Exploring Sikkim : Day trek to Chowri Kharka

Destination:  Khedi Pokhari;

Trekkers: Four- all ladies, (yeah… go girl power)

Information available about the destination: haphazard, unreliable and unhelpful.

Supposed time taken to reach the said destination: varied from 6 to 8 hr to 3 whole days!!!!

Route: vague idea and generally relying on the information from the locals.

Thus armed with the above information about our destination which was Khedi Pokhari, we planned to start our trek @6 am.

The night before was spent at Muma’s Homestay in Chota Singtam, “Muma” meaning Mother in Nepali….it is a beautiful place owned and run by a very lively couple who feed you scrumptious  meal and entertain you with their talks of Sikkimese history and any topic that fancies you. After our delicious Italian dinner cooked with simple homegrown organic vegetables we bundled up for the night, all-eager for tomorrow. The dawn arrived bright and clear and we were all ready to begin our trek. The taxi that was to take us to our starting point was supposed to arrive by 6 a.m. but alas like everything in India the taxi too ran on Indian Standard Time i.e. according to the fancy of the taxi’s proprietor or driver as the case may be. Finally it arrived at 6:45 am and we were on our way. We reached the starting point of our trek  at 7:15 a.m. and started walking with spring or as the case may be autumn in our step.

stream on the way

stream on the way

At first we were all eager and enthusiastic ,talking and laughing and admiring the view and taking pictures of anything interesting from pristine clean waterfalls to blooming flowers to mountains beyond. It was all truly breathtaking. The gradient as expected  was steep to begin with but slowly it got steeper to the point that it was 80° at some places. Let me inform you on the side that this trek is not for the ones who expect a gradual rise in gradient and gentle walk. This very hard trek leaves you gasping for breath while both going up and coming down.

bamboo bridge across a stream

bamboo bridge across a stream

Since we did not have a clear idea of the route due to the wonderful information provided by Sikkim Tourism and the local Forest Department, we turned to our best sources i.e. the locals we met along the way (who were few and far between). Some told us it’d take 3hrs to reach Khedi, while others said a day and so on, but nevertheless we got the directions right. So we climbed, slipping, falling, and being stung by stinging nettle on the way. Large cardamom shrubs grown and pruned by the locals cover half the way. We met few ladies going to their respective cardamom field to prune it before winter came and asked them how far Khedi Pokhari was. They told us that with the pace we were walking (which according to us was very fast, thank you very much) we’d reach there only by tomorrow but by 12 noon we would manage to reach another spectacular place called Chowri Kharka, the former of which means a yak and the latter as far as I know a cast in Nepali, though I fail to see the underlying connection of the latter’s name. Anyhow, after the talk and a bite or two of sandwich and apples besides an abandoned shed, we set off again. The climb getting steeper as we trekked , and let me tell you from personal experiences, that though resting is essential in a trek, it’s definitely hard finding you steady momentum after that rest. So there we were four of us with no clear idea of our destination, slipping and falling and laughing and attending to natures call but, determined nonetheless, to reach our destination.

Great view along the way

Great view along the way

As we climbed, suddenly there is a break in the foliage and trees and before us  is a small but beautiful pasture with big cows tied at the front of small herders cottage. The view on the opposite side was awe-inspiring , we could see the whole of the Kanchenjunga range and other surrounding mountains until back of beyond. We asked the cow-herder for general direction and how long it would take us to reach Khedi. He told us that with our pace it’d take 3 hrs more but that we would not be able to get back down today itself because the days are shorter and by 5:00 p.m. its pitch dark. By then we had also accepted that we would not be able to reach Khedi and return on the same day , it had to be a two days trip or  we had to setoff really early next time. So we asked him how far was Chowri Khargda and he told us bout an hour. Gritting our teeth we set off again.

Trek through dense forest

Trek through dense forest

The climb though on this part was less steep as compared to earlier part of our journey so it was not as hard as it had been earlier. But before the hour was up there was gradual thinning of the fauna and foliage and we reached the most enchanting place we had ever seen (here I take the liberty of encompassing my fellow trekkers because the feeling was entirely mutual). It was a relatively big pasture with 3 cottages belonging to cow herders that live here during summers. And the view on the opposite side was spectacular. With Himalaya range  unbroken and going on forever as far as the eyes can see and on the forefront the Kanchenjunga in all its snow capped glory. We asked one of the residents what this place was called and when he told us we had reached Chowri Kharka you have no idea how ecstatic we were. We couldn’t care less if we didn’t reach Khedi this time, this place was so enchanting and magical that we were happy to make it our destination this time and promised ourselves Khedi for the next.

Chowri Kharga

Chowri Kharga

We decided to have lunch and rest for a while then start our trek downhill. It had taken us 3 hrs of steady uphill climb to reach here. After some lunch and rest and lots of picture taking we started out descent. While we were coming down the whole magical experience was completed by the arrival of 4 mountain horses from the forest to the pasture. You cannot guess the sense of fulfillment we all got.  So with that air of contentment we started our descent.

Saw some horses grazing

Saw some horses grazing

Let me divert a bit and tell u something … during Diwali festival the Nepali community had the custom of going to other houses and singing the local folklore.  On the night of Diwali it’s the girls who do the singing  and for the next 2 days  the men or boys do it. There is a line in this lore which goes like this “ eh rato mato! Eh chiplo baato! eh laardai paardi aayeka deusi!” which means “oh the red earth and its slippery way, oh falling and pitching we’re on our way”… man this was the line that was going round and round like a song worm in my head throughout our downhill trek. After slipping and falling for numerous time we were praying for some uphill relief!! Coming down such a steep incline, please mind my language, a B**** on your muscles and toes and feet, it cramps more when you’re coming downhill than going uphill. But finally after two and half hours of  steady downhill we finally reached the starting point. And since we had no taxi waiting we walked again but it was not bad as it was on a leveled road. After walking for a while we hitched a ride on a truck, happily scrambled at the back of it atop the boulders it was carrying. It dropped us half way from where we walked for a while and finally a taxi stopped and conveyed us to Muma’s where we had hot tea that refreshed us and after that it was back to home same day (as we stay pretty close by) for a nice long hot bath and a very good nights sleep undisturbed by any dreams

The descent

The descent

This trek can be planned as a day trek. Make sure you have very sturdy hiking boots or shoes with a good grip as the path can be slippery.

You can stay the night at Muma’s homstay at Chota Singtam 15 km away from Gangtok (if you want the contact detail just leave a comment). They will arrange for a picnic lunch as well as a taxi to take you to the start point of the trek. 

Since the trek is through some very steep terrain, you need to be physically fit. 

Don’t forget to carry basic first aid kit. You never know when you may need it. 

If you plan to go all the way to Khedi its better to contact a travel agent.

 

Dibesha

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This entry was posted in Gangtok, Hiking, Himalayas, India, Memoirs, North East, Nostalgia, Sikkim, Travel, Trekking and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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