One of the highlights of our trip to India was doing a 4-day trek in the Himalayas near Darjeeling on the India-Nepal border. From everything we had read prior to our trip to India, this was the must-do trek if travelling to India. The Sandakphu trek along the Singalila Ridge is one of the most popular ones in the Eastern Himalayas due to the grand vistas of the Kangchenjunga range and the Everest range which can be seen from the ridge, and also for the seasonal wildflower blooms and birding.
Sandakphu (11,941 ft) is the highest peak in the state of West Bengal, India. It is the highest point of the Singalila Ridge in Darjeeling district on the West Bengal-Nepal border. The peak is located at the edge of the Singalila National Park and has a small village on the summit with a few hostels. The trek offers the only view in India of four of the five highest peaks in the world (Mt. Everest – 29,029’, Kangchenjunga – 28,169’, Lhotse – 27,940’, and Makalu – 27,825’). We organized our trip with Ashmita Trek. They organized everything including providing transportation, a guide, sleeping bags, lodging and food.
The total trek was approximately 33.5 miles over a four day period. I’ve decided to break out each day into a separate blog posting.
Day 1 – Maneybhanjan to Tumbling
Starting elevation: 7,001’
Ending Elevation: 10,072’
Elevation gain: 3,071′
Distance: 6.83 miles
We left Darjeeling and were driven 26 km to the small Indo-Nepal village of Maneybhanjan, the start of our trek. After presenting our passports and registering at the start of the trail, we were ready to begin our trek. A shot of Josh and I officially entering Nepal.
The mileage marker at the start of the trek, showing we had 31km to go to get to Sandakphu (two days trekking). We only had 3 kms to get to our first destination for the day, Chitrey.
Josh and our guide, Mr. Binod Tamang, heading up the trail.
Arriving at Chitrey (8,340’). Chitrey is a Nepal village of two or three houses inhabited by Buddhist people who are Sherpas and Bhutias. It is famous for the monastery which was established in 1937 by a monk named Yogi Nath from Ladakh and now it is under the Drukpa Kragur of Dali Monastery and it is the meditation center for young monks.
Entrance to monastery:
The monastery in Chitrey.
The Buddhist prayer wheels inside the monastery. Buddhists spin the wheel during prayer to acquire good karma and purify bad karma, and to help them develop compassion and wisdom. Buddhists also place prayer wheels in the entryway to their homes, so people can turn them as they come and go. They also place wheels over the hearth, to be turned by smoke, or in the bed of a stream where the flow of the current sets them in motion. In this way the owner of the wheel, day and night, is in a constant state of prayer.
A monk sitting outside the monastery.
A Buddhist alter/shrine inside the monastery. In the Buddhist tradition it is customary to offer seven bowls of water which represent the seven limbs of prayer:
- offerings to the Buddhas
- confessing our wrongs
- rejoicing in the good qualities of oneself and others
- requesting the Buddhas to remain in this world
- beseeching the Buddhas to teach others
- dedicating the merit of ourselves and others which has been accumulated throughout time, in order that all sentient beings may enjoy happiness and virtue
Leaving Chitrey to continue on our trek.
We continued down the trail.
Another 3 kms down the trail from Chitrey, we approached our lunch stop of Lamaydhura (8,792’).
Lamaydhura is a hamlet inhabited only by five Tibetan families. They survive mostly on earnings made by selling snacks out of their shacks and offering low budget beds & food to trekkers. The legend says that the name of the place originated from a Lama (a Buddhist monk) who once lived here and applied pitch (known locally as dhura) as a coating to his hut.
The road or the trek route here passes along the border of India and Nepal. One side of the road (where stalls are located) is part of Nepal while the other side is part of India.
We sat inside one of the huts where we were served our lunch. Lunch consisted of hot tea, chow mein, and some bananas and apples.
A short video taken at our lunch stop:
Heading down the road after lunch, continuing our trek.
We came across our first rhododendron tree. It is the national flower of Nepal.
We continued down the trail in the fog, passing through another small hamlet and passing an enlightenment stupa. A stupa is a mound-like or hemispherical structure and is used as a place of meditation. The enlightenment stupa is also known as the Stupa of the Conquest of Mara. This stupa symbolizes the 35-year-old Buddha’s attainment of enlightenment under the bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, where he conquered worldly temptations and attacks manifesting in the form of Mara.
We later arrived at our destination for the night, Tumbling. Tumbling is a small hamlet of about only 10 to 12 Nepali families. We stayed at Shikhar Lodge, a lodge owned by Neela Gurung, a Nepali woman.
Our room in the small lodge:
The lodge kitchen:
Some more rhododendrons around Tumbling.
Relaxing in Tumbling as the sun was going down for the evening. It was very beautiful and peaceful.
After visiting with other guests in the lodge and having a great dinner, it was time to call it a day and go to sleep to prepare for our 13-mile trek tomorrow to the summit of Sandakphu.