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Travel through north India V.

Published: 30.4.2009
Travelling through the seventh country of the world, inhabitated with more than one billion of people, many cultural tendencies, variegated nations and busy towns.

9th day (Saturday, 14th February 2009)

Information regarding trekking on India-Pakistan borders:

Nearby Darjeeling, there is arising Singalil Mountain Range, extending up to the peak of Kantzendzangha Mountain. So, Darjeeling is a starting place for trekkings heading for peaks Sandakhpu (3636 m above sea level) and Phalut (3600 metres above sea level). On the road, you have the chance to watch marvellous views on further mountains at the same time (such as Mount Everest). It depends, of course, on favourable weather conditions. Anyway, best  time-period for trekking is October and November (when monsun rains are over) and during spring months (February till May). Most of trekking lines are situated in territory of Singalila National Park. You can enter there only in a moment when you pay necessary fee (INR 100,- per person plus INR 25,- for photo-instrument). Owing to increasing number of tourists, visiting this region, local offices decided to profit on tourist traffic with entrance fee, as mentioned before. All foreigners have to be registered in police station in „starting town“ - Maneighandzang (in 27 kms distant from Darjeeling), guide´s hire (engage) is obligatory. This guide „costs“ INR 350,- (or INR 450,-) daily. Price difference lays upon a fact that in case of lower price you are entitled to pay the guide also for accommodation and meals, so the price relating to INR 450,- is more advantageous. The payment is effected in advance and for three days as minimum (i.e. INR 1350,-). Number of trekking persons is unlimited, so the best will be, the more persons will be participating. In separate lodging places, there is no problem to reserve some place for sleeping, so, for one night you can pay even INR 100,- per person only. Sandakphu (3636 m) is the highest peak of the whole trekking tour.

Just up the top there is leading dusty and stony way, where even a jeep could  be driven on. So, we chose a trek lasting for four days: Maneibhandzang (2134 m) - Tumling (2970 m) - Sandakhpu (3636 m) – Moley (3400 m) – Rimbick (2286 m). In the morning, we unpack all things which will not be necessary, and put it into big bag. We let this sack in hotel and come to understanding with a patron that we return to our belongings within 4-5 days, whereas the price for lodging was stipulated for INR 80,- per one night. Frankly speaking, this price is overcharged, for sure, but we have no time for haggling or checking more favourtable condintions in other hotels. The drive by jeep to Maneibhandzang  is quite nice, but views around into deep valley steep hills are not too positive. Here, on spot, we are informed about obligatory condition, i.e. to hire the guide, so, we pay a fee for three days, with an option, that we decide later, how to continue afterthat. Our guide is approx. 20 years old, he names Nayjang and speaks quite good English, so we start to have a chat immediately. Our first target is Tumling.This is a small village situated in territory of Nepal, not far distant from more known village of Tonglu. So, we have to overcome slow mounting to highest mountain top (Sandakphu) in the course of first two days.

The way is winding, but it is quite good passable, we meet even a jeep on road. Except of this vehicle, we meet also horses, cows and yaks (it is long-hair, hunchbacked cattle, coming from Tibet). Especially the horses are used here as porters of various loadings, first of all of foodstuffs, such as rice etc. In some villages, you can receive cup of tea (for small fee) during a pause. If you have good luck for weather conditions, you can enjoy marvellous views around. Nepal-side is rather poor for trees and nature in general. As a matter of fact, local people cut down the trees and this is one of main sources of their subsistence. So, in Tumling we arrive as the only tourists, and become immediately unvoluntarily as local attraction (but not in bad sence of the word).

We accommodate in wooden chalet for three persons (cost INR 300,- per a night). This lodge seems to us quite favourable, despite the fact that a water source and WC are missing here. We put our luggage on spot and make short excursion up to viewing point. After one kilometer of moderate mounting, there is offering us amazed view to the third highest mountain of the world – Kantzenzangha. It is  distant approx. 50 kms from here, and its top is often covered with clouds.

We  sit down for 30 minutes on hillside and enjoy this marvellous panorama without saying a word. However, the dusk is coming, so we return to the village, and just two groups of foreigners are arriving here, too. Later, at dinner in the evening, we make acquintance in social room with five Americans and a couple from Switzerland. They have the intention, to spend three months in India (this is rather better as our three weeks). They have a half of their trip over, so they communicate us their experience. After dinner, we risk to buy bottled beer (cost INR 90,- however, I forgot the brand ) but it contained more water as standard, but its quality was satisfactorily. Later, during my mouth-hygiene, I see, what I did not noticed before: the sky was full of hundreds of stars. In towns and plains, full of smog, the sky is always covered into gray steam, so, on this spot, there is so called „sky-shock“ for you. It is resolvedly the best sky I saw in my life. So, I take off my shoes and smock-frock, and put into my summer sleeping bag carefully. I do not wish to risk catch a cold just on the first day. I feel quite tired, so I asleep qiuckly.

10th day (Sunday, 15th February 2009)

In the morning, we get up at 5 o´clock, in order to catch sunrise and have the chance to see first rays falling on Kantzenzangha. The sun appears slowly after six o´clock, and we were quite frozen through on the top (very cold wind blew here), but it was worth to se it. So, we made a lot of photos.

At seven o´clock, we go to neighbouring chalet to have a breakfast, and, after a while we are surprised at following scene: European plates and dinner-sets, jams in glass, honey, butter, yoghurt musli and mass of Tibet breads, all these are available on tables. So, King´s breakfast on place, where it would not be absolutely expected. The Americans and Swiss cannot believe this arrangement as well. After breakfast, we go out, and, after 18 kms trekking we would reach the highest point of our mounting – Sandakphu peak (3636 m). The way is still good passable but we still go down only, and this fact makes me quite nervous.

Anyway, the descent is over at border of Singalil National Park. On this spot, the soldiers control our personal documents, and other control requires the entrance fee, i.e. INR 100,- per one person, and INR 25,- for photo-instrument (we confess one piece only). The border of this national park consists of fence and wooden cabin placement, otherwise, it is usual „toll-place“ for tourists. However, from here, there starts unpleasant and steep mounting, when we have to mount 700-800 metres up. Along the way, we can enjoy nice view of  Kantzenzangha and other peaks, anyway, the weather is favourable – we can see even remote top of Mt.Everest Mountain (in a distance of 120 kms approx.).

On the top, we drink a tea and take a small luncheon. However, the last and worst section is waiting for us, 600 metres of exceeding. Our rucksack seems to be for us heavier and heavier, and on last coupes of metres, I feel so exhausted that I  creep as a snail, the rucksack has a weight of one ton at least! Finally, we reached the top! Marvellous view around!  Anyway, horrible gale welcomes us, and quickly makes chilly our sweaty dressing, and I feel very cold within couple of seconds. Nevertheless, you can choose several variants for lodging, there are at least five chalets available here. So, we take one, in accordance with recommandation of our guide, the price is settled for INR 300,- again. One room with four beds, and, moreover, some small place for our luggage. Turkish WC and streaming cold water are situated in the second part of chalet. As a dinner, here are noodle soup and a cup of tea, served inside of another chalet. To tell the truth, this is 200 metres distant only, but on return way I run doubling, as terrible cold is to be felt, especially after dusk, in hard intensity. For sleeping, I take off my smock-frock and shoes, and put on a cap. Moreover, my sleeping bag will be covered with two blankets, which were available on beds. We look forward to the fact that we could enjoy again sunrise, so we go to bed early, at seven o´clock. It is truth that I sleep 2-3 hours only, the gale is beating into windows and also the altitude does not allow us to sleep safely.

Text/photo: Jakub Štantejský - Infoglobe redactor

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