Barshe - the rhododendron sanctuary
Sikkim is a very popular destination of mountain lovers for a long time. Sikkim Himalayas has lot to offer to the mountaineers, trekkers as well as travelers.
Barshe is such a place where you can get a good exposure of very echo friendly mountain atmosphere among jungle of rhododendrons - of many colours and sizes.
On 15th of April, 2009 we started for Barse. We availed Kanchankanya Express and reached New Jalpaiguri station next morning at 7.15 A.M. Shuttle autos will take you to SNT bus stand at the cost of Rs.10/- per head. Here you can try for SNT buses for Jorthang. But we preferred share jeep. It left Siliguri at 8.30 P.M.
Journey to Jorthang is a nice one through the green hills. Some remote villages will greet you enroute. Jorthang is 82 km from Siliguri. It is a big business place now. From Jorthang share jeeps are available for Sombareya, which is only 29 k.m away. It took almost 2 hours to reach Somberya. Rammam River will accompany you throughout the journey. The place is little bit cold as we gained reasonable altitude.
At Somberya we had our lunch with smoking delicious vegetable momos. Here we had to hire one car as regular jeep service is not available. Sombareya to Hilley is 30 km and it took more than one hour to reach Hilley at 3.40 P.M. Road to Hilley is partly metal. It was a fogy atmosphere at Hilley. Here you have to register your name with the SSB camp. (Sasastra Seema Bal). After taking hot tea at a shop we started our journey on foot to Barshey. You need permission to enter the sanctuary. You have to pay for your cameras also. Any movie camera will cost you Rs.500/- per day. There is a museum also at the entrance of the sanctuary. One must pay a visit to this museum.
The path goes through the lush green jungle. Some bamboo trees are there which is very popular spot for the bears. This jungle is shelter of bears, leopards, and red pandas. Some flex posters of leopard, bear and pandas were displayed on the road side trees. But it is not easy to see animals in such forests and we were also not exceptions. Only 4 km walks and you are in the heaven. A nice cottage Guras Kunj will welcome you. It is a nice place to spend few days in the wild far from madding crowd. The place is surrounded by rhododendron trees and other alpine trees. Nice mountain ranges are seen from here though we were not so lucky. The rate is Rs.700/- + 10% tax per day per head for dormitory. It includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and refreshment. There is a nicely decorated dinning hall at the ground floor. Candlelight dinner is certainly a life time experience.
Next morning we walked to the nearby view point. There are some wooden benches on the top of the view point. Nice place to relax for some time. Panoramic view is magnificent. Singalila range is clearly visible from here if the weather is clear. The valley below is a riot of colours among greens. Various colours of rhododendrons will recuperate your eyes.
We came down from the viewpoint after spending almost one hour. Our lunch was ready by then. We preferred to have it out in the open and enjoyed it very much. We bade good bye to Barshe and started for our return journey.
Part-II. Hilley- Ribdi Rammam Srikhola Rimbik
People who will be able to spare four more days can easily enjoy this route which is really thrilling.
Take right turn downwards from Hilley. The path goes through the fields and bushes. Though taking the help of guide is not necessary, better ask local people about the path whenever you meet someone enroute. This downward road will take you to the metal road to Ribdi. This path goes through some picturesque villages which will greet you with traditional Sikkimese culture and environment. After reaching the metal road it is hardly one hour walk to reach Ribdi. It is a bus head village with primary school, health centre, one monastery other side of the hill but no hotel. You will get rooms at some private residences, which is limited in numbers. You will get the food also there. You will reach Ribdi from Hilley in about two and half hours.
Have an afternoon stroll around the village and pay a visit to the monastery where classes starts at 4.00 A.M.
Next day get ready as early as possible and have your breakfast. Todays path goes to Gorke. First few kilometer road is jeepable. And then the rest is definitely walkable. This path goes downwards through greeneries and shaded by big trees. Typical villages are visible from the roads. After almost two hours walk your will reach a field. There is a small footbridge over a stream. You cross the bridge and will find the forest check post, this is West Bengal greeting you. A narrow stone covered path goes upward and then after some ups and downs you will find a tea and food stall.
You can take a break here with hot tea and snacks. Now comes Samandeen on the top of the hill which is a beautiful village with plenty of vegetation, trees, few tiny buildings and a rest house with few rooms. From Samandeen the road goes downwards through dense forest. If you are lucky you may come across red pandas also. Sometimes path goes upwards and sometimes downwards. At around 2.00 P.M you will reach Rammam. There is a school, monastery and yes hotel is there. You can spend the night in this cozy hotel room.
Next destination is Srikhola. Path goes through hilly ups and downs as usual but with changing moods and landscapes. Rammam to Srikhola is downward path through the trees. After walking one hour or more Srikhola village will be seen on the side of the river. Go straight down to the riverbed and you will reach Srikhola. Crossing the bridge towards Rimbik you will find Hotel Shovraj by the side of the road. This hotel is run by a couple along with a primary school. You can spend one or two days here. If you are lucky, you may get Trout fish preparation at dinner/lunch.
You can walk to Rimbik from Srikhola or can hire jeep through the owner of the hotel. The young man is very much helpful to tourists.
Rimbik is connected with Darjeeling share jeeps. It is your choice how you will go to Darjeeling, but sure you will have a memorable tour with you when you will be back to your usual routine life.