Sandakphu is the highest peak of the Himalayas in West Bengal. The enchanting snowcapped Himalayas have always been the center of attraction for tourists from time immemorial. The path leading to Sandakphu does not fail to mesmerize you either. Amidst the rich dense forests lies this amazing trek route surrounded by the mighty Himalayas along the Nepal and Bengal border. Countless species of Rhododendrons can be found bordering the pathway. The air filled with the chirping of various known and unknown birds, the dense vegetation, variety of flora and fauna enthralls you throughout the trail. Leaving behind several small hamlets you finally reach the foothills of Sandakphu. Your destination- the mountain peak at an altitude of 3658 m. The quest for such an adventure led us to embark on a journey to Sandakphu. We reached Siliguri during one of the summer vacations. From Siliguri we headed in a reserved car towards Manebhanjan, the gateway of Sandakphu. Manebhanjan means the confluence of mountains and valley. Spending the night in a circular valley set amidst the beautiful mountains, Tumlu and Jorpokhri, we set out for our destination early morning.
After traversing through 2 km of difficult terrain, we halted at a village called Chitre for tea break. Our campsite today would be Tumbling, which is 11 km from Manebhanjan. We kept on walking, reveling in the joys of discovering new wonders which nature had in store for us. Flowers were in full bloom across the mountains and thus we saw 140 different species of Rhododendrons, a visual treat for the eyes! The vibrant carpet of flowers on either side of the road was an incredibly beautiful sight. The cool breeze across our faces helped us overcome our fatigue from travelling. Next we crossed the small village of Lameghura.
Meghma was the village which would come up next. It is at an altitude of 2895m. The path bifurcates from here, the right one leading towards Tonglu and the left towards Tumbling. It was past 2.30 p.m. when we reached Tumbling after travelling for 2 more kilometers. After lunch and a short nap, we set out to explore this small hamlet with cameras flung across our shoulders. Tumbling rewarded us with a mesmerizing sunset. But very little did we know then, that Tumbling had an even more fascinating sunrise in store for us the next morning! The enchanting views of sunrise and sunset, which Tumbling had to offer to us more than compensated for all the hard work of traversing the rocky terrain on the way.
Basking in the rays of morning sun, we set out on our journey this morning. After travelling for 3 km we came across the first village of this day, Joubari. We had our first halt at Gouribas, located 2 km from Joubari. Gouribas is the gateway of Singalila National Park. Entry was permitted only after entry passes were procured from Manebhanjan. The path was quite steep from here onwards. We left Koyalkata behind, treading on slow steps. The watch showed 12 when we reached Kalapokhri, after travelling for 4 km northwards from Koyalkata.
At the entrance of Kalapokhri, there is a small pond encompassed by religious flags. Kalapokhri or a pond of black water is considered to be the abode of a black snake. The place is named after this lake. All trekkers en route to Sandakphu spent the night over here. We wanted to cover the distance in 2 days i.e. to reach Sandakphu by today. So after having our lunch, we immediately set out on our journey.
We still had 7 km to cover. The last 4 km of the journey was extremely steep. It left us completely exhasted. Somehow we trudged our way along. Puffing and panting, we reached Sandakphu after 4 pm. A strong breeze was rustling through the entire valley. We entered our designated hotel after taking all our belongings and off we disappeared into the warmth of our blankets!
We woke up very early next morning. After a quick shower and breakfast, we headed out into the open to capture the beauty of nature on our lenses, the beauty of the mighty Everest, Kumbhakarna, Kabru North and South, Kanchenjunga, Prantim Narsingha etc., silhouetted against the clear cloudless sky. The first unadulterated rays of the sun kissed the mountain peaks. They were bathed in a crimson hue. As the day progressed, the crimson red hue gave way to a golden glow. We captured the heavenly beauty of the mountains basking in the golden rays of the evening sun.
For hundreds of years, Sandakphu has brought smiles on millions of faces. From time immemorial, Sandakphu has never failed to lure people into its labyrinth of immortal beauty. Before departure, we bowed our heads to pay our homage and sincere respect to this divine, eternal creation of God.
Throughout the day the weather was bright and sunny. So we took snaps to our heart's content. Sandakphu again rewarded us with an amazing sunset in the evening. Gradually the crimson hue disappeared into the horizon, giving way to a romantic moonlit night! We came back to our respective hotels.
Bags were packed. With heavy hearts, it was finally time to bid adieu to Sandakphu, carrying along with us the beautiful reminiscences of the past few days in our cameras!
How to reach: From Siliguri to Manebhanjan via Ghum in a shared jeep. Taking a reserved car directly saves a lot of time. Collect the requisite amount of food material, guide and the entry pass for Rs 100 from Manebhanjan. Charges for still camera- Rs 100 and for video camera-Rs 500.
Accommodation facilities: Accommodation facilities are available almost everywhere. Prior booking of hotels is not required. Guides can arrange for the accommodation.
Best time of visit: Any time of the year except the rainy season. Sandakphu comes alive in different colors in different seasons! In summers an endless carpet of flowers is spread on the ground and in winters it gets submerged in a blanket of snow.