Trekking in the eastern Himalaya – Part 1

On the way to moley

Standing beside the trekkers hut at Sandakphu which is at an altitude of 3636 meters, with temperature hitting five degrees below zero, on the loftiest peak in the Singalila range, posing for a photograph wearing nothing but underwear might not actually sound like your idea of good fun but you are not me and 'to hell with caution', I say! Although it wasn't anything that was a part of the plan but it did happen and I did stand there to embrace the cold wind on my face and my ass, to pose for the photograph. It was shot on raj's camera and sadly, he misplaced his camera on the way back. So if you find a camera in the eastern Himalayas that contains a couple of dudes standing in their undies please be kind to return the camera to the author and please be kind enough to not misuse the photographs. :D

The Sandakphu trek was organized by Diwakar of Chennai trekkers (Chennai trekkers is certainly one of the reasons I am liking Chennai!) and was certainly a fun and adventurous experience. Fifteen had registered to go on this awesome trek, and in accord with that self and Hari had showed up at 5.45 am on 19th of December 2008 at Chennai central. Eleven of us (me, hari, kunal, shaji, diwakar, swaroop, sai, krish, raj, santosh and madhu) had planned to leave from Chennai to New Jalpaiguri by train and another four would join us at New Jalpaiguri and Maneybhanjang. The train journey took about two days and we reached NJP at around 10pm on the second day.Bang outside the NJP railway station there were a host of dhabas/restaurants to cater to our growling stomachs. We also did see a few hotels serving South Indian dishes ;)

We had decided to spend the night at NJP and found ourselves a lodge near the railway station. Although NJP is in the plains, it must have been around 19 degrees at 6 in the morning which was pretty cold comparing to Chennai standards. After taking bath with ice cold water we had breakfast at NJP and left for Maneybhanjang in two Tata Sumos. We were 13 now because of the fact that Horst and Remy joined us at NJP , Alexadara and Ramani uncle would join us at Maneybhanjang. We reached Maneybhanjang by 3.30pm and took refuge at the kanchenjunga lodge for the night. The evening was spent walking around Maneybhanjang while the guides and porters were being arranged for the trek the next day by a couple of us. Maneybhanjang is a small village that is mostly used by trekkers as a base camp for treks into the Singalila national park. The national park is part of the eastern Himalayas and the two highest peaks of West Bengal, Sandakphu (3630 m) and Phalut (3600 m) are located on the Singalila ridge and inside the park.

Our trekking plan was as follows:

Day 1: Maneybhanjang to Garibas via tumling [18km]

Day 2: Garibas to Sandakphu [12km]

Day 3: Sandakphu to Phalut [21 km]

Day 4: Phalut to Gorkhey [18 km]

Day 5: Gorkhey to Rimbik [21km]

We had two buffer days just in case nature decided to play hard and in case of any other emergencies. We carried sleeping mats, tents, sleeping bags, a stove and lots of extra stuff which was unnecessary on this trekking route given the availability of trekkers huts and cooked food all the way upto phalut but the plan was to carry all that in case of emergency and we were hiring quite a number of porters. I should say I was tempted to ask for a porter to carry my back-breaking back pack, (Ah! the luxury of traveling without the back pack) but I decided to do without one.

It would get dark by five in the evening in these places and as it turned six on the clock and some of were enjoying whiskey followed by food at 7.30. Most of us hit the sack by 11pm. The trek was to begin the next day and the very thought was exciting.

The post seems to be getting pretty big and so I ll break here and continue with this on my next post.

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