This is a lovely little hike if you want to walk among ancient forests and see plenty of bird life without expending too much time or energy. Rabangla is located on the ridge between Mainom (3,230m) and Tendong (2,590m) peaks. It has a scrub forest, which is home to a number of Himalayan birds, including the verditer flycatcher, bluefronted redstart, grey bushchat, darkthroated thrush, blue-whistling thrush, green-backed tit and white-browed fantail. The forest around Rabangla is home to the laughing thrush, babbler, cuckoo and hill partridge. If you are lucky, you may even get a glimpse of the rare satyr tragopan en route to Mainom. There are small hotels and lodges to stay at Rabangla, the best one being the cute Mt Narsing Resort with its wooden cottages on the hillside.
TIME: 6 HOURS
Walk through the main Rabangla Bazaar, past all the shops on both sides and follow the jeepable road for about 20 mins. This is the road that eventually leads to the Ralang Monastery. The road begins to climb and, after about 20 mins, there is a sign to the right marking the entrance to the Mainom Wildlife Sanctuary. The trail now leaves the jeepable road and begins to climb steeply through the forest full of oak, chestnut, magnolia, rhododendron, small bamboo and abundant flowers, moss, ferns and creepers.
Watch out for the red panda, the Himalayan black bear and many species of deer. En route is a small hermitage containing the image of Guru Padmasambhava. The 4-hr steep climb along a well-trodden path brings the trekker to the top of Mainom (3,200m) that towers above the town. During spring, especially between March and April, the rhododendron display is quite spectacular. On a clear morning, the hilltop has a view of the peaks of the Kangchendzonga Range. The way down should not take longer than 2 hrs. Or, if you have a few more days, you may get a local agency to arrange a gentle hike from Mainom Hilltop to Borong, a picturesque village with magnificent views and snowcapped mountains for a backdrop. Or follow the more treacherous trails taken by the famous British botanist, Sir Joseph Hooker, down to Yangang Village.
The Sikkim Cuppa
If you are planning a visit to Damthang and Rabangla, you will pass through the Temi Tea Estate, located on the Gangtok- Rabangla Road. This is Sikkim’s sole tea garden and connoisseurs will tell you that with a gem like this, the state doesn’t need any more — it’s a true solitaire. The tea produced here enjoys international repute, commanding premium prices in world auctions. The last Chogyal (king of Sikkim) initiated tea growing in Sikkim to provide employment for Tibetan refugees fleeing the Chinese invasion of their homeland. Initially, a small plantation was started in Kewzing. This later moved to Temi and a proper processing plant was constructed.
The government-owned estate today produces about 1,00,000 kg of tea annually. Temi is planted along steep hillsides ranging from 1,200-1,800m. The factory is situated at 1,500m and the road up to it is lined with cherry blossom trees. Driving up in November, when these trees are in bloom, is like moving through a pink mist beyond which one can glimpse the gleaming snows of Kangchendzonga. The drive up to Temi takes you through mountainsides lush with ferns. Numerous waterfalls rush down the slopes, some merely musical rills, others roaring cascades. All this natural verdant beauty feeds into the tea, giving it a subtle, multi-layered fragrance that gives it the unchallenged reputation of being the champagne among teas.
Written by Sujoy Das
About the Author: Sujoy Das has trekked and photographed in the Himalayas for the last 25 years. He is the co-author of Sikkim – a Traveller’s Guide, nominated in the Banff Mountain Book Festival Awards, and is represented by the international photo agency, Stock Boston, USA. His photographs have been widely published in books and magazines worldwide.