Tag Archives: Kanchenjunga

Seeking peace and serenity in Tumling

On one of our trips in the Himalayas, I remember how lines across various borders fade away and depict a path that just goes on beyond just the territories hazed within the minds of people caught in a rut, one that fails to distinguish a beauty of the nature so vast, and enchanting that we always tend to look at terrains as boundaries keep blocking us and our minds.

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Sometimes I wish for that as a traveler to do away with. Most often than none, whenever I take a trek to the Himalayas, an important thing that is always on my mind is to leave behind the clutter and the chaos that this urban mind has always carried around with it’s mundane inglorious life. I try to devise a plan and then I stop and tell myself that it’s not a strategy that I have to pitch to a client, I usually end up thinking twice about things when I’m out here in the city. Out there, I let the nature guide me by it’s own destiny and help me make a better choice with every step that I take in the wilderness of the mountains.

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One such trips was on the way to Sandakphu, where our first pit-stop was a glorious beginning into the Nepal bordering, crossing over Darjeeling and Sikkim the Himalayan regions of Tumling. A small village would be very popular among trekkers who are treading slowly towards Sanadkphu and Phalut. Both destinations which on a clear day, give a peek at the Kanchenjunga and the Mt. Everest, if you’re lucky.  One of the most interesting things that you’ll notice on this path is how serene everything is right from the time you start the trek from Mhanebhanjan, the base camp, usually for all the trekkers who head up to Sandakphu or Phalut.

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The occassional villagers going about their tasks, once in a while the sunlight taking a peak through the dense forests with maple and deodar trees. The ocassional Land rovers shipping food and gas cylinders and other than that there is complete bliss and total serenity. One can only feel an underlying divinity in this path across nature that cannot be described unless you actually go and witness the same.

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One beautiful thing about this place is that it has an arduous look about it the moment you reach the small village. As you settle down and look up at the mountains you will feel the ease of the mountains and the beautiful path that holds a great canvas in front of you, one as a trekker or a mountaineer, you’d be raring to have a go at, painting your journey across the beautiful terrains of these North Eastern Himalayas…

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Mhane Chandra – What Future Holds??

Freezing cold at Sandakphu base camp was something we managed to get acclimatized to. After climbing 14000 feet from the other side of Nepal and feeling on top of the world we had embraced the joy of the cold weather and at the same time the soreness of climbing such heights was quite a battle. Having said that, we had also embraced one downhill descent from Sandakphu to Gurdum. That was a bit of an ordeal, especially for those weak in their knees… No pun intended 😉

During our entire duration of the trek, Gurdum base camp was one of the best ones as most of us managed to climb down quite easily, though nurturing some levels of knees and joints pain, time taken and the stress plus energy burnt was much lesser than earlier ones. The flipside of it was since there was no ascent, most places we had to be careful of our stepping and ensure that we didn’t lose our balance at certain stages.

We stayed in Gurdum overnight, enjoyed delicious soup and fantastic veg momos for snacks! Even the dinner was one of the best and it really felt like we had a sumptuous meal after our arduous journey had been completed. Now we just had to alight Gurdum and reach our final destination (Rimbick) This was again a descent and there was hardly anything that we thought would bother us during this trek. Having said that, sometimes it’s just not your body but also your mind that takes a toll during this trek. It’s something that we think we can manage, but a lot of times struggle doing the same… I guess that’s why trekking is not just a physical but a mental challenge too.

Nonetheless, once we woke up in Gurdum, early in the morning, we decided to go down soon and camp at the final destination. Since it was the last destination of the trek, we wanted to make the best out of it. At least that was the plan. So we quickly started descending the mountain and the terrains called for some really amazing and breathtaking views. Although we did stop at places to ensure we got to enjoy the view, we didn’t wait for a long while…

After trekking for about a couple of hours we could hear a few sounds. We were surprised as mostly very few people came on top from this route… But nonetheless, we thought there might be some locals who wander off here or come to cut trees… We imagined it could be a wood cutter. Someone who has come on top and probably climbs day in and day out to cut wood. So we didn’t think about it as much. We told ourselves in a joking manner, imagine how much weight the person would be losing everyday and how many calories he would be burning. As it is most of the times we go on a trek, we end up losing a few pounds, and once we resume our sedimentary lifestyle, we end up getting all that back. I wonder how fit that person would be who would come to cut wood here climbing at least 11 kms everyday, I said…

As I said that, I just saw someone climb on the hairpin bend across the mountain below… I was looking elsewhere and slowly my glance went towards him… What I saw was something that made me think, ‘What did I say?’ I felt so bad that I even thought about something like this… Although not my fault, I really felt guilty at making assumptions about something or someone whom I didn’t even know. And what I saw wasn’t something that pleased my eyes as much.

Rather this is who I saw.

Sikkim, Darjeeling, Sandakphu, Gurdum, Rimbick

Mhane Chandra

Meet, Mhane Chandra! To him, this sickle is going to be a life, a life full of what his parents told him about. A life full of dreams and a life that will provide him and his family what they need.  But who will guarantee that these forests and the trees will last long? A question that I wonder for his future…

I felt so bad, that I promptly removed a packet of biscuits that the camp leader had given earlier and handed it over to him. At that time, that was the best I could do for him. I tried talking to him for a bit, but he wasn’t the kind who would speak a lot. Must be that his dad was behind or maybe not. Couldn’t really talk to him for he didn’t know our language. He just said, that he’s going up to get some wood to take home. Then he smiled and walked away…

Sandakphu conquered…

The weather in Kalapokhri gave quite the chills. Freezing as it may, 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. Washing your hands with warm water in that freezing cold is much similar to dipping your hands in fingerbowl while at a restaurant… Only this time, you truly understand the value of this warmth…

Since drinking was not allowed as it was a YHAI trek, we could only stare at this bottle of rum that was right opposite the hall while we were having dinner. What’s more, it was locked in the glass shelf and there was no way anyone could sneak into the shelf… But I guess, the warm horlicks after dinner sufficed… We slept quite early as the trek was one of the longest so far and steepest… So it was but natural that we were tired, besides, there was no guitar no music around here in Kalapokhri, except a strict camp leader and a grumpy housekeeper who was a stickler for serving you ample food… Yeah, I guess you win some, you lose some…

The next day we got instructions that this path, though 10kms, is going to be steeper than what we had already covered so far. Also, there would be a lot of crossroads and we should not take shortcuts as there are chances for us to get lost… Well, thankfully for us, we had a really great guide. So with his help, we started off our trek towards Sandakphu… Our aim, to reach 14000 feet before it got dark and cold…

Leaving Kalapokhri

Leaving Kalapokhri

As anticipated, the route was certainly steeper, there were some shortcuts which had steps on it, but we chose to climb, than take a flight of stairs… The Stairs can get to you sometimes, especially if you are trekking long distances… It’ll suck your energy and break your knees down… So even if the route is long, it’s always good to go via the climb as opposed to stairs…

Stairs enroute Sandakphu

Stairs enroute Sandakphu

While one of the best things about this trip was the beautiful weather, we had to stop at a couple of places at it started drizzling and there was a bit of a downpour too… Thankfully we were near a teashop, where we took shelter! We weren’t even halfway through then… In fact, we were hoping that this downpour would clear the clouds and the mist, hoping to be sure that, when we reach the topmost point 3600 meters / 14000 feet, we’d be able to get a sight of the Kanchenjunga up close and Mt. Everest from there… We just had to keep our fingers crossed!

The Sandakphu Border Post

The Sandakphu Border Post

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… While the weather was still at it’s worst, we hoped it’d clear, by the time we had our lunch and took some rest. After that was our time to go to the highest point in Sandakphu, another 1 or 2 kms walk… After which we had to do some rock climbing to go on top where the beautiful view of both the mountain ranges awaited us.

Alas, our hopes and dreams were shattered, the mountains were engulfed with clouds and there was no way, that we were going to get to see the mountain ranges… Nonetheless we decided to go ahead and scale the top most peak of Sandakphu.. At least we would have made it to that point as we had come this far!

Before we did that, 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…

Buddhist Monastery in Sandakphu

Buddhist Monastery in Sandakphu

 

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. 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 and even though it was foggy, the beauty of it was in the amazing feeling we got there on top. With us were a lot of people, but one of the most amazing thing was that one of the trekkers who was a 50 year old Suchita aunty, she bravely climbed the rocks and made it on top… That was something no one from the other groups had done so far, said the camp leader!
We finally reach the top...

We finally reach the 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… The next couple of days were a lot more stressful, especially since alighting means, knees would have to bear the brunt of your body weight… Nonetheless, despite the fact that we couldn’t see the Kanchenjunga and Mt. Everest, we enjoyed every bit of the trek so far. If we were lucky, maybe we’d get to come back again and see them… or better yet, go to Mt. Everest Basecamp… 😉 It was time for us to go back to the camp, have dinner and rest as much as we could… For the next day beckoned a lot of walking… only downhill…

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.