Trekking atmosphere has resumed in Sikkim with the far-flung Uttarey village in West Sikkim recently organising such expeditions for local people to the picturesque Phoktey Dara and the adventure tourism received a further fillip on Friday with the lifting of ban on access to the most popular Dzongri-Goecha La route.
Apart from the Phoktey Dara trek, Uttarey is also the starting point of the Chewabhanjyang route along the fringes of the Singalila National Park in Darjeeling. In fact, many trekkers hike all the way to Maneybhanjang in Darjeeling, which is at the base of the equally popular Sandakphu-Phalut trekking trail.
B. Subba, who is credited with introducing trekking tourism at Uttarey, said the local panchayat had earlier banned the entry of tourists because of Covid-19 fears, but following the detailed guidelines issued by the state government on the reopening of tourism, the ban has been withdrawn. ‘Two local groups have already taken the Phoktey Dara trek in the past couple of days and five other groups of tourists have booked for the same trek,’ he said.
On Friday, the government also threw open the Dzongri-Goecha La trekking trail inside the Khangchendzongha National Park, which is a World Heritage Site. An official order signed by Y. P. Gurung, the secretary of forest and environment department, said: ‘It has been decided to lift (the) ban imposed to access National Park, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Parks and Zoo in the state with immediate effect…’
The lifting of the ban comes in the wake of the demand raised by the Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation (STDC). ‘I on behalf of all tourism stakeholders would like to thank the government for lifting the ban. The forest department has also come out with the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to be followed while assessing the protected places. I appeal to all concerned to adhere to the SOPs very strictly,’ said Lukendra Rasaily, the STDC chairman.
The catch, however, is the panchayat of Yuksom, the base camp for the Dzongri-Goecha La trekking route, has imposed a ban on the entry of tourists into the area till October 30. To break the deadlock, the district magistrate of West Sikkim on Friday called a meeting of panchayat pradhans of Yuksom and two other places, who have imposed similar bans, on October 21.
The Dzongri-Goecha La route is considered to be one of the most beautiful trekking trails. The walk through the verdant forests also provides fantastic view of the many Himalayan peaks, including Kanchenjungha.
Meanwhile, in the first week of the reopening of tourism in the Himalayan state, about 400 tourists had visited Tsomgo (Changu) Lake in East Sikkim, which is one of the most popular tourist spots. After about seven months of Covid-induced shutdown, tourism reopened in Sikkim from October 10.
Harish Gosar, a tourist from Mumbai, said he and his family comprising his wife, daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter enjoyed the trip to Tsomgo Lake. ‘I am coming to Sikkim after 36 years. This is such a beautiful part of our country. We went to Changu Lake and Baba Mandir, but were not allowed to visit Nathu La. We enjoyed the trip,’ he said.
Report by Prakash, Special Correspondent Sikkim