Himalayan Singalila Ridge Trek from Sandakphu to Phalut 8 Day Itinerary : Days 1-3

12th Jul 2017
Photo of Himalayan Singalila Ridge Trek from Sandakphu to Phalut 8 Day Itinerary : Days 1-3 by deepanshu garg

A week of vacation in the middle of the semester. What more could you ask to organize a trip a little more important than a simple weekend trip? The initial idea was to go to Sikkim, a mountainous region in northeastern India for the trek. We finally decided for the Singalila Ridge Trek from Sandakphu to Phalut from Darjeeling, to reach the highest peak of the surroundings (3600m).

So we decided to go to Darjeeling, at the gateway to Sikkim. It was the perfect opportunity to take a breath of fresh air and to have a little contact with the Himalayas.

We took the train to get to our destination. However, this time, the distance was really very important. So the trip lasted 12 hours! If it can be a little scary at first, the time finally passed very quickly, thanks to the people we met, with whom we play card games and chess. Add to this we read a bit, and at night it was quite chaotic and we do not sleep very well. We stay in bed a long time, to doze and here we are almost at our destination.

After coming out of the Howrah station we take a taxi to the heart of the city. We stroll in the streets of Calcutta impregnated with the crowd, the smells, and the horns. In the former capital of India at the time of the British, it seems that time has stopped. The frantic speed on the road contrasts with the slowness!

The visit to the Victoria Memorial and its park gives us a bit of calmness during the day. We are a bit hungry. So near the New Market, we eat a plate of mutton biryani. In the evening we go to the Sealdah station to take the night train to Darjeeling.

Day 1 - Darjeeling

Photo of Himalayan Singalila Ridge Trek from Sandakphu to Phalut 8 Day Itinerary : Days 1-3 1/2 by deepanshu garg

The night journey goes well. We arrive the next day, not very fresh, in Siliguri where we take a taxi to reach Darjeeling. After 5 hours of the journey through the narrow hill roads along edges of the precipices, we arrive in Darjeeling. Fortunately, the view and the surroundings with the tea plantations allow us to enjoy the fresh air!

We go towards an agency in the Mall road to organize the trek. We opted for a five-day Sandakphu trek, to make the most of the mountain and the landscapes. The trek is through a national park that passes through Nepal.

Around late afternoon, we run through the steep streets of this colorful, bling-bling city for local tourists. We have to find a place to sleep that is not a luxury hotel at a staggering price, all before the night. Still, we end up finding, at the corner of an unlikely lane a small wooden guesthouse. Let's go. I sweat although it's cold.

The night has almost fallen. We have already asked the prices in a dozen places before we climb the floors of this one built on the flanks of the hill. An old lady welcomes us. There is a wary and benevolent smile at the same time. She takes us to a surreal bedroom with low ceilings, large windows, and a large bed surrounded by small statuettes of Buddha.

We do not care about the price, even if the lady tells us something that is finally in our budget, and we put our bags. We are at home. After a dinner of delicately scented rice with spices and a little dal, we soon fall asleep in our little nest of love.

Day 2 - Singalila National Park

Photo of Himalayan Singalila Ridge Trek from Sandakphu to Phalut 8 Day Itinerary : Days 1-3 2/2 by deepanshu garg

We wake up in the morning to a pleasant view of the Kanchenjunga. We have a typical Western breakfast with toasts of big country bread, and a potato pancake drizzled with ketchup. I was about to finish my pancake when two girls come inside the restaurant, and rush to us. One of them ask us, you are going to Manebhanjan, right? It may be easier to get a jeep if there are more members.

She's right. Her charm takes over our body and prevents us from saying anything other than a "Yeah, perfect" with a little daze. It is almost obligatory to be dazed before such a perfect sequence of events. We are like cocks in legs as we focus a lot on the legs too, to prepare for the trek. We have all the information we need on the Singalila Ridge Trek.

So in the morning, we drop some of our stuff in the lounge. And so we set off towards the center of Darjeeling from where shared jeeps leave for Maneybhanjang, the starting city of the famous trek. After an hour of the journey through the hill roads, we pass through the border between Nepal and India.

On the way, we also pick up our guide. I like this kind of gift from the universe. I am with two girls who look cool and with a guide, what's better? Independent travelers at the base, the girls tell us that they like to travel solo. We do not have to worry, as we will not be on top of each other. We land on a small eatery in front of a house around 12:30 that serves tea and momo. I swallow a few quick and our jeep starts.

We go to the ticket office of Singalila National Park to buy the right to walk for days in the heart of a pool of rhododendrons and magnolias, century-old trees with colorful birds and wild red pandas. Now begins a gigantic lane of the concrete road. We are not happy to move on this kind of soil when the nature is so beautiful around. Four hours after our departure, we see a good half-dozen different landscapes.

We feel the chill as we climb higher. I already feel that this experience will be more complicated than I thought. I did not think much. I just decided to go. Arriving at the first village named Tumling, I feel tired. These are the beginnings of a great learning, but for now, part of me feels guilty about not being better. The sun goes down and the colors in Tumling, 3000m above sea level, is incredible.

From the pearly pink floating on a blue horizon, the silhouettes of the mountains stand out like a surrealist decor. The wind blows and at our feet, the valley is filled with rhododendrons in bloom, like explosions of bright red, and fuchsia pink. White points of magnolia highlight this hallucinating painting. This kind of show makes us forget the suffering of the climb, and to give them meaning. Be that as it may, an appeasement seizes me.

The guide tries to show us rooms in a lodge for the rich, but we flew away to look for a decent place. I always end up loving the places a little small because I know that it is in these that the real things happen. We end up finding a small dormitory. The bed is spacious and we are the only ones in the dormitory. I discover for the first time the joy of removing wet sweaty clothes from the day of the trek to change into layers of warm clothes. Removing the hiking shoes, especially are on the first trek is an indescribable sensation.

Around the table, while waiting for the food, none of us really speak. Fatigue takes us by surprise. It is 6:30 pm and if I was not so hungry, I would have gone to bed directly. The conversations go beyond the skills of my exhausted brain, and I let the words go over my head. I focus on my feet, which I massage. And then finally! The food is served to us. The blessing has never been so brief and intense.

The rice is served with a huge spoon and small potatoes fried in oil and coated with spices come to complement the whole. The yellow dal sprinkles the whole thing and spoons of pickles made of vegetables and mustard seeds fermented in vinegar come to decorate this dish already worthy of maharajas. The first bites fill me with flavors and a joy without a name. And as my stomach fills up, my brain goes out more and more.

After a big thank you to the cooks, and to our guide, we agree to put the alarm clock at 5 o'clock to admire the view. Soon we go up to collapse in our beds. With the cold, it's a miracle that I came out of the room to go and see the night sky full of stars and the milky way. It is 8:20 pm the last time someone mentions the time, and sleep wins us.

Day 3 - Tumling

Photo of Darjeeling, West Bengal, India by deepanshu garg

When the alarms sound in the morning, the light is already in the dormitory, and my body is not really happy. It pulls from everywhere, and there is an unnameable chill as soon as I try to get out of my sleeping bag. Fortunately, I turn my head, and how beautiful this moment is. The cold no longer exists, the pain no longer exists, only there is the joy of waking up beside this formidable view of the landscapes.

So I go outside. It is 5am and the sun already bathes Tumling on all sides. The visibility is not great and is too bad for the view of Mount Everest, but there is a certain tranquility in the air. It is still early. The family that welcomed us last evening is still sleeping. The first teas and coffees come around 6.30am. At 7:30, we go inside and what a joy to discover a buffet of delicacies.

There are small Tibetan donuts called Kasai and Sha Phaley. They can be enjoyed with honey, jam or simply with the aloo dum, cooked in a thick spicy sauce. I do not know how much I'm going to need it. We raise the sails around 9am, and I tell myself that I will have to get a quintal of these donuts. The first part of the day is a gentle descent through light vegetation.

I don't really have another word to describe as it is green, but a little dry. I'm having a bad time with the girls between us. The condition of my feet is degrading every minute, and my psychological state is catastrophic. I tell myself that I am a big draw, that I am not worth a nail, that I am slow. Basically, I hate myself quietly during the first part of the day, and I feel it's necessary.

I am scared, as a kind of irrational fear takes over. My body tells me to move one step at a time because the mere prospect of having to walk for several more hours is killing me. I have enough energy to make the next step, and that's the only thing I know. So I look at my feet, walking alone in the back. There is physical pain, with a few tears of rage against myself for not being instantly the best in this sport that is trekking.

So I play a game to change energy, that works well. I feel that I walk a little faster. My feet make me suffer less and I do not think anymore at the end of the day. I take a sip of mango juice that I carry, all crowned with some almonds and grapes. I take off my shoes in an attempt to ease my suffering. After all, we still have 13 km of the difficult climb. I stick large anti-blister bandages that I cover with plaster to try to hold them.

At the foot of the arduous climb that awaits us, I try to debrief with my psychological state, which varies enormously and it is for the least tiring. When I look at the top of the mountain, I just want to curl up and wait for someone to pick me up. But when I look at my feet, one step at a time, and, surprisingly, I finally arrive at the top.

All this disturbs me. I feel my brain on full boil. At the same time, my body is forced to let go, because the alternative of letting go is not easy. I have to move forward, but I cannot move forward concentrating on the goal. So just one foot after another, and it will do it. I have no better words to express the flow of hormones that I receive in the face on the second day of trekking.

The girls are far ahead with the guide. We meet boys with horses, and we have the chance to see a wild red panda. And then at the turn of a cliff, we arrive in the village of Kalipokhri where our guide has already started to peel potatoes with an old Nepalese woman. Lunch is being prepared.

I take off my shoes, and seriously consider having him take a nap! My brain goes off until the food arrives. We throw ourselves like jackals on the whole. I have rarely been so hungry in my life. Once the bellies are full, it takes a little fifteen minutes to digest and it is time to go to the complicated stage to put the shoes back. The procedure becomes more and more simple for me.

I begin to understand that everything is learning on a trek and all the more so in life. The stretch that separates us from Sandakphu is about 7 km, which is not huge, but we get 600 meters in the mouth. Surprisingly the girls and I have the same pace all the afternoon. The guide is not far ahead and we walk in small villages with cute baby goats walking in the mountains shouting happily.

I see rhododendrons in bloom, with a mystical haze and climb not so difficult as that. Finally up to one point only. At some point, you just have to count your steps. For my part, I count to 9 and then I leave 0. The stairs are unnamed violence and when I step on the flat floor of Sandakphu, my feet are no more than a mountain of suffering. I am 3636 meters above sea level.

The guide who has now understood the kind of places where we want to sleep and the kind of prices we are ready to put, takes us to a little shack and opens the door to an absolutely delightful room. There is a gigantic bed that can easily hold four people and blankets everywhere. The strength that remains only allow me to change and snuggle into my sleeping bag on the bed.

After a few moments of rest, we join the family of our guesthouse who prepares a traditional Nepalese meal (which will be in passing one of the best we have eaten). The whole family is gathered in the small kitchen. We are offered the best seats near the fire whose flames lick the multiple pans used to prepare dinner and heat the water of the tea.

And as a bonus, we have the privilege to taste the Chang, the Tibetan craft beer made from millet and hot water. It is not bad at all and in any case, it fulfills its effect very quickly. We are quickly warmed and feel much better, as outside it's freezing! After dinner at 8:00 pm, all the lights are out. We tell the guide that we will only wake up if the sky is clear and the visibility excellent.

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