Walk amidst Rhododendrons – a trek to Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary

#1 May 8th, 2011, 23:09
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  • WayFarer is offline
#1
For the uninitiated, Barsey (Varsey) is a Wildlife Sanctuary in West Sikkim. You have a myriad of flora and fauna available here . including the elusive Red Panda. The place is more famous for Rhododendrons and is aptly named the Valley of Flowers. The sanctuary is home to several species of Rhododendron, Primula, Magnolia, Oaks and Pine.

You can always combine this as a planned trip to West Sikkim or make it a short duration trip targeted only for Barsey , we choose the later and used a long holiday weekend in the week of 15th April to make the trip.

An uneventful overnight journey from Kolkata brought us to Siliguri the next morning. This time we took the Royal Cruiser Volvo Service to Siliguri as last minute planning meant that there were no reservations available on overnight trains from Kolkata. The service was excellent and we reached Siliguri by 7 AM. The Volvo bus services run by Royal Cruiser or Jai Dada are viable alternatives to the overnight trains.

Our stop for the day was Okhrey , which is about 140 Kms from Siliguri via Melli, Jorethang, Darmdin and Sombaria. Barsey is still categorized as an offbeat destination with less tourist traffic and securing transport can be tricky. An exclusive vehicle will cost you an arm because of this. The best option is to travel upto Jorethang and from there move to either Okhrey or Hilley for an overnight stay. From NJP station limited shared jeep services are available to Jorethang. If you take the Volvo service, the only option would be to take the Sikkim National Transport Bus to Jorethang that leaves by 7:45 AM. The bus leaves from the Tenzing Norgay bus terminus at Siliguri right next to the Volvo Terminus. We did not know about this then and had to settle for an exclusive vehicle to Jorethang. Jorethang is about 85 Kms from Siliguri and the journey takes around 3 hours. From Jorethang we took a shared vehicle to Okrey , the 60 odd kms took nearly 3 hours.

Okhrey at nearly 9000 Ft is quaint place to stay. We stayed at the Sherpa Lodge run by M. N. Sherpa. It was nice , clean and homely. On a clear day , Darjeeling can be clearly seen from Okhrey and Sherpa Lodge provides panoramic views. At night , the twinkling lights of Darjeeling provides a superb backdrop. You can visit the local monastery , which is a steep climb from Sherpa Lodge.

Next day morning , Mr Sherpa arranged for the 9 KM drop to Hilley. Instead of Okhrey you can also spend the night at Hilley , however the accommodation there is more spartan and basic as compared to Okhrey. A new Trekkers Hut is coming up night next to the Barsey Santuary entrance but it is yet to be operational. Once open it would be a great option for stay. You can partially view the Kanchenjunga range from Hilley.


Barsey is at a height of 10,000 Ft and being a Trekking zone , has to be reached on foot. The nearest and easiest entry point is from the hamlet of Hilley , where the motor able road ends. From the sanctuary gate at Hilley, it is a 5 km trek inside the reserve.

We paid and got our permits for the reserve from the sanctuary entrance gate and started the walk. The destination was Guras Kunj (10,000 Ft) , which is a trekkers hut 5 KM inside the reserve.

The trek is very easy and not steep at all , you gain about a 1000 Ft in 5 kms . It is really a fairly easy walk that can be done in 2 hours or less. The beauty was spellbinding and we thoroughly enjoyed our first experience of a trek through the colourful Rhododendron forests. The flowers dot the entire route and make it a fairytale walk.

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2011 seems to have been a lean season for these flowers. The locals informed that though the flowers bloom every year , there is a mega bloom every 3-4 years. The International Rhododendron Festival in 2010 was the last mega bloom. A harsh winter and nearly daily hailstorms in April meant that the yield in 2011 was low , though whatever was left was enough to be a treat for our senses. The official season for these flowers is April and May, but according to locals the best time to visit is the last week of March and 1st week of April. Flowers are plentiful when the preceding winter is not very harsh.

Guras Kunj (Trekkers Hut) is a lovely place and run by Bondhu Sherpa as an ecotourism venture. The ground floor has only 1 Family room (difficult to reserve) and the common eating area. The entire top floor is a huge dormitory that normally has 10 (individual mattresses on the bare wooden floor) beds but can easily accommodate 20. Besides 8 tents can be put up in the lawns to accommodate more people if the need arises. It is a log hut , which is nice, warm and cosy and the staff is very friendly. The absence of electricity adds to the charm, the only downside being the condition of the restrooms.
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We started the trek on a clear sunny morning , but by the time we reached, it was very cloudy with cloud banks sailing through the hut itself !!!. A hailstorm greeted us in the afternoon and we thoroughly enjoyed it from the verandah. The storm passed in the early evening and as the clouds parted – what a sight greeted us !!!! – the entire Kanchenjunga range right at out doorstep.
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The night was absolutely clear with a near full moon. The moon glinting off the snow capped peak is something we will cherish forever. No sign of any human habitation in any direction just made it more spectacular.
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The next morning was crystal clear and the sunrise was enthralling, the entire range form Kumbhakarna / Pandim to Siniolchu and beyond was laid bare before us with the Three Sisters as it’s center stage. The sunrise can be seen right from the lawns of Guras Kunj. You can also trek for another half hour atop a nearby hillock for a more grand view.

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Many tourists make a day trip to Guras Kunj , but if you are lucky and want to see the mighty Himalayas , plan for a night stay here.

Next morning we started the trek back to the Sanctuary gate. Reserve your vehicle before, since there is nothing available here. We had Mr. M N Sherpa prearrange a cab that took us down to Jorethang from Hilley. From there we made it back to NJP to catch the overnight Padatik Express to Sealdah ending a lovely extended weekend. A couple of days spent under pristine nature and shivering under our quilts was a welcome respite from sweltering Kolkata.
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Logistics


Room Bookings from Kolkata done through Endeavour Tours (www.endeavourtour.com)
Contact 033 2486 0583 / 98364 64632 /98303 06159

Found their services to be very good and rates are reasonable.

Okhrey

Sherpa Lodge ( M N Sherpa / Sangay Sherpa) 9474527836 / 9434137396 / 9734041194
Nice , good and clean place to stay – great people and good service.

The other alternative at Okhrey is Okhrey Village Resort run by Adhir Paul (9733065937 /9832005703). Did not check this out , hence no idea about it.

Barsey (inside the sanctuary)

Guras Kunj (For advance booking – 9593834627 , they also make arrangements for Singallila trek). Other contact numbers are 97341 42013 / 98004 15248. This is a trekkers hut with no electricity and very basic arrangements. They have only 1 family room with attached bath , rest are dormitory accommodation.

Do note that at Guras Kunj , mobile signal is nearly non existent , you will have to try these numbers , the connection goes through when the staff is back at Hilley

Mr Adhir Paul has put up an alternate accommodation to Guras Kunj by converting the Forest Guard barracks opposite to Guras Kunj into a home stay . We checked this out , in our opinion the accommodation at Guraj Kunj is much better and more spacious.

Sanctuary Entry charges

Rs 50 per head for adults and 25 per head for children on a per day basis
Still Camera charges Rs 20
Porter charges Rs 20 (in case you hire a porter for your luggage)
#2 May 9th, 2011, 17:04
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  • Ami_Subhas is offline
#2

Post Trekking options around Barsey

Nice post Wayfarer!
Allow me to share my experience too.

We reached Hiley on 29th of April 2011. We stayed at Hiley (Sherpa hotel) and reached Barsey (sometimes called as Barsay or Versay) in the morning on 30th. The route is really enjoyable. our plan was to have off-route trekking around Barsey. We also stayed at Guras kunj and was lucky to get the family room so toilet was much better than the common one. We stayed at guras kunj for two days and had three very different trekking from there.. All of them were in the deep forest with lots of plants and flowers.

Trek 1: Guras Kunj to Guras Tal and back: Although Barsey Guras kunj is said to be at 10000 ft. My GPS indicated it at around 9300 ft. Bandhu at Guras Kunj also confirmed the same. Guras Tal is 5 km walk from Guras kunj and at an altitude of 10500 ft. There is no Tal(lake) at the top but you will get a panoromic view of the entire area including Kanchanjangha range if weather is clear. It is essentially a pilgrimage site. Route is straight up inside the jungle with lots of Floras. Path is defined and treking level is easy to moderate. With leisurely walk it will take aroung 5hrs for a return trip from Barsey.

Trek 2: Barsey Guras kunj to Deoningali Dhap and back. Deolingali Dhap is on the trekking route to Singalila pick from Barsey. Distance is 7.5 Km one way from Guras Kunj. Once again this route is defined but deep inside the jungle. You can see different Rhododendron flowers, fern, oak and many varieties of medicin plants in the jungle. It is mostly flat trekking route but due to the nature of the route, you will need at least 6 hrs for a return trip.

Trek 3: Barsey to Dentum. Third day we started decending from Barsey to uttarey via dentum. Barsey to Dentum bazar is 14 km trek staright down. It will take around 5 hours. This is real fun trek. No defined route exist for the first 2.5 km. You cannot go a step ahead unless you have a guide as in that deep forest you can be easily lost. This route is very steep and and you have a nice little river crossing your road many times enroute. There are bastis (habitations) after 10 Kms down. Where you can try for a tea or so in their houses. People are very nice there.
From Dentum we took a cab to go to uttarey. Dentum to uttarey is 10 km. Barsey to Dentum trekking level is moderate.

From Dentum to uttarey you will cross the famous Shinshore bridge.

Remember, if you are planning to have any of these trek (specifically Deoningoli or Dentum) you definitely need a guide as the routes are not well defined in the most of the places.

You can get Guide and porters from Hiley or Okhrey. Here is the guide detail that we took for our trekking..
Mingma Sherpa - 09593988429.

If anyone need more details of these trekking routes, please send me note in PM.

-
Subhas
#3 May 9th, 2011, 18:59
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  • paulaurora is offline
#3
Thanks for the posting and photos. What is a rhododendron festival?? I adore rhododendrons and keep planting them everywhere in our Irish garden and so the prospect of a festival is too tempting. I might have to plan a 2014 trip around it? Always wanted to visit darjeeling area. One of the highlights of my last trip to Nagar was sitting on the veranda- looking at the view sipping rhododendron juice.
#4 May 9th, 2011, 22:56
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#4
Thanks Ami_Subhas for the excellent addition.

paulaurora : Here is a link to the festival
http://www.sikkimrhododendrons2010.com/
Sikkim Govt started it in 2010 as a means to further encourage tourism and the festival culminated in April 2011.

I am not sure whether this would be a one off affair , we will probably see this repeated in the years to come.
#5 May 9th, 2011, 23:38
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  • snonymous is offline
#5
Wonderful posts Wayfarer and Ami Subhas, I will bookmark this for a potential trip in the future. Sikkim in April sounds like floral paradise, never been there.

I was in Himachal in April. The rhododendrons were in full glorious bloom but mainly red [R. arboreum] with a few magenta flowered trees as well. I have never seen the white. We ate rhododendron chutney called Baraaan chutney in Himachal. On our last years trip we had excellent rhododendron wine but what we bought this year tasted like vinegar! Rhodo juice and jam were also available.
Travelpod / Flickr


-----------------------------------------------------
#6 May 10th, 2011, 01:18
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#6
Rhododendron chutney and jam!!! I missed out badly on that last trip. I thought I was doing splendidly with juice and wine. I will just have to head back to sample them.
Wayfarer- thanks so much for the link and the posting which has so inspired me. Festival or not Sikkim and the R. sanctuary are book marked for my next April trip.
#7 May 15th, 2011, 13:00
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  • mousourik is offline
#7
Snonymous,

We saw white rhododendrons at Kalamuni top near Munsyari. They say that the colour becomes lighter as you move higher up. We saw red, then pink and finally white rhodos on the way from Munsyari to Kalamuni. Guras is the Hindi word for rhododendron - so Guras Kunj essentially means a hut among rhodos.
#8 May 15th, 2011, 14:35
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  • snonymous is offline
#8
Quote:
Originally Posted by mousourik View Post Snonymous,

We saw white rhododendrons at Kalamuni top near Munsyari. They say that the colour becomes lighter as you move higher up. We saw red, then pink and finally white rhodos on the way from Munsyari to Kalamuni. Guras is the Hindi word for rhododendron - so Guras Kunj essentially means a hut among rhodos.
In Luhardi in Himachal which is about 2100m, the locals said that white rhodos are found in the forest but they are rare.

Last year I saw dwarf rhododendrons [R. campanulatum] which were a pale mauve, up at the Jallori Pass - 3100m.

Whatever the colour, they are certainly beautiful especially when in mass bloom in the forest.
#9 May 16th, 2011, 13:51
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  • Ami_Subhas is offline
#9
White Rhodos are simply marvelous. But what Verey forest has is more than the rhodos. The abundance of unlimited high altitude plants, each has their own charm to please you all the way. This is specifically marked this trip very interesting for us. Three years back we trekked to Djongri. There too the track was through the jungle and we enjoyed seeing varieties of Rhodos and large population of strawberries on our way. But as far as the richness of plants and density of jungle goes, I will have to keep the jungle around Versey at the top of the list. Below are some pics from our trip taken by my friend .















Last edited by Hyderabadi; May 16th, 2011 at 18:34.. Reason: Fixed image links.
#10 May 17th, 2011, 18:47
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#10
Superb.

This goes on my must visit list. I expect April is the best month?
#11 May 19th, 2011, 14:49
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#11
Yes April is generally good. Rhodos blossom every year during april may but in every 2-3 yrs, there will be a mega blossom. 2010 was a mega, so may be next year or 2013 will be another. Anyway if you wish get a taste of the jungles then any year is fine. To watch Kanchanjungha range, best time is around Nov, as weather will be very clear for most of the days during that time but no flowers.
#12 May 19th, 2011, 18:31
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  • snonymous is offline
#12
Thanks.

I will ask again nearer the time that the trip materialises.
#13 Jun 4th, 2011, 16:57
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  • arnabbthika is offline
#13

okhere tour

me and my husband to enjoy the trekking pls give us some sujesstion about budjet
from njp how we can move any share vehicle or hired car required?
how many days required?
for trekking any guied required ?
(earlier we enjoyed rishap trekking witout any guied)
there any hired car required for tour purpose
#14 Jun 4th, 2011, 17:17
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  • arnabbthika is offline
#14
Quote:
Originally Posted by WayFarer View Post For the uninitiated, Barsey (Varsey) is a Wildlife Sanctuary in West Sikkim. You have a myriad of flora and fauna available here . including the elusive Red Panda. The place is more famous for Rhododendrons and is aptly named the Valley of Flowers. The sanctuary is home to several species of Rhododendron, Primula, Magnolia, Oaks and Pine.

You can always combine this as a planned trip to West Sikkim or make it a short duration trip targeted only for Barsey , we choose the later and used a long holiday weekend in the week of 15th April to make the trip.

An uneventful overnight journey from Kolkata brought us to Siliguri the next morning. This time we took the Royal Cruiser Volvo Service to Siliguri as last minute planning meant that there were no reservations available on overnight trains from Kolkata. The service was excellent and we reached Siliguri by 7 AM. The Volvo bus services run by Royal Cruiser or Jai Dada are viable alternatives to the overnight trains.

Our stop for the day was Okhrey , which is about 140 Kms from Siliguri via Melli, Jorethang, Darmdin and Sombaria. Barsey is still categorized as an offbeat destination with less tourist traffic and securing transport can be tricky. An exclusive vehicle will cost you an arm because of this. The best option is to travel upto Jorethang and from there move to either Okhrey or Hilley for an overnight stay. From NJP station limited shared jeep services are available to Jorethang. If you take the Volvo service, the only option would be to take the Sikkim National Transport Bus to Jorethang that leaves by 7:45 AM. The bus leaves from the Tenzing Norgay bus terminus at Siliguri right next to the Volvo Terminus. We did not know about this then and had to settle for an exclusive vehicle to Jorethang. Jorethang is about 85 Kms from Siliguri and the journey takes around 3 hours. From Jorethang we took a shared vehicle to Okrey , the 60 odd kms took nearly 3 hours.

Okhrey at nearly 9000 Ft is quaint place to stay. We stayed at the Sherpa Lodge run by M. N. Sherpa. It was nice , clean and homely. On a clear day , Darjeeling can be clearly seen from Okhrey and Sherpa Lodge provides panoramic views. At night , the twinkling lights of Darjeeling provides a superb backdrop. You can visit the local monastery , which is a steep climb from Sherpa Lodge.

Next day morning , Mr Sherpa arranged for the 9 KM drop to Hilley. Instead of Okhrey you can also spend the night at Hilley , however the accommodation there is more spartan and basic as compared to Okhrey. A new Trekkers Hut is coming up night next to the Barsey Santuary entrance but it is yet to be operational. Once open it would be a great option for stay. You can partially view the Kanchenjunga range from Hilley.


Barsey is at a height of 10,000 Ft and being a Trekking zone , has to be reached on foot. The nearest and easiest entry point is from the hamlet of Hilley , where the motor able road ends. From the sanctuary gate at Hilley, it is a 5 km trek inside the reserve.

We paid and got our permits for the reserve from the sanctuary entrance gate and started the walk. The destination was Guras Kunj (10,000 Ft) , which is a trekkers hut 5 KM inside the reserve.

The trek is very easy and not steep at all , you gain about a 1000 Ft in 5 kms . It is really a fairly easy walk that can be done in 2 hours or less. The beauty was spellbinding and we thoroughly enjoyed our first experience of a trek through the colourful Rhododendron forests. The flowers dot the entire route and make it a fairytale walk.

Attachment 17731 Attachment 17733 Attachment 17734 Attachment 17735

2011 seems to have been a lean season for these flowers. The locals informed that though the flowers bloom every year , there is a mega bloom every 3-4 years. The International Rhododendron Festival in 2010 was the last mega bloom. A harsh winter and nearly daily hailstorms in April meant that the yield in 2011 was low , though whatever was left was enough to be a treat for our senses. The official season for these flowers is April and May, but according to locals the best time to visit is the last week of March and 1st week of April. Flowers are plentiful when the preceding winter is not very harsh.

Guras Kunj (Trekkers Hut) is a lovely place and run by Bondhu Sherpa as an ecotourism venture. The ground floor has only 1 Family room (difficult to reserve) and the common eating area. The entire top floor is a huge dormitory that normally has 10 (individual mattresses on the bare wooden floor) beds but can easily accommodate 20. Besides 8 tents can be put up in the lawns to accommodate more people if the need arises. It is a log hut , which is nice, warm and cosy and the staff is very friendly. The absence of electricity adds to the charm, the only downside being the condition of the restrooms.
Attachment 17736


We started the trek on a clear sunny morning , but by the time we reached, it was very cloudy with cloud banks sailing through the hut itself !!!. A hailstorm greeted us in the afternoon and we thoroughly enjoyed it from the verandah. The storm passed in the early evening and as the clouds parted – what a sight greeted us !!!! – the entire Kanchenjunga range right at out doorstep.
Attachment 17737

The night was absolutely clear with a near full moon. The moon glinting off the snow capped peak is something we will cherish forever. No sign of any human habitation in any direction just made it more spectacular.
Attachment 17738

The next morning was crystal clear and the sunrise was enthralling, the entire range form Kumbhakarna / Pandim to Siniolchu and beyond was laid bare before us with the Three Sisters as it’s center stage. The sunrise can be seen right from the lawns of Guras Kunj. You can also trek for another half hour atop a nearby hillock for a more grand view.

Attachment 17739 Attachment 17740

Many tourists make a day trip to Guras Kunj , but if you are lucky and want to see the mighty Himalayas , plan for a night stay here.

Next morning we started the trek back to the Sanctuary gate. Reserve your vehicle before, since there is nothing available here. We had Mr. M N Sherpa prearrange a cab that took us down to Jorethang from Hilley. From there we made it back to NJP to catch the overnight Padatik Express to Sealdah ending a lovely extended weekend. A couple of days spent under pristine nature and shivering under our quilts was a welcome respite from sweltering Kolkata.
Attachment 17741


Logistics


Room Bookings from Kolkata done through Endeavour Tours (www.endeavourtour.com)
Contact 033 2486 0583 / 98364 64632 /98303 06159

Found their services to be very good and rates are reasonable.

Okhrey

Sherpa Lodge ( M N Sherpa / Sangay Sherpa) 9474527836 / 9434137396 / 9734041194
Nice , good and clean place to stay – great people and good service.

The other alternative at Okhrey is Okhrey Village Resort run by Adhir Paul (9733065937 /9832005703). Did not check this out , hence no idea about it.

Barsey (inside the sanctuary)

Guras Kunj (For advance booking – 9593834627 , they also make arrangements for Singallila trek). Other contact numbers are 97341 42013 / 98004 15248. This is a trekkers hut with no electricity and very basic arrangements. They have only 1 family room with attached bath , rest are dormitory accommodation.

Do note that at Guras Kunj , mobile signal is nearly non existent , you will have to try these numbers , the connection goes through when the staff is back at Hilley

Mr Adhir Paul has put up an alternate accommodation to Guras Kunj by converting the Forest Guard barracks opposite to Guras Kunj into a home stay . We checked this out , in our opinion the accommodation at Guraj Kunj is much better and more spacious.

Sanctuary Entry charges

Rs 50 per head for adults and 25 per head for children on a per day basis
Still Camera charges Rs 20
Porter charges Rs 20 (in case you hire a porter for your luggage)
june is good time whats about budgets pleaase give in details
#15 Jun 4th, 2011, 17:22
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  • arnabbthika is offline
#15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ami_Subhas View Post Nice post Wayfarer!
Allow me to share my experience too.

We reached Hiley on 29th of April 2011. We stayed at Hiley (Sherpa hotel) and reached Barsey (sometimes called as Barsay or Versay) in the morning on 30th. The route is really enjoyable. our plan was to have off-route trekking around Barsey. We also stayed at Guras kunj and was lucky to get the family room so toilet was much better than the common one. We stayed at guras kunj for two days and had three very different trekking from there.. All of them were in the deep forest with lots of plants and flowers.

Trek 1: Guras Kunj to Guras Tal and back: Although Barsey Guras kunj is said to be at 10000 ft. My GPS indicated it at around 9300 ft. Bandhu at Guras Kunj also confirmed the same. Guras Tal is 5 km walk from Guras kunj and at an altitude of 10500 ft. There is no Tal(lake) at the top but you will get a panoromic view of the entire area including Kanchanjangha range if weather is clear. It is essentially a pilgrimage site. Route is straight up inside the jungle with lots of Floras. Path is defined and treking level is easy to moderate. With leisurely walk it will take aroung 5hrs for a return trip from Barsey.

Trek 2: Barsey Guras kunj to Deoningali Dhap and back. Deolingali Dhap is on the trekking route to Singalila pick from Barsey. Distance is 7.5 Km one way from Guras Kunj. Once again this route is defined but deep inside the jungle. You can see different Rhododendron flowers, fern, oak and many varieties of medicin plants in the jungle. It is mostly flat trekking route but due to the nature of the route, you will need at least 6 hrs for a return trip.

Trek 3: Barsey to Dentum. Third day we started decending from Barsey to uttarey via dentum. Barsey to Dentum bazar is 14 km trek staright down. It will take around 5 hours. This is real fun trek. No defined route exist for the first 2.5 km. You cannot go a step ahead unless you have a guide as in that deep forest you can be easily lost. This route is very steep and and you have a nice little river crossing your road many times enroute. There are bastis (habitations) after 10 Kms down. Where you can try for a tea or so in their houses. People are very nice there.
From Dentum we took a cab to go to uttarey. Dentum to uttarey is 10 km. Barsey to Dentum trekking level is moderate.

From Dentum to uttarey you will cross the famous Shinshore bridge.

Remember, if you are planning to have any of these trek (specifically Deoningoli or Dentum) you definitely need a guide as the routes are not well defined in the most of the places.

You can get Guide and porters from Hiley or Okhrey. Here is the guide detail that we took for our trekking..
Mingma Sherpa - 09593988429.

If anyone need more details of these trekking routes, please send me note in PM.

-
Subhas
please give details about budget .. hotels or cab fare or guied fare
or help me to make a iternity
11th june morning will reach at njp 18th or 19 th june will reach at njp
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