TREKKING / INDIA

SINGALILA TREK





Itinerary

 


DAY 1

Route to Tonglu (or Tumling)

 

1 km beyond Manebhanjang town you reach a rough stone paved track leading sharply up to the left. Tonglu (3,030 m) is 11 km from this point if you follow the jeep track, slightly less if you take the frequent but very steep short cuts. Alternatively, head for Tumling, just the other side of the peak of the hill from Tonglu (you take the alternative road from Meghma and rejoin the main route 1km after Tumling). There is a trekkers hut at Tonglu with 24 beds and a fine view of the Khangchendzonga range. From here you can also see the plains of North Bengal and some valleys of Nepal in the distance. Closer to hand are the snow fed rivers, the Teesta in the east and Koshi in the west. You can also sleep in Tumling where Shikhar Lodge has simple basic and clean rooms, run by a local teacher's friendly family, plus a lovely garden. There are tea shops at Chitre and at Meghma, which has an interesting monastery noted for its large collection of Buddhist statues; 108, according to locals. Ask at the tea house opposite to get in.





DAY 2

To Jaubari and Gairibans

 

A level walk along the ridge takes you past the long 'mani' wall to the Nepalese village of Jaubari; no visa is needed and good accommodation is available should you wish to spend a night in Nepal. After Jaubari the trail turns sharply to the right back into Indian territory and down through bamboo and rhododendron forests to the village of Gairibans in a forest clearing. You could carry on all the way to Sandakphu, a long hard day's hiking.





DAY 3


Route To Sandakphu

 

It is 14 km uphill to Sandakphu, with a lunch break in Kalpokhri with its attractive 'black' lake surrounded by fir trees, about midway. Even in winter the lake never freezes. The last 3 km from Bhikebhanjang (tea shop) to Sandakphu are particularly steep; this section takes more than an hour but the views from the Singalila Ridge make it all worthwhile. Sandakphu, a small settlement located at 3636 m, is considered the finest viewpoint on the trek, and is the prime destination for most visitors. Located 57 km from Darjeeling, it is accessible by jeep (the same narrow bumpy track used by trekkers), which is how many Indian tourists make the journey during the season. A viewpoint 100 m above Sandakphu offers fantastic views, including the northern face of Everest (8846 m), 140 km away as the crow flies, Khangchendzonga (8598 m), Chomolhari, the highest peak in Bhutan, and numerous peaks such as Pandim that lie in Sikkim. There are several trekkers' huts and lodges, each with a dining area, toilets and cookhouse. These vary widely in standards and price, some costing up to 500 per person; It's worth seeing a few. The drive back to Manebhanjang by pre-arranged four-wheel drive can take four hours along the very rough track, if finish the trek here.




DAY 4

Route from Sandakphu to Phalut

 

Phalut, 22 km from Sandakphu along an undulating jeepable track, is at the junction of Nepal, Sikkim and West Bengal. It offers even closer views of Khangchendzonga. It is best to avoid trekking here in May and June and mid-September to 25 October when large numbers of college trekking teams from West Bengal descend on the area. From Phalut its possible to get a jeep back the way you came, via Sandakphu. Alternatively you can walk south for 4 km back towards Bhikebhanjang and then take a 16 km long trail through fine forests of the Singalila National Park down to Rimbick.





DAY 5

Route from Phalut to Rimbick

 

From Phalut, there is Gorkhey, with accommodation, and its a further 3 km to the village of Samanden, hidden in a hanging valley. From Samanden, it is a 6 km walk to Rammam where there is a clean, comfortable Sherpa Lodge in a pleasant garden, recommended for friendly service and good food. Alternatively, the Trekker's Hut is about 1 km before Rammam village. From Rammam it is a two-hour walk down to a couple of attractive trekkers’ huts at Siri Khola and a further two hours to Rimbick. Again, this area has a wealth of birdlife. From Rirnbick there are three jeeps a day to take you back to Darjeeling. Although Gorkhey, Phalut, Rammam and Rimbick lie just south of the border with Sikkim, entering Sikkim is not permitted on this route, ask in Darjeeling about the current situation.

 

Sabarkum via Ramman to Molley or Bijanbari

An alternative quieter trail links Sabarkum (7 km before Phalut on the main Sandakphu-Phalut trail) with Rammam, with a possible overnight halting place at the Molley Trekkers Hut. Those with five days to spare can return by the Rammam-Rimbick-Jhepi-Bijanbari route (153 km). From Rammam you can cross by a suspension bridge over the Siri Khola River and follow the path up the valley, which leads to Dentam in Sikkim (entry into Sikkim is not permitted). This less well-trodden valley has rich birdlife (particularly kingfishers), and excellent views of undisturbed forest. From Bijanbari (762 m) it is possible to return to Darjeeling, 36 km away by jeep or climb a further 2km to Pulbazar and then return to Darjeeling 16km away. Those wishing only to go to Rimbick can get a jeep from there, or may return to Manebhanjang via Palmajua and Batasi (180km), which takes one day.








Trekking Routes

Treks begin at Manebhanjan which is 51 km (1.5 hours by road) from Darjeeling. The trekking routes inside the National Park have 4 legs or stages.


Manebhanjan to Meghma (2600 m):
This is a 4 hour trek through the lower forest Meghma to Gairibans (2621 m): There are two alternative trekking routes. Both go via Tonglu (3070 m) and Tumling (2900 m). The boundary of the national park passes though Tomling and a check post is located there. From Tumling, a shorter trail cuts through Nepal and Jaubari (2750 m).

Gairibans to Sandakphu (3636 m):
This is a steep 4 hour climb up. Roughly halfway up the climb is the village of Kala Pokhri (3186 m). Sandakphu to Phalut (3600 m): This is the most pristine stretch of the trek, offering great views of Kanchenjunga and Mt. Everest. It is a one day trek via Sabarkum (3536 m) covering 21 km. But the main problem of this Sandakphu-Phalut route is there is no water source in between so the trekker have to carry enough water to reach Phalut.




CAMPING

There are plenty of trekkers huts of varying standards and prices (if on an organized trek these will have been booked for you) at Tonglu, Sandakphu, Phalut, Gorkhey, Molley, Ramman, Rimbick, Siri Khola and other villages. Although room is usually available, its wise to book in advance during May/June and October when trails can be very busy. Any trekking agent in Darjeeling can arrange these bookings for a small fee. Private lodges, such as Sherpa Lodge in Rimbick and Rammam, and other trailside lodges in Meghma, Jaubari and Kalpokhri, are generally friendly, flexible and provide reasonable basic accommodation. Some places can prepare yak curry on request, and be sure to sample hot chhang, the local millet brew, served in a wooden keg and sipped through a bamboo straw.



BEST SEASON

The best trekking seasons are April to May, when the magnolias and rhododendrons are in full bloom, and October to November. In spring there may be the occasional shower. In autumn the air is dry and the visibility excellent. In winter the lower altitude trails that link Rimbick with Jhepi (18 km) can be very attractive for birdwatchers. There is an extensive network of varied trails that link the hillside towns and villages.