By Samantha Martin
A trek in the hills is the perfect getaway from the dull city life. The crisp mountain air and the thrill of scaling summits – such is the magnetism of trekking in the hills. If you are an adventure-seeker keen on experiencing the outdoors, Sandakphu is close by. Easy to reach from the eastern part of India, it features on the bucket-list of many eager travelers.
Trains ply to the New Jalpaiguri Junction, the railway station nearest to Sandakphu. From New Jalpaiguri, you will find buses and cars to take you to the charming hill station of Darjeeling. Plan your trek from there. It does not have to cost the earth. With careful planning and prior bookings, you can trek to Sandakphu on a budget and also squeeze in a mini-vacation in Darjeeling. Here is how you complete a trek to Sandakphu on a humble budget.
The Song of Singalila
Sandakphu is the highest summit of the Singalila Range. This trek is also called the Singalila Trek as it will take you along the Singalila Range. Visitors flock to Sandakphu for panoramic views of the Himalayas – Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse, and Makalu.
How to Reach
Set out for Manebhanjan. This is where the trek starts from. It is best to get there the night before and start early the next day. There are many hotels here and the room-rents are reasonable. Hire a car to get you there from Darjeeling. You can also avail of shared taxis to travel the route. It is a distance of 26 km, easily covered in about an hour or so. If you are traveling from New Jalpaiguri, the route of about 88 km is covered via Mirik. It should not take you more than four hours to get there.
Get Trek Smart
Seasoned trekkers will tell you that it is always a good idea to hire a registered guide for this trek. You will cover a relatively easy terrain with few steep gradients. A local guide is helpful when it comes to pointing out the sights along the way. Negotiate the rates before you embark upon the journey. There are many tour operators who will be happy to assist you in this regard.
The trek will take you through the Singalila National Park. You need to acquire a permit to enter this National Park. This is easily available at the Forest Department Office at Manebhanjan. Home to red pandas, pangolins and birds, the Singalila National Park is a place of peace. There are many picturesque mountain villages like Chitre and Meghma along the way. Orchids, magnolias and rhododendrons fill up the valleys. Pine forests, firs, birch and oak trees can be spotted on the hilly slopes. The mountains come alive here.
Stay to Rest Your Tired Legs
With easy walking, most trekkers can complete the 32 km route in about three days. Lodgings are available along the route. You will find dormitories with beds but nothing too fancy. Suited to budget-travelers, these night-halt places are not over-the-top in price. Alternately, you can carry your own camping equipment if you do not wish to spend the night in the huts along the way. Numerous food stalls and small eateries dot the route. The food is served hot – a welcome relief in these climates. Carry drinking water as bottled water purchased on the way is usually expensive.
Upon reaching Sandakphu, you will be rewarded with the most jaw-dropping panoramic view of the Himalayas – from Nepal to the Arunachal. On your train ride back home, you will be richer for the experience. Such are the glories of Sandakphu!