Category Archives: East

Kalipokhari – Land of the Black Lake

So, as soon as we set off for Tumling, we actually entered mainstream Nepal. Tumling was still on the borderland but as soon as I received a Vodafone SMS letting me know they gobbled up 99 bucks for International Roaming, I was sure about the fact that we had entered Nepal. Anyways, my phone would be obsolete soon as the network and battery was going to desert me soon. Having said that, it was not even something I should have bothered about.

One of the best things about these treks is the fun of disconnecting yourself completely to the world and hibernating in a true sense. With great landscapes, beautiful view of mountains and valleys on both sides, what more do you want? So, one of the things I was waiting for was the Jaobari Monastery. It was a monastery in one of the villages in Nepal. Having said that, there was an interesting story I’d like to share here…

Lakhpa - One who's born on a Wednesday
Lakhpa – One who’s born on a Wednesday

After an hour or so, we managed to reach Jaobari… where I happened to meet this cute kid, called Lakhpa… I asked someone later what Lakhpa meant? I got to know that a lot of Nepalese folks, name their kids after the day that they are born on. Which would mean, there would be a whole bunch of Lakhpas and Pembas (One who’s born on a Saturday) and many such names, which I don’t remember all that much now… But why this guy was interesting, was cause of his insatiable smile and his spirited greetings to us when we entered the Tea shop. He had a fire as well as heartwarming gracious look in his eye. Another thing, I’m also born on a Wednesday… So if I was Nepalese, I’d probably be a Lakhpa. 😉

Jaobari Village
Jaobari Village

A beautiful view of the remote Jaobari Village in Nepal….

Jaobari Monastery
Jaobari Monastery

So here’s a little bit of the story I encountered in the Jaobari Monastery… While this monastery is a very quiet one on the corner of the village, something I learnt and something I’ll never forget that day. As I walked across the place, I found a few kids with books on Buddhism, which they were reading with great joy! As I entered the monastery I was greeted by it’s caretaker and the monk who taught the kids.

Shange Norbu from Jaobari Monastery
Shange Norbu from Jaobari Monastery

Shange Norbu… Shange means Buddha as he told me with a bit of pride and subtle smile on his face. One that denoted the passion he shared towards the religion he followed. He gave me a short tour of the monastery inside. Showed me a picture of his master / teacher a certain Pemba Norbu… Said he’s learnt a lot from him and he also showed me a picture of His Holiness Dalai Lama…

He asked me if I knew who he was? Smiling politely I said, of course I know who he is… “He’s the guy who hosted a Google+ hangout recently and I’m following him on twitter.” 😛 as I sheepishly thought in my head…

Being a traveller that I am, besides anything, boundaries and horizons always fascinate me. Distances and roads and maps and calculations are always on my mind when it comes to my travel… Just an impulse sometimes… Sometimes a bit too much this trait, that it makes me realize how travel is and should never be about these trivial pursuits or these kinds of funny meaningless achievements…

So I was thinking in my head (I’m in a Nepalese monastery… Just admiring the fact in my head, that I’m at an international location, since I havent ventured outside India yet)

“Is this monastery in Nepal?” I asked him.

“There is no Nepal no India… It’s all the same”  he replied smilingly…

I was speechless for a moment… I thought I’d explain to him that I didn’t mean it that way, but I realized, I got my answer… And that was quite a profound moment for me… I just smiled and shook his hands as I walked away…

Sherpa Kid
Sherpa Kid

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.

Those are instant nepalese Noodles
Those are instant nepalese Noodles

That was our last stop before we actually reached the Black Lake a.k.a Kalapokhri or 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.

Kalipokhri Lake
Kalipokhri Lake

The temperature was freezing and it was already evening as we approached this village. We were waiting for the camp leader at the camp and he was waiting for us… 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 bollywood songs, and some Nepalese… The hard part or at least the first half of the hard part of this trek was taken care of…

Now the most trivial and the most exciting journey awaited us as we were about to move on to Sandakphu…

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Tumling – A hint of Nepal

Yes, Nepal, that’s right… After a great exploration of Darjeeling it was time for our group to head towards our 6 day trek. Our journey was definitely going through Nepal and back to India. In the literal sense, there were a couple of villages that we were going to stop-over in this 6 day trek which were part of Nepal. So it was quite an exciting experience for me, especially since, technically, I’ve never been out of the country. With high hopes of visiting the North Eastern Himalayan region, I had my eyes set for Sandakhpu. We were told that we will get an up close and personal look at

1. Kanchenjunga Peak

2. Mt. Everest too…

It was only time that would decide whether we would actually get to see it or not. With misty mountains and foggy altitude, we weren’t really sure how the weather was going to play. With a couple of days in hand, we decided to keep our fingers crossed and hoped for the best. We were going to cover over 50 kms of high altitude trek at 14000 feet above the sea level and with dropping tempratures, we expected the minimum to go below 0 degrees centigrade especially when we were going to be in Sandakhpu.

So here was our route Map

Darjeeling – Dhotrey(Bus) – Tumling (Nepal) – Kalapokhri(Nepal) – Gurdum – Rimbick (Final basecamp) and back to Darjeeling.

With great excitement we reached Dhotrey and got off our bus. It was about 8.00 AM in the morning that we started trekking towards Tumling. First day was quite  an easy hike across scenic locations to go on top of India, cross a border outpost and head into Tumling (Nepal) But the most amazing experience on this trip was the beautiful trees and birds chirping, while we overlooked the clear blue skies.  The true beauty of this experience was our feeling of being in a different country and trekking to it… A few moments of our journey as we went across:

Walking the silent road across the woods

Walking the silent road across the woods

Trekking Leader

Leading all the way..

That’s our group leader Mr. ChandraShekhar Padalkar (61 years old) taking a rest on the way… Besides being a really amazing story teller, trekker, leader… he’s truly an awesome singer!

 

That's one long walk towards Tumling

That's one long walk towards Tumling

 

Land Rover

Land Rover

That’s one mean machine made for roads as tough as these mountains…This is the ultimate savior for locals to transport their basic needs and mostly used for logistical transportation purposes in these terrains.

When we reached Tumling & Nepal :)

When we reached Tumling & Nepal 🙂

This was one location I was waiting for and the first thing I did was got myself clicked. Though not mainstream 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, an 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 either homemakers or 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 songs while we hummed along…

The next day we woke up as early as 5.30 AM, to see if we got a glimpse of some Sunrise… Tried as hard as we could, this is all we could manage…

Sunrise at 5.30 AM

Sunrise at 5.30 AM

While the sun rises to glory, the moon sleeps tight...

While the sun rises to glory, the moon sleeps tight...

While we had quite a relaxed Day 1 of the trek, our Day 2 was going to be quite challenging, with steep climbs and 14 kms towards Kalapokhri (The Black Lake) we estimated at least 6 hours of trekking… Just as we set out to scale further heights, this picture just made our day… A pair of Goat kids playing along with each other… Made for a really amazing snap.

 

There was more in store for us.. While these diaries continue, I hoped to see some more sun and less of mist or rain even, was just praying for more of sunshine, since Mt. Everest is not something we could see everyday… I guess all that would follow with my next post. Until then, I hope you enjoyed reading this blog. Do let me know what you think?

Darjeeling – Queen of Hill Stations

So my visit to the North East finally happened. Yes, didn’t visit a lot of places in terms of going far east… But yeah, quite good for a start. First up on my list was the most beautiful and ecstatic Darjeeling… Brilliant place and no wonder, it’s certainly deserves the title  ‘Queen of Hill Stations’

It started with Delhi. That’s was my destination post my Amritsar trip and I was to take a direct train from Old Delhi to New Jalpaiguri, from where I had to catch a bus/jeep to Darjeeling. Now, one thing I know a lot of people know about Old Delhi… If you don’t then hey, a warning, Old Delhi, by far is really horrible in terms of Hygiene, so be careful.

Another mistake I made was I took the Sikkim – Delhi to NJP Mahananda Express. Never ever take this train as it’s always late, no charging points in the train and no water in the train either, with filthy washrooms… Trust me, this one you can avoid. All said and done, after being 12 hours late, I reached New Jalpaiguri… I knew the wait was going to be worth it, since I couldn’t wait to reach Darjeeling. So much so, that I had to stay overnight in a lodge as it was kind of dangerous to drive up, especially at 2 AM in the morning… I joined a couple of fellow passengers from  the train… They were to go some place near, but decided to do so the next day.

After waking up next day and eating an amazing breakfast in New my journey from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling began…

Amazing breakfast at New Jalpaiguri
Amazing breakfast at New Jalpaiguri

Once the breakfast was over, It was time for me to catch a jeep to Darjeeling. Usually they take you for 200 bucks and you have to share your ride with other passengers, but it’s a good deal. Either ways you can choose to wait for a bus and get a cheaper deal. But all in all it’s a great idea to go in a jeep as you’d end up reaching faster!

Bishal from the Indian Armed Forces
Bishal from the Indian Armed Forces

Meet Bishal, from Section 2 IC of the Indian Army. Posted at Kargil LOC (No Mans Land) He was going Home to meet his folks in Darjeeling.

Teesta River
Teesta River

As our jeep swayed into the curvy mountains heading up towards Darjeeling, we got this beautiful and picturesque view of the Teesta River. An enchanting look into the blue waters surrounded by the amazing Mountains leading up towards the Kanchenjunga peak!!! Was quite breathtaking.

Near Tiger Bridge enroute Darjeeling
Near Tiger Bridge enroute Darjeeling

A flavor of the North East India, with a dragon statue near the tiger bridge while on our way towards Darjeeling.

Kanchenjunga Peak
Kanchenjunga Peak

As we approach Darjeeling, we get a clear view of the Kanchengjunga Peak. Also known as the Sleeping Buddha for it’s stark resemblance to the Buddha and the peaks representing him sleeping.

As soon as I enter Darjeeling, it’s cold and we can feel freshness in the air and also a chilled out atmosphere which really gives me a completely different feeling. It’s as if we’ve entered a fashionable town with a lot of guys and girls on a fashion parade while the towns modern fresh look also blew me away. Besides that of course the Municipal tower and a couple of other heritage / ancient structures gave me a mixed feeling about this place all together. I had about two days to explore Darjeeling before we head out for our Sandakhpu-Gurdum trekking expedition.

So I decided to make the best out of it.

Darjeeling municipality building tower clock. Since 1850.

Darjeeling municipality building tower clock. Since 1850.

I settled down at our basecamp / Hotel Broadway Annexe… and after a nice sumptuous lunch, I decided to explore the town a little bit. Little did I realize that sun was already on it’s way to set and soon it would get dark… Without losing much time, I got towards the station, which is quite nearby and if you look at it, Darjeeling as a town isn’t that big…

Early Sunset at Darjeeling

Early Sunset at Darjeeling

It was probably about 4.30 PM that the Sun set that day… By 5.30 it was already dark in Darjeeling and there is no way you can tell whether it’s 5:30 or 8.30 pm…

Darjeeling at 5:30 PM

Darjeeling at 5:30 PM

That also meant that pretty soon I had to go to bed cause the next day I had to wake up early and go to Tiger Hill to view the Sunrise across the Kanchenjunga Peak! But not before I beat the cold with some drinks at Joey’s Pub. Yes a very small British ambiance tavern, where you’ll find mostly British or Canadian tourists hanging out listening to retro numbers and chilling out! I went there with Mr. Shashi Patel, a businessman from Los Altos California I met while strolling around Darjeeling station. He was going to be my company to the sunrise point as well. So we decided to chill out and hang around for a while and talk about stuff here and there over a couple of drinks.

While I did that, I must say, the amazing Chow Min I ordered from the Joey’s Pub, was superb!!!

Veg Chow Min @ Joey's Pub

Veg Chow Min @ Joey's Pub

The next day was a short trip across Darjeeling where we visited the Sunrise Point At Tiger Hill, the Ghoom Monastery and a few other spots early in the morning. Also fascinating was the rooftop breakfast at Keventer’s cafe which is a 100 year old Cafe in Darjeeling!

Sunrise At Tiger Hill

Sunrise At Tiger Hill

Sun shining across the mountain ranges

Sun shining across the mountain ranges

Ghoom Monastery

Ghoom Monastery

Shing Theng - A saleswomans kid outside the monastery

Shing Theng - A saleswomans kid outside the monastery

A 61 year old Tibetian refugee manufacturing & selling handicraft since 1972.

A 61 year old Tibetian refugee manufacturing & selling handicraft since 1972.

A view from the top...

A view from the top...

Keventer's Cafe - A 100 year old cafe in Darjeeling

Keventer's Cafe - A 100 year old cafe in Darjeeling

Darjeeling Tea

Hot Cup of Darjeeling Special Tea

After the visit at the Keventer’s cafe and of course the early morning trip to Sunrise point, Ghoom Monastery and other places, nothing was better than a hot cup of special and very tasty Darjeeling Tea!

Japenese Pagoda

Japanese Peace Pagoda in Darjeeling

All in all it was totally a trip that was worth it. Darjeeling is definitely the Queen of all Hill Stations I must admit.