Traditionally, the hill towns of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Gangtok featured on the regular tourist circuit. These locations have become urban centres and the more discerning traveler these days is often seeking quieter and more remote locales. In the recent past, several hamlets in the hills have seen a proliferation of home stays. This initiative has spurred local economies in hitherto unexplored areas, benefitting local populations who otherwise subsisted primarily on agriculture and livestock rearing.
Closer to Kalimpong is a town called Lava. It was a transit point along the former Silk Route and today, it is a quaint little town that is witness to a steady flow of visitors from across the country and beyond. But located on the periphery of Lava is the Neora Valley National Park and within this sanctuary is a little known hamlet called Kolakham.
Into the wilderness
For one who is fond of driving or riding, the approach to Kolakham offers the perfect mix of adventure and breathtaking vistas. From Lava onward, it is a narrow dirt road, devoid of any traffic. Although it spanned only 8 kms, the journey takes almost an hour and this reveals that the road does take a little over amateur skill level to navigate.
Numerous turns and hairpin bends later, the sleepy village comes into view. The main thoroughfare is one straight stretch with several homestays flanking the road. Considering this pocket of habitation comes into view after a fair distance of traversing through densely forested thickets, it does make one wonder what life is like in so remote a setting.
Thanks to the modern wonders of technology, Kolakham is within cell phone and internet connecvity range. Therefore, should one be considering a few days out in the wilderness while being able to maintain contact with the outside world, Kolakham is the ideal spot to consider — especially so for a digital nomad.
Slow down and soak and vibe with the mountains
There is not much in terms of activity although the quiet roads make for excellent walking or mountain biking trails. The dirt road continues onward and exits in a town called Rhenock in east Sikkim. A car or motorcycle with at least 200 mm of ground clearance is recommended because the going does get tough in certain parts.
During our visit, the Pinewood homestay was our choice of stay. It offered simple but beautiful pine wood lined rooms. Adding to the quaint charm was a little attic with a tiny window that opened out to uninterrupted mountain views. The weather did not particularly favour us but we were told that on clear days, the Khanchendzonga range was clearly visible. The food served was homely, cooked by our hosts. Their hospitality sure added to the experience. We were even pleasantly surprised to find that the homestay boasted a four star rating on Trip Advisor.
Kolakham definitely is a place to slow down from life’s otherwise frantic pace. It will, however, not appeal to individuals seeking a lavish stay or for those looking for options to shop or sample exotic cuisine. Rather, this locale is one to simply relish with a book, a cup of coffee (or whatever be your poison) and topped with plenty of rest and relaxation.