climb.There are shortcuts that are steeper than the normal motorable road.After a brief uphill climb , you pause and you take in the view of your first Snow capped peak.Members of the Pandim family stand in unison.They beckon you forward.And you go up and up,stopping to catch your breath along the way.For first time trekkers this proves to be a tough challenge but hey ! You have already made it ! Chitre welcomes you with a beautiful,old monastery.Further up you come to a shop that sells noodles and soup and beverages.Refuelled , you're ready to go higher up the mountain slope.The lush green surroundings soothe your eyes and help you reconnect with nature at her greenest best :) The zigzag road leads you towards your next stopping point: Meghma.

Some shots that sum up Chitre and the road towards Meghma.
Meghma is a small stop in this route.You sit down.Grab some fresh oxygen for your lungs and hot steamy noodles and soup for your stomach ! Just before you reach Meghma you will cross a lush green meadow.That flat land in a terrain of ups and downs looks odd at first sight but it merges beautifully thanks to its vibrant green grass !Pictures attached happily below :)

Tumbling , most often confused with its almost twin brother Tonglu is another hamlet enroute to Gairibas.Tumbling and Tonglu together form the two pincers of a crab.The route we took (and the one you are taking right now) passes through Tumbling.Tonglu is a tale that is 4-5 kms longer so its better that you skip it like we did :P.
There are plenty of staying options available at Tumbling as most trekkers prefer to stay at Tumbling than at Gairibans(still 7km away).People who have woken up to a Tumbling sunrise will assure you that it is breathtaking.And if you have missed it , then there is no option but to politely nod your head and listen and agree :P After a small break , you trek on further.Gairibans beckons and this time your path lies through a dense forest that has a fair share of mountain bears ! The Singalila National Park is as serene as ever and the gradual downhill slope is a blessing on your tired muscles and spirit !
Here's something to testify my claims :)
The trek through Singalila National Park . Walk On!
So now that you have covered this stretch ,welcome to Gairibans !
Gairibans - A village nested in the forest.This humbly beautiful hut is the Trekker's Hut.If you're looking for a comfortable stay here then look no further!

The Trek that you started 10 hours ago is over now.This was the longest route that you will ever cover on this trek.And thats why this portion is so long.Well,exactly how long do you think ?Its precisely 19 kms long that seemed like a minimum of 30 kms !There you go! The Mountains have started their game : What is near isnt far if you play along :)

Day 3 : Destination-Sandakphu

The final leg of the trek to Sandakphu begins ! 12 km separates you but mind the climb ! It will be the steepest and the toughest stretch of the trek ! Dont worry ! You will reach the top !The first stop that you will take goes by the name of Kalipokhri.It is the last major stop before Sandakphu.It has a few shops that sell essential stuffs like a plastic for a raincoat,shoes and many other stuffs that might come in handy later ! Kalipokhri is characterized by the lake that has black water(even though i felt it was actually greenish :P )!
The next stop is Bhikeybhanjang.This is the last checkpost before Sandakphu.And if you're lucky you might spot a very handsome Mountain Goat with horns that look menancingly cool!
See It?

The Final Climb

So no captions. Dream On :) Well then once you have reached the top you start making preparations for descent. This had been a dream. Sadly all dreams end. But they leave behind something. This blog is such a "something". This blog is a testimonial to the beauty of Sandakphu. This blog is a tribute to all the trekkers and sherpas and people suffering from a disease called Wanderlust. May you spread it far and wide. Thank You :)

This trip was first published on Lonely Tintin Diaries.

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