Rahul Roy (December 2020)
Hi Raj, I want to travel to Chatakpur (on shoestring budget) and here's the itinerary I was thinking - Travel from NJP to Sonada in shared jeep. Hike to Chatakpur and stay for a night. Hike to Tiger Hill the next day and from there till Darjeeling. Stay in Darjeeling for a night, take a shared Jeep to NJP the next day.
Can you tell me if this is feasible? Are there trails from Sonada to Chatakpur which can be walked upon amidst the forest's wilderness (and are preferably non-motorable) or is taking a vehicle the recommended option?
Also, where do I obtain the permits from the forest department? Is a guide for the above-mentioned treks mandatory/ recommended?
Raj (darjeeling-tourism.com) December 2020
Hi, your plan is feasible but has some constraints.
from Sonada there is a motorable road that goes through a forested area to Chatakpur (about 6kms). Usually, there is hardly any traffic on this route. At Sonada, get off when you see Dipak Meat Shop on the right (and opposite Dazzy'z Mobile Care). Next to the meat shop, take the Forest Office Road to the right which eventually meets Chatakpur Road. Along the way, Old Military Road comes and meets this road from the left, don't take that road, instead keep walking straight. There are practically no signs and you may not find anybody to show you the way. It will take about 2 hours to hike from Sonada to Chatakpur.
From Chatakpur, Tiger Hill Observatory is about 18kms and will take close to 6 hours to hike... so you can not expect to see the sunrise from Tiger hill. If you want to cut short your walk, then get back to Sonada and take a shared jeep to Jorebungalow. Otherwise, walk back along Chatakpur road and take a right into the Old Military Road which will go through Senchal forest and eventually reach Jorebungalow (about 14kms walk). From here, the Tiger Hill Observatory is about 4km steep uphill walk. Guides are not necessary on these routes but recommended.
From Tiger Hill, you can come down to Jorebungalow and approach Darjeeling along Hill Cart Road (about 12kms). Alternatively, from Jorebungalow you can take the narrow road (initially called Tenzing Norgay Road) via Aloobari Monastery and Tungsung Basti to reach Darjeeling Mall (about 9kms).
Entry to Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary where Chatakpur is located requires permission from the Forest Department. The villagers running the homestays in Chatakpur are authorized to get such permission on your behalf and collect the entry fee from you, which they later deposit at the Forest Department. So, ensure that you have a confirmed booking in one of the homestays in Chatakpur before you attempt to visit the place and ask the homestay owner to do the needful.