| The Memenchule Lake and (above) Mt Kanchenjungha seen from Zuluk during sunrise. Telegraph pictures
Siliguri, July 27: Serpentine snow-strewn roads, a dazzling Kanchenjungha and its range, the historical Jelep-la leading to Tibet and a variety of flora and fauna. All these, added with consistent promotion, have led to the emergence of Zuluk as an ideal destination for tourists wanting to plunge into the natures lap.
Located at 10,000ft, Zuluk is a tiny hamlet in East Sikkim with a population of 335 people.
The place was unknown to outsiders till a few years ago. But over the past couple of years, it has emerged as an ideal tourist destination because of its idyllic locales and serenity, said Sandeep Chourasia, a Calcutta-based tour operator.
Even today, tourism is in its nascent stage in Zuluk and at best a maximum of 50 tourists could be accommodated there, he told The Telegraph over the phone from Calcutta.
He added that accommodation is available at cottages run by local self-help groups and at the homes of some residents.
Chourasia said describing the sunrise in Zuluk with Kanchenjungha in the foreground would be futile. You have to see it to believe it. The three-level zigzag roads, a symbol of mans engineering skills, are also mesmerising, he said. A number of other sites, right from lakes to temples, can be seen while visiting Zuluk.
Another attraction is Young Husband Track named in memory of a Briton who had found a route leading to Lhasa, 520km away, said Chourasia.
A road to Tibet through Jelep-la was constructed on the route which Young Husband had used for a trip from Kalimpong to Lhasa in earlier 20th century. Before the construction of the road, traders used mules for trade with Tibet through the track. Even after the occupation of Tibet by China, the trade continued through the pass till 1962.
With the place developing as a tourist hotspot, the socio-economic conditions of the 33 families living there have improved considerably.
Since Zuluk is bestowed with abundant natural beauty and has its own significance in the history because of Jelep-la, we thought of making every family in the area self-empowered. The residents can sustain themselves and enrich their lives by adopting tourism as a means of livelihood. With the revenue from tourism, they could improve their standard of living. The people were earlier engaged in cattle rearing or used to work as casual workers under the Border Roads Organisation, said Gopal Pradhan, the president of a self-help group in Zuluk.
He said one could also see a lot of birds and animals in Zuluk. Monal pheasant, blood pheasant, which is the state bird of Sikkim, khaleej pheasant and snow pheasant are some of the avian species spotted in Zuluk. Among animals, the red panda and the snow leopard can be sighted, said Pradhan.
As Zuluk comes forth to woo visitors to spend a few days in the land of snow and cloud, Chourasia said they were also concentrating on the promotional aspect.
The Association of Tourism Service Providers of Bengal has taken an initiative to popularise Zuluk. On our side, we have been the pioneer in providing the information on the hamlet and promoting the site with an intention to help the local population and to extend an opportunity to people who wish to visit offbeat destinations, said Chourasia.