Trekking in Darjeeling

Darjeeling internationally acclaimed as one of the best hill resorts is also a veritable paradise for trekkers and adventure seekers. Trekking in Darjeeling is an experience which no lover of nature should miss. It takes one to places where nature is yet in her premival majesty.

It brings one face to face with the sublime grandeur of the Himalayas.

The region abounds in rhododendrons, magnolias, primulas, orchids and ferns of numerous varieties.

About six hundred different species of birds inhabit the emerald green forests on the slopes of the mountains. The following is a brief description of some of the most popular and most rewarding treks in the region.

Singalila National Park Trek

Sandakphu Trek

View-From-Sandakphu

Distance : 118 kms   |   Days : 4 Days / 3 Nights   |   Altitute : 3636 mtrs

People & Culture

Sandakphu-Phalut Trek

Trek-to-Phalut-from-Sandakphu

Distance : 160 kms   |   Days : 6 Days / 5 Nights   |   Altitute : 3500 mtrs

Geography

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People & Culture Darjeeling

  • People

    The greater bulk of the people in the Hills are Gorkhas. They are industrious and enterprising as a race and speak various dialects. The short Mongolian type Nepalese, the Gorkhas, renowned for their military prowess the world over, and the first to be decorated with the coveted Victoria Cross, finds jobs and security both in the British and Indian armies. They carry the traditional weapon, the Khukri-a curved ornamental knife. Among the population are also the Newars or best known, the world over as the Sherpas. They are well known for their courage, stamina and surefooted and for their immeasurable contributions to Mountaineering. Also much in evidence in the Hills are the Bhutias and they are divided into Tibetan, Bhutan, Dharma and Sikkimese Bhutias and a greater bulk of Bengalese from Siliguri subdivision.

    Nepali Folk Dances

    The Nepalese are rich in folk culture. The hills and dales are the treasure house of songs and dances of the hill folk. There is not a moment in their lives, possessed as they are of a lyrical mind and heart that does not turn into singing and dancing. The panorama of the Majestic Himalayan mountains, its lush green hills and forests seem to have played a significant role in influencing the religion and culture including the folk songs and dances of the Nepalese people, inhabiting in and around the Himalayan regions with its serene, romantic and poetic shades of different hues. Even the two major religions. viz., Hinduism and Buddhism, seem to have influenced the Nepali culture full of its rich folks songs and dances, co-existing side by side.

    The earlier cave paintings, religious rites and temple songs and dances have also played another significant role in influencing Nepalese Folks songs and dances. The earlier form of dances and folk songs attributed to the Gods and goddesses of both the Hindu and Buddhist pantheon, are also inspirational in creating Nepalese folk songs and dances, impressions of religious dances performed either to appease Gods and goddesses or ward-off the evil spirits can also be seen distinctly in performing arts of the Nepalese people. The following are some of the most popular and worth mentioning forms of Nepali folk dances.

    1. Maruni Nach             2. Dhan Naach               3. Jhankri Naach
    2. Jatra Naach               5. Damphu Naach         6. Khukuri Naach
    3. Deora Naach             8. Panchay Naach          9. Dhimay Naach
    4. Sanginy Naach         11. Balan Naach             12. Jhyauray Naach
    5. Paschimay Chutki   14. Rodhighar Naach    15. Baton Naach
    6. Jhumara Naach       17. Sakhia Naach

    Language

    Nepali, Hindi, Bengali and English are the prevailing languages. Bengali is the language of the plains, Tibetan is used by the refugees and some other tribal people.

    Religion

    Hinduism, Buddhism and to an extent Christianity, remain the predominant religions here.

    Food

    Pamper your taste buds with the exotic but homely food and discover a mosaic of culture while satiating your gastronomical needs. Whether it is the ubiquitous momos or thupkas whose fabled taste has transcended across the Himalayas along with the migrant Tibetans or the lemon grass menu from south-east Asia,Darjeeling offers you the best. Momo Meat dumplings which are steamed and accompanied by a bowl of clear soup and achaar. One can also order for vegetable momos in which the meat is ideally replaced by cabbage and other vegetables. Thupkas Tibetan noodles mixed with egg/meat, vegetables with a predominant soup base. Shaphalay Tibetan bread stuffed with meat. Aludum Typical indian potato preparation which the hill people cannot do without. Tibetan tea Salt tea which is mixed with butter which has its own distinct taste. Tongba Local brew made from millet and has to be sipped through a bamboo straw. Usually found in the local haat(fair) held on sunday near the Rock Garden.

    Architecture

    Developed by the British, many buildings of British style architecture can be found here. Apart from these, the Tibetan influence is very noticeable in the buildings of the monasteries.

    Festivals

    In addition to Durga Puja, Diwali, Saraswati Puja and Shivratri etc., there are local festivals unique only to this region. The Lepchas and Bhutias celebrate the New Year in January, while the Tibetans have their Devil Dances to celebrate their New Year in their monasteries from the last week of February to March. As in the Chinese tradition the snake or dragon dances curl through the streets. In mid-June, processions celebrate the birthday of His Holiness, The Dalai Lama. Houses are decorated and spirits start building up for Diwali eve when the festival commences. Lasting two weeks, it consists of Lakshmi Puja, Bhailo, Deosi and Bhai Tika. There are robust folk dances with the males participating enthusiastically in the ‘Chabrung’ of the Libus, the Tamangs dance, ‘Damfu’, and the most popular of them all, the scintillating Maruni. Gay folk songs fill the air with ‘Jhowre’ relating to the lover, and the ‘Juhari’ which throws questions and answers between the lovesick couple. The ‘Rosia’ is sung in the fields, the ‘Baloon’ extols the deeds of the Mahabharata and ‘Malsiri’ is kept for the Durga Puja. The ‘Rateli’ are nursery rhymes set to music. It seems that the people have saved all their energy for these two weeks which are filled with great rejoicing.

    Handicrafts

    The culture of the hill people of Darjeeling are uniquely expressed in the exquisite and inimitable artistic handicrafts of the district and their traditional colourful designs, which show marked resemblance to the art of neighbouring Tibet, Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan. Among the artistic crafts, ornaments, trinkets and handlooms are worth mentioning. There is also fine craftsmanship in wood-work and bamboo fret work. While the principal utility products are blankets, woolen knitted garments and woven fabrics, the artistic products are hand-bags, wall panels, fire-screens, folding partitions, Bhutan paintings, cotton shoulder-bags etc. Beautiful curios are made at Darjeeling and Kalimpong on copper plates studded with red and blue stones with engravings of replicas of deities. Wonderful Tankas with paintings depicting the life of Lord Buddha are also available. Woolen carpets are made in a combination of shades in vegetable and synthetic dyes. Bhutia chaddars can be found in beautiful textures. Decorative Nepali khukris are made in Ghum. Bedroom slippers and rope-sole shoes, jackets, hats, hanzu coats made from handloom cloth and masks are among the many items which attract tourists and curio collectors.

    Economy

    The cash crops of the region are fruits, tea and cardamom. Tourism contributes in a great way to the economy of the region.

    Industry

    Tea and Darjeeling are synonymous. Darjeeling Tea is world renowned for its flavour, which is unequaled by other tea producing areas not only of India but also of the world. Darjeeling still manufactures the tea by the original methods known as the ‘orthodox’ method.

  • Geography of Darjeeling

  • Darjeeling hill areas is unique from environmental Eco-perception. The relief varies from 100 Mts. above sea level to the mighty Kanchanjungha. There are different climatic zones with distinctive attributes and there are endangered animals like red panda etc along with memory orchids and medicinal plants are available in this hilly region.

    The Darjeeling hill area is formed of comparatively recent rock structure that has a direct bearing on landslides. The causes of the landslides vary from one locality to another. Heavy monsoon precipitation is however a very common cause of these disasters. More over soils of Darjeeling hill areas are extremely varied, depending on elevation , degree of slope, negetative cover and obviously geolithology . The natural system of erosion in the hill gets more complicated when man interferes.

    As the mountains serve as the source of resources for the population residing in the hills as well as in the plains, the form of environmental degradation is quite extensive other particularly is applied to the extraction of timber and other forest produces, mining and agriculture are taken into account. As human population expands in the hills, forests are being depleted for the extension of agricultural lands, introduction of new settlements, roadways etc. The growing changes coming in the wake of urbanization and industrialization leave deep impression on the hill ecosystem; disrupting normal functioning.

    Due to unprecedented growth of population during the last few decades in the Darjeeling hill areas, nature has started reacting sharply to the accumulated human guilt. Landslide hazards, especially during rainy season have become a common factor to the people of the hill.

    The Hill areas of Darjeeling District are located within the Lesser and Sub – Himalayan belts of the Eastern Himalayas. The area is bounded by the Sikkim Himalaya in the north, the Bhutan Himalaya in the east and Nepal Himalaya in the west. The southern foothill belt is demarcated by a highly dissipated platform of terrace deposits extending along the east west axis. The inner belt is defined by a ridgeline stretching from the Darjeeling Hill to the west and Kalimpong Hill to the east, overlooking the southerly flowing Tista valley in between. Prominent rivulets contributing to the Rammam – Rangit basin, dissipate the northern slope of Darjeeling Hills.

  • Some useful hints regarding preparation for trek

  • Accommodation
    The Trekkers Hut under the management of GTA Tourism are available at Sandakphu region. Advance booking can be made through DDT,GTA Tourism, Silver Fir, Bhanu Sarani, Darjeeling. Private lodges are also available in all locations except Phalut.

    Clothes
    During these treks travellers will encounter extremes of weather. The routes pass through depths of valleys as low as 762 mts. and tops of mountains as high as 3640 mts. He will, therefore have to arrange his clothing accordingly. For treks at lower altitudes it is sufficient to have a light sweater, shirt and trousers. At higher altitude a heavy pullover topes by a wind-cheater is advisable. Adown jacket is very useful in high altitude. In case the trek is undertaken in winter-woolen cap and gloves is a must. A muffler may be an added advantage. A good plan is to start the trek in comfortable outfit and carry the excess clothing in rucksack, taking them out as and when necessary.

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    It has been found that the most common item of complaint is shoes. In long treks the necessity of a good, durable, comfortable pair of shoes can hardly be over emphasized. Such boots as ‘Hunter’ of Bata may be used. It is advisable to wear the shoes for some days prior to the trek. Remember to carry a few extra pairs of thick socks.

    Raincoat
    No matter what time the trek is undertaken a light raincoat must from an essential part of the outfit. This may be folded and put into the rucksack when not in use. Weather may be unpredictable, particularly in higher altitudes.

    Food
    Although caretakers of some of the Trekkers’ Hut provide simple rice and dal at nominal rates, travellers must carry their own provisions. It is difficult to give extra advice on this subject as tastes vary, but broadly speaking the food should be such as can be easily carried and will keep in warmer climate. Tinned food, such as skinless sausages, packet or tin packed soup, cheese, peanut, butter, baked beans etc. will be helpful. Hard boiled eggs and bread may be taken as an advantage, rice and dal are excellent items. These may be cooked with ease at any place. it is essential to carry to packet of salt as this is a rare commodity at the higher altitude. For hot drinks tea or instant coffee, condensed milk and sugar may also be carried. It is suggested to carry a packet of Glucose powder which help to give energy while on trek. Rice, dal, eggs, chicken, onions and potatoes can be purchased enroute at most places through they are likely to be expensive. There are small tea shops enroute to Sandakphu, at places like Meghma, Gairibas, Kalpokhri, Gorkhey, Rammam,Srikhola and Rimbick.

    Water
    It is safe to drink spring water in the high altitudes. However it is advisable to carry water purifying tablets. Some brand names such as PINATAB and ZEOLIN 200 are easily available at the Chemist Shops at Darjeeling. Do carry a water bottle.

    Equipment
    Trekking equipments such as sleeping bag rucksack are available on hire from Off road adventure Office, H.D. Lama Road , Darjeeling. They Provide Equipments like Sleeping Bags, Mattress , Rucksack , Tent , Feather Jacket on Hire.

    Season for Travel
    The best months to trek in this region are April, May and October-November. During April-May there may be occasional showers. But this disadvantage would be fully compensated by the beauty of flowers, especially rhododendrons. Sometimes due to prolonged monsoons, there may be occasional rains during the first half of the month of October. But November is generally dry and visibility is excellent. First half of December is also good, though rather cold; besides that there are occasional snow falls.