Mist accumulates on trees and then drop on the carpet of the fallen leaves lying on the ground. The musty smell prevails all along the trails covered by the branches of pine, oak and rhododendron. Only the sound of dry leaves crunching under the feet of trekkers breaks the silence of the forest. Moved ahead will see the curtains of the mist covering the path travelled so far. The experience of any trek through the national park located in the eastern Himalaya would be no different than this. Still, we never could ignore the call from Singalila national park. She is special to us always.
Steep rocky mountain welcomed us with dense woods and misty fog, our journey begins.
It all starts from a place called Manebhanjan. A steep climb welcomed us to the trail. Around half an hour exhausting hike through a zigzag path took us to a picturesque meadow. This place is called Chitrey. We took little rest there. A hot cup of Darjeeling tea made with yak's milk refreshed us from initial fatigue. The path ahead has much lesser gradient than what we had covered so far. So we were all relaxed, enjoying the beauty of the vastness of the mountains. I always envy the people who stay there and runs the shop. They enjoy this beauty all along the year. They have a happy life in a secluded place, far from the madding crowd.
Walking the trails, we met local people.
Two little boys smiled at me and observed my camera and I captured their innocent curious smile.
We again started hiking. This trail connects Sandakphu, the highest point of West Bengal, to the lower valley. Old "Landrovers" are the only motorable option of transport. But we preferred to walk. Occasionally army vehicles come on this path to provide rations. This road follows the boundary between India and Nepal. There are few army barracks along the trail. But nobody bothers about this demarcation. Anybody can take a little detour and roam through Nepal. Only in places, you will see cable railing showing the boundary.
Meghma, it was a quite small melancholy stop.
We again took a break at a hamlet called Meghma. An army barrack was there just outside it. Beside it, an old bungalow was there for overnight stay. But we had planned to go further ahead. So we removed our backpacks and roamed around the village. A Buddhist monastery was there before entry of the village. But it was almost noon. So the monastery was closed. We moved ahead further and took entry to the village. Few curious eyes offered us a warm welcome. We felt homely. After a little chitchat, we adieu them and followed the trail to our destination. From there it was an hour's journey.
Only old "Landrovers" connect one place with another.
The trail went above the Tonglu sanctuary. We followed the road leaving it on ours right. We had already gained more than thousand feet in altitude. There were not many big trees around. But the meadows were comings straight out from Windows wallpaper. Covered with lush bright green. Green was everywhere. One can sit on the grass and be there for hours doing nothing and just be quiet. Occasionally clouds started to roll from the below and cover the entire valley. We took small steps and moved ahead of this. We knew a few more bends ahead view would be clear. The majestic Kanchendzonga is waiting for us. We kept walking.
The amazing landscape and chilly freezing air gives a sense of serenity.
We were not that lucky as we expected. The cloud cover poured over the mountain. Barely anything was visible from Tonglu top. We took steps towards the trekker's hut. The caretaker welcomed us with smoking hot soup. We freshened up quickly. We didn't have our lunch so far. We asked him to prepare some YiYi. While we were chatting inside the hut and waiting for our lunch, someone noticed sunlight was falling in front of the lawn. We quickly came out of the room. The glorious view of Kanchendzonga welcomed us finally.
At evening get rid of the extreme lassitude, we were joined by a couple of guides and travelers besides the fire inside the kitchen, some of them singing Nepali songs while we were humming along. With the cozy warm manners they served food.
We had an even better view of "Sleeping Buddha" during night. We were loitering on outside lawn after our dinner. Caretaker and cook were still busy in the kitchen. We could hear them humming local songs. The clear sky was glittering with infinitely many stars. We never see so many stars from our place. Along with them, majestic Kanchendzonga was glowing in the dark. It was chilling cold outside. Still, none of us was willing to move inside to take the warmth of the bed.
Word is not enough to describe such experience. I don't know how many more times I went there after that, but that experience will remain with me forever.