Sandakphu - The Hidden Gem of Bengal

Photo of Sandakphu - The Hidden Gem of Bengal by Aman Sharma

What is the first thing that comes to mind when I say West Bengal? Well for me it's Kolkata. Now being a South Indian that's all the information I have about Bengal, its capital. I haven't traveled towards that side of the country either, which contributes to my limited knowledge. But as I was scrolling through the Indiahikes website for treks to do in December, I came across one situated in Bengal. I was absolutely surprised. Mostly because I had no idea that Bengal had Himalayas too. I literally had to look up the map to confirm this. And as I began reading about the trek with its mesmerizing pictures in the website, I knew this was the one for me.

Photo of Sandakphu - The Hidden Gem of Bengal 1/2 by Aman Sharma
Pc:- Mahendra

To begin with, let me tell you a little bit about the place. Sandakphu is the highest peak in the state of West Bengal (3636m.). It is situated in the Singalila National Park in the West Bengal-Nepal border and comes under the district of Darjeeling. If you have traveled around the Darjeeling area you would've observed that it has a lot of Buddhist influence to it. The same is the case here. Sandakphu gives you a pure Buddhist feel rather than Rosgullas, fish and cigarettes. Sandakphu is motorable as well. You can hire jeeps and reach the peak, but let me warn you, the roads aren't pretty. It is an extremely bumpy and uncomfortable ride (personal experience of some friends). So I do not recommend it, because I am a personal fan of trekking more than motoring. Sandakphu is the only place that offers you some fantastic views of some of the world's tallest mountains - Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalu, Lhotse. Every day you keep moving closer to the Sleeping Buddha (the mountain range that contains Kanchenjunga) and everyday its views keep getting better and better.

Photo of Sandakphu - The Hidden Gem of Bengal 2/2 by Aman Sharma
Pc - Rajendra

December 9th, 2017.

This was the day I happily ran off from my house in Mangalore to the mountains far far away. I was going for my second trek in the Himalayas and no wonder there was palpable excitement in the air around me. Throughout the day I had a big smile on my face. Partly because of the trek and partly because I had chosen the trek dates to perfectly coincide with my college result day. I could not have imagined a better place to run to away from all the academic stress, tension, and judgemental people. I reached Siliguri at night with that big smile still on and checked into my hotel where my friend Abhishek had already been waiting for me. We went ahead and met some of our fellow trekkers who were staying in the same hotel and ended up having dinner together. All in all it was a good start to one good trip.

December 10th, 2017

I am a person who is extremely extremely bad at dates, but this one I shall and I will never forget. This was the day we finally leave for our trek base - Jaubari. It is not a long drive. Should take between 4-5 hours only. We made a number of stops in between for it would be unfair not to. Everything is just so pretty. We stopped for lunch where we met our whole group (freaking insane people). During all the introduction with our fellow trekkers I came across a girl who had a broken leg and was carrying crutches, let's call her Natasha (that's not her real name). She was standing with her mother, let's call her Meera (again, not real!). I went up to them, introduced myself and asked what had happened. So Meera began the story of her crazy daughter. She said that just a few days ago Natasha encountered a small fracture in her leg. Their doctor had advised her against trekking, advised her against doing anything for that matter. But being the mad kid that she is, she started crying all over the place saying she really wants to go for the trek. Obviously that wasn't possible. Then she and her aunt, let's call her Mayera, recalled that Sandakphu is motorable. So they contacted Indiahikes and arranged for a jeep. So here she was, a 13 year old kid, with so much love for the mountains that she couldn't resist going, even though she knew she couldn't do much there. I admire her guts, will power and confidence and admire her family that was along with her for the support they bestowed on her. After our lunch we hit the road again. Our next stop being some random place in Nepal. Yeah! That's how it goes here, you keep entering and exiting Nepal with no restrictions whatsoever.

En route

Photo of Jaubari, Nepal by Aman Sharma

We reach Jaubari, our base camp in the evening where it is getting dark already, being situated in the eastern part of India. Everybody gathers up for the briefing, we meet our trek leader and our local guides. Everybody is introduced again. We all mingle well and have dinner under the stars. This campsite is a tea house, so for this day we had beds and bathrooms to us. For now everybody head for their beds but TOMORROW WE TREK.

December 11th, 2017

This is the day we finally trek. Oh how long have I waited for this. The morning was gorgeous, the breakfast perfect, bags packed and two dogs decided to accompany us as well, what more can you ask for.

Morning at Jaubari. Pc:- Rajendra

Photo of Tumling, Nepal by Aman Sharma

The trek began with a trail leading in to a beautiful forest. The forest was gorgeous. Large trees, colorful leaves, rhododendrons, it was all wonderful. The trek was relatively easy this day. We take a short break while coming out of the forest cover to let the beauty of the Himalayas sink in. We encounter milestones of India & Nepal, some beautiful panoramic views, and click a lot of pictures.

We reach Tumling after some ascent. It's a tea house here as well. So majority of the trekkers were happy. The tea houses here are so cute. Almost everything in this region is so artsy. Here you learn to appreciate the little things. Your cell phones, your work, you social network, none of that matters here. All that matters is YOU and YOUR MOMENT with NATURE right there. After reaching the tea house I couldn't help but explore the area. So I take my daypack and start heading out when Natasha calls out that she wants to come too. I look at her and the crutches and ask CAN YOU? And she goes HELL YEAH! I'm spellbound by her confidence right there. She fights with her parents to let her go and she accompanies me along with another fellow trekker of ours. We encounter some great views, have some good talks, and head back for tea.

Everybody has a good day 1 with some lovely memories. There were so many different emotions in the air - happiness, excitement, joy, envy. It just feels very happy to see others happy. We end the day with some delicious food and head to bed.

December 12th, 2017

Being the early riser that I am, I didn't want to miss the sunrise. To my surprise, most of the trekkers were up. Everybody headed out and we encountered a sunrise worth rising up for. Everybody is happy and smiling and ready for whatever this day shall bestow upon us. We head out with our destination being Kalipokhri. This day we encounter a mixture of good ascents and descents. I seem to be quite energetic this day, who knows why. I am literally running in the forests in between the clouds feeling so happy to be there with no one around. Sometimes all you need is a little SOLITUDE or what cool people say some ME TIME. I reach the lake in a very happy state, not tired at all, and am just loving every single thing around me.

Our tea house is just nearby so I'm in no rush. Slowly everybody shows up and there's sheer joy in the air for another successful day. We dump our sacks in the tea house and I head out to explore the place, Natasha being my companion. We end up beside the lake and begin talking about our lives. It was surprising to me how I blurted out all my frustration regarding college on this teenager who I met just 2 days ago. I don't know if she even understood half of what I said but we had a good time. Sometimes you just want somebody to listen to the things you have to say. We head back to the tea house for tea & snacks. We play some games later, have a sumptuous dinner and bid good nights to all the happy faces.

December 13th, 2017

This day we head for one of the prettiest places I've visited - Sandakphu. People are happy this day because everyone's heard a lot about Sandakphu and how beautiful it is. So naturally everybody is pretty enthusiastic, well almost everybody. A few were a bit tired and also caught some fever. But nevertheless everybody reach the lovely Sandakphu with no problems whatsoever. And people weren't kidding about this place.

I mean look at this picture above. It is a sea of clouds below us. I must've stared at it for God knows how long. I look around this campsite and I'm awestruck. At the back there's this sea of clouds and in front of you there's the mighty Kanchenjunga. I went mad looking around me. And what also drove me mad was the wind. The wind was just too strong. It made the cold weather even worse. I was covered up top to bottom but my teeth wouldn't stop cluttering. It was extremely peaceful here and everybody liked to keep it that way. We watched the sun disappear behind the clouds and the sky change its color. As it got dark people headed to their respective tents.

December 14th 2017 - Sabargram

This morning a lot of us are complaining about bad sleep because guess what, no beds last night. I didn't get a good sleep myself although I've never really had a problem with tents before. Anyhoo we begin our trek to Sabargram.

Sabargram is a fantastic place. Reaching the campsite, lying on the ground I see a perfect spot to chill. Without thinking for a second I head over. Upon reaching I find a big milestone of India-Nepal there and I'm glad that was there. Because it was unimaginably windy here. The milestone provided me some protection when I sat with my back to it. I begin to look around. I see jaw dropping landscapes, the Kanchenjunga, our campsite in the distance, with the wind hitting me throughout and I begin to wonder how petty and small our problems in life are. There is so much to do, see and experience in this world of ours, but we tend to get entangled in our lives so much that we forget to live. There are global problems to be solved right now so our beautiful earth can live long, but we have surrounded ourselves with problems like college, career, money, family, religion, etc. Thinking of all these things I shed a tear or two. It's been a little more than half an hour that I've been here and I start to get cold, so I head back. Natasha asks me where I'd been and I tell her about this place and she wants to go there too, I happily take her. The next day is going to be a long one, and the most beautiful one too according to our TL. So I eat enough dinner to stay energetic and head to sleep.

December 15th, 2017

I have a good breakfast for this day because we've been warned that it's going to be a long one with good ascents and descends. I'm kinda sad this day because Natasha and her parents have to leave since there are no roads after Sabargram. I had had a good time with them, Natasha being the crazy one, her mom the sensible one, and her dad the most funny guy I had ever met. We all gather around for a group picture before parting ways. We bid our goodbyes and begin our trek. (I was later told that Natasha cried after we left. It is so wonderful to see how just 4 days with the Himalayas can get you so emotional, and this was a 13 year old kid. But a very strong kid.) The trek begins with an ascent to Phalut. And this ascent had me. But the hard work payed off when we reached the top because I can never ever forget that view.

This is the place for people who want the perfect panorama. On my left I see the Everest range rising and in front of me the Kanchenjunga up close with the wind continuously hitting my face. We were here for a long time. Everyone had their fun here in their own ways. Some getting those perfect shots with their yoga skills, me just sitting on a stone taking it all in. We depart from Phalut with that view permanently stored in our brains and begin our descend. This descend was one to remember. It was just never ending. We kept walking and walking but it would just never end. Usually I try to stay in the front to reach the campsite early and explore (and also because I do not like walking slow). But this day I decide to stay back a little and descend with ease, talking with my fellow trekkers throughout. But when we finally reach the destination at 5pm, I regret not walking fast. I had no idea that our destination is going to be a gorgeous village situated in a valley with a river flowing through it. It was just magical, like a dream. As soon as I saw the village approaching, I ran my way downwards, wasting no time, because the sun would set in a while and I would not get to go around. But it was too late. I did go to the riverside where some trekkers were already having fun and I let my legs rest in that cold water. But not for more than 5 seconds because it was freaking cold. It was dark within a few minutes and we head to our tea house. This was our last campsite and not to say one of the best ones. I so wished Natasha and her fam had been here to experience this. But not everything is meant to be is it. Indiahikes distributes certificates to its trekkers for completing the trek. During the distribution ceremony everybody speaks about their experience and it felt good to see that everyone was going home with happy thoughts. Now the day was coming to an end knowing that the next day is going to be the last one. Everybody relived their memories with lots of chats and laughter. Fortunately enough we had a bed this night to get a good sleep after a long day.

December 16th, 2017

The last day of our trek is here and not everyone is happy. I was liking it with no network, no wifi, no problems, no college, and no judgemental people. We trek our way to Sepi which is a mixture of moderate ascends and descents. From Sepi we are to hop on our taxis and head to Siliguri. Before parting our ways we all bid goodbyes to the small family of strangers that got created amidst the mountains. I was sad myself thinking that the only people we spent the last 7 days of our lives probably won't see each other ever again. But as they say, all good things come to an end. I absolutely hate this phrase but it has proven to be right most of the times. Sitting in the taxi I was quite most of the time. The past 7 days just kept flashing through my mind. I was not able to think of anything else. All the happy moments, happy faces, happy people, and the happy Himalayas had made these 7 days one of the most memorable ones. After reaching Siliguri we did what humans would normally do, CELEBRATE. We ordered loads of food and brought lots of liquor. All in all, finished the last day with a bang!

To define, Himalayas are just a mountain range situated in Southern Asia. But if you ask the people that live there or have been there the same question, you'll get a variety of answers. And believe me, not one answer will be the same. Himalayas change the way you look at the world, they change your perspective about everything you know, and moreover, they CHANGE YOU!

Photo of Gorkhey, West Bengal, India by Aman Sharma

Pc:- Mahendra

Photo of Gorkhey, West Bengal, India by Aman Sharma

Pc:- Rajendra

Photo of Gorkhey, West Bengal, India by Aman Sharma
Photo of Gorkhey, West Bengal, India by Aman Sharma

The Kalipokhri Lake. Pc:- Mahendra

Photo of Gorkhey, West Bengal, India by Aman Sharma

Such entrances to other countries

Photo of Sandakphu - The Hidden Gem of Bengal by Aman Sharma

Pc :- Mayur Jumani

Photo of Sandakphu - The Hidden Gem of Bengal by Aman Sharma

Such cuteness much wow! Pc:- Rajendra

Photo of Sandakphu - The Hidden Gem of Bengal by Aman Sharma

En route Sabargram. Pc:- Rajendra

Photo of Sandakphu - The Hidden Gem of Bengal by Aman Sharma

Phalut top. Pc:- Mayur

Photo of Sandakphu - The Hidden Gem of Bengal by Aman Sharma
Photo of Sandakphu - The Hidden Gem of Bengal by Aman Sharma

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