Dense deciduous shrubs covered in the most exquisite hues and shades of red cover a 30 km stretch of forest that sprawls across Sankhuwasabha and Tehrathum, pouring into neighboring Taplejung in eastern Nepal. Thirty kilometers might not seem like a whole lot of forest area, but the Tinjure, Milke and Jaljale—or TMJ—forests are covered in such an abundance of rhododendron shrubs that they house 28 of the 32 species of rhododendron found in Nepal.
When the rhododendron bushes begin to flower (sometime between April and May), the TMJ route becomes one of the most breathtaking in the country. The route is seen in its full glory, quite befitting of its title: ‘the capital of rhododendrons’, during these months. The entire ridge—from Basantapur to Jaljale—appears red, with sporadic patches of white, pink and purple; as if the forest itself were a rich carpet of red, weaved by a master craftsman, in an intricate motif of design and color.
Those who take the TMJ route during the season might also find themselves lucky enough to get up-close views of the Makalu, Kanchanjunga and Everest mountains. When the weather’s clear, these mountains greet trekkers majestically, standing tall and mighty in their pristine surroundings.
The TMJ trek is probably the country’s easiest route. It is also one of the most economically viable ones. There are no uphill climbs here, no extreme weather. There are teahouses located along the route (at least one at every two-hour walking distance), and nature’s splendors abound spectacularly. Trekkers will find that the food is cheap, and the people generous. There is no need to travel with food and equipment here; provisions and lodging are easily found, and the route itself is quite easy to access.
Trekkers can take a bus to Khandbari from Dharan. The actual TMJ route starts from Deurali, one stop further from Basantapur in Tehrathum district. Cars are available on hire to be taken up to Bhalukhop, from where a two 2-hour walk will get you to Gufapokhari—a spectacular pond of religious significance which lies at an altitude of 3000 m, on the way to Milke and Jaljale. If the weather permits, trekkers might even see the reflection of Mt Makalu upon the water’s surface.
An alternative route will take you to Tumlingtar, Taplejung from Kathmandu via aeroplane. From Tumlingtar, you can take the road to Chauki. While this might definitely seem like the easier option for many, you will be leaving behind the Tinjure hill (situated at an altitude of 3000 m, and offering a panoramic view of the Makalu, Kanchanjunga and Everest mountains) in doing so. Locals say that onlookers can see as far as 12 districts of the east, and some parts of West Bengal from the hill in fine weather.