I’d rather be a forest than a street.
Yes, I would, If I could, I surely would.
As usual, planning went on, he took care of most of the itinerary details, with almost anything left for me to worry about. Winter trek isn’t new to us, after doing Kedarkantha trek. But kept our fingers crossed for surprises, what may come by, as it was our first time towards North-East of India. Further reading about this trek online, i was awakened by the fact that the Everest is visible from Sandhakphu, adding more curiosity.
In the same months, i met online another great soul who as well a travel-trek freak like me from Gujarat. She: Amee; had already done Sandakphu earlier that year and was looking to do Kedarkantha. So the cross connection between us happened via my blog post about kedarkantha. She as well narrated many insightful details about Sandhakphu and her experience of first trekking in the himalayas.
Howrah bridge, if not for the over dense crowd passing through and the road side sellers on its narrow footpath, looks spectacular and mesmerizing to spend few moments here by over looking the beautiful nature with hoogly around it.
One has to feel the serene calling of the river hoogly below it to enjoy the breezing wind blowing against the bridge.
The noisy traffic through it gets irritating for a while, but once you ignore it and start deep observations of the river and loose yourself in the calling of the nature around it; you feel a river moving in you, A joy, upon the connection with your soul.
Then we headed towards shanti stupa/Japanese temple up the hill. The climb towards this temple is quite steep and longer too from the station point/base camp. Little did we knew that the next day for acclimatization task, YHAI would take us again here. However, our own moments here was nice and the weather in the evening was pleasant As usual, the authorities have maintained very well and clean.
Big day starts, as the customs follow, every one started to assemble by 8 with breakfast done for our jeeps to pick us up. Based on the discussion between me and our group leader: sharma ji, i had to lead the whole group with the guide in front while he sweeps. From base camp, we have to travel around 2 hours journey by road in jeeps to a place called Dhotrey. This is a small village away from dargeeling from where our actual trekking started. Only connectivity to this village is via jeeps.
Here we met our guides: Norbu and Shibu. These 2 guys were very young yet very sportive social fellas. The entire group instantly felt comfortable with these two fellas for all conversations.
The norbu sherpa in blue jacket is studying secondary high school and does alot of adventurous activities including football sport. While shibu sherpa; who is the short guy is quite witty in nature yet very smart and takes care of his father’s business at this village. Both of these guys are really cordial and social animals. Our group enjoyed all through the trek with these folks.
After spending half hour here, while some folks started sipping tea-coffee, others chitchatting with rest in the chilling breezing weather around, our group leader gave a short speech and with headcount, we started off our trek finally by bidding adieu to the modern technology such as vehicles, facilities and comfort.
The route got more scenic as we marched ahead with full enthusiasm. The weather was getting more chilling with cold breezy wind blowing at us with the mist cloud all around. This environment kept our spirits up and motivated us alot. At some point, we waited for the last person to join the rest gang and then decided for a group pic.
Marching ahead, few masti action on the track is always fun than going very silent. So some masti moments to rejuvenate the spirits 😉
The beauty of the nature and the objects in it, makes this whole experience flabbergasted.
Further up, when pro teaches the rookie : The art of photography…Enthralls!!
The hill-top lunch point was called Tonglu. This place is almost presumed to be in the midst of cloud; perhaps calling it a floating village; wouldn’t be a wrong phrase. The whole environment though chilling, but the feeling of being here is exhilarating.
The tonglu lunch point hotel did served us an amazing tasty food. While the outside weather got more cold, i stayed inside enjoying the delicacy served with the view around 😉
After an hour of break here, it was now all the way down hill path towards our resting point called Tumling. The whole path runs along the Indo-Nepal border. Here the road saperates the border between these 2 friendly countries. For the first time ever, we all enjoyed the crossing over legally between both these countries without visa nor passport.
The hotel in Tumbling sits on the nepal side of the border and thus we stayed officially on nepal side for a night 🙂
We enjoyed our evening with lots of talks, small games while sipping tea.
The stay here was quite good and it was in a wooden house. The group stay was really enjoyable with comfort.
With a comfortable sleep from the previous night, we began our day with very cold misty weather. The early morning sunrise did not blessed upon us due to cloudy weather. With much disappointment, we all returned to our rooms after spending half hour in the cold freezing windy hill top nearby. Once the beakfast is finished, we began our march towards the Kalipohkri.
Enroute, we had to enter the Singalila National Park of Nepal. So at the checkpost, we took some break while we get the permits done. While we all rested and chit chatted, the cute kids of the nearby local house playing spotted on and they were very cute. Almost every one of us played with those cute kids and they behaved very cordial with all of us.
We said goodbye to these kids with a group pic.
Further into the national park, we came across our Indian side SSB camp guarding our borders in the harsh weather conditions.
Along with the brave soldiers, we also saw the bravest guardian angel of soldiers and our country aka doggie :p
A neatly paved road runs along the border area into the nepal. We walked down and up this road and the aura around was splendid.
When the nature so splendid, it always wears the colors of the spirit..
In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks..
When the few feet of altitude drops in less time, surely can give killer ideas to some people 😀
Upon reaching the tea point early as i was leading the group with the guide, there were few guys from IndiaHikes group playing soccer with a local kid. I too immediately joined playing with them ignoring cold and tiredness. It was so much fun playing for a while with the kid.
After a while, faizan bhai, a fellow group member joined along with us..
While others enjoyed their chat time sipping hot tea..
While others wander around in taking pics and enjoy the nature..
After an hour, enjoying our time, we all started off from here. Next point it was told to us as the lunch point somewhere 2-3 kms away from this place. The climb from this place towards lunch point was really steep and tiresome.
After an hour or so, we reached the lunch point. This hotel is situated at a hill top with a fantastic view around, though we could not enjoy the view due to cloudy weather. But the interior was beautifully decorated. Again here, we did some masti wasting some time 😉
Post lunch, we started again towards the kalimpokri camp. Further uphill trek, but the steep wasnt too much, but the weather around was getting much colder and windy. The beautiful aura around just makes you forget all that and cherish the beautiful and magical moments.
When we reached the kalapokhari camp, we were really tired and also feeling very cold from the outside freezing weather. While i being a deputy leader, volunteered to be busy in handling proper distribution of rooms to each group/members as per camp leaders instruction, so as to not be an issue later, some went off to play soccer at the nearby group with local kids. While others stayed back and relaxed with a cup of tea and followed by few inhouse games and dances.
These 2 young daughters of hotel owner, did really danced well in the evening for many Bollywood songs. Joined by our 2 guides Norbu and Shibu, who as well danced pretty good for many nepali songs.
In the night we did had a few moments of star-gazing due to clear sky, post dinner but the cold wind did not allow us to spend alot more time outside as much as we wanted. However, joshi and faizan; my fellow group trekkers, did tried their best to get a star-gazing in their camera, but it was not completely satisfied outcome.
The next morning, as it had become a kind of ritual, we all got up very early to witness the sunrise. As we stepped outside, we were welcomed by a velvet of snow on the ground which was not there in the previous day. The whole terrain looked very beautiful and magical.
When everyone were out enjoying the sunrise, and rejoicing moment was for each of us to have our own moment before the breakfast calls comes in.
So photoshoots ye?? No wonder, it is 😀
Finally we got some sunrise captured between the clouds..
Once the breakfast was done, it was time for the whole group to be made fall-in in the windy cold weather outside for the camp leader Mr. Yetin, who not only very friendly, but helpful man from Gujarat. Leaving all his business interests aside in gujarat, he had volunteered for YHAI trek. Upon his speech, we all thanked and bid adieu to this amazing camp and all the people there.
From here, the sandakphu hotel could be seen at a far distance over the hill top. The trek was a bit difficult due to the hot sun and also the rough steep terrain. Different sub-group folks had their own fun enroute the climb at their own speed.
Around noon time, we few of us reached the sandakphu top and took some rest in front of the camp and was welcomed by camp leader Mr. Abhinav, from UP.
The whole camp and few hotels along with SSB camp sits on a beautiful hill top location.
While the whole group till the last person, took their own time to reach the top, i started playing with the local animals there and then went off to see the Grandeur Sleeping Buddha.
When the whole group was present at the camp, the camp leader sorted out all the rooms facilities to us and briefed us about the timetable. Then we were let to ourselves in enjoying the stupendous nature around. Before lunch, the whole group went on the view point in admiring the sleeping buddha and Everest range
By post lunch, few of us took some rest while other chit chatted in the big house. Around 4PM, we all started towards the sunset point which is almost 1-2kms away from the camp. Upon reaching there, it was a breathtaking moment to witness the vast sea of cloud and beautiful sun at the farther end. The pale yellow-orange sun rays which colored the cloud, made it even more spectacular to get mesmerized. The feeling being here is beyond any words to be described.
Enjoy the superb video made by my trek mate Swaroop:
The night did go very well, as most of us gathered at one place and did loads of fun activities before and after dinner. From jokes to songs to dance, etc.
The next morning, many of us woke up very early for sunrise. We ran up the hill to get a much better view. Again the clouds did block the view alot.
The sunrise over the Everest range, especially the Everest north ridge was looking spectacular. I cant wait to see it up close in Nov, this year.
Its a timeless transient state, when one just spends watching the view of this amazing range against the morning light.
We started off from this camp, from here onward, it’s all down the hill walk. Though the sun was bright and warm, the journey did not make us feel tired or frustrated. For me, it was a bit disappointment situation to leave the wonderful heaven behind.
Further inquiring we got to know, he is a solo caveman, doing tapasya in the jungle to escape from all.
Upon meeting baba, the entire group felt rejuvenated and with more energy, we went ahead leaving behind the caveman. Thank god he wasn’t in the caveman attire 😛
When we descended almost to a vast flat land, it was time for lunch time.
The entire team took alot of rest here by exchanging lot of refreshments from their backpacks, while i decided to do some sun tanning, as if i am too white 😉
In another hour or so, we reached the village Gurdum which sits on the border of WB and Sikkim state. Just a river separates the 2 states.
The gurdum camp sits on a beautiful landscape near to the river. The environment around to look upon is beyond admiration. One can make a perfect vacation home here.
The camp leader Mr. Shankar from TN is an experienced IT guy, who took care of us very well and was very helpful and motivated the group the entire evening with multiple activities. The group had a lot of good conversations with him all evening and it was very insightful to have a chat with him over coffee.
The evening went on with an awesome activity of point and perform task. Monika did a wonderful job of hosting this event and at end with her awesome dance performance. Almost every one of us had a wonderful time in participating in this task. While some did singing, other did dance while others did ramp walk.
The cavemans ramp walk was way better than the professional models on TV 😉
It was the last day in the midst of nature and mountains. Today we had to go further down to almost ground level leaving behind all the mountains, forest and most importantly the snow-covered distant mighty mountains. With much disappointment, we started off in the morning as the ritual follows.
Half hour down walk, we came across this waterfall which was beautiful to look at and spend some time embracing its beauty and the power of gushing water running along in midst of the thick canopy.
Today, as it was the last day, i discussed with the group leader Mr. Sharma ji in requesting him to lead the group from ahead while i sweep. He cordially agreed and moved ahead. I stayed back at the last with Norbu and many others, by now i started enjoying: nature, terrain, smell of forest, sound of birds and wind passing through thick canopy, in every step i take. The feeling i had been ecstatic in itself.
When i reached the waterfall, most of the guys ahead started moving further, leaving few of us alot of space and time to enjoy ourselves here.
So what we do? Def. make use of the moment 😉
So far, faizan bhai was behind camera taking everyone’s pics and nature around. It was his time to showcase his modeling charisma. No wonder even Mamata didi is crazy 😉
Enroute to sirikhola, we found a memorial built for Gorkha regiment soldiers who laid down their lives in the war.
Around noon for lunch we reached Sirikhola village, where food was pre-organized at a hotel by YHAI. The food was fantastic and tasty. A lone women was running this hotel. She was alone in preparing and filling the food into big vessels for us. Instead, few of us jumped in to help her in carrying the vessels for the dinning area and distributing food for everyone.
After spending around 1.5 hours here, we started off again towards our next camp Rimbick. From now on, it’s no more muddy terrain or forest path. it’s all man-made roads. It did not feel any trek at all. Almost all group members felt sad and even frustrated to walk on this path. Though the trek was boring or sad over road, yet for some, it became more romantic and lovable 😉
Govt. is slowly planning to extend this road till sandakphu. Then it wont be any trek at all. Till then trekkers can enjoy this precious paradise. Enroute we saw few locals celebrating the christmas carols in front of each house in their village. While somesh joined the celebrations and danced along, we enjoyed watching the cute ladies sing.
Everyone slowly walked on this road till we reached the camp by evening. A lady camp leader welcomed us at this camp. Though the time was very less for us to interact with her, but she as well helped us. We were served with tea and samosa, so that we could rejuvenate ourselves from the cold and walking tiredness.
Followed by briefing about the camp activities as per timetable. Later on we were left to ourselves wander around till 7PM for the DJ session and introduction followed by dinner. So the whole group broken into their own small groups of choice and decided to wander around the local village and do some shopping.
Me and the guys went to a local small hotel in tasting the local cuisine. The food was tasty here.
Then we found a YAK milk made stick material which the local used as a beetle nut to chew all day. We did tasted a bit. It was nice though.
Further inquiry, revealed the information about local drink: Tongba, i decided to get a taste of it. So few of us went in search of this drink, we finally found at a small hotel and it tasted damn good.
Based on further inquiry with the hotel owner about this: The bamboo tumblers are used for aesthetic affects and they do not add any value to the drink. The white round thing in the above pic is the natural home-made chemical(as they call) and is used to prepare the malt/grains which is the main ingredients for this drink. Here the malt is poured into the bamboo and a very hot water is poured into. It is kept as it is for around 10-15 mins. We had ordered for 2 different malt grains to try out. Both were really good and we enjoyed the drink at alot and it’s quite cheap too 😉 Each fill of grain can go upto 4-5 times of reuse before the taste is lost.
By the time we finished this and returned back, the music session by Norbu and the introduction session was already over and i directly joined for the DJ event.
Followed by the dinner event, few people straight away went to bed, while many of us gathered in a hall to chit chat till midnight listening to prity’s hilarious chipkali, milkman, paperboy, security guard, etc. stories. We laughed away till midnight like crazy.
Next day, finishing breakfast, our jeeps were ready to pick us up and off we went on a 4 hours journey back to base camp dargeeling. Around 11AM we reached dargeeling and 1 common room each were given to males and females to unpack and refresh. As we had our next plan to visit Sikkim, we had booked a taxi from Dargeeling to sikkim, while many others had different plans of staying another day back in dargeeling, while others immediately left to NJP, etc. We got ready, unpacked and packed and completed all the protocols at base camp by 12PM. Our taxi had arrived. While everyone were busy unpacking-packing, we bid adieu to each of those with lot of memories to cherish for a long time ahead.
Thanks and hats off to each and every group member for their support, joy, care and enthusiasm in creating a wonderful memories and experience to remember life long.
Finally some candid/funny/special/caught in act moments of members, of whom i could find..
No offence meant, its purely for fun.
Thanks for reading 🙂 Please leave your valuable feedback in comments.
More pics : https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B5DC25Y3gdgrbGFKYmhKbkJzN2M
Videologue from Faizan: