Maenam La & Bhaledunga Trek

Towering above the town of Ravangla, is the Maenam hilltop. One has to trek three hours uphill from Rabongla through the Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary teeming with Magnolia, Rhododendron and small bamboo to reach the hilltop which is at an altitude of about 3235 m (10612 ft).

These trees, like giant sentinels, seem to guard the path. Resolute and anchored in their remote habitat, these trees ably withstand the elements of nature.  Flowers clamber over trees while mosses, ferns, and creepers more reckless and more ambitious climb the soaring trunks. A small hermitage – almost in the middle of nowhere- containing the image of Guru Padmasambhava nestles here.

The view from the Maenam summit is picturesque and breathtaking. 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, an amazing vista of the sparkling peaks of the Kanchendzonga range spreads before you.

A walk of another half an hour on the same ridge takes one to Bhaledunga – a peculiar-looking cliff that protrudes out and 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 travelers.

From the tip of this cliff, there is a vertical fall of fifteen hundred meters and one does require a strong head to be able to look down from here. Far down the river, Tista can be seen snaking its way like a giant python through the valley. During my visit, in the lingering fire of a July sunset, the Tista seemed to possess its own incandescence glowing silver, then rose and finally mauve.

From Maenam one can take the steep track to Yangyang then further walk down to Singchuthang (Mangley) on the banks of the river Tista and then reach Sirwani and Singtam on the National Highway. This walk takes about six hours.