Tendong hill trek was certainly one of the highlights of our trip to Sikkim. This trek is still unexplored and perfect for nature lovers looking for some solitude.
The Lepcha Folklore
Tendong hill is a sacred site for the Lepchas and pre dates Buddhism. According to an ancient Lepcha folklore, the hill saved them from the great deluge that submerged everything. The story draws a parallel with the story of Noah’s arc where Mt. Ararat gave them refuge. The Lepchas to this day pay homage to the hill on the occasion of Lho Rum Faat.
The Monastery and watch tower at the actual site
The Tendong Hill is located at a height of 8660 feet and offers amazing views of the Eastern Himalayas. The actual site has a small monastery and a triple storied watch tower. Both were locked when we reached there but I have heard that the views from the watch tower are spectacular. You can view the Singalila range in the west, the Chola range in the east, Gangtok town, Nathu La, Darjeelings and part of plains of West Bengal.
How to reach there?
The trek starts from Damthang, a small settlement, 13 km from Namchi. To read more about South Sikkim, read my blog post Exploring South Sikkim-Namchi, Damthang and Ravangla. You can either book a cab from Namchi, which will cost you Rs. 400 one way or you can take shared cab from the shared taxi stand in Namchi. A shared cab going to Ravangla will also take you there for Rs.40/person. However, the first shared cab leaves only after 9:00AM. We wanted to start the trek earlier so we booked a cab.
How long does it take?
The trek is about 6 km long, one way I think, and it took us 4 hours to complete, we did not make many stops uphill but we came back down at a much more leisurely pace. Based on your stamina, you can add or subtract half an hour from this time.
The actual trek
One part of the trek is level while the other is an ascent which gets gradually steeper. The trail is through a thick tropical forest, however it wounds around the mountain at the edges, so you know that you aren’t deep in the jungle. Toward the end, however, you start getting a little deeper into the jungle.
The trail is scenic and you can see big logs covered in moss, lying on the ground. Weaker trunks wrap themselves around the stronger ones for support and the intertwining supports a lot of trees, many of them growing horizontally from the hill. Grasses and shrubs grow out from the tree trunks and the branches. There are tiny flowers everywhere. Every now and then, a log blocked our way and we had to go over it.
Roots of many trees held huge rocks together. Walking through a forest like this makes you realize how intertwined life is with one another and replanting trees after cutting a forest is not the option for protecting the biodiversity. We started the trek at 9 AM on a cloudy morning which eventually turned sunny before becoming cloudy again. There was no one else on the trail.
We had no clue if there were wild animals in the jungle and Mom got startled by the rustling of leaves. We were apprehensive about continuing our walk. It was only later that I discovered that the forest is actually home to leopards, Himalayan black bears and red pandas. At the time, however we weren’t sure about it so we continued. It was very quiet except for chirping of some birds and the sound of dried leaves as we walked on them. Mom took a big stick to use as a support and walked so quickly , including the ascent that I found it difficult to keep up with her and hoped she would stop for a break.
There aren’t really any landmarks, barring three broken huts. The first of them gives no indication, you still have a long way to go. The second broken hut is after the first thick bamboo grove. It marks the beginning of steeper ascent. The third broken hut gives hope, You have almost reached your destination, don’t give up. You only realize you have reached when you have reached and it’s a feeling of elation mixed with some relief. One moment you are walking in thick bamboo grove and suddenly you look to your side and see a clearing, which is also the destination. The watch tower was closed so we couldn’t see the views.
It was only on our way back that we came across another group. I am glad that it didn’t rain because it would have gotten slippery. We were a lot more relaxed on our way back and enjoyed strolling through the jungle.
If you are looking for some quiet time for meditation, I highly recommend taking this trek. While there, one can also meditate on what we are losing by losing these forests.