Hundreds of miles away from the nearest town, are two prominent hills, whose residents have struck up a tryst with nature for ages. Undefiled by developmental practices, the region of Todey & Tangta has morphed into a unique conglomeration of ideas, lifestyles, practices and growth. As the 45th constituency of Kalimpong district in West Bengal, Todey & Tangta is also known as the last villages of the district. Due to its geographical proximity to Bhutan, the region has evolved into a melting pot of Bhutanese and Indian cultures.
The inhabitants of the villages mostly belong to communities like Lepcha, Rai and Bhutia. The place offers a beautiful view of Bhutan and on a clear day, the magnificent Doklam range (Indo / China / Bhutan border) is visible in all its glory. The place is an entry point to the great forests of Neora Valley National Park which has numerous trekking routes. There are many hidden waterfalls and lakes inside the forests that are yet to be explored. Once a cardamom hub, Todey & Tangta still boasts of many cardamom gardens around the villages.
Located in the Indo Bhutan border, separated by River Tangta (Simana khola), Todey & Tangta falls under Gorubathan Block. The closest town frequented by the villagers for basic supplies and medical care is Jholung- 21 Kms from Todey town through rough stone pitched roads. Tangta is located further north and is separated by River Dabai. During the monsoons, when the level of the water rises, Tangta is cut off from the rest of the world.
The overlooking hills from Todey & Tangta include Bhutanese hamlets namely Tendu, Kuchi, Kachin, Sipsu, Beteni, Thika, Nike, Bara, Lingtam, Jempang, Assamcha.
Neuley-Gabi-Chumong is a cluster of villages that borders Neora Valley National Park. These are the last villages of Todey & Tangta region. Since these villages are located further away from towns and cities, families lead a bucolic life and are thus self-reliant for most of their needs.
The residents of Todey & Tangta are warm, hardworking and creative. They have a strong sense of community and are often seen helping each other during social functions like marriages, funerals or agricultural activities.
The food in Todey & Tangta is based on what is available locally and seasonally. Each community has their distinctive food habits and they rely on many wild edibles and foraged food, owing to traditional knowledge passed on from generation to generation. Some local delicacies are made during special events based on seasonal and cultural calendars.
The concept of homestays is still in a nascent stage although families have always opened their doors to guests. Some families live in traditional wood and mud houses, which enhances the traveller's experience of local life. These houses are strategically built to provide thermal comfort. The hearth holds a significant place in the house. It is where stories are exchanged over a bonfire when meals are prepared and families dine.
The common network provider is BSNL which was introduced only 3 years ago. Although JIO set up a tower in 2018, the connection has not yet been delivered to date.
The locals rely on Bhutan's Tashi Cell to communicate within the region and outside. Devoid of stable mobile or data connection, the village folks engage themselves in their own unique way. While many forage fodder for cattle, or engage in the fields, young adults play archery and traditional games that are colloquially termed as Khur/ Hatey kaar providing insights into traditional practices.
Things to do
Village hikes -
Hiking is considered a favourable option for travellers to navigate different terrains of Todey & Tangta. The trail cuts through many small villages, cardamom fields, forests, and mountain streams.
The sight of the distant villages like Tendu in Bhutan continuously accompanies you, with the Himalayan range in the background.
River treks -
Todey & Tangta has numerous mountain streams like Dabai Khola, Chumong Khola, Simana Khola, etc which flows through valleys in the Indo-Bhutan border. All the rivers originate from the deep forests of India and Bhutan. Dabai Khola, as the name suggests, is known as a medicinal river as the water is rich in minerals. Simana Khola is the border river that separates India and Bhutan. There are numerous treks that one can undertake, offering a unique experience. The flat river bed provides a perfect spot to camp overnight.
Forest hikes -
Todey & Tangta is situated at the edge of Neora Valley National Park, which is one of the biodiverse hotspots in the world. Besides niche flora and fauna. This area is a heaven for birdwatchers as you can spot birds that belong to both high and low altitudes. It is also rich in many medicinal plants, herbs, and other flora. The locals rely heavily on medicinal plants to meet their health needs.
Sunday haat -
Todey comes to life every Sunday. Thanks to the weekly haat, that brings people from all the surrounding villages to shop for their weekly essentials. Local farmers and traders assemble to sell a variety of produces - including food, local delicacies, and vegetables. The porous border with Bhutan now stands closed due to lockdown, because of which traders from villages in Bhutan no longer visit the haat. The Sunday haat is a confluence of different cultures that adds to the beauty of the quaint town in Todey. The residents take the day off from their everyday chores and dedicate the day to merry-making.
How to reach -
The travel time from Kalimpong town to Todey is 5.5 hours approximately.
Nearest railway station-
New Jalpaiguri (NJP) NJP to Todey Bazar- 112 km
Nearest airport - Bagdogra Bagdogra to Todey Bazar - 123 km.
There are no direct bus routes till Todey Bazar, you can get a directly shared taxi from Pani Tanki more, Siliguri at 1 p.m. or one can come to Malbazar from where one can get regular cars till 3 p.m.
November to March is the ideal time to explore the region of Todey & Tangta as the weather is dry, skies are clear, making it easier to travel.
Writer - ARUNAVH DAM
Arunavh Dam, originially from Guwahati, Assam is the co-founder of the social initiative The Healing Village and social enterprise Muhaan which works for community development of remote rural areas of Kalimpong. He is also a musician and releases music under the moniker Fellow swimmers.
Muhaan is a social enterprise that aims to provide eco-friendly, sustainable, and alternative livelihoods to the people of the last mile. Muhaan closely works with the community to create an overall team of individuals to run an enterprise.
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