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2 Jan 2017

Darjeeling gets park for biking - 20km path for cyclists

Bikers with their cycles at Chowrasta in Darjeeling on Sunday. Picture by Mohan Lama
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, Jan. 1: Chatakpur in Senchel Wildlife Sanctuary was announced as a mountain biking park by the district administration today. 
"Chatakpur under Senchel Wildlife Sanctuary has been declared a mountain biking park. There is a stretch of around 20km inside the forest which will be used only by mountain bikers," Anurag Srivastava, the Darjeeling district magistrate, said.
Srivastava, along with Amit P. Javalgi, the superintendent of police, Darjeeling, today led a group of 25 bikers from Chowrasta in Darjeeling to Chatakpur near Sonada, 20km from here, to mark the declaration of the park.
The two officials cycled along a Chowrasta stretch while other bikers continued for the 40km to-and-fro trail.
Bicycle was not a common mode of transport in the mountains but like the rest of the country, mountain biking is fast catching up in the hills too, Sangay Sherpa, the director of Off Road Adventure, which organised the mountain bike rally from Darjeeling to Chatakpur said.
"Two years ago, people here used to tease those who would try their hand at mountain biking saying that they were trying to ape the western world. But now things have changed. At present, there are more than 100 mountain bikes in Darjeeling. The average charge of hiring a mountain bike here is Rs 800 a day," Sherpa said.
A person who wants to do mountain biking at Chatakpur has to go to a travel agent in Darjeeling and he/she will be provided with a bike, a head gear and a guide for a day's ride.
Mountain bikers will have to pay Rs 70 to enter the bike zone which will open at 6am and close at 6pm, forest sources said.
Chatakpur has of late been attracting tourists who are charmed by its location, terrace cultivation of organic crops, shrubs and medicinal plants. The serene forest is home to Himalayan black bear, civet, barking deer, wild boar and birds like verditer flycatcher, kalij and hornbills.
The Darjeeling forest division has come up with two cottages in the forest which have double bedrooms.
"In an area of about six hectare, there are 19 houses. Six of these houses are registered home stays that can accommodate between three to six persons. The forest department cottages can accommodate a maximum of 12 tourists," said a forest official.
Chatakpur is at an altitude of around 7,000 feet.

The district administration is working towards declaring Darjeeling as the first tobacco-free district of Bengal on January 26 after smoking in public places was completely banned last year.

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