Travelling is something that transforms your mood and provides the vital break from your tiring life. It’s been the same case with our friends group and we had been in search of exploring newer places and doing new things. However, time was again a constraint to our travel plans, so the requirement was maximum fun in limited time. This time it was adventure which most of us were looking forward to. Although, adventure tourism in India seems to be something new, there are plenty of options available. So our search began and Google was the source to search for possible destinations near Kolkata. After a short search we ended up for River rafting and camping in Gangtok. Being the month of November, we expected to have a wonderful time as it was just the start of the holiday season in Sikkim.
Finalizing our trip to Gangtok
Now, the next was finding a reliable service provider, who could help us out with all the arrangements for river rafting and camping in Sikkim. There were hosts of options which we came across and we enquired with over 5-6 providers. After getting responses from almost all of them, we finalized one which suited our budget and offered a thorough proposal. (Comment below to know more about booking your trip)
We were offered a quote for 7 people that included the following services:
- A car for our conveyance from NJP to Gangtok to Melli and back to NJP
- Overnight Stay in Gangtok (excluded the meals for the 1st day)
- Stay at the Camp in Melli (Included breakfast, lunch, evening snacks and Dinner)
- River Rafting Charges
- Security Arrangements
PS: The package was very economical and well within an average budget.
This time we had planned well in advance which was roughly 20 days before the trip. We deposited the amount to the travel operator, booked our tickets and were eagerly waiting for our trip to begin. With the excitement we had, it really seemed to be a long wait. It was Thursday that we boarded the Padatik Express at 22:45 and started our Journey. Should mention, we had a great time during the night by munching in snacks, cracking jokes and discussing a world of things.
Day 1: Travel to Gangtok, Dinner at Live & Loud, and a night at Mayfair Casino
After a sleep of 3-4 hours, waking up early in the cool environment seemed to give us a feeling that our destination was somewhere near. Sipping in tea and checking out small nurseries on both sides of the track seemed a pleasant experience as well. One of the views which struck all of us was of snowcapped mountains which were pretty visible from inside the train itself (Pic Below).
It was around 9:30 AM when we reached New Jalpaiguri and boarded our car to start our journey to Gangtok. After an hour’s drive we stopped at Gautams which is a road side restaurant before the only rail bridge of the entire journey from NJP to Gangtok. We recommend trying out the Alu Parathas, Paneer Paratha, Cheese Omelets, and Sandwiches at this place. It was definitely a great breakfast before resuming our journey. After about 15 to 20 kilometers the roads are pretty bad but seated in an Innova, the ride was pretty comfortable. Now, we were on the roads of the mountain with the river Teesta flowing beside. The greenish color of the river and the reflection of the mountains gave it a wonderful texture for some clicks on our way. Stopping at various points in between and clicking a few snaps was what we enjoyed besides admiring the beauty of the nature. Make sure you stop at Rangpo which is the border of Sikkim and West Bengal. You can take all your stock for liquor and have some good snacks here. (Must tell you that Liquor is very cheap here). Amidst tall trees and the mountain roads, along with fun and songs we reached our Hotel at around 4:00 PM in the evening.
We could feel the cold now as it was already evening. We took a couple of hours to refresh ourselves and relax, after which we got ready to explore the nighlife of the city. We had to board a local taxi as cars from outside were not allowed. Getting down near MG Marg we strolled around the beautiful lane with markets on both sides. Most of us wished to find such clean and beautiful lanes back in our city. After walking for a while we stopped at a small restaurant to have hot momos. They tasted really great and having them in that cold weather was a treat as well. It was around 8:00 PM and we wished to sit at some local pub or club to have our dinner. But being a Friday we were told that most of them did not have any shows. However, after searching for some time we were advised to visit “Live and Loud” which was a pub and we had to walk uphill from where we were. After entering the Pub we were amazed with the environment and ambience and took our the seat in front of the stage where music is usually played. It has a great looking bar with too friendly staff. By listening to music, interacting with people and taking our dinner we spent about 2 hours at the place. Getting out some of us wanted to go back to our rooms, some wanted to try out a disc while three of us wished to visit the Mayfair Casino. Finally, 4 of us decided to move back to the hotel and relax, while 3 of us headed to the casino.
The experience at the casino was great, especially because it was the 1st time we visited such a place. You have to pay Rs.3500 as entry fees where they provide you with coins worth Rs.2500 to play. The other Rs.1000 includes your entry charges, 3 drinks, and dinner. Two of us turned out lucky where they won Rs.5000 and Rs.1000 respectively. The ambience inside is really cool where you have live performers, great music, a vast range of drinks to choose from and definitely great food. It was late at 1AM when the three of us returned to the hotel and dozed off.
Day 2: Paraglyding and Overnight River side Camping
It was cold early in the morning and we had our breakfast at the hotel itself. After having the breakfast, we hired two taxis to visit the Fly Sikkim base. They are the only operators in the region to provide paragliding in Sikkim. Roads are pretty bad to reach the base, so the charges for the 7Km. journey are between Rs.700 to Rs.1000. After reaching the base we were amazed to see the huge playground down the hill which was the landing base for the gliders. Most of us had doubts that if it would be a wise idea to try an adventure activity like this. Surely it seemed be a dangerous yet an exciting affair, where only 5 of us agreed to go ahead and filled the forms. The charges are Rs.2400 plus Rs.500 if you wish to get your video recorded. (You can get a better deal if you are in a group of more than 4). So while 4 of us (including me) explored the area 3 of us started the drive to the top of the hill from where you would virtually dive. It takes around 30 minutes to reach the hilltop during which you would be fascinated to see the snowcapped mountains and the deep valley below.
While we waited for the 3 of the friends at the base ground we came across a few gliders coming down. Initially I had denied going for the ride after watching the videos at the base. But after watching a few people coming down, I agreed to go for it. After half of our group were over with the flight it was our turn to reach the hilltop. Once at the hilltop one would realize how dangerous it looks from above. The base where you need to run and jump from is slanting and can give you Goosebumps and question you as “AM I REALLY GOING TO JUMP FROM HERE?” Well after you reach here there is no looking back and your pilots would explain that in case you stop or even jump midway you might not fly but go deep down the valley. That really sounded more of a threat than a caution. Nevertheless, determined to go ahead I bid goodbye to the others in the queue and at the instruction of the pilot just ran to the edge. “I was flying.. Was in the air and the feeling was just amazing.” Holding the camera in my hand, looking all around the views seemed just awesome and once in a lifetime experience. Initially one might feel nervous but when in air it surely is a feeling that would never fade in your lifetime. Taking the entire video, chatting with your pilot and definitely watching the valley below along with the mountains all around, the moment seemed one of the best I ever witnessed before. It was an amazing 8 minutes after which I landed at the base ground. It was worth the expenses and an experience which none of us would ever forget.
We had Maggie, omelet and a few other snacks as there is hardly a proper eatery nearby. The next thing we did was travelled to our hotel back in Gangtok. You may visit the waterfalls which are near the paragliding area but we opted to skip it as we were short on time. Boarding our car the next stop was the all-important overnight Camping which was actually the main objective of our trip. Although exciting, it seemed to be forgotten in the backdrop for the entire trip till now. Our camp was near the Melli Bazaar on the Banks where two rivers Rangit and Teesta meet. It was dark when we reached the place where our guides were waiting for us. There is no electricity here, so ensure you carry a Torch with you. We ate our dinner at the small hut nearby where the food was decent. After having our dinner we were taken to our camps and the 1st thing we said once we viewed the place was “Awesome”.
The camp is set beside the place where the two rivers converge in between the mountains all around. Besides a few fishers you would hardly see anyone here. It seemed to be an isolated area and with the campfire lit up it was all set for an amazing night. We ate, drank, played and had awesome fun cracking jokes throughout the night. It was a long night where most of us slept by the early hours of the morning. Laying down on the sand and watching the sky would certainly be a great thing to do here. The temperatures seemed dropping throughout the night where it certainly felt it was down to zero at the time we dozed off.
Day 3: River Rafting at Teesta and back to NJP
It was the last day of our trip and we woke up after a couple hours of sleep. The first sight which I saw from inside the tent was a Diya lighted and flowing down the river. After taking a closer look I saw quite a few people praying and taking bath on the banks of the river. Once we stepped out of the camps it was too cold to stay outside. We got inside and took out extra woolens on top of the warm jackets we were wearing. The sight outside was spectacular and the river was shining in the reflection of the sun.
After spending sometime by playing with the river and talking to the locals who were fishing and spending a nice Sunday, we got back to the nearby hut. We had tea and our breakfast, after which our guide for river rafting greeted us. We changed our clothes and got ready for rafting. The car took us to a higher altitude from where we had to begin our rafting. We recommend booking the guide to click you pics and capture your videos which is an additional expense of Rs.800. You would certainly cherish after you experience rafting and see the images clicked by the guide. It took approximately 45 minutes when we reached the banks of the river Teesta where everything had been setup. We were provided the life jackets and briefed about what we would be doing and what we could expect during the journey.
After clicking some snaps we began our rafting in the cool waters of the river Teesta. Some of us were provided the rowing paddles to row while two of us (included me) were in the front and had to kneel down when we were about to witness high waves. The entire ride of 45 minutes was spectacular and we witnessed some challenging waves. At one point the instructor allowed us to get down in the middle of the river. Although, the river is deep we were floating easily, thanks to the life jackets we were wearing.
The experience was again amazing and we wished it could have been a bit longer. The water was too cold and most of us found ourselves shivering. We quickly walked up to the road where our car was parked and changed our clothes. This was almost the end of our trip and the next stop was a road side local eatery where we munched in a few plates of momos. The car dropped us at New Jalpaiguri Railway station and it was time for us to head back after an adventurous trip in Sikkim. We boarded our train (Saraighat Express) and reached early at Kolkata.