Sandakphu-Phalut Trek - Day 01

CONTINUED FROM: Siliguri To Sepi

Sandakphu-Phalut Trek

Highest Altitude: 3636 m (11930 ft)

Location: Singalila National Park

State/Country: West Bengal, India and Koshi Province, Nepal

Base Village: Sepi, India 

Total Distance: 65km

Number of Days: 6 Days

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Date: 16-Oct-2023

Day01: Sepi (1899m/6230ft) to Samanden (2300m / 7545ft) 

Distance/Time: 12km / 6.5H

The Golden Plate

I woke up at around 5am and stepped out to the balcony and witnessed a beautiful view of the sunrise. I then took a walk around the homestay. Hot tea was served at 6am. The boys woke up around that time. They had slept late last night. 

They told me that the man in the next room was inebriated. He would come and speak random things to them. It was he who had made that loud noise last night. While I was standing outside, he walked out of his room and said – “Sorry about last night.” He seemed embarrassed. I told him that it wasn’t me whom he spoke to last night. It is funny what alcohol or any other kind of intoxicating substance does to you. It makes you behave weirdly, to the point that you are extremely embarrassed about it later. 

There was hot water available. We took a shower and got ready. For another 5 days, we would not be taking a bath. Hot Pooris with sabji and some poha were served for breakfast. 

The homestay also rents some trekking gears. We left Sepi at around 9:30AM. The first stretch was uninteresting as it was on a paved road. But the  trail passed by waterfalls and crossed a few streams and rivers, thus making it an interesting walk.  

On our way, the paved roads were damaged due to landslide, proving that man and his technologies are no match to the power of nature. 

On the trail, I saw a man carrying a blue sack. I could quickly tell that he was another hard-working man from Saharanpur. These men carry sacks filled with clothes to be sold in remote mountain villages. I had met five of them on my Har ki dun trek

In almost all villages I went to on this trek, they were growing a lot of Chayote/chow-chow/Seeme badhane. The creepers were full of vegetables. Apart from that, corn and squash were being grown in abundance. 

The sun was up and made this walk a bit more tiring than usual. Sayali, found it difficult to carry the bag, therefore the Trek-lead had to make arrangements for another helper to carry the bag. 

We reached Rammam village at around lunchtime. This happens to be the village of our local guide, Tikaram. He lives here with his mother and an elder brother. His sisters are married and his father died a few years back.

The house where we had our lunch was constructed on a flat land along the slope of a hill. Outside the house, there was a dining table. By the table, magenta coloured Dahlia flowers were in full bloom. Beyond the flowers, we had an excellent view of the mountains that were now partially covered in clouds. 

The food was excellent. I particularly liked the sautéed farm-fresh chayote slices, seasoned with some mustard seeds. I think we all indulged a bit here and that is what made the post-lunch trek even more difficult.

The climb from Rammam to Samanden is steep and passes through a dense forest full of pine trees. After that arduous final climb, we reached Samanden – One of the most beautiful villages I have been to. 

Nestled in the mountains, on a plateau, Samanden is a small village with one primary school, a football ground, around 20 houses and several corn fields. Samanden means, "a golden plate". The plateau when seen from the surrounding mountains, appear like a golden plate due to the corn fields that covers most of the plateau. 

As we entered the village, I saw a few kids playing football in the only ground at the centre of the village. 

We stayed at “The lost valley homestay”. It is situated at an elevation, overlooking the football ground below and the mountains above.  

The homestay is run by a family. The couple has a little mute girl. She was excited to see us arrive and greeted us with a broad smile and some gestures. 

We were assigned three rooms. Abhishek and I shared a room. The room had two single beds against each wall. In the middle, there was a window without any railings. The window opened directly to the corn fields. 

The boys teamed up with the village kids to play football. Along with us, the only other group that was doing this trek on the same day was a group from Indiahikes. It was a big group of around 20 trekkers. 

Here, I met Rajesh who was trekking with Indiahikes. He is from Bangalore. Rajesh is about my age, perhaps two or three years younger. He and his wife have completed 5 treks before this. Rajesh was impressed by the fact that I speak French and Ninad speaks German. He introduced Ninad to a German boy in their group who is on a student exchange program. There was also another student from Czech Republic. Rajesh was clearly an extrovert. He made sure to speak to each one of us present there. 

The sunset early and it was dark by 6pm. We gathered at the dining area and played cards. We taught Bijoy and Tikaram how to play UNO. Bijoy was totally impressed by the game. 

For dinner we were served hot jalebis. After a quick meal, I went straight to bed.

I remember waking up in the middle of the night and looking out of the window. Above the corn fields, the sky was clear. I saw several sparkling stars and also the planet Venus. 

To be Continued...