Menam La Trek – Weekend Winter Trip to Sikkim

Menam La is a small settlement in Sikkim and has a fabulous one day trek route, called Menam La Trek, which exposes a magnificent view of Mt. Kanchenjunga.

Sikkim – Menam La Trek

11th February —–

On 11th February, 2007 we two friends Me and Deep started journey from Kolkata for the Menam La trek. It was like a weekend trek for 4 days.

Kolkata to Shilliguri:
We depart from Kolkata at 6 PM by NBSTC Rocket Bus Service’s bus. I took the window side seat and repented on it later. The whole night rained, water drops came into through the damaged window glass though it was closed, Deep snatched my muffler like a terrorist, we both spent the night in half sleep and half consciousness. In the morning witnessed some tea-garden beauties and reached Shilliguri Tenzing Norge Bus Terminus at 9 AM.

12th February —–

Freshen-up, had some foods quickly and Deep went to book a Shuttle Car. Our primary target was to get a car upto Namchi or Singtam (two popular junctions of Sikkim). Deep managed to book two seats on a SUMO upto Singtam @Rs.90/- each after some bargaining.

Shilliguri to Singtam:
SUMO started around 9:45 AM after all the seats are filled. That was a drizzling day and the sky was boring. But as for ever the scenic beauty was more or less remained the same. We saw some monkeys scattering around on the road in some places, a Maruti Omni car standing aside after having a minor accident, BRO working on a bridge making project etc. We halted at a place for lunch, but we two didn’t took lunch coz. we were feeling nausea by the exhaustion of the whole night bus journey without sleep. We descended from the car, de-weighted ourself and walk around loitering and seeing mountain road dogs. It was still raining and we were worried about the road conditions. Soon we started again, two ladies descended on the Rangpo border as they will go to Rumtek. We reached Singtam at around 1 PM, crossed the bridge over Rangpo river and entered into the bazaar for booking a car to Ravang La. We got one Commander car @Rs.50/- each seat.

Singtam to Ravang La:
All the passengers including us boarded on the car and it started soon. Now the rain was stopped. We were heading through a steep circular road and the road side beauty was amazing. Most of the trees were pine and bamboo. We noticed a strange feature of the bamboo trees, they are very slim but extra ordinary tall. Even some bamboo trees headed up on the road’s upper circular while they are originated from the lower circular – strange. Watching and wondering on the scenic beauty we reached Ravang La at around 2:45 PM. A very small village surrounded by hills was covered with dense fog…..

From the car park we went to Hotel Menam La, the most popular one, booked a double bed room @Rs.250/- per day. The room was excellent, fully wooden floors, Cable TV, attached bathroom with Geezer. At the season time the room costs Rs.850/- per day, we were lucky, no?

This was our hotel – Hotel Menam La, and the second floor’s right most room was ours…..

Ravang La afternoon walk:
After having some rest, we went to a house-cum-restaurant, had some rice-daal-papad-gobi curry-potato chips etc. After having lunch (at 3:30 PM, consider it as a lunch) we went on a acclimatization walk. The village was small, we saw the local houses having food shops, a small car parking place packed with jeeps, a POLICE station reachable through high stairs, a big board with map and road directions etc. We walked towards the Menam Sanctuary, which was a steep climb through stairs upto a Buddhist Monastery. Some children were playing football on the monastery ground and another Martial Art practicing ground was under construction. After crossing the monastery we were on the road, which goes to the sanctuary. We shouted near the sanctuary gate, asked in the local houses for guide and fortunately found a guide named – Tashi, a local boy nearly of our age, and settled with him to guide us tomorrow charging Rs.300/-. We walked for more until it became little dark, watched the sanctuary from outer side.

Back to Hotel:
On the way back we bought some necessary goods, some dry foods, one pint of Royal Challenge & one nip of Signature. Returning back to room and after having some drinks (cold won, whiskey effect vanished) we went for dinner at around 8:30 PM. All stalls were closed and the whole village was still covered with dense fog, visibility 7-10 foot. We found a restaurant and ordered veg Momo and Thukpa, though I was interested having some chickens, but only beef and pork was available. I still was showing my concern but Deep opposed strongly and forced me to stick on veg. I am still finding a chance to take revenge on that matter. We completed our dinner and went back to room, took more drinks and I fell asleep. Deep was still watching King Khan in KBC on cable TV’s granular screen.

13th February —–

My eyes just opened automatically and I looked on my mobile, it was 4:40 AM. I placed my feet on the wooden floor and it was dam cold, sheering in the cold I went near the window and opened it. It was amazing, everything was visible from near to far, the fog was vanished. I closed the windows, unlocked the door and ran to the hotel’s back side balcony. Below was the first view I witnessed….

Mt. Kanchenjunga and family was in front of me. I rushed to Deep and woke him up. We both witnessed the beauty, felt the sheering cold and took some snapshot.

This is Deep (one of the strange creatures sustaining in earth)…..

This is me…..

And that was our destination for the day, the Menam Hill. The top part was covered with fresh snow…..

After satisfying ourself with the beauties we locked the room and went to take morning tea to a nearby restaurant. We met a Bangali from Kolkata who came here and settled running a tailor shop. He said that we are lucky to get the clear day, normally foggy weather remains for that season and three-four days before we came there was raining heavily. After having hot tea we went back to room, freshen-up and prepared to start trek. We took only one rucksack with very necessary things & foods and went out.

Started the trek:
Again we went the same restaurant and completed our breakfast with Momo & hot Thukpa soup. On the way to Menam Sanctuary we bought cashew, kismis, chocolates & biscuits. Tashi was waiting for us on the road, he rushed to his home and took a bamboo pole and a Cookri (knife like weapon with a very large, sharp and weighty blade). We registered our name and address on sanctuary check-post, paid Rs.90/- for two people, two camera and one guide. We started our trek on the actual trail…..

The forest was very dense and strangely calm & quiet, rare sound of birds & insects, no man anywhere. We are the only registered persons who entered the sanctuary that day. After walking 10-15 minutes, Tashi offered us a shortcut route…..

We took that way. It was muddy, covered with tree leafs and furn…..

After walking about 45 minutes we found a shade made with brick, cement, wooden pole and covered with galvanized sheet. We took rest for 10-15 minutes, had some chocolates and cold drinks. Tashi told us that the sanctuary is a natural habitat of Chittu (leopard) & Bhalu (Mountain Bear). So we didn’t waste time and started again.

We realized that the forest is really very dense and dark. Sun rays rarely reaches upto the forest mesh. All the trees were covered with thick layer of green moss. After walking some time the fresh snow was visible on the forest floor and it was still melting…..

You can see the moss on the branches. Another bad happened, the fogs started to come again from nowhere. We forgot about having the scenic beauty from Menam La top…..

As we proceed further the fog & the snow beneath gradually started to increase…..

And it never stopped its growth…..

Here you can see Deep was stepping out of the path. Actually we both had severe headache due to certain height gain and it started to grab our mind…..

Suddenly Tashi shouted “Yeh dekho Chittu ke pyaer ki nishan” (look here, the footprints of a Leopard). We looked to each other and before we could express ourself Tashi shouted once again “Bhalu ke pyaer ka bhi hai” (footprints of a Mountain Bear also)…..

Nothing left to express anymore. We just started to look around to not find any of those beasts. Tashi said these creatures normally don’t attack human beings if they feel safe and loves to keep distance from the trespassers. They saw us coming and descended away from us. But we read in a book, named “Bhraman – Trekking”, a few years back one forest guard had been found dead in his cottage. A mountain bear killed him. The cottage was 10-15 minutes way ahead where we were standing. So, in spite of Tashi’s speech, we couldn’t give-up worrying.

Soon we found another shed and a watch tower without any ladder…..

Now the situation was like that – the snow & the fog completely grabbed the hill top, we both had severe headache, both of our sneakers got wet, we were skiting & slipping of every step, some local beasts marked us well and another addition to it – Tashi was refusing to go further as he was expecting more snow ahead. That is Tashi…..

But we were the kind of not negotiating with those things (total bad idea though, every trekker should have considered those matters first in spite of reaching the top, now we realize these things well).

We took rest for a while and decided to proceed further till 12 O clock and if don’t reach within that time we would revert back. We provided enthu to each other; had some drinks and foods; opened the shoes, put on plastics over the shocks and put on the shoes again, covered our hands with gloves; and we were ready to go.

As we marched, realized the depth of the snow. Our feet with shoes were embossing on the fresh snow. Tashi seemed to be a bit disappointed and was walking at a higher pace…..

We were also trying to follow him upto our capacity…..

After another 1 hour walk, when we were thinking of giving-it-up, suddenly saw a wooden roof top. Actually there was a abandoned monastery at the top point of the Menam hill. We just got excited and reached there in no time. It was made of rocks and wooden beams. Some galvanized sheets were scattering near and in the monastery. Some burnt woods were still there which supposed to be used to make fire. There was a statue of a Meditating Buddha inside the monastery. We put some coins and prayed to the holy monk…..

Now, when our blood circulation became regular, we realized the sheering cold. It must be -2 or -3 degree centigrade. Tahsi was not clothed well accordingly and he was severely sheering.

Me and Deep at Menam top…..

Ahead is the Menam La – the ‘pass’, no such mountain wall on either side of the pass…..

Trees were also frozen…..

The path to Valleydunga, another 1 hour hike from Menam top passing through Menam La. Valleydunga is the topmost point and the dead end of the ridge…..

We didn’t dare to follow that path. Rather we took some glucose biscuits and chocolates to keep our body worm, drunk some water and started to descend saying goodbye to Menam La.

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