Trekking in Sikkim
Trekking in Sikkim is very different from trekking in any other part of the Indian Himalayas. The mountains, the trails, the people and the culture is in such sharp contrast to the rest of the country that for any trekker the Goechala trail is a must-do.
The Goechala trek in Sikkim is also one of the most romantic trails the Indian Himalayas has to offer — the enchanting walk through the Tshoka Rhododendron forests, the vast Dzongri and Thansing meadows, the startling blue waters of Samiti lake, the looming presence of Kanchenjunga and Pandim, the icy trail to Goechala make lots about the trek very romantic.
Typical trekking day in Sikkim
On a typical trek in Sikkim, you are provided a bed tea/ Coffee (Nescafe). Then you are provided with a bowl of warm water to wash and brush. Breakfast is served in your dinning tent. After breakfast, crews take down the tents, clean the campsite, pack the bags/boxes and begin loading the animals, at which time you and your guide set-off on the trail. During the day, for most part of the time, you walk at your own pace and stop to take pictures or admire landscapes. All you carry is a personal backpack with only a water bottle, camera and jacket and accessories you need during the day. Around noon, hot lunch or packed picnic lunch with tea, coffee and juice is served.
Checklist for Clothing & Equipment/Gears for Trek in Sikkim
Travel light is the phrase which we often hear in our trade. This expression hold water as it’s the bare essence of travelling. However, there are many aspects to consider when we prepare for trekking. One singular most important consideration that dictates our welfare is how to be suitably equipped to combat with elements of nature that we may come across like inclement weather and rugged and unforgiving terrains whilst on trek.
Though our intent is to provide check list with appropriate information however we ask you to examine and exercise discretion in most resilience manner based on your own outdoor experience and preference.
As mentioned, the art lies in maintaining finer balance between taking not too much or too little, especially considering that you need to equip yourself for all extremes of climate
Basic, Necessary & Light
HEAD Gears (Trekking Hat)
On a clear, sunny day, the sun burnt will be an issue, at altitude, the sun rays are particularly strong. Bring a hat that shade your head, face and neck from the sun and also consider using Arab type scrap for further protection.You should bring a plentiful supply of sunscreen cream and a couple of large tubes of factor 6-10 (depending on your skin sensitivity).
To combat with cold particular during early morning. A comfortable, warm hat such as one made from Polar Fleece or wool that covers your ears is recommended
At altitude, the sun’s rays are particularly strong, and sunglasses with 100% ultraviolet and infrared filtration are recommended, . These glasses are available with detachable leather or plastic side pieces, which give increased protection. Make sure they are dark enough to keep your eyes comfortable on the brightest day.
Bring a good headlamp for this trek. It should be bright enough to use on the trail if we have a day that is longer than usual, an early start for a pass or climb, or for reading in your tent.L.E.D. headlamps are sufficient. Make sure you bring at least 2 extra bulbs and extra batteries.
Warm Glove Liner with waterproof outer shell– At times it can get cold and windy. You should bring 2 pair of properly-fitted Wind Shields fleece glove liners and a pair of warm gloves with a waterproof outer shell to protect you from wind,
Liner Socks (2 Pairs)- If you prefer to wear two pair of socks your inner liner socks Liner (A thin wicking sock that repels moisture. Liner socks help to reduce the likelihood of blisters. The socks should be thin wool, nylon. NO COTTON.
Hiking Socks ( 3 pairs) – You should bring a thick woollen sock to use as an extra layer over the liner sock or some may prefer to wear just the hiking sock, in such case ensure it’s thick mainly natural fibres and of loop stitch construction for maximum warmth and comfort.
Hiking Boot –This is one of the most important considerations, as blisters and sore feet will spoil your trek. We recommend that you take a pair of light to mid weight trekking boots, well broken -in, provide good ankle support and suitable for walking over rough terrain and comfortable over long distances. Good quality fabric boots are recommended.
Gaiters: Gaiters are an important piece of equipment, which will help to keep your feet warm and dry in wet condition. The simple â€œalpineâ€ style of gaiter which hooks onto the bootlaces and is held under the instep by a strap or lace is fine for most trekking applications.
Upper Body Gear
Mid – Weight Top–
A mid to heavier weight thermal layer. Fitted, light-weight and quick drying. As we recommend to adopt the principle of “layering” this light to mid weight top can be used as base layer.
Warm Jacket –As it can get cold during morning and night specifically at camp. You should incorporate a Polar guard or fleece jacket. This can be a very warm fleece or Polar guard jacket. Full zip is recommended.
Shell Jacket –As its highly unlikely for the rain during the trek or over the period of time but unpredictability of weather in Himalayas are renowned. To be equipped for any rain whilst on trek the shell jacket is advised. Shell garments made from breathable fabrics (GoreTex or equivalent) are recommended.
Shell Pant– As its highly unlikely for the rain during the trek or over the period of time but unpredictability of weather in Himalayas are renowned. To be equipped for any rain whilst on trek and also from the cold wind the shell jacket is advised. Shell garments made from breathable fabrics (GoreTex or equivalent) are recommended.
Day packs – A 2500 cubic inch pack should be large enough to carry the following items on trek. a) shell jacket and pants. b) fleece jacket, pants, extra pair of socks etc) Two water bottles, with at least 2 quart total capacity. d) camera plus accessories, binoculars, etc. e) first aid kit. You should test-pack your day pack before leaving home.
Duffel Bags (2 nos) – You’ll need one large duffle bag to hold everything, you do not put in your day pack, including your sleeping bag and mattress, while on trek. This bag should be durable, as it will be carried by porters and/or pack animals. A second smaller bag can be used to store items not used on trek at the group hotel.
Sleeping Bag You will need a 4-season sleeping bag rated to at least zero degrees. A full-length side zip is essential to facilitate ventilation on warmer nights. A cotton or fleece liner adds to the warmth and comfort of a bag and prevents it from becoming excessively soiled.
Sleeping Mattress – A mattress is needed primarily to insulate you from the cold ground, and you should take a quality closed-cell foam mat .On all camping treks, we provide light trekking mattresses. However, if you care for extra comfort and have a sensitive back, bring a self-inflatable trek mat.
Accessories & Miscellaneous :
- Travel Wallet Pouch (waist or neck)
- Locks For Duffle Bags
- Leather man / Swiss Army Knife
- Water Purification Tablets (iodine or equivalent)
- Underwear – (men- polypro boxers or briefs / women- poly-pro sports bras, cotton or polypro briefs are fine) 3 rotating pairs. As with socks and shirts, you’ll be wearing one, one will be drying from washing and one will be clean and packed.
- Sunscreen: SPF 30 (or higher) LOTS
- Lip Balm with SPF 15 (or higher)
- Insect Repellent
- Personal First Aid Kits (Band-aids, Ibuprofen, Cough Drops, Moleskin, Pepto-bismol, Immodium, Diamox Personal Medications)
- Toilteries – Toothbrush,Toothpaste, Bio-degradable Soap/Shampoo Quick Dry Towel, Moisturizer, Purel Hand Sanitizer,
- Antiseptic Hand Towelette, Toilet Paper (a small emergency stash)]
- Water Bottles –Two litre capacity
- Snack food – (trail mix, protein bars, GU, candy, powdered drink mixes and don’t bring a whole suitcase, but bring a variety of things you know you can eat while in the mountains to supplement your diet.)
- Power Adapter for electrical gadgets (round pin socket- 220v)
- Reading Glasses or contact lenses
- Photography equipment with extra films, extra memory cards and an extra battery
- Clothing & Gears : as per the list detailed
- Sleeping Bags Liner: Sleeping bag Inner liner made of fleece or cotton is highly recommended that can be easily washed and dried while in the trek. Most importantly it provides additional warmth, if the temperature should drop and keeps the sleeping bag clean.
- Pillow: Small blow pillow is provided. However you may consider bringing your own comfortable small trek pillow.
- Optional: Ipod, Ipad, ear plugs, books, journals, a deck of cards, binoculars, whistle for safety, phone (multi band phone, you can buy local sim-cards and get free incoming calls)
Weight allowance for trekking in Sikkim
Please try to keep the weight of your equipment to a minimum. Choose items of clothing that can be used in multiple situations. At the start of the trek, you will be carrying your day pack loaded with just the items you will need during the day of hiking.Your packed trek/duffle bag will be carried by pack animals (ponies or potter) and should weigh no more than 33 pounds.
Note on Personal Clothing
Clothing- Your clothing needs to be adaptable to suit a wide range of conditions, including extremes of weather and varying levels of physical activity. We recommend to adopt the principle of layering which involves the use of several thin layers of thermally efficient clothing, which can be worn in a number of combinations, according to the prevailing circumstances. Where it is warm enough you can trek in either shorts or lightweight trekking trousers (natural fibres) (a long skirt is an option for the ladies) and a long sleeve cotton shirt or T-shirt. For colder conditions, you can add layers of thermal clothing. And that the clothes you bring wash well in cold water and dry quickly.
Sikkim, long sequestered in the lap of the Himalayas, sandwiched between Nepal Bhutan and Tibet lies a small stretch of rugged land just 40 miles by 70 miles, the erstwhile Kingdom of Sikkim – now a state of India. Sikkim provides a wide potential in tourism that has yet largely remained unexploited. The perennially snow-capped mountains, lush green tropical and temperate forests, gurgling streams and the rich flora and fauna – a true Shangri-La or “Nye-mae-el” which simply means ‘heaven’.
Hotels: Accommodations in Sikkim and Darjeeling are fairly updated, if not, they tend to be upkeep of old heritage ones. Accommodation standards do not detract from the beauty of the country and, if taken in the right spirit, will not detract from what is essentially a privileged stay in these fascinating areas. Furthermore, around the time of the festivals and events, there is much pressure on room availability and even confirmed bookings are subject to cancellation and changes because local authorities will demand rooms from the hotel for their guests. And one might find themselves in a second grade accommodation or in some cases, private houses.
For the camping on trek, we have trekking gear which are up to date and well furnished, with amicable trekking crew, freshly cooked and mostly using local and fresh edible items.
Food: Darjeeling and Gangtok have some choice for eating out. It is best to stick to diets that are cooked well, instead of eating, raw or semi-cooked food to avoid any stomach problems. In Darjeeling and Sikkim, one typically tends to eat in the hotel where they stay, especially if your package includes meals.
Food on Trek. During the trek our cook will serve you well with local food and also our cook and staffs are well trained in European, Chinese and Continental style of food, so we know well what to serve you during the trek. We will also ask you for your like and special need and will try all our best to arrange it if it within our reach.
The major thing to watch is water. Be sure to drink bottled water at all times. Even if the water is good where you are, you are not accustomed to the local microbes. Remember to stay well hydrated. It is very important in high altitude situations to drink at least 4 quarts of liquid a day, excluding tea. Always carry a bottle of purified water with you while touring or driving.
Important Notes on Itinerary
Although we will do our very best to adhere to the itinerary and its schedule, this itinerary should be considered an approximate indication of the schedule and scope of activities, and trip routing. It is likely that there will be changes in terms of anything from the exact hotel used to the villages we may stop in for the night.
There are a few key points to remember while traveling through Sikkim and Darjeeling
Even though we do our very best, it is important to acknowledge that some things are simply out of our control: weather, people and their concepts and culture. Hills people by nature are very laid back and take opportunities as they come and very rarely take the “bull by the horns” In Sikkim and Darjeeling, you simply have to hang loose, be open-minded, and allow the culture and experience to enhance your life.
The best way to look at a trip is with an open mind. This is not to say that you should not expect good service. However, it does mean that you should be flexible and let things happen.
John Steinbeck says it well: “We do not take a trip; a trip takes us” I hope this helps you keep in perspective the reason you visit the Himalayas is not really for the comfort and sophistication, but for its culture, nature and its people.
Tipping is not included on your trip. Tipping is optional, and at times expected in travel trade. Obviously there is no limit to how much you can tip and some guests who enjoy and appreciate the services of Guides, driver and other crew will and have tipped much more than our average tipping guideline of about $10-15 per day.
These are last minute checklists of some important things that you must bring along on this trip.For your trip, you must have:
- Valid passport (valid for six months after your date of entry into Asia) Optional: One other picture ID, such as driver’s license is useful (in case of emergency and for use as a substitute of passport or in case of loss of your passport) Photocopy of passport page to carry in wallet). Also bring along with you few extra copies of a passport size photos (colour or black& white). This may be required to provide at the check-points, when filling up forms.
- Visa: You must have Indian Visa prior to arrival or departure from your country. Visa on Arrival (India) is proposed from October, 2014 as per government notification. Sikkim permit are arranged at the border of Sikkim State without fees. They may ask you submit 2PP size photos each. IMPORTANT UPDATE: When you arrive in India for the first time, you should ask the immigration officer to give you a waiver to re-inter India twice or thrice as the case may be; India visa recently changed the rules that one may not re-enter India again within 60days of the first visit
- Bring extra passport size photos , as per the recent Govt notification, its mandatory to submit the PP size photos at each hotel along with Passport detail through out the tours at different hotels.
- Air tickets (Make copies of flight tickets and carry with you) you should bring the copy of your E-tickets and also bring copies of all other E-tickets along with you.
- Money (some cash and some in Traveler’s checks) Credit cards are accepted in high-end restaurants, shops and hotels in most major town in Sikkim and Darjeeling but not in smaller establishments. Some of the shops may even charge fees to use credit cards.
- Travel & Medical Insurance (recommended). Bring the copy of your policy if you have purchased it.
Baggage allowance on flights
In India is usually 15 Kilos to check-in and one carry-on about 5 kilograms. Some airlines or airports apply these rules strictly and so they may charge you extra for excess weight of luggage. For details please visit the link http://faq.windhorsetours.com/questions/question/what-is-the-baggage-limit-for-domestic-flights
Travel Resources /References
Following are very useful websites when planning or preparing for your trip.
US State Department Travel Advisories www.travel.state.gov
Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade www.smartraveller.gov.au
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA U.S.A http://www.cdc.gov/travel
Foreign and Commonwealth Office (British government official travel advice and warnings for all countries)http://www.fco.gov.uk
Official travel advice of New Zealand government http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/
Canadian government official travel advice http://www.voyage.gc.ca
When you return from your trip, please share with us your experience. Any photos, suggestions will be appreciated. Although we try our best, Tourism is a trade, which cannot be perfect and there will always remain a room for improvement. Your comments (both criticism and compliments) are invaluable to us and we look forward to hearing from you, upon your return.