At an altitude of 7887 feet and with a population of only around 90 people and 18 village houses, Chatakpur is a small Himalayan forest village located in the Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary is an ideal destination for those seeking peace and tranquility in the Himalayas.
One can get a spectacular views of the imposing mountain range of Kanchenjunga and at the same time experience the overwhelming lush green forest in a quiet village setting. Its also a paradise for bird watchers.
Being Bengali our souls are deeply connected to Darjeeling. Hence going to Darjeeling district and not paying a visit to the Queen would have been so wrong.
So we had kept the first day for Darjeeling. This was my fifth time at Darj, but not even for a second I had the feeling, “Oh,Its the same old place again”. Such is its charm! 🙂
Next morning we left early for Chatakpur.
Chatakpur can be easily accessed from Darjeeling by car.
But we had some other intentions. We were up and ready for some adventure, to do something new and thrilling. We chose to reach Chatakpur on a bicycle.
But I should mention a few facts over here before I move on to our experience. Darjeeling has opened the country’s first-ever cycle trail for enthusiasts who yearn for an experience that’s free from the adulteration of city chaos.
In 2017, Darjeeling became the first hill station in India to get a mountain biking park along a 20-km stretch through the Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary. Bikers can now ride through the forest cover, undisturbed by vehicles that will be prohibited from the region. The trail will originate at the sanctuary’s main gate near Jorbangla and finish at the state tourism guesthouse situated in the hillside village of Chatakpur. The cycling trail opens throughout the day from dawn to dusk and remains off limits only during the monsoon as it is the breeding time of Clouded Leopards.
Initially it felt that this 20 km of cycling won’t be much of a task. But soon as we started pedaling uphill from the office of Blue Dragon Adventures to the Mall, we felt that this was not going to be a cakewalk. We started panting just after 5 mins of cycling!!! That too in a proper road, the only challenge being the uphill climb.
But we realized that maybe we needed some time to get acclimatized. Plus we didn’t have prior experience with gear cycles. From Mall we took the narrow road right ( Aluabari Road) to Jorebungalow from where the forest trail starts.
This part was not so challenging as we were moving through a road which was quite well maintained. Only during the rise things were getting tricky.
After about an hour and a half we reached Jorebungalow more. All this time we taken much more rest than cycled way too less. Look at our smiles after we had completed just one kilometer! This was supposedly the last place to buy some munchies/drinks before setting on the forest trail. So we got ourselves some juice and chocolates. Its really important to keep yourself hydrated or else you’ll be physically drained.
After some time we entered the forest trail. We were initially checked by a forest officer. Its something routine as nowadays the number of poachers have increased drastically. In the beginning the forest cover was thin. But say after about an hour the surroundings changed abruptly. It became much dense. On both sides of the trail were towering trees jostling with each other for space. One or two small streams flowing in between.
An uncanny silence followed us each and every moment. At times we were engulfed by the clouds. We could not see a thing that lay in the distance and that’s when we got a bit scared. The thought of us traveling through a place full of wild animals sent chills down our spine. But we had to take that risk to get a taste of real adventure.
The last lap was extremely difficult. Steep uphill climb through a path that was so rugged that we had to give up pedaling. For quite some distance, we simply had to walk upwards carrying our bicycles. But we were amazed to see our guide cycling through the same path at ease. That’s the difference between a professional and a rookie. We started taking halts every now and then until we reached the vicinity of Chatakpur village.
Our guide said we were almost there and Chatakpur was all the way down from there. The thought of speeding downhill injected some energy into all of us. And it was some experience. Slightly out of control and you may find yourself hanging in one of the trees or fly deep down! Thanks to our splendid bicycles that we could control our motion. The disk brakes so powerful that we could halt at ease while going down at high speeds.
We felt sheer joy to see ourselves standing in front of a gate that said “Welcome to Chatakpur Village”. We were absolutely delighted that we were able to make it. Truly it was one hell of an experience and it really would have been a bad miss if we had not opted for this.
We exchanged goodbyes with our guide after having a cup of warm tea at the village center. It was time to head to our homestay where the rest of gang were waiting for us.
Signing off until next time.
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