Kolakham: A Tale of Rustic Respite and Steep Trail

Chhangi Falls, Kolakham

A small stretch of land cutting down the slopes amidst a breath-taking waterfall, views of the Kanchenjunga and panoramic green valley constitute Kolakham, the paradise of birds. The greatest attraction of this small mountain village is its magnificent views of nature and the warm welcome of its simple rustic people.

Kolakham is just 8 kilometres from Lava, a popular small hill-town in the Darjeeling district. This village is located in the buffer zone of the Neora Valley National Park. A cloudless azure sky, a nature canvas displaying diverse shades of green, cardamom plantations and various species of birds – Kolakham is a retreat from all the bustles of city life.

Hill Views at Kolakham

The green hills on the way to Chhangi Falls at Kolakham

Sitting in the balcony, sipping smoking hot tea and looking at the snowy peaks of the Kanchenjunga, Kabru, Pandim and more – what else do one need to unwind and get back to life in its true sense?

This was my first visit to Kolakham. As the road led towards the village, the place induced an inexplicable charm. Though the road was bumpy, sometimes gnarled and full of screes giving a jerky drive, but the serenity, untamed nature around was giving an unworldly feeling.

Kolakham village

The serene Kolakham village; Picture Courtesy: Sandip Sarkar

It takes only about a few minutes to leave behind the crowd at Lava and get soaked into this other world. As I arrived at Kolakham, it was already nine in the morning. Taking half an hour to check-in and dump my luggage in my hotel room, I headed towards the waterfall.

Chhangi Falls

One of the major attractions of Kolakham, this 100 feet waterfall located about 6 kilometres from the village is worth visiting. Formerly explored only by trekkers, now roads have been built to take the tourists up to the hill top from where the walking expedition has to begin. This steep trail did not have any properly cultivated track before, but now the trail has been given a shape of a narrow lane to make this spot tourist-friendly. However, the trail isn’t smooth, it is quite steep and some may find it difficult to keep balance while moving downwards to the falls.

Starting point of the trail

The starting point of the trail from the hill top

My local driver was very enthusiastic when we reached the hill top. On arriving, the sound of the falls permeated the air and it was so loud that I had to speak quite loudly to reach out to his ears. I couldn’t see the falls from the hill top and asked, “Where is the falls?” He replied, “Only 10 minutes walking from here”, pointing to the trail. I was so relaxed thinking it was so near and started walking through the trail. After a small distance, the trail takes a bend and then plummets downwards. At first glance it seemed a bit difficult because it was steep and narrow.

The steep trail

The steep trail as seen from the hill top

The trail is sometimes broken mid-way – inconveniences created by fallen trees and landslides. Some broken places are inefficiently patched up with stones and rocks giving minute space for the feet to cross by. Keeping close towards the left side while getting down is suggested because the other side of the narrow trail is the gorge. I moved downwards with all the enthusiasm I had, to capture the falls whose sound had already started to win me. The steep path automatically increases one’s speed downwards and at times it gets difficult to stop your own feet. However, as I moved ahead, the hills offered amazing views with the blue sky in the backdrop and the sound of the falls became louder and more hypnotic.

The Trail

The obstacles throughout the beautiful yet rough trail

I could see a few tourists who were stopping by the small roofed resting places built throughout the trail. Most of them were running out of breath. I could also see some people who gave up mid way. But I decided to move on till I reach my destination.  And when I got the first glimpse of the falls, I knew that it’s worth it! There are three tiers of viewpoints built – the first one offers the view from almost half the height of the falls, the second one offers a more elongated view of the falls from a level lower and the final one is at the foot of the waterfall.

Chhangi Falls

View of Chhangi Falls from the first tier, second tier and lowest tier view points

Stopping by each tier seemed a good idea to catch the waterfall at all angles of its beauty. Shutter sounds were too frequent and aggressive all around. As I reached the foot, the view was mesmerizing. The sun was shining bright right above the fall creating a breath-taking spectrum. People were enjoying the sprinkles and dipped their feet in the water while some took refuge in the resting place beside. The selfie marathon was on and I too couldn’t ward off the greed to fit myself in the same frame with this enchanting beauty!

Selfie with Chhangi Falls!

Selfie with Chhangi Falls!

Spending some time and playing with the sprinkles, I walked to the other side to see that the flowing water falls through a cave down the hill. More visitors were arriving by now and before the place started to get over-crowded, I decided to take my way back.

The steep trail now seemed even more difficult while getting upwards. At intervals, I was running short of breath. Moreover, it was getting hotter and the cardio exercise was bringing on the perspiration. I quickly took off my hoodie as it was getting unbearable and I remembered that my dear driver had warned me before I started my expedition. While I stopped at times to get some breath, I used the opportunity to catch myself in the frame.

Selfie while relaxing on the way back to the hill top

Selfie while relaxing on the way back to the hill top

It took double the time to get up. As I reached the starting point, my driver was waiting with a warm smile and I could just say, “Water!” He cheerfully passed me my bottle and asked if I liked the place with a proud smile on his face. “Amazing”, I said and I knew it was not enough. We quickly moved back to the hotel to spend the rest of the day.

What More to See

Cardamom plantations are common here and can be seen in the gardens of the local people. Various species of birds can be seen like Verditer Flycatcher, Rufous Sibia, Scarlet minivet, Green-tailed Sunbird, Dark sided and gray sided Canary Flycatcher, Kashmir Nuthatch, Red-tailed Minla, Yellow-billed blue Magpie to name a few. Snow-capped Kanchenjunga and other peaks are beautifully visible on clear days. The rustic life, simple and warm local people, local market and the beautiful village are worth exploring. Campfires can be enjoyed in the evening inside hotel premises and market areas.

Kanchenjunga view

Kanchenjunga view from Kolakham; Picture Courtesy: Spring Vale Resorts

Kolakham is perfect for nature lovers and tourists who look out for less crowded places. I left the place next morning for another destination but I wished if I could stay here for some more days. Next time I will. Have you visited Kolakham yet?

 

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12 Responses

  1. never knew you were a blogger!following your journey now sweetheart!
    http://www.docdivatraveller.com/

    • Mango Lady says:

      Thank you Mandira 🙂 It’s always been a passion to be a good storyteller and what can be better than sharing travel stories and inspire people to travel!

  2. Aubrey says:

    Really nice post, I certainly adore this site, keep on it.

  3. I haven’t been to Kolakham yet although I have been to India 4 times to various places. This is definetely soemwhere I would like to go. I love seeing nature and waterfalls. Thank you for sharing your trip.

  4. Mike says:

    It sounds like I would love Kolakham! The waterfall looks stunning and with a short hike like that I might get caught up in the views and never leave. Wonderful adventure and I hope to one day make it to this Indian paradise of birds!

  5. How long was the drive up the hill? Seems like it is an easy walk to the waterfall, even with small kids or family.

    • Mango Lady says:

      Kolakham is about 8 km from the town of Lava and the bumpy, gnarled road makes it a 45 minutes to one-hour journey. However, I drove to the spot from Rishop village which took me around 25 minutes to reach Kolkham. The walk to the waterfall is easy but the inclination makes it a bit difficult 🙂

  6. This looks so, so pretty! I know you were glad that you pushed through to beat the crowds. I don’t if I could handle the hike without stopping for breaks, but I think the views would be great motivation.

    • Mango Lady says:

      Haha! Thanks Carmen 😀 Well, I kept the halts or breaks for the return journey because the trail is quite steep, so getting back up is difficult and one have to stop for breaks any way. So, while going down, my main focus was to reach the foot before it gets crowded there. 🙂

  1. January 29, 2017

    […] rustic respite was delightful! Kolakham is a beautiful small village in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal. Moreover, the amazing trail […]

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