One cold morning when it was still dark and the sky was partly overcast, I began my journey from Gangtok to the western part of Sikkim. It was a real delight to see the first rays of sun falling over the summit of Mount Khanchendzonga. Soon, I saw the mountain turning from golden to pink. After crossing Ranipool, the gradient of the road was smooth and manageable and we covered a good distance in a relatively short span of time. From Singtam (28 km from Gangtok) to Rangpo and Meli, the greenish blue water of the mighty Teesta river was a delightful sight.
The sky cleared once we re-entered Sikkim from Melli. The drive from Melli to Jorethang was
soothing as we were passing through thick sub-tropical forests. The clear and green water of Rangeet river to our left presented a stunning sight. We could not resist the temptation to drive down to a safe bank of the river and have a ‘break’ for breakfast. After a non-stop drive of two-and-a- half hours, the homemade breakfast, though, cold, gave, us the necessary energy to move forward. By this time it was bright sunshine. Within no time, we hit the road again and had an unusual feel of the silence of the jungle. It was nice to see shocking red ‘Lalpati’ in bloom and a few other wild winter flowers. Occasionally, a few monkeys and birds appeared on the road. In a short while, from Jorethang we took a right turn towards Reshi, Boom Reshi, Rinchenpong, Kaluk and thereafter to our final destination of Bermiok and Hee. Before we reached Rinchenpong, it was a pleasure to see a few snow-clad peaks, large cardamom plantations and marigold flowers, off the highway. While driving, I was reminded of my mountain biking experience here barely six month ago. The tiny yet tidy houses, cowsheds, public buildings and shops wore a festive look as a VIP was to visit the locality during the course of the day. As we came close to the main venue, there was an increase in the number of smartly dressed people walking along the road.
After completing 145 km of a thrilling journey, we were advised to take a diversion further up seven kms in order to reach the first venue of the official function. Though the sky was blue and crystal clear by now, the first sign of snow over one of the peaks of Mount Khanchendzonga range was visible as we climbed up four kms of newly dug up road. The villagers in their bright dresses were seen walking up even though they had to occasionally inhale dust blown by the speeding vehicles.
By the time we reached the newly constructed Village Guest House at Dara- Hee, more vehicles and people were visible and the whole Mount Khanchendzonga range against the background of blue sky presented a very breathtaking sight. Many of us captured this beautiful moment in our cameras. Before we began walking down towards the Guest House built in a traditional Limboo style, we saw a wetland being transformed into an artificial lake. The upper and the surrounding area had a good forest cover. A stay over here is bound to provide the tourist with a peace of mind and solitude in the setting of a typical Limboo village.
After an hour of the official inauguration, we trekked about 400 feet to a flat piece of land known as Gufa Dara to witness the foundation stone laying ceremony of a 56 feet high statue of the Mahatma Sirijunga and a Limboo Study Centre. The ceremony was organized and attended by a huge gathering with considerable fanfare to mark the 302nd birth anniversary of the Mahatma.
Next in our itinerary was the newly-constructed 14 km long Hee-Patal-Varsey trekking trail. It was a comfortable walk. Though the sun had begun setting and the temperature had started plummeting, our walk through the thick forests full of wild orchids revitalized us to carry forward our journey. Seeing the snow over Mount Khanchendzonga range once again lifted our spirits. We trekked for about five kms before the visibility reduced.
The next morning we saw the unveiling of a bust of the Mahatma Sirijunga at Yaktung Manghim (Limboo temple), at Martam, about four kms down the main road. Apart from a colourful assembly of people to pay homage to the Mahatma, one could see a display of ethnic food and crafts. The grand finale was provided by a variety of Limboo dances and the beating of drums by the artists in their colourful attire.
Finally, while leaving the place on yet another sunny day, I got the impression that Hee-Bermiok is indeed going to be a vibrant and happening tourist destination.