Neora Valley NP - Kolakham (Diary in brief )
20.4.23 -21.4.23 Sealdah>NMZ (New Mal Junction) >Kolakham [Kanchankanya > Car ]
21.4.23 Kolakham > Changey Falls>Lava>Kolakham
22.4.23 Kolakham > NMZ [Car >Kanchankanya ]
20.4.23 - 21.4.23
After a long time, Mohua and I (without any group) left for Kolakham alone. We took Kanchankanya at 8.30 am from Sealdah and reached New Mal Junction at 9.30 am next day. The Route from Siliguri Junction (not NJP) to New Mal Junction (NMZ) is the most picturesque route you will ever find in India - it is a marriage between River, dense Forest and Hills. It is probably the only long distance train, which stops at NMZ (Railway code).
From NMZ there is no direct bus to Lava (actually Kolakham is a very small village in Neora Valley NP, so no shared jeep goes there). First you have to come to Dam-dim (from NMZ , a toto will charge around Rs 100-150 to reach Damdim) and from Damdim you can take a share jeep to reach Lava. From Lava there is no shared jeep route to Kolakham. You have to reserve a car for Rs 1000 (fixed rate as per Chart) for a 6-7 Km bumpy ride to Kolakham. If you are lucky, you can hitchhike from Lava. Lava falls on the route to Kolakham. A small road at the entry point of Lava, takes you to Kolakham (entry fee to enter Neora Valley NP/Kolakham is Rs 120 per jeep since you are entering Neora Valley Forest).
After considering all this we decided to book a Wagon R for Rs 2200/- from NMZ. The name of the driver is Rajesh Kundu (+91 81580 49888 ). We bought very good Pizza at Pizza Palace (91 77973 11666 ) just beside the bus station of NMZ. Alternately you talk to owner/Manager of the resort Neora Valley Junge Camp.
On the way falls 5 tea gardens (some owned by Goodricke) - it is a good for photo op session ! On the way falls Gorubathan, the only major town, before Lava. We reached Neora Valley Jungle Camp (it is actually very near to Kolakham village) at 1230 hrs , after 2.30 hours journey. The road is very good and wide. I found the route very charming . Neora Valley Jungle Camp is owned by Help Tourism Pvt Ltd. It is surely one of the best resorts in India, at this price (Rs 7000 for two people - with breakfast and dinner), I have ever stayed. The location is amazing. The rooms are unique. There are two balconies in the room. The rooms are huge and having an attached balcony and one of them is covered by Glass in 3 sides , giving you a wonderful chance to enjoy the mighty Himalaya , from your room. All rooms are fitted with a room heater & geyser . Rooms were clean and bathrooms were well maintained. There is no TV in the room. I stayed at Shikra. I think one should stay at Shikra. Sitting in the balcony, sipping smoking hot tea , you can see snowy peaks of the Kanchenjunga, if the the weather is good. contact person is Mr Pal, 96478 24646 .
Kolakham is located in the buffer zone of the Neora Valley National Park. Neora Valley National Park is in Kalimpong subdivision of Darjeeling District (West Bengal). It was established in 1986 and covers around of 88 km² . It is one of the richest biological zones . It is a paradise for Bird Lovers. The lush green pine forest has such luxurious growth that even sunlight do not reach the soil.
I quickly had my lunch (Pizza) and left for Kolakham village. The road towards the village induced an inexplicable charm. On the way falls Kalbong Check Post of Forest Deptt. From that Check post you have to take the help of Birding guide Yogen (+91 73849 91850 ) to go to Kalbong village (hair pin bend from the check post) for taking pictures of Bird. But if you are a serious birder then you can take the help of Mani (from Lava) - +91 95472 80019. I am told he charges Rs 2000 for the whole day. Then there is Joseph who is even more famous. He works in forest deptt. You can talk to Yogen to get his numbered.
I went further upto the Kolakham village and saw many popular home stays like Red Panda Homestay (first home stay of the village), Kolkham Casero etc. Then I came back to the resort. We had early dinner at 8.30 pm. There I met a Professor of Environment Science and learnt that Cryptomaria japonica was planted for paper industry in India by Britishers, which never materialized. But the trees which were planted for economic benefit , like Sagoon, Teak etc killed the bio diversity of forest. In fact Cryptomaria japonica is somewhat like Eucalyptus. I also learnt that the damage to the nature, is not only because of global warming, but it is also man made.
After breakfast Mohua and I walked upto the Kolakham village. After reaching Kolakham, we saw a tourist car going to Changey Falls. They charged us @ Rs 200 x 2 for the journey. One of the major attractions of Kolakham, is the 100 feet waterfall located about 6 kilometres from the village . However, the trail isn’t smooth, some may find it difficult to keep balance while moving downwards to the waterfall. It took around 15 minutes to go down and around 30 minutes go up.
After returning to base, we were told the car is going to Lava and we can go there by paying Rs 300 each. So we decided to go to Lava and see the famous Lava monastery. The Lava we saw in 2004 is not recognizable any more. The Lava Monastery is really interesting and very big. Do not forget to go around the monastery. After having lunch in the monastery , we came to back to Kolakham by paying Rs 1000.
Cardamom plantations are common here and can be seen in the farms of the local people.
Various species of birds can be seen in the resort itself : Verditer Flycatcher, Rufous Sibia, Scarlet minivet, Green-tailed Sunbird, Fantail to name a few. Later I realized that probably there is no need to go elsewhere for birding. Sitting in the balcony, you can see all the birds.
The rustic life, simple and warm local people, local market and the beautiful village are worth exploring.
I had my dinner early at 8.30 am ,so that I can go for birding tour next day.
There are 2 options here - a) Kalbong route b) Pipeline route. We were told Pipe-line is too dense and is not good for bird sighting.
I got up at 5.15 am and reached Forest Deptt check post at 6.10 am and went to Kalbong village with Yogen for birding.
I saw Rufous Sibia, Scarlet minivet, Great Barbet, Verditer Flycatcher. I finally returned my resort at 10.30 am and had my breakfast.
The check out time is 1100 am. So we checked out of the resort and kept the luggage at the library. Then I again left for birding in the resort and its adjoining area and finally left for NMZ at 2 am. This time the car was arranged by the resort and they charged Rs 3000 (for Innova). On the way to NMZ, we had our lunch and reached the train station in time and the train left at 5.35 pm and reached home right at time, at 8.10 am.