Returned from Barsey - Pelling, March 2017

#1 Jun 8th, 2017, 19:23
Join Date:
Feb 2013
  • kaustav39 is offline
Regards to everyone here,

Ever since I started following travel blogs and magazines and gradually felt that my heart beats for tours and trips, I had something special for Barsey Rhododendron Santuary. Every time I used to see a photograph of people standing in front of the Barsey gate, I visualized myself to be standing there one day. I often mentioned this to my close friends and colleagues. So after touching one of my sweet dreams, decided to pen down without any fear about the writing quality.

In December 2016, suddenly out of nowhere I spotted on our official leave calendar that the off day for Holi is on 13th March 2017 which is Monday. Within a moment I decided two things - (i) I can manage 1 day leave on 10th March (Friday) and I would go for a trip. (ii) It is not going to be a leisure or relaxation type trip, it will be a trekking. Short and small but must be a trekking trip. There was no second thought or option.

I normally try to go on a trip with my few selected close friends. But this time I knew it would be hard to get them in this trip due to some reasons. Checked with them and they responded negative. Now as per our Company DNA, it was very hard to get leaves. Somehow I requested for 2 days leaves, hoping that it would be negotiated to 1 day. But to my surprise, I got leaves on 9th and 10th March (Thursday and Friday)!! So the trip stood as - Train on 8th March after office and coming back to Kolkata on 14th March morning and join office. Four nights staying in a trip was more than expected for me and at once I booked the train ticket for me and my wife on 7th December 2016; long before the trip.
Now initially I selected either Sandakphu or Ribdi-Gorkhey-Phalut-Gorkhey-Ribdi trip. But then one of my dearest friends Debraj, who was staying in Delhi and was scheduled to leave India soon for Job purpose, turned up and expressed to join the trip with his wife. Probably his last trip with us before leaving India. I had no reason to object and we also included another close friend Rana and his wife. So the 6 member team was made of 3 school friends (myself, Debraj and Rana) and our wives. While writing this travelogue I thought of addressing them as better half, but they never appeared any better during the trip hence wives is justified

It was just long wait for the actual days and life continued in usual way. But during this time, Debraj started injecting an idea which I honestly did not like. He suggested that we were going with family and hence 4-5 days of trekking and hardships would not be a great idea. They should be offered some luxury and relaxation as well. I knew his solo song would soon turn into a chorus and exactly that happened. Thinking that they are among my best buddies and the trip with Debraj was the last as of now, I accepted his suggestions. But since I have little ability to pretend on anything, I guess a few times they could smell my discomfort even during the trip. Apologise to them for that. So now the final itinerary was as follows -

8th March - Train to NJP
9th March - Reach NJP and proceed to Hilley N/S
10th March - Hilley to Barsey N/S
11th March - Barsey to Dentam trekking and then proceed to Pelling N/S
12th March - Pelling sightseeing N/S
13th March - Pelling to NJP and catch the train
14th March - Reach Sealdah and join office.

8th March 2017:
All six members are well known to each other and this is a big relief in any trip. We gathered in time to catch the Kanchankanya Express. All had confirmed birth but not together (the tickets were booked in two different lots). Boarded the train and quickly got settled. I have seen many people in trains who act so insensibly and burden themselves with many things that are actually nothing. Like finding and confirming the births, placing luggages, visiting fellow passengers births thousand times and get hostile for no reason. I can loudly say we never fall in this category. So the night was not eventful in the train.
#2 Jun 9th, 2017, 15:19
Join Date:
Feb 2013
  • kaustav39 is offline
9th March 2017:
We reached NJP just 40 minutes late which was OK for us. We rushed to Siliguri bus stand to catch share car to Jorethang. From NJP to Siliguri bus stand It takes Rs. 20/- per head for a shared auto ride. Our plan was to reach Jorethang by shared car and then our host was supposed to pick up from Jorethang to the home stay at Hilley. On reaching Siliguri bus stand I found the first Jorethang bound Jeep would leave at 11:30 and it was 9:20 then. The available options that time were either to reserve a car for Jorethang or to take a shared car up to Melli (40 km from Siliguri) then another shared car up to Jorethang (Melli to Jorethang 28-30 km). There were so many drivers approaching us for a ride to Melli; each of them promised to help us get a shared car from Melli to Jorethang. We wasted a little time there and finally got into a shared car up to Melli. All of us was delighted; up to Melli it was all fine. But at Melli, the driver dropped us and simply refused to catch a car for us to Jorethang, denying what he had promised. He was just pointing out the other side of the road for a shared car. After few words exchange, I fell into his trick and handed over the fare and he just flew with his car. We were left alone without any share car to Jorethang and also there were 10-15 people waiting here and there for Jorethang bound car. I request every one not to pay the fare to the driver till the time you are seated in a Jorethang bound car for this route.

Some of us had light snacks and after half an hour we literally jumped into a Jorethang bound car ahead of others waiting there. Melli to Jorethang road is a disaster in one word. Your X-ray report might come different if you get it done at Melli and Jorethang (. The Rangeet river flows on your left during the journey. We had Teesta on our right from Sevok to Melli. I don't know much about Govt. works and activities but from a traveller's perspective I can say projects and constructions have simply destroyed these two rivers here and there. It was really shocking to see the scenes. We could see human activities disrupting nature big time. Hope nature does not bounce back to us.

We reached Jorethang around 14:30 and had little refreshment. We felt hot there, yes read it correct. Jorethang was hot at 14:30.
For Barsey popular night stay option is at Okhray, then on the next morning people visit Barsey. I always wanted to stay at Hilley because it was a small quiet village just outside Barsey. Also we could save the transport cost from Okhrey to Barsey. I had pre-booked a home stay at Hilley with Mr. Samden Sherpa (07551878945, 09475919714). It was 750/- per head per day including all food and lodging. He had another category of room where the rate is 1000/- for the same arrangement. I would surely mention little more about Mr. Samden Sherpa later in the blog.

I called the driver's no shared by Mr. Samden and easily spotted him. His name is P D Bai/ Passang - 09733220180.
From Jorethang to Hilley the usual rate is 2500/- or more. But this person himself runs a beautiful home stay at Okhrey and had a pick up for his own guests that time. So Mr. Samden arranged our pickup with this and we had to pay Rs. 1300/- only.

Our last part of journey for that day started. Road condition for first 15 km is not good at all but after that it was smooth all the way. Now If I am not wrong, Okhrey is 9000 ft and Hilley 10000 ft. So from Jorethang it was a clear upward drive and gradually weather changed; felt fresh, cooler and better. We had another group of senior and sensible tourist in the car and the journey was nice. Mr. Passang first dropped them at Okhrey then drove us to Hilley. Mostly the Sikkimese are jovial and cordial, sitting beside him we chatted happily. During the drive he shared the experience of leopard sighting, bird watching, election in Sikkim, election duty etc. We had started spotting Rhododendron just before Okhrey, not in full bloom though. Second week of March is not the ideal time for Rhododendron but still you can spot many.

It was 17:15 when AT LAST we reached Hilley, physically little exhausted but mentally re-energised. Welcomed by Mr. Samden and his family, we instantly felt a touch of non commercial care and sincerity, generally not found in the urban plains. There was Rhododendron trees in his little lawn and surroundings. And juuuuust beside his beautiful home stay is the gate of Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary. We couldn't have asked for more. Hilley actually has nothing to offer in terms of sightseeing or other engagements, but sometimes we want isolation, hibernation or a dormant state for our brain and soul. Hilley offered that. Also by that time, all our feature packed mobiles lost their actual primitive feature.

As we reached there we were served a wonderful evening tea. Got clean rooms with basic amenities and tried to bathe as little as we could. We all were hungry for long and a very tasty sumptuous lunch was served with Egg curry, papad, sabji, rai sak, pickle etc. Mrs. Samden Sherpa is truly a very good and decorated cook. By that time it was real chilling and we had to negotiate some way. Then it was time to taste homemade Chhang and Tongba, common and popular local drinks - with some delicious pakora. Tasted something new; not bad not so great. At Hilley you really can't do much, so gradually it was time for dinner. We had rice, chapati, sabji, chicken curry and a local dish Ghundruk. But somehow it did not go well with my taste buds. After dinner we chatted for sometimes and were off to bed.

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