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Old 3rd November 2014, 01:24   #1
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Default Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_47271.jpg

The travel brochures or the tourism offices would probably say that Monsoon is not the best of times to visit the hills here. The weather remains gloomy and damp, not many flowers to look at, the sky isn't blue and chances of catching a glimpse of the mighty Kanchenjungha almost nil. To top it, the hills remain particularly vulnerable to landslides which could push your journey plans astray. But we, were not on a mission either.

Besides, all the usual breathtaking scenery apart, the experience of spending one monsoon weekend in the hills sounded quite logical, we anyway did not have any other plans for the Independence day weekend either. So we hit the road to soak in (pun intended) a wet mountain and try to capture that essense on a camera to the best of my limited abilities.

So this travelogue is neither about driving or claiming any authority on the subject of "Live to drive" (my existence probably doesn't depend on it!). So anyone with an expectation of an eventful or adventure filled drive might end up disappointed. So you have been warned upfront!

However one tricked out picture to take the story forward

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_44822.jpg

What those brochures or the advisories do not tell you is that, during monsoons, and only during monsoons, one gets to feast on an abundance of different greenery. Green is the most refreshing colour to the eye, and during this time, the diversity of one simple green colour is stagerring.

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_47222.jpg

The Waterbodies are overflowing and thus you have a waterfall at almost every turn. One of the most refreshing sound to the human ear, the sound of flowing water.

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_46111.jpg

Then, there is rain that soaks up the unpolluted mountain soil and brings to ones nostrils, one of the most pleasing fragrances nature can provide, the smell of wet earth.

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_44871.jpg

Once you are done, content with refreshing your the 3S senses ( Sight, Sound and Smell), the clouds come all the way down to meet you and say "Hi"

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_44981.jpg

Then you drive (or even walk) into a whiteness, where nothing else matters.

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_45541.jpg

Even watching the mastery these guys have on quickly making a way where nature has played a prank is a delight to watch.

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_44561.jpg

This trip was to capture this very essence of the hills during the monsoons, but mainly through pictures.
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Old 3rd November 2014, 14:39   #2
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Default re: Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal

As mentioned vaguely before, it was the weekend following the Independence day, which was on a Thursday, so our opportunity window was of 4 days. First and the last days were to be spent on road travelling to (and from) Siliguri. The two days in the middle of it, was the actual hill time bandwidth we had. So we had to choose a destination, on the hills where we would spend the second night of the trip (First and third being Siliguri, fourth being Howrah, my home).

Hence the destination for that one, all important, second night had to offer variety, tranquility and ofcourse scenery. But to be honest, rather than investing in an involving research, we simply dug into our archives of photographs of one of the places we had just made a "touch and go" with a promise to return sometime later and spend a night there. The place was Chhayataal, where we had once just gone earlier from another settlement called Kaluk.

The rationale behind choice of that destination was however based on the fact that it was situated among a lot of greenery, away from the main routes. It also offered a potential to catch a glimpse of the famous Mt K, if one is extremely lucky at this time of the year. If one wasn't lucky enough, this location would still be good on its own, with a lake and some trails nearby.

So Chhayataal was it.

We will directly skip to day 2, because Day 1 was spent travelling between Howrah and Siliguri and I had documented the route and driving conditions in the appropriate thread for it.

We were directly greeted with what to expect at this time of the year, as early as crossing the Sevoke River.

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_44501.jpg

Though the weather did partially clear up, as we neared the town of Teesta and stayed like that for a bit.

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_44552.jpg

However as we neared the town of Jorethang (Nayabazar) the giant Cumulonimbus tried to scare us.

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_44613.jpg

We also had a minor landslide related holdup.

A cup of tea at Jorethang and we head towards Soreng, the route to take for the villages on the Hee Belt (that offers a majestic view of the Mt K throughout) comprising of Kaluk, Richenpong, Hee.

However the first 6 kms on the route to Soreng to a place called "Zoom!" the road is narrow and steep (but is now well paved, when we had taken this a few years back this was all rocks).

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_44621.jpg

This road is out of bounds for heavy vehicles and is narrow, with limited number of places where two vehicles from opposite sides can pass each other (so one has to drive up judiciously and thoughtfully). On places like these, vehicles on a descent have priority (because its more difficult for them to back up).

A steep second gear climb for 6 kms later, we were at zoom and driving towards Soreng and eventually Hee Bazar.

Very soon, we were right in the middle of what we came for! Firstly the Fog greet us.

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_44741.jpg


Then, the rain drops went pitter-patter.

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_44931.jpg

The world in the distance looked green, lush green.

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_44951.jpg

Driving through the mountain foresty sounds, we were soon at Hee Bazar and looking to make a left turn through the bottom of this gate (Picture taken next day on the way back)

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_46481.jpg


We said goodbye to the paved road and were climbing up a dirt track with some intermittent slush (Did not engage 4x4 to enjoy some RWD fishtailing)

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_45001.jpg

Then we reached the compound of the Chhayataal Guest House.

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_45071.jpg

That's Marengo (my 2010 Scorpio mHawk 4x4) resting at the Chhayataal guest house compound, captured from the upper floor of the Guest house with the Chhayataal lake in the background

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_45341.jpg

The Chhayataal Lake engulfed in mist

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_45311.jpg

Just the lake

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_45321.jpg

The dense fog on the otherside

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_45211.jpg

A freshly prepared lunch later we hit the track to visit the Feng Dorzi waterfall nearby, a trail leads to it. Seen here, Marengo is parked at the entrance to this trail, marked by this cute and small gate.

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_46401.jpg

The trail leading to Feng Dorzi waterfall.

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_45701.jpg

It was actually raining quite a bit at this point, so could not capture too much essense of the trail, but it was quite a wet one. There was a risk though, of snakes.

The Feng Dorzi waterfall. The sound was mesmerising at the least.

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_45631.jpg

Waterfall upclose, sorry could not capture a better pic as it was raining.

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_45651.jpg

The same trail on the way back.

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_45741.jpg

Back through the Gate

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_45771.jpg


The evening and night was spent lazing around watching TV with company from various type of insects, each one of them curious about the different kind of human species that came visiting.

Last edited by 1100D : 3rd November 2014 at 16:08.
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Old 3rd November 2014, 20:43   #3
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Default re: Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal

The next morning we woke up, we were not "extremely lucky" enough to be able to sight the Kanchenjungha (Neither was it fair to expect), so we spent the morning taking a walk in the compound, there was a personal waterfall towards the back of it.

The Jetty for boating on the Chhayataal lake

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_45871.jpg

My Little Daughter Anoushka!

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_45951.jpg

The personal waterfall of the Chhayataal compound!!

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_46041.jpg

The Chhayataal guest house seen in the background from the waterfall side

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_46141.jpg

The wall provides an interesting contrast

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_46151.jpg

The Barrage that regulates flow of water from the Chhayataal

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_46171.jpg

A bungalow on the opposite side of Chhayataal

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_46231.jpg

Soon it was time to head to lower altitudes, we would, however, make a visit to the Hee water Garden near Hee Bazar. On the way to hee and like the previous day, waterfalls everywhere. This one probably the downstream of Feng Dorzi.

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_46431.jpg

Soon we were at Hee Water Garden

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_46791.jpg

The Hee water park near Hee Bazar is claimed to have housed the largest prayer wheel in the world by quite a few travel literature. However, all those claims looks a tad too ambitious. Because this is what Guiness has to say!

http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/...00-tons-41656/

But its quite one large wheel anyway

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_46571.jpg

Beside the Large wheel, the waters from the Hee charges down with Gusto

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_46801.jpg

A walk bridge over Hee Khola

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_46671.jpg

Well, all this does not seem to impress this guy anymore

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_46941.jpg

Running across this Truss is a ritual

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_46901.jpg

Marengo poses with the vertical flags that are signature of this region

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_46951.jpg

The long steep paved descent between Zoom and Jorethang

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_47361.jpg

Soon we were back to the plains, but not before having to negotiate this mess, which took a little bit of time clearing

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_47391.jpg

A photograph to end the Photologue.

Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_47321.jpg

All in all, it was a weekend well spent as an alternative to spending it out at home. The Momo's were fabulous and the warmth with which the sights greeted us, could only be offered by the hills in these parts. As I type this down, about 2.5 months from undertaking this trip, the heart wants to go visiting again.

Till then, Au Revoir!


Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal-img_46211.jpg

Last edited by 1100D : 3rd November 2014 at 21:49.
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Old 4th November 2014, 11:13   #4
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Default re: Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 4th November 2014, 12:46   #5
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Default Re: Photologue Hills of North Bengal/Sikkim in the Monsoon - Chhayataal

When i saw a travelogue from you i expected it to be a big one which will at-least take 2 hours to go through it! But was surprised to see a crisp one. Its crisp but at the same time the package contains the necessary details clubbed with some beautiful pictures. No wonder loved reading it. You do have the ability to make the reader feel the actual essence of the place.

Monsoons in the Himalaya's do have its own charm. I love hills in the monsoon too. The sound of the creeks, the sound of the drizzles on the car roof, and when you switch off the engine you can here many natural sounds in the middle of the silence, which feels like pure bliss and is of-course music to the ears. A true nature lover can always connect to these small yet significant things. Plus the lush green scenery all around give a different feel altogether.

One thing i want to say is, this might be one of the most rarest trip for you to the Himalays's where Marengo's 4WD was not used!

Plus i can see Anoushka with a camera. I hope some of the beautiful pics shared over here came from her camera too! Am waiting for the day, Anoushka going behind the wheels and engaging the 4WD! Hope that day is not far enough. Time just flies..!

Last edited by Samba : 4th November 2014 at 13:12. Reason: Corrected a typo, noticed just after 1100D quoted me.
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Old 4th November 2014, 13:05   #6
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Default Re: Photologue Hills of North Bengal/Sikkim in the Monsoon - Chhayataal

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samba View Post

Monsoons in the Himalaya's do have its own charm. I love hills in the monsoon too. The sound of the creeks, the sound of the drizzles on the car roof, and when you switch off the engine you can here many natural sounds in the middle of the silence, which feels like pure bliss and is of-course music to the ears. A true nature lover can always connect to these small yet significant things. Plus the lush green scenery all around give a different feel altogether.
Very well said!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Samba View Post
One thing i want to say is, this might me one of the most rarest trip for you to the Himalays's where Marengo's 4WD was not used!
Enroute to Siliguri though, just on the outskirts of Bhagalpur, the 4WD had to be engaged, to escape a Jam inside a non descript village, through which all traffic on Dumka-Bhagalpur stretch was diverted to, courtesy a broken culvert (just outside Bhagalpur). We had already been held up for about 45 mins prior to that and without making that crucial move, we would have been delayed by God knows what duration.

However, planning for a 4WD free trip soon.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Samba View Post
Plus i can see Anoushka with a camera. I hope some of the beautiful pics shared over here came from her camera too! Am waiting for the day, Anoushka going behind the wheels and engaging the 4WD! Hope that day is not far enough. Time just flies..!
Blame me. In a stupid goof-up in archiving photographs, I ended up deleting all of Anoushka's captures on this trip and I feel so sad about it.

Regarding Anoushka's future, I am not too rigid on her driving etc, will be happy if she gets to do whatever she takes a liking to.
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Old 4th November 2014, 15:21   #7
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Default Re: Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal

Of late I am finding that there aren't enough superlative words in my collection to describe the photos that I get to see in Team-BHP. Today is another such a day. I don't have words to describe some of the pictures in your travelogue. It seems they are simply Out of the World!

Cheers,
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Old 4th November 2014, 18:16   #8
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Default Re: Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal

Frankly, I haven't completed reading it.
I checked the prologue, here in my office and decided to close it now.
Reading this one deserves a cup of tea with the relaxation of home, specially as I am also planning Kaluk, Rinchenpong this winter. So, closing it for now.

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Old 7th November 2014, 19:10   #9
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Default Re: Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal

That is a cute little travelogue with amazing pictures! That's what I call a real "getaway", two ladies and a car in the beautiful hills That's the way I like it too.

The photograph of the JCB clearing the slide zone gave me goosebumps!!! Are those two tire marks through the debris created by Morengo's shoes?
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Old 7th November 2014, 22:16   #10
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Default Re: Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1100D View Post

Attachment 1304947

What those brochures or the advisories do not tell you is that, during monsoons, and only during monsoons, one gets to feast on an abundance of different greenery. Green is the most refreshing colour to the eye, and during this time, the diversity of one simple green colour is stagerring.
Very true. Monsoon brings out the best of nature. Only if one enjoys rain and I am one of them who do.

That pic of Scorpio near waterfalls is simply awesome!
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Old 9th November 2014, 07:31   #11
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Default Re: Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal

I wish I had had the courage to take my father's little 800 out on all the little places around and about Calcutta. Too late now! Looking at your 'photologue' makes me feel wistful. The lesson is not to let the grass grow under one's feet; now from Hyderabad, there are enough of these little drives to be tried, and the time to do it is right away!
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Old 18th November 2014, 12:24   #12
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Default Re: Photologue: Hills of North Bengal / Sikkim in the Monsoons - Chhayataal

Anirban da,

I am planning to visit West Sikkim this winter (on the Christmas break) with my family.

Though I am still confused about which route to take till Siliguri, but more importantly I do not have any idea (apart from gmaps) on the route from Siliguri. I followed this travelogue, but I am apprehensive of the risk involved in the steep turns at my first go.

I will be a 5 day tour
1st and 5th day - travel to and from Kolkata-Siliguri
2nd 3rd day - Stay in Sikkim
4th Day - travel and climb down to Siliguri.

I am thinking of Ravangla and Kaluk stay. So, would the route through Singtam and then to Ravangla be good? Staying options? Also, the best things to do there.
Any inputs would be very helpful for me.
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