Tag Archives: Trekking

Wandering Thinker & a Pondering Writer – Travelogues – 1

He dug across the path which raked in between the crooked boulders on the mountain. There were trenches, ditches, twisted turns and slippery paths to walk. The trail was the most difficult at this part of the mountain. He looked beyond the broad horizon, one that was starkly glowing in his face. The sunset across the mountains penetrated the entire region with its golden rays and the entire valley. Because of its desert like terrain the sky gleamed with effervescence surrounding the entire mountain ranges. It was hard to not keep staring in the sky and ponder upon the journey… The journey that he had taken wandering about the trodden paths of the most adverse conditions on the trek of his.

He had begun the journey when there was no Sun… The entire terrain was covered in fog… But it was only a matter of time, before it showed up. In fact at one point it was up in the sky dolling out its scorching heat, which was unbearable to him. He held his hand across his eyes touching his forehead. He twisted his woolen cap to cover his face, away from the beaming rays striking at him with an acute sharpness of its penetrating aura. He knew that the trail he had left was quite a long one. One that let him do his soul searching on his journey across the terrain. One that let him think and introspect upon his past and his present. One that told him of the heights that needed to be conquered. One that showed him how a traversal like this will help him dig deep into his consciousness. A journey that made him realize how mystically important this learning of life meant to him. A journey that helped him become what he was today…

He couldn’t judge how humongous and widely spread this entire place was.  As geographically vast and surmountable the terrain was it was nothing compared to the journey he had already finished, in order to finally reach the land which he lusted for many years. The land that he had thought about all his life. A place that was on his bucket list forever and this moment was something that he had always longed for.

But the real question was very tricky. As tricky as probably the slippery slopes he had overcome…

Why had he taken that journey? Why had he made this trek? Why?? What was he doing out there?

The quest to the soul within himself. The quest to the journey that was always in his mind…

This was his answer to that question… The answer to the question that he asked himself forever… Always, right from the time he had started traveling. Right from the time he had set upon himself the quest to wander the world, not just on the outside, but on the inside too. From the time that he had realized how his mind started reacting to the travel bug that had bit him…

An answer that changed his life …

“To traverse beyond the limitations of my mind, I travel to look upon the journey within myself.” 

The Tiger Kid of Himalayas…

Himalayas, Nepal, Jaobari, India, Travel, Mountains, Trekking,

Jaobari Terrains of HiImalayas

This was a few months back when we were trekking in the North Eastern Himalayas… The Sandakphu trek to be precise. Every once in a while you meet spirits that give you such great vision of your own life that you can’t even imagine what heights you can reach.

Buddhist Philosopher, educator & peace builder Daisaku Ikeda once said

“The human spirit is as expansive as the cosmos. This is why it is so tragic to belittle yourself or to question your worth. No matter what happens, continue to push back the boundaries of your inner life. The confidence to prevail over any problem, the strength to overcome adversity and unbound hope – all reside within you.”

This story is a true depiction of how this really applies. A lot of times we are so overwhelmed by the many tasks which we give utmost importance to, we tend to forget the real reason we are here on this planet. Many times we focus on the tasks which have no underlying purpose or very little importance, that we forget what we can do if we stop thinking in boundaries or shed the limits. This story tells us how we as adults have stopped imagining behind certain boundaries and stopped pushing the envelope when it comes to achieving something.

Buddhism, Monastery, Dalai Lama, Monk, Spirituality, Himalayas

Shange Norbu of Jaobari Monastery

While trekking the Himalayas, we came across a small monastery in the Nepal side on the Indo-Nepal border. Jaobari village to be precise. We decided to visit the monastery and spend some time while catching our breath. We met the monk who lived there, Shange Norbu. Shange is another word for Buddha, he proudly told us. He gave us information about the monastery. He also told us that he teaches the kids there. We could see some kids playing outside eating some porridge in a small bowl. When we went inside, what was most striking was the utter peace and serenity which made the monastery quite blissful. Besides the striking calm, we realized that it was much warmer inside than it was outside. So that was quite a relief as we knew we had to trek a lot more and climb about 10 kms with a steep ascent.

While the others were resting, I decided to take a stroll around and click some pictures around. After getting a few shots of the breath-taking view I headed a little further, I met this kid. The kid was very playful and he was enjoying himself and doing just nothing. Generally this is probably the last point where civilization ends and the terrains start. A few houses here and there, otherwise the whole plateau after this is just mountain ranges. So most tourists who have come, would stop going further at this point while the trekkers move on to climb the magnificent Himalayas.

The Tiger Kid of Himalayas

The Tiger Kid of Himalayas

With a really nice winter cap covering his ears and a denim jacket to keep him warm, he looked very comfortable and was in his own world. His smile was innocent and his brown eyes were like deep ocean. He had a stick with him, which he held on to very closely. I took a few pictures of his and tried to initate conversation. But communication in a common language was a mystery to the both of us. We resorted to our body language and yes, eye contact… He smiled at me, I smiled back… Then he put his hands to his head.. A gesture to tell me something.  Probably, to show me that he had great imagination. Imagination that made his mind greater than the regular one. To me it looked pretty much like the thing Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory does when he stares at you and tries to get your brain to explode… But obviously this gesture had a different meaning altogether.

Nonetheless, after a few exchange of glances and communication through our eyes, he said something… something which I didn’t understand but I asked Shange to translate, who was standing nearby. He laughed when he heard what the kid said. That made me even more curious as to what was this kid saying. I asked him to translate it to me and this is what he said.

“If you go on top, the tiger will come and kill you… But don’t worry, I’ll help you and fight him off with this stick.”

I’m not kidding, that’s exactly what he said, according to the monk. Hence the laugh. But I was blown away, blown away by the astronomical level of thinking and ultimate confidence within himself. Now, I’m pretty sure, he was told stories of great white tigers in the Singalila National Park stretch of Sandakphu. One that ‘we’ know do not exist, stories of great ‘dragon warriors’, which we think are myths and kings who have slayed tigers with their bare hands. Considering that, using a stick to kill a tiger is definitely something which is easy for him, now isn’t it?? Something he believes in and in his world, that’s how the ending of this story is. Him emerging victorious and a saviour to my life. The great hero of Jaobari as I’d like to call him. Come to think of it, it could be achieved scientifically if you hit the right spots, but that’s a different point altogether.

Do you remember as kids we had so many dreams and for us boundaries meant nothing. Do you remember as kids we wanted to go to space as astronauts, we wanted to become actors, we wanted to become cricketers and a lot more… What happened to those dreams? All that was possible and for some it became a reality. For a those who couldn’t get there, well, it’s never too late…

We have to stop putting boundaries to our thoughts, limitations, and stop compromising by just saying, life is a compromise. Actually when I recollect this story, I truly feel it isn’t… As Daisaku Ikeda says, The confidence to prevail over any problem, the strength to overcome adversity and unbound hope – all reside within you. How many of you have realized this?

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…

Rimbick Basecamp

After having spent more than a week wandering across mountains of Himalayas, with a hope to witness the beauty of the Kanchenjunga we had hoped for a better ending especially when we had reached Sandakphu. Bearing the freezing cold of Sandakphu at 14000 feet was all worth it and could have been a complete experience, had we witnessed to see the Kanchenjunga peaks up close and personal especially from the top most point of that beautiful location. Nonetheless, we salvaged some of the situation after our alighting to Gurdum was truly enchanted by the stay there. Since we got down sooner than on other days, we had a lot more time to spend in Gurdum and we had made the most of it with the beautiful, serene and silent cottage at that camp.

While we did that, we were really hopeful that there was a lot more to the Himalayan trek than just this… Sadly, the time for the trek was about to come to an end. We were to alight to the final destination on this trek after Gurdum camp. Yes, of course, there would be civilization, local markets, hot water to shower, lesser cold and very little clenching of teeth… But that was all worth it when you come up to these heights. A world of it’s own, you began to be enchanted and somewhere deep in your mind make up a world of your own… Something that you would always want to enjoy without having to let go of the experiences that you underwent. We all had that kind of a feeling. The place was much more relaxed, by this time all of us had began to understand each other a lot more. Some had drifted from their regular group and joined others… We had bonded very well in a span of this week… Once we reach the basecamp, we knew all that was going to be over… With our goodbyes and farewells, we knew we may not be able to spend much time later. So I guess, this was that one last trip as they say… One last shot at making the most of our entire journey.

With that thought in our mind, we set off on a journey towards civilization, a last descend downwards to the chaos of life. One that we all had missed for days, but never complained. Such was this journey and such are treks of these kinds, especially in the Himalayan terrains, terrains where there is peace and redemption.

Himalayas, Sandakphu, Darjeeling
The final journey begins…

We started our last trekking bit on this expedition with a stride in our step and a heavy heart… Nonetheless, we had to make sure that this last journey was going to be full of great memories and beautiful pictures. We were hoping this terrain to be a bit different.

Villager Farmboy
Mhane Chandra

On our way we met Mhane Chandra. He was going up to cut firewood. 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…

 While there was descent, we had to walk through some of these paths, where we had to carefully tread along the sides and worry about not slipping down the cliff…
Norgyal Sherpa Memorial

Norgyal Sherpa Memorial

While alighting, we found a few small villages within the mountains. There we also found this. And this was something which took my breath away and held my head high and hands close to my forehead, to salute the heroism of this small village within the descents of the great eastern Himalayas. This is a great story of a local lad, who gave his life for our Country… It’s a War Memorial in this Sherpa’s name… of the Gorkha regiment… A salute to Norgyal Sherpa.

Srikhola River
Srikhola River

This was one of the popular landmarks on this route. Once you know you’ve reached the Srikhola River, you know you’re 5 kms away from Rimbick.

Bridge over Srikhola River
Bridge over Srikhola River
Nishing Leng
Nishing Leng
Nishing Leng
Nishing Leng

That’s Nishengleng, cute kid… we were walking past her school and she saw my camera.. She said, take my picture… We did and she said Namaste to us… besides the picture, she enjoyed some great candies which we dished out 😉

From then on, it was just a little bit for us to walk to the base camp… And that would mark the end of a journey, beginning of a cherished memoirs something to remember for…

Gurdum – Village of Serenity

After having conquered the great heights, our next two days of trekking was all about the descent. As much as people would love to say that I like to descend down on treks of these scales, I’d have to say, it’s easy for the ones with strong knees. You might get exhausted and find it tiring to climb up, but as long as your thighs and calves are strong, you won’t have to worry at all… But no matter how resistant and enduring your fitness is, there’s little you can do to work those tiring knees when you come down.

Having said that, the journey becomes all the more enjoyable as there is no fatigue and there is very little amount of time you keep thinking… ‘Are we there yet?’ Also you feel a lot more relaxed when you do stop by whenever you want to take a break, which again is reduced as compared to the number of times you take a break while climbing up.

Our descent started early in the morning around 8 AM. The sky was not yet as clear as we hoped it to be. If it was, we’d have given another shot to go to the top, just for the breathtaking view of Kanchenjunga and Mt. Everest from the highest point. Sadly, that was not something we could manage… Nonetheless, our journey was going to be great anyways and I’d made up my mind that I’d stay far ahead so that we reach soon and relax at Gurdum. I was told Gurdum had a really peaceful and serene basecamp… It was pleasant and really cozy… One of our fellow trekkers had done this trek before and from what I heard, I really wanted to reach there soon.

The day began with a walk down the woods… Before crossing a couple of valleys we had to cross through these woods… Brilliant weather for a brilliant start of the day…

A perfect picture for a Trekker's Calendar
A perfect picture for a Trekker’s Calendar

Doesn’t this make for a perfect picture for those trekker’s calendar?? My friends, Sanjay and Twisha, gazing across the horizon while we stopped to take some rest after a while…

Beautiful Rose at the Gurdum camp
Beautiful Rose at the Gurdum camp

After a few hours, we reached the Gurdum camp, and I wasn’t surprised, for Twisha had told me about the beauty of this camp.. Here is my first view to an amazing Rose blooming outside our camp cottage. 🙂

While roses and other flowers attracted our attention, apparently we attracted this beautiful dog’s attention… We met him just about a few kms before we reached the camp and he lead us through till the end…

That’s Balram, our guide, washing his shoes, his livelihood, with sheer intensity… This must have been his 63rd trek to Sandakphu and he just doesn’t seem get tired of it… I can imagine why..

While Gurdum wasn’t so cold, we certainly enjoyed the beautiful view and the most amazing serenity that spread across the camp. Most importantly as soon as we touched down, we got amazing soup and some really nice veg momos… Truly tasty I tell ya… But  the best thing about this camp had to be this bench from where I took this picture… A place to sit and ponder across the horizon.. A horizon as beautiful as it gets… Wonder about the mystery of nature without worrying about the worldly pursuits that keep bothering your otherwise idyllic minds…

As much as I didn’t want to think about it, the thought already creeped into my mind… Tomorrow’s the last day of the trek and the final descent of this beautiful journey… Sigh…

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…

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…

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?

Ritz to Rajmachi – Off-roading Adventure

Foggy Morning

These are one of those trips that you always wish you had taken a while ago, and at the same time, not taken at all… Many a times we’ve been trekking to various destinations and most of the times, we take a car to the base-camp… Earlier it was a bike and now it’s a car, thanks to my friend Swapnil… His Ritz I must say has done a lot of miles in the couple of years that he’s been on the road with it. Long stretch of lands across various states to weekend getaways that have been really bumpy and super sleek at times. From grazing dirt tracks inside villages of Vidarbha to stretching a two day trip all the way to Indore and back to Mumbai.  And of course, the Alibaug, Kashid, Murud-Janjira is something which has become a routine. Lonavala – Tiger Hills is of course a destination which we do most of the times in the monsoon, but this time around we did something else… And of course, this had to be the brainchild of my ever enthusiastic best friend, also my college mate Swapnil himself. For those who don’t know him yet, well, we’ve been friends for over 12 years now and right from college both of us have been auto enthusiasts, me being the lesser one and almost every other time just being on the listening end of his aspirations and stories from various rallies, so much so, that I’ve taken up interest in Formula 1 only cause of our animated conversations and his total interest in the sport which he rubbed on to me way back in 2001.

Most of the times our trips have been adventurous, luxurious, crazy, tiring and bewildering… But none like this. It was a Saturday morning and Swapnil, Mangesh and I decided to leave early in the morning on this trip in his Ritz…

Swapnil & Mangesh

“Let’s take this baby all the way up to the basecamp.” That’s what Swapnil said…

“What?? You really hate your car don’t you?” was my first reaction…

Apparently not… Now this could certainly be a good exercise for Maruti guys to test their vehicles and maybe build an entire campaign around it… Anyone seen the Woodland shoes ad?? 😉

For regular trekkers, they take a 15km hike to the basecamp or most of the times we get people bike it up till the base camp. Of course, the villagers or people who have to go back and forth, might at the most have Jeeps which can take them that far, especially during the rains…

For a Ritz to go up there…. Was quite a task, a task like most others, which we always end up achieving… This is where we went and boy o boy, don’t ask us How??

Bumpy rides, dirt tracks, steep turns and a whole lot of rocks and stones to test us… This was quite a ride. There were uphill and downhill roller coasters on our way, so much so, I couldn’t shoot or take pics. Steady is not what I could expect at all…

Most of the time it didn’t rain throughout our uphill journey and we finally did reach one spot, where there is a small stall. That’s not even the base-camp. A guy usually cooks Maggi, Bhaji-Pav and stocks loads of biscuits and other snacks. Well, since we reached this spot at around 7 AM, we had to wait…

As luck would have it we discovered, there was a small waterfall near this place… But we had to go down to really get below / under the water and it was a downhill slope and had to trek down a few yards to get there… Well…. IT HAD TO BE DONE!

That's where the falls were...

…And when we say ‘IT HAS TO BE DONE’… we 99% of the time mean it…

Well, It had to be done... 😉 so...

So, anyways, that’s just the half of it… We haven’t even got started… Thankfully, by the time we were done with playing around the waterfalls, getting soaked in that foggy morning and enjoying the cold water and by the time we came up… the guy from the hut had opened his shop… What more did we want?

Mr. Kekda Khan

Certainly not this crab to bite us… 😛 Meet Mr. Kekda Khan, who happily posed for my camera.. Add to that he was really enthusiastic when the camera zoomed on to him. So much so he did the Kekda Dance, moving his claws up and down…

Maggi... Never fails you... wherever you go

But yes, eating HOT Maggi early in the morning is certainly what we wanted… Well, that’s what we thought at that time…. We really didn’t know what was in store for us…

So we move ahead and head towards the base-camp… Lo behold… There was this huge rock on the road… Mangesh said it wasn’t there last week. He’s a regular trekker and was there by foot last week. It was a landslide and there was very little space for the car to squeeze through… On the other side of the road was a cliff… and it was also blocked by rocks, if not as huge as the one fallen, at least huge enough for us to make them budge…

“Every problem can be solved…” That’s always our motto when we go out on these adventures…

We tried moving smaller rocks, whichever we could squeeze through and tried to make some space… Well, it was a little better than before, but not enough to let the car go by… If nothing else, the car would just go down the ravine or scrape some metal on the huge rock… Now, that’s something we didn’t want to happen. Add to that, it was a muddy track, so couldn’t quickly skid through that part.

Then we took on the task to move the bigger rocks on the side… Tried sliding it, lifting it… Reminded me of that episode of Dhani Tackles the Globe, where he goes to Scotland and lifts huge rocks as part of a competition. Heck you might even have watched Worlds Strongest Men doing these antics for a living… But we certainly weren’t them and we needed some one else to help us out on this…

What more do you want?? Of course, we needed a few people to help us… There were a couple of guys who came from the other side… the village or the base camp, but they were villagers who were going to work in town… We sure didn’t want their hands dirty 😛

As luck would have it, just like our most other situations, we met a bunch of trekkers who thankfully agreed to help us out… And within a jiffy, we moved most of the huge rocks making enough space for the car to go by…

Between a Rock and a Hard Place...

What happened after that is not for me to tell you in this off-roading chronicle, but certainly this experience was quite different from most of the trips we’ve ever taken. Have you ever been in any such situations?

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Lohagad – An escapade truly to remember

Trekking (definition) : To make a slow or arduous journey on foot, especially to hike through mountainous areas…  But… “A trek is never a trek if there ain’t a little fun, little adventure, some moments to cherish and of course a little mishap here and there..’ That’s where the ‘arduous’ part comes in…

9:00 PM and we are still at work?? Come on guys let’s pack up and get the hell outta here… That was what was going on in my mind… but I guess, we had to make sure that everything was in order before we left for the trek.

On a chilly December night, trekking at 2:00 AM in the morning was no mean feat. Yep, that’s exactly when we reached the village called Baje, it served as a base camp for us. Parked the car over there and started hiking up towards the footsteps near Lohagadvadi… While there is another route to reach the footsteps where even cars go, it wouldn’t have been fun for us to take our car there and then climb up… as the trek time would have been just 15-20 minutes.

Anyways, at the end of it all, the hike up to the place was really worth it… trekking the mountain in the morning, chatting up and singing along for a journey and an experience that we were yet to have… Something told us, this is going to be one of those memories… You know what I’m talking about, now don’t you?

It took us about 2 hours to reach the top… Breezy in the morning, the caves were only warm place for us to feel some comfort.. but that would again defy the definition now, woudn’t it?? So we decided to chill out near the entrance, camp ourselves and make ourselves a couple o drinks to feel better… haha, that’s what you get for the arduousness as a reward. Besides that watching some of them, singing and dancing to ‘Sheila ki Jawaani’ as well 😛

Soon, it was time for the Sun to rise and us to have some really nice Photo session and of course meet our ancestors who made their way up on to the top to find out if we had some food for them. I was wondering why on earth did I even buy a bunch of bananas before we left, now I know exactly why…

The vision of breaking dawn was one I had been waiting for before I could get my hands on my DSLR, and begin my clicking spree… After a lots of fun and frolic, some nice photo sessions, we decided to head towards Vinchu Kaata… Alas, that was not to be…

While everyone was enjoying singing and dancing… we suddenly heard a cry out loud from one of our friends…The slippery tracks from where we had decided to take a detour towards VinchuKaata had made sure that today wasn’t the day, when we were going to be out there…

She suddenly lost her footing, slipped and fell instantaneously… We made her sit down, making sure that we find out what happened to her. Hoping it was not a fracture…we took a look, it looked more like  a sprain and a ligament tear we thought. But we were not sure, didn’t want to take a risk… So finally this is the exact reason why that arduous word came into the dictionary while defining the word ‘trekking’ It was quite a challenge as she was not able to walk…

One of the challenges now, was to find out ways and means to get our friend down.. So, a couple of guys went down to get the car from the other route to ensure that one car is at least downstairs, at the base camp from Baje village… While we were trying to figure out how to get her down.. We tried to make a stretcher with a couple of bamboos and blanket we had… Nope, didn’t work… We had a chair, tried to make a palkhi with the bamboos and a rope we had… nope, didn’t work… What could we do??

We were thinking and trying to figure out a way and that’s when it struck us… This was the only option for now…

The most effective and the most simple way was devised out of a story I remember my grandfather used to read in Chandamama comics, ‘Vikram Vetaal…’ yes, that is and was the only option for us…. So there, the only option left for us was to backpack her (literally) and that could have been done by only one person in our group and I don’t intend to tell you here who it was. For people who don’t know us, it won’t matter but for people at work… you guys should have fun guessing this one! As it turned out later… i.e almost at the bottom of the mountain, we met a guy who took a look at her leg and with the help of acupressure and she was able to slowly walk… Irony I say… Always on all my trips 🙂

That’s exactly the reason why I’ve not included anyone’s names… and precisely why this story ends like this… What happened later was something we all call an escapade truly to remember… 🙂 well, at least until the next one happens.

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