Saturday, March 04, 2017

The Giants of the World

It was the 24th of November 2016. We packed a little. Trying to get SMPT to work, Chitra kept working on the problem for a while, finally sleeping late around 1:30 AM.

 Here is a late night summary photo :

Waking around 7, we resumed packing and left for the airport around 11:30 AM, only to realize we missed a very important thing. Code push, was pushed uncleanly. The rest of the travel in the cab was filled with an air of sadness, breaking into momentary panic when the car dicky got jammed and we had to cut through one of the straps of the bag to get it to open.
We reached Kolkata late afternoon, confirmed that things were back to normal. A call to Bhutiaji gut us the driver numbers and along joined Vanathi meanwhile.

A cab trip to Sealdah, a long walk to dinner at a bakery(the only place where we could find food) and a walk back was how the second half of our journey to the start began.

26th November

A good night's sleep in the train and we reached NJP, a good one and a half hour late, with a waiting pair of passengers. Off we went to Chitrey via Maneybhanjang via Mirik. It was a good four hour journey and it would be followed by a nice 6-7 KM of trek. The primary worry was the delay in train would cascade into our first day's trek and delay us long enough to be forced to trek well into darkness.

A halt on the way is mandatory when the clouds clear up to get a preview of the majestic giants:
Enroute to Chitrey

Kanchenjunga visible for few moments when the sky cleared up(on route)

A reduction of about 2.5 very steep kilometers from Maneybhanjang to Chitrey got avoided by the helpful Bhutiaji and our driver agreeing to leave us upto Chitrey.

Norben, Chitra and Vanathi at Chitrey

A 110 year old monastry at Chitrey

Our new guide and friend for the next week, and a closer friend now, Jigmay Tenzing encouraged us to go to the monastry. Irrespective of the delay, he showed confidence that we could do it easily just to leave our spirits higher.
Getting down, we had a nice lunch, rested for some time, walked down to the ancient monastry, a 110 year old gompa. This place had monks meditating for 6 years, 6 months and 6 weeks. A youtube video gives more details of an 86 year old person, Namgayal who moved to Chitrey from Tibet :

A foggy walk in the clouds, till Lamadhurey, where we met 3 muske-dogs, friendly, hyper-active and huge as a bull. Off we went, crossing them after petting them from a distance and off to Meghma.

A paid jeep trip for 2.5 kms as the darkness was quick and we wanted to reach our destination for the day, Tumling at least by dinner time. The jeep dropped us a Meghma with an Indian army post on the right and Nepal on the left. A short walk and a small room was shown to us with a bison's head.

 A fork here with a left for Tumling,(in Nepal) and Tonglu (in India) was right there. A left in the darkness, into Nepal with old songs on Jimgayji's phone and multiple lights, we slowly kept moving. An hour or an hour and a half and we reached a beautiful mansion, Shikhar hotel, with a superb dinner setting. A sumptuous dinner, sleep and we were ready for an early morning trek to see the sun rise.
A Long period of walk in the dark led to long conversations to avoid animals, fear and boredom. An interesting piece of information that came up was the use of Skytrek app for trekking, altitude and route information.

Room in Shikhar Lodge

in Landscape mode :)

other half of the room

The Kitchen view from the dining room

27th November.

A good night's sleep in the wooden room wrapped under cozy razaais, the long trek ensured that we started sleeping deeply the moment we hit the bed. An early morning wake up time of 5 AM and a walk out to a little higher area started at 5:30 AM. A 15 minute walk brought us a little higher than where we were in the lodge. A 10 minute wait for dawn was quite a sight with people from different cultures, states, countries soaking in the early morning feeling waiting for the ever faithful sun to rise.

The first glimpse of sunlight
more sun
The sleeping buddha basking in the first rays

A slow shade of deep orange starting from the bottom started eating out the dark blue. Slowly and steadily, a line formed, the horizon. And lo and behold, a sheet of golden shining armour on the sleeping buddha, the kanchenjunga range, made our morning.

Back to the lodge, a great breakfast with Tibetan bread, eggs and aloo gobi curry and off we went around 8:30 AM to our next destination, Kalpokhri. It was a nice sunny day with great climate. We had explained to Jigmayji that we wanted to take the trail route avoiding the route to walk in silence and amidst the green. So, we walked through a lush green patch of forest, dense and full of birds. Reaching Gairibas, where an Indian army post greeted us, we left for Kayyakatta and reached our destination, Kalpokhri for a Thukpa lunch late afternoon in deep mist. Jigmay ji alerted us to finish quickly as another good 40 minute walk was required to reach the day's destination and it was going to rain heavily. It was already 4 PM and that is the time when darkness starts trickling into the sky.

Vanathi and Little Tenzing

View from the room

A little morning walk

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Wife has blog too :

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Shepherd's paradise : Rupin


As we waited for the flight to land in Chennai, among about a 100 other people, an elderly lady handed us two sweetmeats, another touch of humanity, my mind leapt back, jumping right into the last one week - A hidden expanse of nature's pristine beauty, dotted with grazing herds and lazy clouds, I lay on the soft, moist grass, chewing a straw, no thoughts in the head.

For such precious moments, our planning began six months before, in the month of January, when we decided that we had finally marginally moved up our fitness and deserved to do a harder trek. An assumption, which would be overruled, along the course of our journey. Along with Sreejith and Milon, we setup and confirmed dates, made travel plans, got leaves approved and waited with anxiety for the days we were counting down for. We tried as much as we could to run, jog, walk, swim, cycle, so that we finish the trek well.

Finally, when we were a day away, a hurried trip to Decathlon, a night long packing session followed by 2 hours of sleep and off we were, back with the huge bags, hoping they were lighter this time. Landing in Delhi, we spent time with Mrinal at his place, lugging the bags, hoping against hope that they get lighter our our shoulders gets more powerful. Late night, we got into the Last train to Dehradun, which was full of trekkers. As I dozed off to glory, I was awoken from my beauty sleep by Chitra, informing me that we were still at the Delhi station. And there we were, as the boards said it, right on the same platform, 3 hours after departure time, due to faulty A/C. Our train finally reached around 9 AM, much to the frustration of co-passengers, more to the frustration of our waiting team at the station.

Dehradun was no different from Delhi. Heavily polluted, hot, noisy, different from the Dehradun  we visited last winter. Meeting Sreejit and Milon after one whole year was good. We enquired if we could get Gajendra bhai-"Tum se na ho Payega". (Our last driver who had given us full confidence of our incapability to finish two treks back-back )But no, he was dropping people for another trek. Thus started our journey with our co-passengers being Parikshit and Manish. A nice small break for 1/2 kg of litchis for breakfast and a lunch on the way and finally we reached Dhaula. A wide ground of grass surrounded by hills with pines on all sides, just by a growling Rupin. A few introductions later, much needed sleep would take over after a yummy dinner. It was a group of 19 people, with me and Chitra skirting the edge of the age groups, along with Pushan,

A searing reminder of the news we had seen was the burning forest in the background, creatively moving around, forming beautiful patterns, but burning out the green, day and night.

Morning tea, ablutions, packing, and we were green to start. On a burning day, sweat dripping away like the multiple water falls at Rupin, we crawled through the “trails”, wide mud roads from Dhaula to Sewa. A 2-floor wooden homestay was the place to crash for the day. This was where we found the abundant growth of marijuana plants, right as it is called, weed. I met a smart kid called Prem Kumar, who would write down any new name he heard, citing poor memory. Then, he would keep calling the person, attempting to extract chocolates, biscuits or any new eatables. As the kids played cricket with Chitra, Parikshit and Manish, I walked around to take photos of any birds I could find. The result: Poision ivys leaving rashes all over my legs. I did get a consolation shot of a hopoe. An interesting creature all along this terrain was something between a garden lizard and a small iguana.
The second day’s walk was not very different. From Sewa to Jiskun, a village which had a post office. The route demanded a long walk as we moved into Himachal from UK. It started with sighting a majestic vulture. Brisk walks across thick jungles and then