RABONGLA TO MAENAM BHALEDUNGA TREK
Towering above Rabongla town, Maenam hilltop at 10,600 ft, is 3 km through the Maenam wildlife sanctuary - teeming with Magnolia, Rhododendron and small Bamboos.
Flowers clamer over trees while mosses, ferns and creepers more reckless and ambitious climb the soaring trunks. A small hermitage containing the image of Guru Padmasambhava nestles here.
The view from the Maenam summit is picturesque. The town of Rabongla lies sleeping far below and through the gaps in the mountains one can see the rolling plains of West Bengal lazily stretching out with the clouds resting on them. As the sun rises, these clouds become buoyant and form a heavenly curtain of mist. In the west the Khangchendzonga range complete the scene.
Another half an hour walk on the same ridge takes to Bhaledunga - a peculiar looking cliff that resembles the head of a cock. This distinctive looking cliff resembles the head of a cock. This distinctive looking feature can be seen from miles away and during the old days used to serve as a guiding landmark to travellers. From the top of this cliff, there is a vertical five to six thousand feet fall. Far down, teesta can be seen snaking its way like a giant python through the valley.
TOLUNG MONASTERY TREK
Tolung Monastery was first built in the reign of Chogyal Chakdor Namgyal in the early 18th century. It contains rare and valuable scriptures and artifacts of other monasteries that were brought here for safety during the invasion of Sikkim by the Nepalese during late 17th and early 19th century. A brass Chorten within the monastery contains the ashes of one of the incarnates of Lama Latsun Chembo, the patron saint of Sikkim. All the relics are kept sealed in thirteen boxes under the supervision of the government of Sikkim. Once every three years in the month of April the relics are shown to the public in the monastery complex. The last display of the relics was held in April 91.
Tolung at an altitude of 8,000 ft lies in the sparsely Lepcha populated Dzongu area of North Sikkim and falls in the restricted area for which a inner line permit is required by Indian Nationals. To reach Tolung, one has to travel by road upto Linzey. There is a daily bus service from Gangtok to a place slightly short of Linzey. From Linzey to Tolung is a 20-km walk and takes approximately five hours along the thundering Tolung River through dense forests and cardamom groves.
Precipitous cliffs surround the easy track, from which plummet down waterfalls in white plumes hundreds of feet below into the narrow gorges to the valley floor. Birds tweet louder to make themselves heard over the sound of the waterfalls and the rivers. Perched precariously on these cliffs here and there are the huts of the hardy Lepchas.
As one walks towards Tolung, the surrounding mountains on the top of which ice clings tenaciously even during the summer seem to close in. on reaching Tolung one can understand why the Sikkimese chose this place to keep the relics here out of the reach of the invading Nepalese. Because of its vantage location it was easy to guard hence this place was selected for relics. There is a pilgrims hut. An easy walk of about an hour along the Tolung River takes one to a religious spot - Devta Pani.
DAMTHANG - TENDONG TREK
Damthang is 14-km from Namchi on the Gangtok - Namchi road. A number of buses ply on this route from Gangtok. To reach Tendong from Damthang one has to trek for about one and a half hour on a well-defined path through dense forest of the Tendong forest sanctuary.
Tendong at an altitude of 8,500 ft is situated on a small plateau on top of the mountain. Perhaps no other place in Sikkim offers a better view of the mountain ranges in the state than Tendong - it is like sitting in the centre of a huge amphitheatre. On the east one can see the full Chola range, on the west the Singelila range and the towering Kanchenjenga.
In the north - east can be seen the Gurudongmar peak with other mountains. Darjeeling, Gyalsing, Nathu-La, a part of Gangtok and the rolling plains of Siliguri can be seen from here. Both the sunrise and sunset are breathtaking from Tendong. From other parts of Sikkim Tendong looks like a volcano - and legend has it that it was in fact once an active volcano, which is now dormant.
Two small one room monasteries exist here - one quite old and in almost ruins and the other a newly constructed one. A three stories observation tower on the pattern tiger hill, Darjeeling has been constructed for the convenience of tourists.