On one crazy adventure from Darjeeling to Sikkim, we ditched the Darjeeling to Sikkim train and Darjeeling to Sikkim bus, and hiked across the border through tea estates, forests and remote villages!
We impulsively decided to venture into the remote north-eastern Himalayas of India. At an organic tea farm an hour’s ride from Darjeeling, sipped the finest hand-rolled tea. Drank the local thomba brewed from fermented millets on chilly nights. Got a first hand perspective on the separatist Gorkhaland movement. And reminisced with the hill folk about the times gone by.
Then we hiked in the mountains, through dense forests, past charming hill villages, along tea estates that dotted the landscape, barefoot across the Rangeet River… to cross the border into Sikkim!
In Photos: Hiking from Darjeeling to Sikkim
The Darjeeling Sikkim hike began along the tea estates of Darjeeling
Organized by our hosts at Tathgata Farm. Carpets of green stretched into the horizon, as far as the eyes could see.
We followed tea pluckers as they started their day
Plucking the finest tea in India with their nimble fingers.
The Darjeeling to Sikkim distance by road is nearly 60 km
But we took the mountain paths, along charming hill villages precariously perched, and often isolated on hill slopes far from the nearest road. The adults and kids both walk long hours to work and school, on hill terrain that can tire any experienced walker.
We quickly ditched the map of Darjeeling and Sikkim
Instead, our local guide Dhuraj, who grew up in these mountains and knows them like the back of his hand, led us through narrow, signless, winding trails.
Far from tourism places in Darjeeling and Sikkim, we spotted people smuggling local beer from Sikkim!
I would soon find out that the Sikkimese Hit Beer, made in Danny Denzongpa’s brewery, is possibly India’s finest beer – yet not permitted to be sold elsewhere in India. It’s a pity that his lobbying with the government isn’t as powerful as Vijay Mallya’s, so the rest of the country is deprived of such high quality (and cheap, at 60 rupees a bottle) beer.
Something I could’ve never expected on this Darjeeling Sikkim Gangtok trip – a jungle tattoo!
Textured from the leaves of a wild plant, this temporary tattoo on my arms felt like a new connection with nature and its wild marvels.
Walking along the bamboo forest between Sikkim and Darjeeling
Our feet made music on fallen dried leaves and bamboo branches.
Close to the Sikkim Darjeeling border, we cooled off in the Rangeet River
Four hours into the walk, the cool pure water was a balm for my tired feet.
Even if we did use a Sikkim Darjeeling map, I doubt it would have led us to the shallow river we had to cross barefoot…
From the base of one mountain to another, we felt the rocks, soft sand and cool water on our feet as we slowly crossed the Rangeet River at one of its lowest, calmest points. Local boys tried to catch fish with their bare hands!
After 5 hours of trekking in Sikkim and Darjeeling, we finally got our first glimpse of Sikkim!
The southern industrial village of Majhitar, which has more immigrant workers from Bihar than Sikkimese people, and more alcohol shops than I could have imagined.
A rickety suspension brige connects Darjeeling & Sikkim
Over the Rangeet River, this hanging bridge is made of wooden planks, some of which have already fallen off! It feels more like crossing into another country.
The first taste of momos and the local Hit Beer in Sikkim
That made the 5 hours of hiking totally worthwhile! The beer was downed before I could take a picture 😉
Would you ever hike from Darjeeling to Sikkim?