Sandakphu – Sandakphu A pristine area of the eastern Himalayas exists, not far from the renowned hills of Darjeeling on the high mountains of the Northern part of the western part of Bengal, which is precariously close and often cross borders with Nepal.
The Singalila Ridge extending north-west to the south separated from the other East-Himalayan ranges west of Bengal mainly in western Bengal, Sikkim, and partly far-west Nepal. The Singalila National Park is dominated by the rolling mountain ridge of untouched greenery and the immaculate nature of the wild. Sandakphu is the pinnacle of this wooded ridge.
Sandakphu means ‘poisonous plants’ literally. The names of some poisonous plants in the area may be accredited. The first is ‘Aconitus’ – a perennial shrub whose roots have always been used as medicine and its bright, pure-blue flowers and leaves can be lethal toxic if they are unconsciously consumed. The ‘Himalayan Cobra Lilies’ also abounds in the region.
Sandakphu is a leading name for light-moderate trekking in the trekking world. At a height of 11,930 ft, it is the peak of the Singalila Ridge and the National Park. What makes the state of West Bengal so particular also the highest point?
What is so special?
The fact that, from a clear morning, particularly during the wee hours of dawn breaks, 4 out of the top 5 of the world’s highest peaks can be seen as part of an unworldly 180° panorama, makes this small hamlet on a ridge no missing spot.
In the golden color at sunrise are visibly sparkling Mt. Everest (29,029 feet, highest, Mt. Kanchenjunga, 28,177 feet, the third largest), Mt. Everest (27,940 feet, fourth highest), and Makalu (27,838 feet, fifth highest), apart.
The view from west to the east includes incredibly large peaks from Nepal, Tibet, Sikkim, Bhutan, and Arunachal. The sunrise from here is a humble experience, as the dazzling red, pink, golden hue shines away from the darkness of the giant snowy mountains over the waves of the valley below.
Is trekking in Sandakphu the only way to arrive?
No, not that. It’s also powerful. There’s a catch, however. Nobody is able to drive on any smooth tarmac. The path is difficult and can only be done on a robust 4 to 4 SUV.
From colonial days, Old Land Rovers between Manebhanjan and Sandakphu, and even until recently, Phalut, took tourists reluctantly to ride up but recently (30 Jan 2018) were banned by local authorities on the grounds that the vehicles were not compliant with the present safety and environmental standards.
The government of West Bengal subsidizes owners to purchase Boleros to phase out the rovers. Everything said, some rovers still ply on the route, as I might gather from some locals.
In summer this year, with the motorcade of all its models throughout the era JLR held its 70th anniversary in the region. From the first Series-I to the most recent Discovery. It tells a lot about the iconic nature and history of this route with Land Rovers.
A boulder gravel track was previously completed 30 kilometers from Chitre (2 km from Manebhanjan) through Sandakphu Trek and further 21 km to Fault (2 km highest peak in Singalila Ridge).
Well, it’d be easy to moderate for a cheerful trekker. It’s also very handy for absolute newbies. First, mountaineering and rock climbing have no part to play in trekking. It’s just another word for mountain walking or walking. If you are quite fit and can walk in the plains with 2-3 breaks from 8 to 10 kilometers, this will normally happen.
The knees and veal muscles, of course, will hurt a bit or you can twist an ankle or tumble, but that’s part of the adventure. Countless beginners like me did it and so the trekking bug was forevermore bitten.
How difficult exactly is the Sandakphu trek?
The road has been paved for 20 kilometers from Manebhanjan to Gairibas, partly with tarmac and partly with concrete. The last 12 km from Sandakphu to Phalut remain identical. 21 km from Sandakphu to Phalut.
Football is also a choice, although it is a very challenging terrain. It should not be an issue for Gairibas, but not only the efficiency, but also the skills and maneuverability of the driver are adequately tested in the remaining route.
UPDATE: In the area of Singalila National Park there are currently no bikes and no private vehicles.
In fact, for quite a few reasons I find Sandakphu an ideal trip for beginners:
The path is well signposted. The uphill trip from Manebhanjan to Sandakphu follow the bouldering trail of the Land Rovers almost completely. Here and there are some lovely short cuts, but they are steeper and harder.
Almost 2-3 kilometers of shops and restaurants are offered to help the tired legs to put down the bag and sip a hot chai or maggi bowl.
It is compulsory to take a guide. This is done to boost jobs for local residents. The guides are trained to handle all types of emergencies during the walk. Conveyors are also available.
The hike is neither too easy nor hard and gives beginners a real trekking taste. The whole circuit takes 4-5 days, which is again ideal for drifting.
All the overnight places are permanent settlements with comfortable rooms and amenities for most of them. After a long day of hiking, a good night’s sleep is invaluable.
If someone cannot walk further, the rovers can be called for rescue in the rare case of an emergency, which is a single advantage.
Nearly no equipment is required for trekking or gear. You’re good to go with only one pair of comfortable shoes. You will be cut off by the guides from the woods.