Monthly Archives: June 2019

Sandakphu: Across the Indo-Nepal Himalayas

One of the most brilliant sights across any landscape is the sight of Mountains reaching out to great heights across clouds! While I’m an avid mountaineer, trekker and have great aspirations one day to reach out to many mountains across the world, especially Everest Base camp and with Nepal’s Namche Bazaar being on my bucket list for certain, I’m yet to explore Nepal to the fullest. However, my first experience of Nepal was a mere glimpse of the beautiful and chivalrous mountains across the Indo-Nepal border on my Sandakphu trek in Darjeeling.

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Yes, I can say that ‘technically’ I’ve been to Nepal, and boy, it has been quite a brilliant expose so far. This was back in November 2011, when I decided to take a trek with Youth Hostels Association of India into Sandakphu, the route to which was interspersed with entry and exit points across a few villages up the hills in Nepal. Specifically Jaobari and Kalipokhari. And while one may say, that’s hardly any experience in Nepal, I might beg to differ and have a completely amazing experience of the beauty those desolate places had to offer me. One thing that this trek offered, when you reach the topmost point in Sandakphu, was a glimpse of Mt. Everest and a closer view of Kanchenjunga.

Our first stop at a point where we entered into Nepal was at a small pit-stop in Tumling. Though not proper Nepal, this region was quite a charm when it came to serenity and the most amazing food they served here. The evening was quite chilly and fog set in even as we reached there in the evening. But that did not deter us from going out for a short walk and exploring a bit of Tumling. Once we did that, we had amazing dinner prepared by Neela Di, the camp leader, a glorious entrepreneur who ran the camp lodge all by herself. This is a common sight you get to see in North East, Himalayas and Nepal regions. Most of the setups are managed very efficiently by the women of the house while husbands are mostly Sherpas. After dinner, we were joined by a couple of guides one of whom was really good at playing the guitar and he played some amazing Nepali songs while we hummed along.

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What was even more wonderful was the glimpse of a very early sunrise at 5.30 AM. Though the clouds and the mountains tried their best to hide the sun, the tinge of a yellowish orange sky made for one of the best views I’d ever seen across these mountains.  A much-needed refresher for the journey up ahead on Day 2. That was the time when we had to scale a daunting climb, to take us into Kalipokhari. While there is a lot of effort you might need to take as soon as you move beyond Jaobari, another small village across Indo-Nepal border, you’ll realize that the most amazing landscapes of the young mountains will give you a sense of serenity that you would not really experience anywhere else. On your way, the Jaobari monastery is quite a small and melancholy stop, which will get you to think, how peaceful this region is.

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After trekking for 4-5 hours, when we reached a pit-stop, we decided to stop over at a small place, which served amazing food and great mint tea. While I’m not a big fan of mint tea or tea as much, I decided to try out the Nepalese instant noodles. This was their answer to Maggi. ‘Rum Pum’ as it’s called.

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That was our last stop before we actually reached the Black Lake a.k.a Kalipokhri! It is believed that Nepalese villagers worship the black lake and no one is allowed to take a swim or a dip in this lake. The temperature was freezing and it was already evening as we approached this village.

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Once we settled down, we sat by the fire inside the kitchen and started mingling with the locals. So much so, that we even had a chance to listen to Nepalese radio channel, Koshi FM. Some were Hindi songs, and some Nepalese! Was fun tuning into the radio as we had our grub.

There was an interesting structure is like an indication of the Indo-Nepal border, with the right side being Nepal and the Left being India. This was at the entrance to our camp in Kalipokhari. The weather in Kalipokhri gave quite the chills. Freezing as it was, we certainly felt the pinch even when we had to step out of our wooden cottages to go have dinner in the hall. Our saving grace was that we didn’t have to wash our hands with cold water. There was provision for warm water and that was something all of us desperately desired for, after having dinner.

After a tiring hike and extremely fatigued run of this last stretch of uphill mountains one could only feel joy and glory when we saw that flag flying high. We knew we had reached Sandakphu. Post lunch we explored a couple of places on the Nepal side of Sandakphu. A Buddhist Monastery near a Shiva Temple and a small pond of water.

One that never dries. This is near the Buddhist monastery of Nepal part of Sandakhpu. This is apparently the head of the river Maahi, a very famous river of Nepal that never dries. This well or a small pond as they’d call it is perennial.  Once we were done visiting these places, we headed towards the top and after a short walk, and a bit of rock climbing we moved to the top where the beautiful view of both the mountain ranges awaited us. Unfortunately, the mist and fog didn’t allow for that to happen and we were a tad disappointed. However, our walk across the trails within some really amazing landscapes across the border into Nepal was a journey I’ll never forget. Walking across the silent hills within the woods, gave an enchanting feeling of bliss amidst the fresh air with dry leaves crunching beneath your feet to indicate your beautiful journey across the path.

Post lunch we went to the highest point in Sandakphu, another 1 or 2 Kms walk where the beautiful view of both the mountain ranges awaited us. Unfortunately, the mist and fog didn’t allow for that to happen and we were a tad disappointed. However, our walk across the trails within some really amazing landscapes across the border into Nepal was a journey I’ll never forget. Walking across the silent hills within the woods, gave an enchanting feeling of bliss amidst the fresh air with dry leaves crunching beneath your feet to indicate your beautiful journey across the path.

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Even though it was foggy, the beauty of it was in the amazing feeling we got there on top. That’s the spot, the highest peak on Sandakphu. 3600 Meters around 14000 feet! Our trek is finally complete. Well, at least the climbing. After which was mostly going back to Darjeeling, and downhill.

Overall from whatever experience I had had of the glimpses of Nepal so far, one thing I felt was most certainly a feeling of utmost magic, something that I had never experienced so far. A beautifully fulfilling experience if anything I may add. I can only imagine what other parts of Nepal may have to offer, if the glorious mountains across Sandakphu, Kalipokhari and Jaobari were this beautiful.

5 Himalayan Destinations to Retire to

One of my goals obviously is to one day, live in the land of the lama, the Himalayan Odyssey and probably start my own farm and have a BnB along with @feetonthemapto host world travelers! And host trekkers to some of the most amazing treks in the Himalayas.

No matter how much I write about this beloved destination that I adore, there’ll never be enough to express the awe-inspiring, breathtaking, beautiful wonders that the Himalayan Mountain Range brings to all!

While trekking within the Himalayas during the summer is quite a popular thing to do, there are many other ways to enjoy the magical spirit of the mountains – especially if you aren’t an ardent mountaineer, a huge trekking enthusiast or an avid lover of walking across the mountains.

For starters, you could try experiencing the beautiful serene towns that lie at the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, and these five are my recommended.

1. Joshimath, Uttarakhand

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Joshimath – Very close to scenic northwest Himalayan destinations such as Chopta, Valley of Flowers, Vasudhara falls, Auli, Rudraprayag.

The city of Joshimath serves as a good base to explore the mountains and smaller towns across the North Western Himalayas in the Garwhal and Kumaon regions. If you drive 250km southwest, you will get to the holy town of Rishikesh and Haridwar, a glimpse of the beautiful escapades in the Uttarakhand Himalayas. From this place, you can drive up to Govind Ghat, which is the base for the trek to the Valley of Flowers National Park. 20km away is also the beautiful skiing resort in Auli. Auli is known to be a skiing paradise in the Kumaon Himalayas. If not for skiing in the winters, this place makes for spectacular views and a ride on the cable car ropeway is quite fun even during summers. With a sneak peek towards many beautiful regions within North-Western Himalayas, this is the perfect spot to snuggle up and relax if you want a peaceful retreat away from the madness of cities.

 

2. Leh, Jammu, and Kashmir

Leh was the capital of the Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh. It now forms part of the Leh district in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir. Though this is a huge stretch and has beauty varied with geographical diversities, it is more popular for its road trips on high altitudes, and the view of the expansive and different landscapes it has to offer. More importantly, the lakes and waters of this place make for magnificent viewings. On one side, there’s Tso Moriri and on the other side by the India-China border is Pangong Tso Lake. If it were up to me, I’d just go and settle down in this beautiful haven. With beautiful monasteries, the highest motorable road and the cold deserts of the Nubra Valley, Leh has a lot to offer and makes for a great stay especially during the months of July to October. What’s more, there are direct flights to Leh from Delhi, making the commute a lot easier.

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A view from Khardungla Pass. One of the highest 

 

3. Kaza, Himachal Pradesh

Situated in the Western Himalayas, Kaza is the gateway to the forbidden valley of the Great Western Himalayan Kingdom, known as the Spiti Valley. While getting there is an arduous task without any direct flights and the roads being one of the most dangerous in the world, once you’re there, the experience makes up for all the bumps and backaches you’ll incur on your journey there. Check out the views across Rohtang Pass and the short hike to Chandertaal Lake, and yes, once you’re there, the opportunity to visit one of the coldest villages in the world, Kibber, at 14,200 feet is the most blissful experience you’ll ever discover. One of the most spectacular views is of a gorgeous tall statue of Buddha sitting in the middle of nowhere, looking out onto the majestic mountains. The feeling you get out there is nothing short of magical.

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The entrance of Spiti Valley – Losar

 

4. Darjeeling, West Bengal

Known as the Queen of Hill Stations, Darjeeling is one of the prettiest towns in the North East Himalayas. As soon as you near the town, you’ll start to see the views of Kanchenjunga Peak. But there’s more to this place than just that view which almost sits in the background no matter which part of town you’re in. Darjeeling has some amazing restaurants, beautiful vantage points and a splendid ambiance with its rustic Victorian legacy having served as a British hill station in the past. Wake up early at 4am for a visit to Tiger Point for a stupendous view of the sunrise. On your way back down, you can visit the Ghoom Monastery, Japanese Pagoda which has some really amazing statues of Buddha in different poses.  Darjeeling is also famous for its teas, so stop by for a cup of Darjeeling tea as you view the sunset on the terrace of the century-old Keventer’s Café.

 

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The misty mountains and a Hot cup of Darjeeling Tea: Retirement 101

5. Mcleod Ganj, Himachal Pradesh

If you want to experience cool weather all year round, complete with chilly breezes, magical misty roads, and some serious time and space to think about the meaning of life, then you’d want to head to Mcleod Ganj. Located in the suburb of Dharamshala, it is also home to the Dalai Lama’s Temple known as Tsuglagkhang Temple. The town is also nicknamed “Little Lhasa” due to the large population of Tibetans living there. For me, a visit to the temple during prayer times was an enchanting experience. Whether you believe in any form of God or not, the spiritual journey is something that you’ll cherish for quite a while. The town center gets crowded due to the hoards of tourists that come from all over the world to catch a glimpse of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, but you can quietly slip away to a small part of town called Naddi. It’s quiet, beautiful and serene here.

The ever foggy McLeodganj…

The ever foggy McLeodganj…