Fambong Lho Trek

Right from my childhood, I used to stare at the huge hill opposite Gangtok spanning from Rumtek Monastery to Pangthang. It seemed to rise in front like an impregnable green wall. A lot of questions used to run through my mind. How do you get there? Did it have a forest with wild animals? What was there on the other side – another mountain?

It was only when I was fifty years old that I ventured there and got an answer to my questions. This relatively easy trek can comfortably be covered within a period of one day. Tinjure lies on the highest point on Rumtek hill opposite Gangtok. One has to reach Golitar four kilometers ahead of Tashi-View Point first by vehicle and then walk a few kilometers which takes less than an hour on the road to Pangthang and Dikchu till the Log-hut of the Forest Department. From here the bridle path begins skirting the Experimental farm of G.B.

Pant Institute at a moderate gradient and takes one through the dense Fambonglho Forest Sanctuary to the top in about two hours. The last stretch of half an hour is rather steep and one has to dodge under trees that have fallen across the path. A profusion of cane plants appears and these form a leafy tunnel over the track letting in hardly any sunlight. At places where the bridle path breaks the ground is soft and bouncy because of decaying vegetation that has accumulated and compacted for ages.

During my trek, a heavy shower of rain the previous night had left the forest sparkling and a brilliant shade of green. The spring was trying to coax the buds on the trees to bloom. Every bird in the forest seemed to fill its lungs with the sweet, fresh air and sing its heart out. The insects were equally vociferous. Now and then you startle a deer, which scampers off with graceful, flying leaps over the long tufted grass. Scores of jubilant bullfrogs serenade you from every pool and pond.

You smell the sweet-scented fragrance a forest gives off after a storm, the perfume of flowering shrubs, and the smell of damp moss on the tree trunks. We are now at JhandiDhara also sometimes wrongly called Tinjure. It has a three-story wooden Observation Tower festooned with prayer flags on concrete stilts and the view from here is just breathtaking. It overlooks both Gangtok and the Tista valleys and on the northeastern horizon towers the Kanchendzonga range with specially Siniolchu in all its splendid grandeur glittering against the blue sky. Gangtok looks as though someone has strewn the hillside with matchboxes of different colors.

In the south, the omnipresent volcano-shaped Tendong peak looms against the backdrop of the Singelila range. Peeping out from the forests of Tumlong the monastery of Phodong looks like a small ladybird. On a clear day, even the plains of West Bengal can be seen. From Janidhara we walk on the ridge of the mountain. On the right side is the Tista valley with the river Tista snaking its way through. On the left, you catch glimpses of Gangtok town, the Lingdum Monastery, and the Rey Mondu Monastery.

The path is without any steep gradients but the foliage is very thick as a result of which walking speed is considerably slow- two to three kilometers an hour. There are no springs or streams on this route and soon we run out of drinking water. But there are a lot of juicy wild strawberries growing all around and we voraciously eat them to quench our thirst. The forest guard accompanying us points to the paw marks of bears on the trees. We come across a small lake- Dharey after two hours.

After another hour we cross by the Tumin Watchtower. A walk of another two hours and we are at Tinjure – the highest point on the hill opposite Gangtok. A downhill trek of an hour and we skirt past the holy Sang pokhari and shortly thereafter we are at Sang Bazar where our vehicle is waiting to pick us up. The trek covers a distance of about 20 kilometers. has been an exhilarating experience. The mountain was not just a 2-dimensional green wall but a world teeming with trees, birds butterflies, and wildlife.