In search of peace from the maddening lifestyle of Kolkata - The name of Rishyap came up (valuable suggestion from an office colleague). With the help of Google/ Wikitravel and other relevant webpages it was decided that the Christmas & the weekend holiday be spent there !
I along with few of my friends, left Kolkata on 24th December evening via Kolkata Dibrugadh Express & reached Siliguri on 25th morning - only to be greeted by many travel agents waiting to fleece us. After hassling for hours we got a cabbie for Rishyap. The somewhat bumpy-somewhat scenic drive to Rishyap (from Siliguri via Gorubathan) took nearly 3 hours.
The moment we entered Rishyap - the darkness of huge beautiful trees enveloped us. The journey in the middle of these trees is really magical making the bumpy ride worth it ! Rishyap/ Rishop is a small hamlet situated at 2591 m (8500 ft. ) above sea-level. Away from city crowds, it offers picturesque views of snow-capped Kanchenjunga range.
Things we did:
On reaching Rishyap, we went for long walks exploring the beautiful village dotted with stone pathways, beautiful trees, and cute homes (with lovely plants like lilies and orchids) offering picturesque views. There is a unique Shiva-Buddha temple housing both the lords under the same roof. Though not architecturally beautiful, its uniqueness makes it a must visit place. After dusk, we spent time staring at the the twinkling lights of Gangtok & Pedong in a distance which felt similar to the twinkling stars above ! A breath-taking sight for any nature lover. We snuggled in our quilts inside our cosy wooden rooms lodges providing the perfect escape from the 3-4 degree temperature outside!
|The view from my room !|
|A little more zoomed in !|
|At the Shiva Buddha temple|
|Sunset at Rishyap|
|Savoring the gift of nature|
The next day we woke up - had a sumptuous breakfast and left for Neora Valley National Park after collecting permits of the park from Lava [ (Rs. 10/- per head for entry + Rs. 50/- per head for watchtower (which is never shown to you) + Rs. 100/- per car for Parking in the forest ]. The journey from Lava base to Neora valley forest is an extremely bumpy and an extremely beautiful one! The view of the paths wading through clouds, trees and valleys stays in the hearts of nature lovers forever!
|View of Kanchenjunga range from Neora valley|
After nearly two hours of bumpy ride, we reached the Neora Valley forest. One has to re-register oneself and has to pay Rs. 100/- for a guided mini-trek (which does not cover watch tower & core area visit- for that one has to obtain special permit and trek for 1 whole day) inside the forest which meanders through Bamboo groves and pine trees treading through narrow lanes. The park is famous for its Red Panda - which is very rarely seen. The 25 min trek led us to an open area where one could have a breath-taking view of the majestic Kanchenjunga.
|Sun rays playing hide and seek !|
From Neora valley we drove downhill to visit the beautiful Changey waterfalls. The road that runs past it onlooks the scenic Dentam Valley. The 2 hour bumpy drive was quite exhausting and after reaching Changey base, one has to walk downhill for nearly 20 minutes for spectacular views of the waterfalls. The Changey falls from a great height and disappears below among the thick vegetation. It is a very serene place with almost nobody to disturb the sound of crystal clear gushing water.
|Posing with the Changey|
From Changey, we went towards Lava town and reached the Lava Jamgyong Kongtrul Monastery in an hour. This monastery is named after one of the most prominent Buddhist masters in Tibet in the 19th century and follows the Karma Kagyu lineage within the Kagyu School. The main attraction here, apart from the natural settings in which it is located, is the golden statue of Lord Buddha in a meditating posture. The beauty of the place is enhanced by numerous multi-coloured murals and frescos found all over the walls of the Monastery. The Monastery is also home to Buddhist Monks who meditate upon Buddhist teachings. Although Lava had a temperature of 6 degrees centigrade (well above 3-4 degrees at Rishyap), it is way more chilly due to the constant flow of chilly breeze from all the nearby valleys.
|The Lava Monastery|
|Lava- in the midst of clouds|
Early next morning- at 5 am we visited Tiffin Dara (3 kilometres uphill from Rishyap) to view the much hyped sunrise view of Kanchenjunga. Tiffin Dara is a point from where a 360 degree view of Kanchenjunga can be seen without any interruption. Dara means point in the Lepcha language and Tiffin Dara is a point in the Eastern Himalayan range in North East India offering a breath-taking view of the world’s 3rd highest peak. We hired a car from Rishyap at 5 AM and reached there in an hour. The road to Tiffin Dara passes through the dense forest filled with birch, pine and fir trees making the valley look monstrous before sunrise. On reaching the point, the chilly winds at Tiffin Dara made our hands and bodies freeze while we desperately waited for sunrise! At the stroke 6:15, faint rays of sunlight emerged, colouring the sky orange and purple. Around 6:20 AM, as the golden rays of sun fell upon Kanchenjunga, the colour of Kanchenjunga peak turned from dark blue to deep orange in minutes - The scene witnessed - would remain etched in our minds forever.
|Just before sunrise at Tiffindara!|
|When the sun blesses Kanchenjunga at Tiffindara|
|Sunrise at Tiffindara|
From Tiffin Dara we went to Lolegaon. The drive to Lolegaon took nearly 2 hours and offers the best scenery of pine trees! Lolegaon is a small Lepcha village with situated in an extreme end of a Himalayan Ridge at an altitude of 1,675 meters (5500 ft.). Lolegaon offers a Heritage Forest walk and a Hanging Bridge. Both are in the same compound and offer lovely beauty. Although one can have enough fun at the Hanging Bridge, it is the natural beauty of Lolegaon that will leave you spellbound !
|The drive in the midst of pine trees|
|A walk through Heritage Forest|
|A walk through the forest|
|At the hanging bridge !|
If you are a nature lover looking for peace and tranquility with nothing to do, these places will enthuse you and you would love to spend days at these wonderful places !
This post was earlier published by me on Tripoto on 1st January 2015.