FAQ for Goechala

1. When is the best time for the Goechala Trek?
The best time to go for the Goechala Trek is the summer period – from April to June, when the weather is cool with beautiful flowers such as Rhododendrons in full bloom, and the autumn period – from mid-September to early November, when the clear skies offer good views of the mountain ranges and their peaks.

2. Where is the gateway to the Goechala Trek?
The trailhead of the Goechala Trek is in the Sikkim town of Yuksom which is an 8 hr drive from Bagdogra Airport. Bagdogra is accessible via a 1 hr domestic flight from Kolkata City via Indigo Airline, SpiceJet or Jet Airways.

3. What is the temperature like in the mountains?
In autumn, the temperatures in the day vary between 13°C to 20°C while the temperatures at night may vary between 2°C to 7°C. For campsites at higher altitudes (like Thangsing and Lamuney), it is possible for the temperature at night to drop below freezing point.

4. What is the level of difficulty for this trek?
This is a challenging trek due to its high altitude and cold weather. You should be of reasonable fitness (a good guideline is able to run 4km within 30 min) towards the expedition date. It is not necessary to have experience in high altitude trekking but some experience in long hours of trekking (7-9 hrs trekking for consecutive days) is preferable. Please do not underestimate the difficulty of the trek.

5. How many hours do we trek each days?
In this 11D10N Goechela Trekking Program, there are 8 consecutive days of trekking altogether. The average trekking duration is about 6-8 hours daily. However, on certain days (Day 02: YUKSOM–TSHOKA, Day10: LAMUNEY–GOECHALA–THANGSING), you will have to trek for up to 10 hours a day. (Timings are estimated and depend on the individual trekker’s physical stamina, acclimatization level and actual ground conditions). The average trekking distance is about 10km per day.

6. What is acute mountain sickness (AMS) and will I experience it during the trek?
Acute mountain sickness (AMS) occurs at high altitudes of 2500m or more. As you will be trekking above 3000m on most days, reaching up to an altitude of around 4800m (at Goechala Pass), AMS is a real and possible condition that you may experience. To prepare yourself, please understand its symptoms, prevention and treatment from the link here: http://www.traveldoctor.co.uk/altitude.htm.

7. What clothes should l wear for the trek?
A dri- fit synthetic material shirt (can be either short or long sleeve) as the base layer, a good quality fleece jacket/woollen pull-over as the middle layer and a wind- proof down jacket as the outer layer. A waterproof and windproof trekking pants is preferable. Other accessories include woollen socks, waterproof winter gloves, scarf and beanie. A pair of Long Johns for additional cold protection at night will be useful.

8. What types of footwear are recommended for the trek?
A pair of trekking shoes (that you have worn before) with good traction. Mid or high-cut shoes are preferred over low-cut ones for better ankle grips and to prevent loose soils from getting into the shoes.

9. Do I need a trekking stick for the trek?
A pair of hiking stick is highly recommended for this long distance trekking.

10. What is the accommodation like on the Goechala trek?
You will be camping in tent with winter sleeping bag and sleeping mat provided.

11. How much drinking water will be provided during the trek?
Each person will be allocated 2-3 litres of drinking water (boiled water) for each day of the trek. You will have to opportunity to top up water into your water bottle/bag during meal or rest breaks.

12. What kind of meals are provided during the trek?
Breakfast: Toast with jam, scramble egg, pancake, cereal, mashed potatoes, cereal etc.
Lunch and Dinner: Salad, sandwich, momos, noodles, rice, Dal bhat, variety of vegetables and some meat dishes. Coffee, tea and biscuits will be served in between meals too. You can also have a chance to taste locally brewed millet beer in the village.

13. Can the guides and helpers speak English?
Our guides and guide assistants are conversant in English but the chef, horse-man and yak-man can only understand simple English.

14. What are the permits required for the Geochala Trek?
Two different permits are required; Sikkim Inner Line Permit and Trekking Permit.

Sikkim Inner Line Permit – All foreigners entering Sikkim have to obtain the Inner Line Permit (aka Restricted Area Permit; the whole state of Sikkim is considered a restricted area by the Indian Government). The permit can be applied on the spot at the Sikkim Tourism Office in Siliguri (about an hour drive from Bagdogra Airport). This permit must be applied for in person; i.e. you cannot rely on 3rd party (travel agency etc.) to apply on your behalf. Documents required for the permit application are 2 x recent passport size photo, 1 x passport photocopy and 1 x Indian VISA photocopy.

Trekking Permit – A trekking permit is required for trekking in any of the national parks in Sikkim. Iwannatravel will be able to apply for this permit in advance for you. Documents required for the permit application are clear scanned copy of recent passport size photo (high resolution JPEG Format), clear scanned copy of passport and clear scanned copy of Indian VISA.

15. What is the make-up of the trekking entourage?
The entourage for a group of 4-6 trekkers usually consists of a guide, a guide assistant, a chef, 2 chef assistants, 1-2 yak men and/or horse-men for managing the pack animals (either dzos or horses).

16. How much tips is appropriate for the guide and helpers (guide assistants, chef, chef assistant, horse-man, yak-man)?
Tipping is highly encouraged especially for good services. There is no minimum tipping amount; actual amount to tip is based on your own discretion. A decent figure would be around 3000 INR to the guide and around 1500 INR to each helper for the whole group.

17. Are there any specific requirement for luggage?
Please do not bring along any hard case luggage as it is very difficult to pack/secure hard case luggage onto the pack animals. Recommended bag types would be backpacks or duffle bags.

18. What happens if I get injured during the trek?
The mountain guides possess basic first aid skills and will be able to handle non-critical illness or injury. However, due to the rugged terrain, remoteness of the trekking route and infrastructure inadequacy in the region, prompt and reliable emergency recuse might not be readily available. Therefore it is of utmost important for the trekkers to be well trained and prepared for this trek, listen to the guide’s instruction, always stay together as a group and do not stray off from the designated trekking route. Listen to your own body and its signals; do not feel shy to voice out to the guide and your buddies if you do not feel well. Prevention is better than cure.

19. Is travel insurance provided in the package?
Travel insurance is not included in the package. We strongly recommend you to procure your own travel insurance (with emergency medical evacuation coverage) before embarking on the Goechala trek.

20. Do I need any specialized equipment for the trek?
This is a relatively straightforward trek along well defined path with no technical climbing skills required. Except for a set of winter wear, a good pair trekking shoes, a headlamp and trekking sticks, you do not need other specialized equipment for this trek. Upon booking confirmation, a detailed packing list will be provided to prepare you for your trip.

21. Do I need to hire additional porters to carry my luggage?
All the communal items (tents, sleeping bags, cooking utensils etc.) and personal luggage will be carried by pack animals (yaks and/or horses). This portage service is included in the package price. You do not need to hire additional porters to carry your personal luggage. However, you are expected to carry your own daypack (of 3-5 kg) which should contain only essential personal stuffs like medications, water, camera, valuables, poncho, windbreaker etc.

22. How do we apply for Indian VISA?
Indian VISA can be applied directly online via https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html
For more info, please refer to the section “e-Tourist VISA” in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_policy_of_India

23. What type of accommodation will we be staying in Yuksom and Darjeeling?
In Yuksom, we will arrange for Hotel Red Palace or similar http://www.hotelredpalace.com/
In Darjeeling, we will arrange for Grace Inn Hotel or similar http://graceinn.co.in/
Both hotels are clean and comfortable 3-star hotels with good online reviews in TripAdvisor.