Varsey Rhododendron Sanctuary

Varsey Rhododendron Sanctuary, West Sikkim - during Diwali 2012

Our place of stay at Trekker's Hut, Varsey

The entire Kanchendzonga Range, as seen from Varsey
As seen from Cellular Jail, Andaman. ohh.. no... :) Just kidding. From our room.

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page”

Is was time for keeping our feet at Varsey Rhododendron Sanctuary or Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary. It is situated in Western part of Sikkim in Singalila Range forming a natural border with Nepal in The West. It was a place where not many people go on every tourist season. So, one can experience the raw beauty of nature. And Kanchenjunga seen from here can be compared to Phalut. It was really close. It wasa four days trip during the diwali of 2012, 3rd Week of November. You see, the name is Varsey Rhododendron sanctuary but we could not see as we went there in November. It can be found during April-May of any year. We were a group of 10 people. We
started the planning from 6 people and went on adding more and more and we were all
united for one of the best trips together. Not because of the scenic beauty or the
adventure walking through the sanctuary with the fear of Mountain Bears, but because of the bonding and togetherness of 10 friends. We were like a family. Even if we go to south city mall together, it will be an awesome one.

Anyways, our lineup were like
1 . Abhishek
2 . Arkaprava
3 . Chiro
4 . Saptaswa
5 . Lalit
6 . Sounak
7 . Bublai
8 . Puntu
9 . Subhasis
10. Anirban

Most of us used to work for the same company so it was very much fun to leave office on time to reach staion for Padatik Express. We could not find a taxi from there and started our trekking from exactly the beginning of our trip, with crossing a flyover at Rajarhat, Kolkata.

Day 0 : After walking for a few kilometers we found two taxis and reached Sealdah station on time. Subhasis and Arkaprava went to pack our dinner and others kept on waiting for the train having uncountable cups of tea. It was one of the best train journeys we have ever had. 6 of us were on S6 compartment and others were on S1 so we kept on running through the compartments with staring eyes everywhere in between these places. To search for bong beauties going in the same train. Anyways, we were carrying two guitars and started playing music and after 15 mins many other people joined as well and our train journey was converted into a memorable musical train journey. After getting praised from so many people (Manily elders for our Rabindra Sangeet collection) we decided to go for sleep.

Day  1 : We were supposed to reach Jorethang on that day. We went out of the New Jalpaiguri Railway staion and started looking for two cars to take us to Jorethang. It was a 4 hours long journey and the initial few kilometers were through Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary, Sevok Road. We have described about Sevok Road for so many times in different blogs of us. Once again I would like to add the same. It was always one of my favorite roads because of its tarmac and beautiful jungle.
Specially there is one moment where for the first time people get a glance of the mountains ahead. It was amazing once again. 

A musical train journey

Close to New Jalpaiguri station, inside train

Jorethang Bridge
On the way to the temple at Jorethang

From left, Abhishek, Lalit, Saptaswa, Subhasis, Sounak, Arkaprava, Chiro, Puntu and Bublai, myself behind the camera

After around 4  hours we reached Jorethang and checked in a hotel named Hotel Dzongri. We booked 2 double bed rooms and 2 triple bed rooms in just 1400 rupees in total. The rooms were more than just good. After spending around 1 hour getting fresh and after lunch we went for exploring the small but beautiful place around Jorethang. We had heard there was a cemetery and a temple was there near to that place, and we went for that. It was dark and we did not have many torches. We spent some time at that place and started towards the hotel after having a cup of tea at a local tea shop. The way towards our hotel was frightening. Lovely and lonely place, all the way to our place were pitch black. We could not see a single hotel or house on our way. Somehow, we started enjoying the atmosphere. At one point we could see the Jorethang Bridge and the locality, and that proved we were going into the right direction. After reaching our hotel we took our dinner and went for sleep.

Day 2 : Before coming to this trip I had asked my traveller friends to take many winter cloths as I knew that during diwali it could be very cold at that area of Sikkim. And my friends did the same. But, it was hot on that morning. And everybody started making fun of me for misguiding them to carry huge bags for this trip. But I always knew I was not wrong. It would be much more colder at Varsey. 

On the way to Hilley

A beautiful valley towards Hilley
The Chilly and the coldest journey of the trip

On the way to Varsey

Guras Kunj
Outside of our Trekker's hut

The frightening Guras Kunj evening

Everyone were prepared with a T-shirt or a thin jacket may be. And we started  our journey towards Hilley, from where we were supposed to start the trek towards Varsey. When we were around 15 kms away from Hilley we took a funny decision. Most of us started our journey sitting on the top of our car and that was one of the memorable drive. It wind was chilled. It was the coldest of last few days and everybody now opened their bags to put on the other winter cloths. And I started
laughing at my friends for making fun of me on the same day morning. After having the coldest of journey we reached Hilley. It took 3 hours to reach Hilley from Jorethang.

We booked the trekker's hut with the help of Mr. Adhir Paul and he had sent a guide to that place to help us out with the route. There was a small restaurant at the gate of Varsey Rhododendron Sanctuary. We had our breakfast there and started our trekking.

The only thing which we were going to miss, was our guitar. We could not take those guitars with us as it was inside a sanctuary and nobody should make noise, though we think our music were not noise. Anyways, "Rules are made to be broken. But not on mountains". We should respect the rules of these places and kept our guitars at that restaurant and told them we would recollect them on our way back.

This was the last point where mobile networks were found. So, we told the car driver to reach that place exactly after 48 hours to pick us up from Hilley and reach NJP for our return train.
The distance from Hilley to Varsey is around 5 kms and it took almost 2.5 hours to reach our trekkers hut. There are only two accommodation options at Varsey. One is Guras Kunj (Best accomodation) and other one is the trekker’s hut. We could not find the proper contacts for Guras Kunj and that is why we stayed at the trekker’s hut. The rooms were damp and cold. The temperature was somewhere around 5-6 degree centigrade. The chilly wind made it feel like 2-3 degree centigrade. I thanked god for not giving my friends chance to make fun of me once again because of the weather.
Our lunch were ready. We had Rice, Dal, Sabji and Egg Curry on that day. It was almost 4 pm then. After spending an hour at the trekker’s hut it was again dark and the most brave friend of me, Abhishek wanted to roam around that place in the dark and that too he wanted to go inside the Guras Kunj trekker’s hut complex. It is a huge accommodation option but there was not a single light inside that house. That made us frightened again. Before coming to this trip from several sources we found that there are ghosts inside that house. Later on we came to know that there was nothing as such. Guras Kung remains opened if there is any guest in it. And caretakers stay at Guras Kunj if there is any guest. When we were coming back we met the caretaker who was going towards Guras Kunj with his guests (Contact details are at the end of this blog).  And once again we were having a tough time out there. It was the previous day of Kalipuja and the day is called “Bhut Chaturdashi”. We were quite sure that it was the last day we were spending on earth. Subhasis was the most clever boy among us. He decided not to join us and stay with the cook and caretaker. Later on, when we asked him “what if the cook is a ghost” he gave it a thought and got frightened too.
It was fun.  Many ghost stories came up on everyone’s mind and made that night scary. Subhasis almost fainted when Abhishek completed his scary story. Actually the atmosphere was frightening. There was not a single light seen from that place. The cook does not talk much. Wind blowing all the time. Candles at our rooms and different kind of sounds from outside of our trekker’s hut.
Actually just 1 month before this trip we went to Tajpur Seaside together. Almost the same team. And at that trip some scary program were shown on television. Some ghost stories at Ladakh. And at that story it showed some photos of ghosts taken on the tourist’s camera by mistake. And, because of that thought I did not take a single snap going outside at night. The long exposure shots. The Star trails. I have not seen so many starts at sky in my life before. And I missed that opportunity. I still make fun of us because of that night. We were so stupid. Really. :)
We went for sleep after the dinner. It was too cold. The temperature were somewhere around 1-2 degree inside the room. After using many blankets we were comfortable at last.

Day 3 : It was such an amazing morning. Around 5 AM. I opened the window of my room and got amazed to see Kanchendzonga. It was so close. The closest I had seen till then. And that too before the sunrise. Not a single instance of cloud in between our eyes and Mount Kanchenjunga. Spectacular. Called all my friends and told them, nothing to worry. It was morning and we all were alive. And alive to see the most spectacular and amazing sunrise in our life. Our cook served us hot tea outside of the trekkers hut. It was Lalit, who had never experienced seeing Kanchenjunga in front of his eyes and he was speechless. A mind-blowing morning all together.

First ray of sun on Mount Kanchendzonga

First ray of light inside our room

The clear range from our Trekkers hut window

From our room window
Abhisek and Myself

Morning tea time

On the way to Guras Tal

On the way to Guras Tal

On the way to Guras Tal

On the way to Guras Tal

Total Travellers, Self Timer Shot

We were supposed to go to Guras Tal through the dense forest and mountains to see a view point. The route through the dense forest were amazing. Somewhere there was no roads at all. We reached guras tal. After walking almost 5 kms in almost 4 hours. It was very steep and hectic. Abhishek and Subhasis were having injuries at their waist while playing cricket. Even they somehow managed to reach the top. It was a testing time for all of us, with the steep trek and the fear of mountain bears. After this enormous trek what we had seen if were amazing we could be happier. But we saw nothing. There were no Tal (means Lake). Don’t know where it goes. There was so many bushes, trees that our views were blocked and we could not see anything from there. We were told we could see Kanchendzonga from there. It looked like nobody came there in last 5 years and we were correct. Later on our cook told us that. That is why the place was not so maintained. Anyways the way to that place was amazing, though some of my friends differ from this point and still make fun of me for deciding to go to Guras Tal. :)
We had no water remaining in our bags and we were very hungry. We took around 1 hour to descend from that place to our Trekker’s hut and had lunch. After 2-3 hours it was again time for the evening and the frightening ghost stories. But, somehow we were not feeling like the previous night. We thought if we could see today’s sunrise we could see another sunrise on the next day. After gossiping and having various discussions about so many controversial and interesting stories of our friends we went to sleep. Many new information came up on that day. Later on we understood why every time Chiro was talking about “X=Prem and Total Abeg”.

Day 4 : Another amazing and beautiful sunrise. From 5 am everyone was looking at Kanchendzonga and never missed a single minute in seeing the beauty in front of our eyes (Except nature’s call which was very tough with the coldest of water). We were very sad because of, it  was the last sunrise we were watching on that trip and the next sunrise we would  see near Sealdah station on the way to our office on the next day. 

Our trekker's hut and Mount Kanchendzonga
X=PREM || TOTAL ABEG  - The theme of the trip

Total travellers

The entrance gate

On our way back

A short break, Rest place in between Hilley and Varsey

Butterfly, but not in stomach

Self timer again

From left, Sounak, Bublai and Chiro

Chiro and Bublai with our caretaker
The Cab top journey

A bridge over River Teesta

It took around 2 hours on the way back to Hilley from Varsey. And our car was waiting for us. We were on our way to NJP  station for our return train, which was Padatik Express. It took around 6 hours to reach NJP from Hilley. In between we took our lunch near Jorethang.
We reached Kolkata on the next day and our trip was over.
One of the best trips I have ever had. As mentioned before the group was so good, everybody has different skills of entertaining everyone else. Even if, it is Lalit who never talks much but when he talks it is something funny and nobody needs to join a morning laughing club if Lalit is among us.

Trip Itinerary
Day 1 : NJP to Jorethang (4 Hours)
Day 2 : Jorethang to Hilley (3 Hours car drive), Hilley to Varsey (2.5 Hours trek, 5 Kms)
Day 3 : Varsey Trekker’s Hut to Guras Tal and back. (6 Hours Trek up and down, 10 Kms)
Day 4 : Varsey to Hilley (2 Hours) , Hilley to NJP  via Jorethang (6 Hours)
Day 5 : Reached Kolkata

Contact Informatiion
Mr. Adhir Paul : Trekkers Hut : 09832005703, 09733065937
Bandhu Guras Kunj : 09475710312
Driver From Jorethang : PD : 097332201800

 Video : Arkaprava Bhattacharyya

Photography : Anirban Chatterjee and Abhishek Sen
Writer: Anirban Chatterjee

Call for any kind of guidance and help regarding traveling

Anirban Chatterjee Guide and Manager


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