On top of the world
THE TREKKING CAPITAL OF INDIA, SIKKIM OFFERS ADVENTURERS OFFTHE-GRID COURSES IN ADDITION TO THE POPULAR ONES
Sandwiched between Nepal and Bhutan, the tiny state of Sikkim encapsulates everything that the Himalayas have to offer. From elevations of 300 metres to 8,500m, from tropical to tundra, from thick forests to trans Himalayan cold deserts, there is a mind boggling variety on offer.
Combine it with its fully organic agriculture, hospitable locals and a variety of travel experiences from home stays and monastery visits, to wildlife sanctuaries and full- fledged treks and you have the first amongst equals in the entire Eastern Himalaya. More than 90 per cent of trekkers to Sikkim, however, choose either the Dzongri/ Goecha la or the Singalila trails. No doubt they are both beautiful trails, but here are two other treks you could plan this year:
1. Barsey rhododendron sanctuary
A wildlife sanctuary dedicated to just one species of a flower — Rhododendron. It has
600 varieties of it to be exact, but it’s a fascinating sanctuary and provides for some easy walks along trails carpeted with the red and pink flowers.
And you might just come across the elusive, near
extinct red panda. You can set base at Sombaria, just outside the sanctuary, and either do day walks, an overnight trek or even a full-fledged four-day trek across the sanctuary. Combine this trip with a stay in the beautiful Kewzing village, and you have an easy, wonderful Sikkim holiday.
The trek: Option 1 – A day walk in the sanctuary starting from the Hilley gate till Barsey and back (4 kilometre each way).
Option 2 – Camp overnight at Barsey, explore more the next day and return by evening.
Travel responsibly: The homestays in Kewzing are a sustainable tourism initiative by Kangchendzonga Conservancy Committee (KCC). You will get to stay with locals in their homes, participate in their daily lives, understand their concerns and struggles, and have a meaningful holiday. All the homes get to host visitors on a rotation basis.
Best time to visit: For rhododendrons in bloom, March-april; For trekking, Oct-nov
2. Tholung and beyond – Land of the Yeti
The legend of the
Yeti has confounded explorers, scientists and naturalists for many decades. Beyond the Tholung monastery in the remote North-west region of Dzongu in Sikkim, on the edge of the Kangchendzonga biosphere, lies a land where the legend of the Bon Manchi (the wild man) prevails, and the locals believe in it as much as they believe in me and you. This is the land of Lepchas, the original inhabitants of Sikkim, now consigned to a few restricted areas with land rights.
The Tholung monastery is amongst the most sacred monasteries in Sikkim, and has in store a treasure of some of the most precious Buddhist artefacts and relics which are taken out once every three years for display. The trek beyond Tholung takes you to a beautiful but completely untouched high altitude meadow surrounded by snow covered peaks from three sides, the playground of the Bon Manchi. The trek: Option 1 – Trek from Dzongu to Tholung and back over two days. Roughly five hours each way.
Option 2 – Trek to Temrong valley, beyond Tholung. The stunning, completely unknown Temrong valley lies a further two days walk from Tholung. Total trek duration: 4-5 days.
Travel responsibly: Dzongu is an official reserve for Lepchas of Sikkim, and an initiative to preserve their indigenous culture. You get a chance to live with them and contribute to their economy by buying local produce, handicrafts and art.
Best time to trek: April or Oct- Nov
Dzongu valley is home to the legend of the Yeti (the wild man).