I came home to Calcutta during the Durga Puja. Owing to the fact that the next week had only three working days, I decided to take a leave of three days so that I would get the entire week off. It occurred to me that instead of spending leisurly hours at home, I could actually try out a trek in this span of time. So, I set off for Dzongri with my friend Tapas.
We could not get any train tickets - thanks to the maddening rush of the tourists. Well, buses seemed to be the order of the day for us. We booked two seats in the State Government run 'whiteliner' AC buses. I would advise you not to opt for these AC buses because the AC outlets are non-adjustable and there is no control on the temperature. It was shivering cold inside the bus, with freezing air form the non movable AC outlet bursting into my ears and nose. It was indeed a horrible experience to say the least.
The next morning we reached Siliguri after about 12 hours we boarded the bus on the previous night. The trek to Dzongri starts from a small village in western sikkim named Yuksam. There is no direct bus or shared cab to Yuksam. One of the alternatives is to reserve an entire cab which would cost you around 2000 bucks. The more prudent option would be to get onboard a shared cab heading off towards Pelling costing you around 150 rupees. You will have to get down at a place called Legship. Typically it would take around 3 hours to reach from Siliguri to Legship. You can have lunch at one of the hotels here if you wish. For going to Yuksam from here, you would require to get on board a shared cab coming from Jorthang. The journey to Yuksam from here would cost you around 60 rupees.
After reaching Yuksam, we got in touch with one of the trekking organizing groups over there. They would provide you with all the neccessary arrangements like sleeping bags, matresses, utensils for cooking, stove etc. You would be required to buy grocery for four days. Depending on the number of people you have in your group, you would be required to hire appropriate number of porters. The rate for the porters is Rs. 150 per day per person and that of the guide is Rs. 200 per day per person. But I would encourage you to enter into a fair amount of negotiations on the rates.
Since we were two in number we required a single poter and a guide cum cook thus altogether making four of us in the group. We started the next morning at arounnd 8.00 AM. There are a few formalities that you need to carry out like registering your names and addresses in the local police station, submitting the entry fee for entering the Kanchendzonga National Park, and paying the rent for using the trekkers' hut at Tsokha and Dzongri. If you don't intend to stay in the trekkers' hut and have possibly made your own arrangements by hiring tents, then you won't require to pay for the trekkers' hut.
The trek starting from Yuksam would take you through the dense undergrowths of the forest, with innumerable small streams flowing across making a sweet sound, small waterfalls plunging over the hilly rocks by the side of the path, narrow bridges connecting the hills and the wildlife making its presence felt by the chirping of the birds and the rustling of leaves by the swift movement of deers. The first halting place is Sachen which is outside the forest area. It would take around 3 to 4 hours to reach from Yuksam to Sachen. It has got only one hut, with two rooms. So, it's not very convenient for night stay. After resting here for about one and a half hours during which we ate our lunch, we headed off towards Bakkhim. The path is steeper here the journey can be quite tiring too. The path from Bakkhim to Tsokha is even more steep and can drain you off all your energy. Thus if you reach Bakkhim after 5.00 PM it would be advisablee to halt there although you would have to pay additional bucks. We reached Bakkhim after 5.00 PM and after drinking a full litre bottle of glucose water, decided to give it a shot to try reach Tsokha. Darkness fell midway along the path and somehow we managed to reach Tsokha.
It was quite cold at Tsokha the temperature being around 6-8 degrees. You can have a stroll around and enjoy the beautiful scene of the moon lit mountains. Owing to the unadulterated atmosphere you could see numerous bright stars shining in the sky - a phenomenon which almost has become extinct in the cities. You would definitely not want to miss the sunrise of the next morning. Tsokha presents a clear view of the snow clad peak Pandim which adorns itself with the bright golden rays of the rising sun. You would have to be quite busy with your digicam for atleast half an hour capturing all the wonderful moments. In the photo below, the Pandim peak can be seen at the extreme left.
It's now time to ascend towards Dzongri. The trek from Tsokha to Dzongri takes around 4-5 hours. Since there are no lodging places in between, you have to cover the entire distance from Tsokha to Dzongri without fail before nightfall. On the way to Dzongri, you can get a panoramic view of the entire Kanchendzonga range from a valley called Deorali. The picture below had been taken from the Deorali valley on our way down.
The entire trek from Tsokha to Dzongri would present you with ample opportunities to click on your camera shutter. There is a trekkers' hut at the Dzongri valley. From Dzongri valley, you can't get a view of the mountain ranges. For that you have to get atop the Dzongri peak which is a one and a half hours of ascent from the valley. The best time to get atop the Dzongri peak is early in the morning before sun rise. The top of the peak would provide you a breathtaking view of the entire Kanchendzonga range and the first rays of the rising sun falling on the Kanchendzonga presents a out of the world experience for the visitors.