Sunday, September 02, 2007

Okhrey : A popular trekking trail in Sikkim

Many a times it so happens that on the way to a popular tourist destination, one gets captivated by an almost deserted place with maybe just a few rhododendrons or a cluster of huts tucked away in a mountain fold. One generally passes such places by but if we can allow ourselves a detour, these sleepy places often turn out to be fascinating.
Okhrey is such a place on the route to Varsey, one of the most popular trekking trails in Sikkim. A couple of days in this small but amazingly beautiful village in West Sikkim is sure to leave with wonderful memories of the tranquil mountains and the way of life it nurtures.
About 130 km from New Jalpaiguri station, Okhrey is connected with Jorethang by a regular jeep service and is just an hour’s drive away. Within moments of reaching the hamlet, a mood of complete relaxation sets in.
The mountains that tower on the north keep beckoning the traveller for long rambling walks through winding paths. If you venture out, you might come across a missionary school or a small hamlet or a solitary cottage with the owner gardening outside.
If you are interested in a bit of trekking, you can climb up the slope to a small village called Latitar. On a clear day, you will get a grand view of the entire Kanchenjungha range.
Ugen Thon Meon Ling monastery is a must-visit. It is run by Tibetan missionaries and has a small school attached to it.
An interesting journey from Okhrey is a walk up to Ribdi, on the West Bengal border, and further down through the jungles of Rumbum and Coorkey to Rimbik. For the seasoned trekkers there is also the popular route from Okhrey that leads all the way to Phalut via Gurdung. Not to mention Hilley, which is 10 km from Okhrey. The rhododendron zone begins from here.
The inhabitants of Okhrey are mostly sherpas. They are trying to build a cultural academy, where one can study their tradition and culture, which form such an integral part of mountain travel.
Since Okhrey is not very well frequented by visitors, the only place where one can find accommodation is the sherpa lodge run by a local family.
Despite the wonderful landscapes, Okhrey would never be charming enough with the extremely caring family that runs the lodge. All one has to do is reach Okhrey and the rest will be taken care of by them, including how best to spend your time.
Trip tips
There are several trains to New Jalpaiguri station. Okhrey is 130 km from there. There is regular jeep service from Jorethang. The journey takes about an hour. Since the village is not a regular stop for tourists, the only place to stay is a sherpa lodge run by a local family