Damthang is 14 kilometres from Namchi on the Gangtok-Namchi (via Temi) road. A number of buses ply on this route from Gangtok. To reach Tendong from Damthang one has to walk for about one and a half hour on a footpath through thick forest of the Tendong Forest Sanctuary. Different species of vegetation struggle with each other to obtain a foothold in this thick forest. The trunks and branches of trees are heavily festooned with clinging, beard like moss. Yearning for sunlight, vines clamber up the tree trunks. Gigantic ferns take the form of giant garden umbrellas. In the near darkness of the forest, shards of sunlight filter through the thick canopy of trees. Insects trill and rasp, leaves whisper, little creatures walk through the underbrush leaving ripple of rustlings and birds whistle their territorial claims.
Tendong at an altitude of 2640 m(8660 ft) is situated on a small plateau on top of the mountain. From here the view is just spectacular. Perhaps no other place in Sikkim offers a better panoramic view of the mountain ranges in the state than Tendong – it is like sitting in the centre of a huge amphitheatre. On the east one can see the full Chola Range, on the west the Singelila range and the towering Kanchendzonga. In the North East can be seen the Paunhri peak with the surrounding mountains. Darjeeling, Gyalshing, Nathula, a part of Gangtok and the rolling plains of Siliguri can all be discerned from here. Both the sunrise and sunset are breathtaking from Tendong. As one watches, rain slashes through the brilliant sunlight and a rainbow leaps across the landscape below. From other parts of Sikkim Tendong looks like a volcano – and legend has it that it was in fact once an active volcano which is now dormant.
There is another legend of the Lepcha tribe that saved itself on its summit during the great flood that once inundated the world – the story has a likeness to that of Noah and his Ark and Mount Arrarat which Tendong is said to be. It is said that during the great deluge, the Lepchas first sought refuge at the Maenam peak some kilometres away but when the waters started rising fast, they moved to Tendong. There seems to be an anamoly in this legend given that Tendong is much lower in altitude than Maenam. Tendong however is clear of any high rise features nearby and therefore gives an impression of being much higher than Maenam. Tendong is also worshipped by the Lepchas in a festival called the “TendongLho Rum Faat” which literally means Worship of Tendong.
Two small one-room monasteries exist here – one quite old and in the verge of ruins and the other a newly constructed one. An observation tower, three stories high, on a similar pattern of the one at Tiger Hill Darjeeling has been constructed here for the convenience of tourists. As dusk falls, the nocturnal animals come alive. A cricket clicks and is followed by hundreds of others until the whole forest around Tendong reverberates with a deafening din. Sudden silence for a few seconds and then again the cacophony.The lights of Siliguri, Darjeeling, Gangtok and other towns twinkle in the night and it looks as though the galaxies themselves had descended on the earth.
Spending the night at Tendong, awakened the muse in me and I penned the following poem
DAWN AT TENDONG
It is still dark
But a faint glimmer of light
On the eastern horizon
Signifies that dawn is breaking
The snowy mountains on the western border
Slowly start glowing first light orange
Then pink and then glistening white
It is now the turn of the hills
Crown by crown dark green to light green and then blue
The rays now start probing the depths of the mountains
Revealing rivers and streams that start to sparkle white
All the while the change is serenaded by birds
A two hour transition from darkness to full light
The twin peaks of Tendong and Maenam have been very beautifully personified by Dr.PawanChamling in his poems Perennial Dreams. He has made them as witnesses to the travails of the downtrodden. An excerpt:
This holy ridge and Mount Maenam
Have witnessed boundless woes and pangs
And endless tears and sacrifice
Of toiling people dwelling in Himalayan ridges,
In green upland leas, in hamlets and villages,
Beside the Rongnyit and the Rongnyu rivers
And in the foothills of the Tendong and the Maenammonts
These holy monts have witnessed
Horrendous bloodshed of these working people