Sunday, January 9, 2011

Trek to Maenam, Ravangla, South Sikkim

Reyong Sunrise point in Ravangla, East Sikkim
Reyong Sunrise point in Ravangla

Ravangla or Rabong,situated at South Sikkim, at an altitude of 7400 ft. Nice and peaceful place far away from pollution and madding crowd. The highest point of that area is the Maenam Hill top - from there you can have a view of majestic Kanchenjunga range.
18th December, 2010, At last , after a long break, again I am out ...
I was in a hurry to leave office. My bus was on 7:30 PM. We were six, myself, two of my friends and three family members of one of them. I was first to reach the bus stand. Bus was late as usual.I slept in the bus throughout our journey. It was not an event full journey.I just wake up around 7:30 to see we are in Siliguri.
The day of trouble: On our way to Ravangla
Tista river bed, on our way to ravangla
Tista river bed, on our way to Ravangla
It was a small team. Six of us, me, Aparup, Kaustav and his brother with their wives. My plan was to get a shared taxi for our journey, but I forgot to take it into consideration that This is more or less a honeymoon trip for Kaustav. Such a fool I am :). So our venture to find a suitable vehicle started.
Beware of travel agents near the Siliguri bus stand! Did I forget to mention that earlier! They had Kaustav's brother in their trap. The deal was, if we do hotel booking through them, then only they will provide us transport. Everybody else was happy with the deal, but not me. I don't trust any of the local travel agents in Siliguri. Anyway, we did the hotel booking through them but the transport never arrived. At least three hours we spent in Siliguri bus stand waiting for the cab and after that we were so irritated, we demanded a refund of our booking amount. Though it was not easy, but we managed get it back but after a little fight and the next moment I was out to find a cab for ourselves.
It was an Maruti Omni. The petrol version is not a bad choice, so we booked it. The driver charged us 2600 for the trip - not a bad deal. We halted once in "36 miles" to have our lunch. The river "Teesta" is very near from there. So we went to the bank and had a walk there. In the meantime our driver get drunk-ed and when we started again he was driving very roughly. We almost had a collision with two bike riders. The bikers stopped our car and they were so furious that they almost beat our driver. We lost some more time there.
Chinthang hotel at Ravangla, accommodation in Ravangla
Hotel in Ravangla - Hotel Chinthang
When we were in Singtam, some police officials stopped our car and asked for the permit (WB drivers need permit to drive in Sikkim) from our driver. AGAIN ANOTHER SURPRISE FOR US, our driver didn't have the necessary permit, neither had he the driving license!! He got fined there. We started again, and after some time we came to know that our driver doesn't know the exact way to Ravangla. It was already around 6 PM, he tried to convince us to go by another vehicle. By at that time we were pretty much annoyed. We started shouting at him, and forced him to drive again. He was driving furiously, but our only concern at that point was to reach Ravangla ASAP. Around 7:15 our journey ended in Ravangla. But some more surprises were waiting for us. The next day Buddhist guru "Dalai Lama" was coming to Ravangla, and all the hotels were packed and in the remaining hotel the rent was sky high. We had chosen "Hotel Chinthang" after trying a few and it was a good decision. We were really tired. So we had our dinner and went to the hotel after booking a car for the next day tour.
Day 2: Feeling the beauty of Rabong - Ravangla: Spent the day roaming around
Ravangla - Maenam East Sikkim Tour
Sunrise in Ravabgla
Early morning ... and we were ready for site seeing, but our driver didn't arrive at time. We went out in search of him. We found him at last but by the time we had reach the sunrise point it was a bit late. But couldn't blame the driver for that, it was a cold morning :). The weather was perfect, no cloud, and we were able to see the distant snow cladded peaks of Himalaya and of course the beautiful "Kanchendzonga".
We came back to our hotel from there to have breakfast. It was a super busy day in Ravangla. Buddhist saint "Dalai Lama" was visiting the place for inauguration of local "Buddha park". The people were almost crazy to see him. From our hotel we also had a chance to have a glimpse of the saint and we waved at him. It was a nice experience, a bonus in the trip.
Temi Tea Garden
We went out for site seeing around 10 AM. It was a bit late but we couldn't help it as due to the visit of Dalai Lama the securities blocked the roads. After leaving Ravangla we went to the "Temi Tea Garden". Did some photo shoot there. I had some trouble with my camera. The mount point of the lens was broken (i am yet to fix it :-( ...) . It was challenging for me to adjust my camera and I was extra cautious to make sure that I don't break the lens itself.

Char Dham - Sikkim
From there we moved towards Namchi, to visit Char Dham. Actually it is an replica of the famous "Char Dham" of India. These four Dhams are as 1) Sri Badrinath at North, 2) Sri Dwarka at West, 3) Sri Jaganathpuri at East and 4) Sri Rameshwaram at South of India. The purpose is to give the flavour of the original places (actually located in different parts of India) in a single visit. I didn't really enjoy that place. Because I believe when it is about arts, ancient India was 1000 times ahead of current India. This is just an imitaion and travelling to this place is a waste of time in my opinion. but my friends were interested to go so I accompanied them.
Guru Rimpoche, Sandruptse
We had our lunch in Namchi while returning. Namchi is the capital of the South Sikkim. A very clean city really. After lunch we went to Samdruptse - which means wish fulfilling hill in Bhutia. There is a beautiful stature of Guru Padmasambhaba a.k.a Guru Rimpoche.
The sun was already setting down when we left Samdruptse. Our next target was Ralang Monasteries - the old and the new one. Our driver was a bit worried and soon we came to know why!
New Ralong Monastery Ravangla
New Ralong Monastery
The road condition was adverse. Seemed there was a land slide in recent past and BRO yet to fix it. Our SUV was moving slowly towards the destination. First to the Old ralang monastery and next to the newer one. While returning I decided to get out of the vehicle just about 4 KMs away from Ravangla. It is always a pleasure for me to walk along the hilly roads. I had a chance to took a few pictures of that place from top.
At night there was a little crisis of food as too many people were in Ravangla to see Dalai lama and the supply was not enough. Somehow we had managed to have our dinner in a resaurant. Before we call it a day another bad news was waiting - our driver told it will not be possible to get the necessary permission for Maenam trek as in weekend the office will remain close.
Day 3: Trek to Maenam Hill - Ravangla
Maenam Hill Top from Ravangla, Rabong, South Sikkim
Maenam Hill Top from Ravangla
When the day started I had no plan in my mind. Sonam (our driver) told me that the forest office will be closed as it is a Sunday and it will not be possible for us to get permit to enter Maenam. I hated those words. That was the main purpose of my tour, to see the snow covered Himalayan peaks from the top of Maenam. It was around 9:30 AM, and I was unable to decide what to do. At last I made up my mind to give it a try. I took a cab and went to the forest office. There I saw Mimah.
Mimah told he is the official guide for Maenam, and he is working for the forest department. He arranged for the permission and we took him as our guide. I had to return back to our hotel before we can start climbing. I hurried to the hotel, informed everyone and brought them back to the forest office gate where Mimah was waiting for us, and our journey to Maenam started
Maenam Hill Top, Ravangla, The Gumpha, South Sikkim
Maenam Hill Top: The Gumpha
None of our team had any previous hiking experience. But they were very excited about that. The trek route is not very stiff but the distance is almost 24 KMs up and down. There are 4 resting points on the way. When we have reached the 2nd point half of our team was not willing to move anymore. So they decided to go back from there and three of us continued our journey to the peak.
It was around 3:30 pm when we reached the peak. Normally the trek shouldn't take more than 3 hours but my friends were too tired and it took us around 5 hours. Over the mountain there is a small old gumpha.We light some incense sticks there and created a stone memento. It was too cloudy and the greater Himalayan range was not visible from there.
We had to hurry back downwards as we wanted to get out of the forest before dark. We made it within 2 hours. We had nothing to do that evening. There was a power cut and everybody was so tired.
Day 4: Time to say adieu to Ravangla
View from Ravangla, South Sikkim
View from Ravangla, South Sikkim
When you are in this part of India, get prepare for a very common phenomenon – "STRIKE"!! It may happen any time without any prior notice. I have noticed that people here also enjoy it like a holiday. There is no real industry in this part of world and the routine life doesn't really get affected due to the strike. The only problem is that – if you are in plain you will not be able to go up and vise verse.
Our plan was to leave Ravangla early in the morning, but due to the trek yesterday my friends couldn't wake up early for both of them it was the first trek. So I decided to ramble around the place. It was a clear day and Mt Kanchendzonga was clearly visible. After a while I halted for a tea break in a roadside tea stall. A sweet little girl was serving tea there, her uncle run the shop. We had some discussion about the place, the visit of Dalai Lama to Ravangla. There I came to know about the strike. He told me that today no transport will be available to reach the plain – Siliguri.
At that time I had reached hotel everyone else were out of their bed and they also came to know about the strike. We were a bit worried as it was the last day of our vacation. We tried hard to arrange a vehicle and for that we searched almost every part of the village. Around 1:30 PM we got one for Damthang. There are two possible ways to reach Siliguri from Ravangla, Damthang or Namchi. From there transports are available. Ravangla, being a small place not much options available there. We packed in a hurry and left hotel.
I am going to get back there again. So many things remain unexplored there, I am yet to spend a night on top of Maenam, Missed the Tendong Hill trek due to lack of time and I am yet to see the famous red panda!


  1. i have a tour program at lava lole gaon and ryshop pl guide me

  2. When you are leaving for Lava? During monsoon you may face some problems.

  3. Is it possible to stay for the night in Maenam hill?


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