Never ever in my life I would’ve imagined that I’d experience my first ever Nano ride in a bumpy and broken Himalayan road. This is the story about my trip to a small village named Dhotrey in the cold northern side of West Bengal.
Every year I try to escape from the city’s chaos to the silence of the mountains. I prefer to go to the lesser-known places to enjoy the solitude and peace. It gives me a calm and helps me to refill my energy. When one of my colleagues asked me to go on a small trip, I agreed and was excited about exploring a new place. We decided to go to Dhotrey.
Dhotrey is a small village situated at an altitude of around 8,500 ft. A lot of hikers and trekkers start their trekking to Sandakphu from here. A beautiful scenic trail of around 6 km which crosses three hills will take you to Tonglu. During winters, with a clear sky, Dhotrey offers you a mesmerizing view of the Kanchenjunga range. Its distance from Darjeeling is only 11 km.
It was pretty late in December when we started our journey in the evening from Kolkata in an AC Volvo bus. We reached Siliguri the next morning and decided to share local cabs till Dhotrey. Since there was no direct shared cab service available to Dhotrey, we traveled from Siliguri to Ghoom in a shared cab. The temperature outside was around 4-5 degree Celsius. After having some breakfast there, we waited long and finally found a cab which took us to Sukhiapokhri. From here we couldn’t find any shared cab going to Dhotrey. We finally decided to reserve one. To my surprise, it was a Nano. I never thought I would ride a Nano in the bumpy hilly broken road of Himalaya. It all remained fine until we came across a part of road that was being repaired and it was dug deep. The workers had to fill that part again with debris so that we could cross the road. It was pretty adventurous as on our right, we could see the deep descent of the slope.
We booked the Sherpa Lodge in advance. It gives you one of the best views Dhotrey can offer due its elevated location. We reached there by afternoon, tired and hungry. Lakpadiki Sherpa, the owner, welcomed us with her wide smile and showed us our room. It was a small room with two small beds. The walls and the floors were wooden. It was cold and cloudy outside. While we kept our luggage in the room, they made the table ready for our lunch. We gobbled the hot and smoky food and it felt so good. They saw us shivering and gave us a room heater. Trust me, we would have frozen to death otherwise. We were amazed and pleased with their hospitality and kindness.
We wanted to acclimatize ourselves so rested for some time. Afterwards, we went out to walk around. There was a road going towards south of the lodge. We took that path and started exploring the place. The pine trees were standing tall with mist and clouds coming through them. We walked for around 20 minutes and reached the local school. It was closed for the winter. There was a big playground with two goal posts on each side. We stopped and spent some time there. Later, we went to the other side of the home stay. We found a small temple and a view point which would offer you an almost 360 degree view. As the evening approached, the temperature dropped quickly. We decided to return to our room.
Next morning we woke up to see the sunrise but it was cloudy. Dikchen, the younger member of the Sherpa family brought tea for us. While enjoying the hot tea, I looked at the eastern side and a beautiful view caught me mesmerized. The sun was already up by then and the sunlight was coming through the thick clouds, illuminating the entire valley in front of us. It was a purely magical moment. The steps of the valley far away were looking like an artist’s pen work. We couldn’t catch a view of the Kanchenjunga today due to cloudy weather. So we decided to hike up to Tonglu which is located at around 10,070 ft. altitude. We had our breakfast and went out to find a guide. The way to Tonglu is the same as that of the school. On our way, we found frozen dew in the grasses making a beautiful crystal like art piece.
The hiking path was moderately steep in both ascent and decent. It always feels nice to walk through the forests in a mountain. The calmness and silence fascinate me. As we hiked uphill, the temperature fell along with the increase of strong and cold wind. After a hike of around 2 hrs we reached Tonglu. We were tired and hungry again by then. There were very few home stays in Tonglu. We got into one such home stay and ordered for food. They served us soupy wai wai and omelette. All the items are costly, although the price can be justified due to the scarcity and difficulty of the food supply up there. Suddenly, I noticed few white drops falling from the sky. I couldn’t believe at first that I am witnessing a snowfall. Our guide asked us to hurry as the weather could become worse and it would be difficult for us to hike into the snow. We finished our food and started to go down. As the snowfall was increasing, we were very happy to experience it. The path had become bit muddy and slippery due to the snowfall. We managed to get down to our home stay amidst the snowfall. Everyone in the valley was happy as the snowfall happened after ten long years. The snowfall continued for the rest of day giving us the only option of staying inside.
I woke up the next morning after hearing some faint noises outside. As I looked out of my window, I was spellbound. The entire Kanchenjunga range was visible and the snow-capped mountain was looking stunning in the light of dawn. I put on some warm clothes and went outside with my camera. The moment was unbelievable as with the rise of the sun, the colour of the white peaks were changing from white to orange and then gradually became red. Despite the temperature being around zero degree we all were enjoying the beauty of the nature. The entire valley was covered with snow and the first light of the sun was falling upon the Kanchenjunga. I felt like my trip was now complete after I witnessed this amazing phenomenon. As the sun rose up, we were all enjoying the snow. Few little kids were playing with them, people were happily posing in the snow. The entire valley was looking so beautiful and different from the day before. I took some photographs of the valley.
Our trip to Dhotrey was coming to end. We packed our bags and had our breakfast there. The Sherpa family was so lovely and caring, we didn’t feel any trouble. It was a beautiful trip with so many good memories to cherish.
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