Bhanbu Tamang, my trek-porter and Bikheybhanjang way down there
3rd April 2008: Early morning, I checked out of Hotel Aliment, in Darjeeling, and walked steeply down to the taxi stand on Hill Cart Road, to catch the first share-jeep headed for Maneybhanjang. It left exactly at 7:00AM and went via Ghoom and Sukhiapokhari and I arrived into Main Street, Manaybhanjang at 9:30AM.
Looking for a Porter, I was directed to a Tourist Booth run by Highlander Guides and Porters Welfare Assocn (Tel: +91 97340-56944) . There, I was allotted a porter on their Wait-list, Bhanbu Tamang, for Rs 250 per day, to carry my bag for next 6 days, up and down the Singalila Ridge. Bhanbu turned out to be an extremely cheerful and service-oriented guy! Also while trekking the hills he 'belts out' the first-two lines of hundreds of Hindi Film songs! He sings them out real loud! ... so all the mountains peaks till Mt. Kanchenjunga can hear him! He sings louder and with extra zeal when it snows or rains! You can see his cheerful face in the picture above.
As we started our climb towards Chitray, at 10:30AM, a Jeep with luggage of a school group was going up too and the driver a friend of Bhanbu, gave us a lift. So we saved the initial climb of 2-3 Kms and arrived on the nice green meadow of Chitray(pic below).
Chitray meadow & tea shops .... with the jeep we came in.
We had a quick tea here and started the climb up the trail immediately and passed two other villages on the way, Lamduray and Megma; and finally after a steep climb, reached Tonglu at 2:15PM. Tonglu was quite cold and fully covered in clouds (pic below).
Tonglu Trekker's Hut appears up ahead .... through the clouds.
We stopped here at Tonglu for the night and were taken care of well by the Caretaker and his wife; with basic but decent meals and tea. Later, in the evening 3 Czech Trekkers also landed up here; but the school group had gone to Tungling for their night halt.
4thApril 2008: We started 2nd day trek by 7 AM and within 30 minutes reached Tumling (pic below) but we did not stop here; and continued and reached the bigger Nepalese village of Jaubari at 9 AM, where we stopped for tea at a decent looking Tea House (pics left).
Tumling Village appears below.... in 30 mins of trek from Tonglu
As we started out from Jaubari (9:15AM) huge clouds floated in and rest of the trek to Kalipokhari, was in a drizzle of rain, ice-rain, very windy and poor visibility. So no more pictures the rest of that day. We passed Ghairybas around Noon and then reached Kalipokhari at 1:45PM. I got a room there in the Himchuli Lodge and had a lunch of Chapatti, Dal, Sabzi served by the owner couple of that lodge. Rest of the day was just clouds, rain and very windy on that ridge.
5thApril 2008: Early morning the weather had cleared up a bit and so got some pictures of Kalipokhari Lodge and surrounding views from teh ridge there.
Sinalila Ridge at Kalipokhari ... and the trail track going through
We started 3rd day trek at 7AM from kalipokhari. The trek was a steep climb for about 4 hours to Sandakphu. The weather was bit ok today, but pretty cloudy and so not much of long views. We passed two villages; Chowri Chowk and Bikheybanjang on the way.
Last 1 km climb ahead ..... before Sandakphu; up on that hill
Beyond Bikhey the trail goes through some nice forests and rhodendrons and then after last 2km steep climb, we reached Sandakphu at 10:50AM. Met a Bengali couple at Bhikhey (Dutta & wife) also headed for Sandakphu. Nilanjan Dutta turned out to be a camera expert and gave me a few tips on DSLR operation. We all checked into the colorful and newly painted "Hotel Namo Buddha"
Colourful Hotel Namo Buddha at Sandakphu .... where I stayed
Thats me ... awaiting a sunset view of Kanchenjunga, at Sandakphu
6thApril 2008: 4th Day trek - Early next morning the weather was cloudy, but clear; so we started our last day trek to Phalut (before the return loop starts). But within half-hour of departure the weather turned and soon it started snowing, with intermittent ice-rain.
Trail on the ridge - a section with stunted & burnt (?) trees
The trek from Sandakphu to Phalut was getting worse and worse as the weather throughout was bad - with cold icy rain, wind .... and misty clouds afforded no views beyond 100 feet! The big umbrella that Bhanbu gave me was not much protection and soon we were drenched to the inner clothes. As we reached Sabarkum, at around 11:45am, I made a decision not to continue on to Phalut in this weather and cut short to Molley; and decide about Phalut on the morrow. So we took the right-hand diversion at Sabarkum and quickly descended the 2 Kms to Molley, arriving after noon in pouring rain (see pic below).
Arriving at Molley Camp at Noon - in icy rain, wind & mists