It all started with “Cho Mondarmani Jai. Good Friday te tana 3 din chuti” (Let’s go to Mandarmani. We’ll get 3 long holidays due to Good Friday) by one of our friend. We all had already been to Mandarmani number of times and we all got bored by visiting the same place again and again. But then we thought about other probable options? Generally Bengali’s can’t think of anything else other than same old Digha, Mandarmani etc. as Weekend Destination, may be due limitations of not much options from Kolkata, I believe.
After discussing for 3 days over different destinations, I thought of North Bengal. Well, North Bengal is a heaven for Travelers with numbers of destinations and different options. First I thought of Lava and Lolegaon (also spelled as Loleygaon), but then after doing my research I thought of including Rishap (also spelled as Rishyap) and Kolakham. While doing my research I came upon Pedong and Charkhol, both of which are awesome destinations, but due to shortage of time, we thought of limiting this of our trip to Lava, Lolegaon (Loleygaon), Rishap (Rishyap) and Kolakham.
I quickly chalked out an Itenary and shared with my friends. Finally after few revisions, we fixed our stay at Kolakham and Rishop (Rishyap) instead of commonly chosen destination, Lava and Lolegaon (Loleygaon). All these places can be covered as Sightseen as well as you can stay, if you choose to. As not much options are there, instead of enjoying the scenic beauty.
- Day 1 : NMZ to Kolakham. Post Lunch visit Changey Falls. O/N at Kolakham
- Day 2 : Kolakham to Rishap (Rishyap) via Neora Valley and Lava. O/N at Rishap (Rishyap)
- Day 3 : Rishap (Rishyap) to NJP via Lolegaon (Lolegygaon) and Delo (Dealo)
All these happened in the 3rd week of March and all the trains to NJP were full. I quickly booked tickets for our onward journey at about Waiting List of 30, but we were out of luck for our return journey as the Waiting List was of above 150. So we thought of booking Tatkal by some agent, but suddenly on 26th March, I came upon a special train, NJP SRC Special (New Jalpaiguri to Santragachi), announced by Indian Railways as Summer Specials which will run only on Sunday’s. Without wasting a single second, I typed IRCTC in my browser and booked the tickets.
Now that all the arrangements were done, we just waited for the D Day to arrive. Believe me, this moment of waiting for your hard planned trip is like spending every day as a week. But as the trip was of only 3 days, we knew once it comes up, it’ll end just in few moments. So we all enjoyed the verge of this moment.
Finally the day came and we started our journey with Kanchankanya Express from Sealdah. Kanchankanya Express is the only train which goes upto New Mal Jn. (NMZ). If you are going to Lava / Lolegaon (Loleygaon) / Kolakham / Rishap (Rishyap) / Pedong / Charkhol etc., it’s always wise to go upto New Mal Jn. (NMZ) and take a cab upto Lava, which will cost you around 2200/-. From there, book a cab to your destination from Lava Car Syndicate. You can start your journey from NJP, but the cost will be much higher and also, you’ll have a hard time finding cab for Lava. Shared cabs for Lava is available from Siliguri, but nothing is guaranteed. Also, while going to NMZ you can enjoy the scenic beauty and thrilling experience of moving through caves. 🙂
Day 1 : NMZ to Kolakham. Post Lunch visit Changey Falls. O/N at Kolakham
When we reached New Mal Jn. (NMZ) our Driver Ramen Da was waiting for us. Soon we started moving towards our first destination Kolakham. En-route to Kolakham, we took a break at Malbazar, for taking Cash out of ATM and getting our Drinks. 😛 Kolakham, Rishap (Rishyap), Lava, Lolegaon (Loleygaon), Pedong, Charkhol etc. these are very less known destinations as well as small villages with very few options. So up there you’ll hardly find any ATM. At Lava there’s an ATM, which will be out of Cash 90% of the times. Also the cost of the Drinks will be high, as you move upwards with very limited options. So it’s always best carry cash and choice of your drinks from plains. Don’t even think of using your plastic money there, else you’ll end up ruining your trip and going back down to get cash.
It took us around 3.5 Hours to reach our Hotel, Silent Valley, in Kolakham with few breaks in between. It really felt like Silent Valley, where practically you have nothing to do rather than enjoying the scenic beauty. Kolakham is a small village in Kolbong Forest within the Neora Valley. While moving through Neora Valley, in between through the Pine trees, we all wondered how God have designed the Nature and soon we realized how we city people have destructed it and now we thrive for it with different Go Green pledges. It was just awesome. Wish I had more words to describe the scenic beauty of the nature here. We were greeted warmly by the staff and they took to our room.
When we entered the room we were just speechless. Wow..!!
I had already called Mr. Subrata (the owner of Silent Valley) beforehand, when we were at Malbazar and informed about our hereabouts. So, the lunch was ready when we were there. Soon we were served Lunch at the Restaurant. This was the best lunch I ever had.
Post lunch, after taking rest for few minutes, we started for Changey Falls. Within 30 minutes we reached the point from where we trekked down to see the falls. The road was steep and while going down we noticed halt rooms around the turns. Though we didn’t understand the significance of these while going down. But it was not too late for us to understand why these have been made while returning back.
It was around 5:30 PM and we left for our Hotel. As soon as we reached we were given some snacks and Tea. Rest of the evening we enjoyed doing masti among ourselves. At around 9 PM we were called for Dinner. Though in hilly areas people sleeps early but we City people couldn’t adjust with that. So we enjoyed with our Antiquity Blue till 1 AM in the midnight and after that we went to sleep 🙂
Day 2 : Kolakham to Rishap (Rishyap) via Neora Valley and Lava. O/N at Rishap (Rishyap)
It was 6:30 AM in the morning when we woke up and was amazed when we removed the curtains. We all were excited to see Kangchenjunga (actually pronounced and spelled as Kanchendzonga). We just couldn’t move from the window for few minutes. Soon we were served Bed Tea and after that we started getting ready for moving along, according to our Itenary. After breakfast we left Silent Valley and Kolakham at around 9 AM.
First we went to Lava to get our permits to enter Neora Valley. Though technically we were staying in Neora Valley only, as Kolakham is in Neora Valley base area. But to go up to Zero Point one needs to get permission from Lava. But we didn’t do that previous day while going to Kolakham as we were not aware about the same. So we got permission for Chaufadder Point . While in Lava we ordered our Lunch at Hotel Tibet.
It took us around 2 Hours to reach Chaufadder Point. After waiting for few minutes and few formalities, the Guide took us further for the trek. It was an awesome experience. This was first time we were trekking in Forest. Though we didn’t came across any Red Panda, but we did managed to see few birds and butterflies. Finally when we reached the end point we just felt that, we are at the source of Changey Falls. The paths around it is dangerous as you need to walk above the roots of the trees which are slippery. After spending some time and few clicks we returned. The trek was about 1 Hour.
When we reached Chaufadder Point, we ordered Green Tea. It was authentic Green Tea and nothing else was available. We all felt hungry, so without wasting any time we started for Lava. The weather at Lava was just awesome. We could touch the Fogs, as it was flying so low. It felt really cold.
Post lunch we did some shopping in and around. Finally we visited Lava Monastery. We have been to various Monastery before, so we felt nothing special here.
At around 5 PM in the evening we started for Rishap (Rishyap). It took us around 30 Minutes to reach our Hotel, Himalayan Hut in Rishap (Rishyap). While on Lava, we had already informed Mr. Bimal Gurung (owner of Himalayan Hut).
Upon reaching our Hotel, Mr. Tamang helped us getting into our rooms. I just couldn’t believe my eyes, it was the whole 180 Deg Kangchenjunga (Kanchendzonga) view. We asked Mr. Tamang to arrange Bonfire and Barbeque. We had already informed about the same to Mr. Bimal Gurung when we were at Lava, as everything needs to be arranged beforehand, as there’s nothing much at Rishap (Rishyap). We ordered 2KG Chicken for us which they had already got from Lava when we called Mr. Gurung.
Mr. Tamang informed us that weather at Rishap (Rishyap) is very unpredictable, so it could rain anytime. It was chilly and was around 2 – 3 Deg Centigrade. So we didn’t wasted any more time and rest of the evening we spent enjoying Antiquity Blue, warming ourselves in the heat of Bonfire. After few minutes Mr. Tamang started roasting Chicken and soon we were served the same. It was just fabulous. We had tried Barbeque before, even at home we do it sometimes, but it never tasted like this.
At around 8 PM it started raining, so we hurried ourselves into our room. It was raining heavily and electricity was cut off as trees fell due to the storm. At around 9 PM we were called for Dinner. After having dinner at around 10 PM hotel staff turned off the generator. So practically we had nothing to do, at 3 Deg C while raining, so we followed Early to Bed mantra 🙂
Day 3 : Rishap (Rishyap) to NJP via Lolegaon (Lolegygaon) and Delo (Dealo)
Though we are not an early riser, but due the early sunrise we woke up at around 5:30 AM. It was cloudy morning as it was heavily raining whole night. But as time passed by, at around 7 AM, the sky started getting clear and gradually we were getting the 180 Degree view of Kangchenjunga (Kanchendzonga). We packed our bags as it was the last day of our trip. We got ready and left Himalayan Hut, Rishap (Rishyap) at around 11 AM.
We went to Lolegaon (Loleygaon), but due to the storm, day before, and rain there were few road blocks as the trees fell down on the street.
But finally after all the hassles we reached Lolegaon (Loleygaon) at around 1 PM. But we were out of luck as the Hanging Bridge, Canopy Walk itself got broken due to the storm. Still we helped ourselves to climb up and enjoy the ride..!!
At around 2 PM, after having some Momo at a nearby shop (infact the only shop near Hanging Bridge, Canopy Walk) we left for Delo (Dealo). It took us around 3 Hours to reach Delo (Dealo). We tried bargaining about the Paragliding, but it didn’t helped us. So we enjoyed rest of the evening at Delo (Dealo) and left for NJP at around 5:30 PM.
It was around 8:30 when we reached NJP. Our train was at 23:00 Hrs, but it got delayed for another hour.
Finally we were back to Kolkata. The train was late by about 3 Hours, and it reached Santragachi (SRC) at 1 PM instead of 10 AM. It was scorching hot at Kolkata. We helped ourselves to book a Mega Cab to our home. Finally the trip ends with some loving memories. We felt like we were travelling for 4 – 5 days whereas it’s just been 2 days. May be because we all were together after a long gap.
Miss you all guys 🙂
Silent Valley, Kolakham – 4 Bedroom @ 2200/- and 3 Bedroom @ 1700/- = 3900/-
Himalayan Hut, Rishap (Rishyap) – 4 Bedroom @ 1500/- and 3 Bedroom @ 1300/- = 2800/-
Total Accommodation = 6700/-
We were 7 persons and so we booked exclusive vehicle for our entire trip @ 3500/- per day = 10,500/-
Fooding were 425/- per day per person. (This includes Breakfast, Lunch, Snacks and Dinner) [Note : It’s the meal plan of hotel]
Bonfire = 350/-
Barbeque = Chicken 350/- per KG.
Train Cost – Onward Journey via Kanchankanya Express @ 385/- and Return Journey via NJP SRC Special @ 350/- = 735/- per head
Understanding The Rules of Syndicate:
It’s been quite some time, I have been getting a lot of queries regarding syndicate and how it affects us and our plan to visit these regions. So I thought of coming up with a short paragraph to make it easier for you to understand and plan accordingly.
Please keep in mind that Lava, Loleygaon, Rishyap & Kolakham are heavily under the influence of Car Syndicate. For those who don’t know what Syndicate is, let me phrase it easily for you – Think of it as a union / welfare society of local drivers which makes it mandatory to hire the vehicle from them for any kind of sightseeing in these regions. That means you are not allowed to travel in a vehicle which is not part of the syndicate for sightseeing. Outside vehicle (that are not part of the Syndicate) are only allowed to Pickup / Drop you from Railway Station / Airports and cannot do any sightseeing in these regions. And the union / welfare society has fixed rates for all the routes so that the charges are uniform and anyone (any driver who’s part of the syndicate) cannot overcharge / scam the tourists. This helps them generating a source of income for the locals.
While coming from NJP / NMZ / Bagdogra, you can either book a vehicle from syndicate for pickup from Railway Station / Airport (ask your hotel to arrange the same) or you can also book a vehicle on you own on-spot at Railway Station / Airport. As the vehicle you’d be booking on-spot at Railway Station / Airport would just drop you to your destination, it’s allowed. But you can’t use that vehicle for sightseeing. That means if you book a private vehicle for the whole trip, it’s a loss for you, as you’d have to hire a vehicle separately for sightseeing from the syndicate.
Now, there’s a catch. Say you are visiting for 3 Nights and you planned to stay at Lava, Rishyap & Kolakham respectively for each of the night. In this case, you can keep a private vehicle (not from Syndicate) with you. The catch is, you cannot use the vehicle with you for sightseeing after you check-in to your hotel. So you may do all the sightseeing first before checking in to your hotel. So going by the above example, on first day you’d directly check-in at Lava from NJP / NMZ / Bagdogra. Next day after checking-out from Lava you’d do all the sightseeing of Lava and check-in to Rishyap and so on. Hope you get the point.
However, if you plan to stay at a single destination for more than 1 Night, then it’s not possible for you to use the above plan. Say for e.g. you’d be staying at Lava for 2N and Rishyap for 1N. In that case, you are not checking out on 2nd day and thus, you won’t be allowed to use your vehicle to do the sightseeings. In this case, you must hire a vehicle from the syndicate for the sightseeing on 2nd day. As hiring private vehicle for the whole trip means you’d be paying a charge on per day basis, so in this case, if you hire a private vehicle, you’d be paying him for sitting idle on 2nd day and on top of that you’ll have to pay extra to hire a vehicle from the syndicate for Lava Sightseeing. So you see, you are paying double which kills the purpose of hiring a private vehicle.
So in simple words, keep in mind that “You must stay at different destination on each of the days to have a private vehicle with you“. Hope I’m able to explain the things clearly in an easier way.
Now, another thing to keep in mind is that, if you are planning to visit Changey Falls, and not staying in Kolakham, no matter what, you must hire a vehicle from the Syndicate. Well, think in terms of what I explained above! As you are not staying in Kolakham, there’s no hotel that you can check-in / check-out which means there’s no Pickup / Drop in this case. So there’s no way you can enter Kolakham with your private vehicle without telling the truth that you are visiting Changey Falls for sightseeing! However, if you are staying at Kolakham, then you are allowed to enter with your private vehicle. And you can visit Changey Falls before checking in or after checking out the next day with the vehicle you have hired.
Tips For The Visitors:
- Lava, Lolegaon (Loleygaon), Kolakham, Rishap (Rishyap), Pedong, Charkhol are interconnected with each other by around 30 minutes to 2 hours, with Lava being the largest and well-known Town around. Except for Lava and Lolegaon (Loleygaon) everything else is lesser-known destination. All these destinations can be covered as sightseen, by staying at a single destination, as you have nothing much to do on most of these places except enjoying the scenic beauty. I’d suggest staying at Rishap (Rishyap) / Kolakham / Charkhol if you want to enjoy the scenic beauty and love to be isolated from the crowd in Lava. Also if you are there for more than one days, try to stay at different destinations. This way you won’t get bored (as I already said, you practically have nothing to do) and you can experience different ambience.
- As for Sightseeings, you can go to Lava Monastery at Lava and can do some shopping in Lava. There’s Hanging Bridge, Canopy Walk at Lolegaon (Loleygaon) and Changey Falls at Kolakham. So expect these three places, nothing is there for sightseeing. So if you are not a nature lover, you’ll be bored easily.
- Always carry cash, for the whole trip. There’s no ATM at these forest areas. You’ll encounter one ATM at Lava but chances are that will be out of service or out of cash most of the times. And don’t even think of using your Plastic Money there.
- If you are planning for Paragliding, you can easily do one in Delo (Dealo) or Kalimpong. It costs around 3000/- for 15 – 20 Mins and 4000 for 30 Mins.
- The same goes for River Rafting (known as White Water Rafting) as well. But the point is different. It’s on the junction where you take the route to Gangtok. It costs around 5000/- per boat for 30 mins.
- If it’s raining, avoid stepping into the grasses, as there are possibilities of leeches, so if possible please carry some salt to be safe.
- Lava is the entry point of Neora Valley National Park. Where you need to arrange the permits.
- Except Lava and Lolegaon (Loleygaon), other destinations are very small villages with around hardly 10 families. So be generous when you visit any hotels (Cottages) over there. Also keep in mind, that anything you want, please arrange it or tell them beforehand, as everything needs to be arranged from Lava. So please don’t be cruel.
- Carry your drinks from Malbazar / NJP / Siliguri, from where you are starting your journey. Because as you go above the charges will increase and options will be limited.
- Don’t spend your entire time in the journey. Enjoy the scenic beauty of nature which we city people have destroyed. Also, don’t make much noise as this disturbs the environment of forest and these places.
- It’s recommended to book exclusive vehicle throughout the trip.
This trip would not have been such a memorable one without
- TripAdvisor Lava Forum
- India Mike Tour Guidance
- Sticky Thread Regarding Lava-Lollegaon-Rishap and the other threads at India Mike West Bengal Forum
Special Thanks To:
Mr. Dipankar (North East Travels) for helping us brushing up our itinerary and booking Hotels and Car. He really is a very knowledgeable person of North East areas and can provide great solutions for your trips in these areas. He himself is an avid traveller. He just not only does business with you, but always provide cost-effective tips. I always love DIY, but I’m really happy after dealing with Dipankar Da.
Thanks to Dipans, Ashis Roy and other active members from TripAdvisor Forum for their contributions. Thanks Dipans for suggesting Mr. Dipankar.
Mr. Dipankar Roy (North East Travels)
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone : +918972247306
Driver : Mr. Ramen – +919679868649
Silent Valley, Kolakham : Mr. Subrata – +919830190503 / +918981530735
Himalayan Hut, Rishap (Rishyap) : Mr. Bimal Gurung – +919733093588