We woke up to a really cold almost freezing morning at Tumling. It was so cold that all my attempts at taking pics of Kanchenjunga aka ‘Sleeping Buddha’ was futile. But there were brave souls clicking away so I went back inside for a good look later when the sun came out.
As we got out with our backpacks I heard the gentle chanting of Om Mani Padme Hum from a jeep. It was soothing and Priyanka and I stood near it to listen in.
My favourite memories of listening to it was in the Dalai Lama temple at Mcleodganj during sunset and a monastery at Leh when Pankaj a dear friend and I closed our eyes listening to the live chants. Suddenly I felt that pang that shot through my heart thinking of him. I reiterate this time and again in almost every new trek blog, if not for Pankaj, I wouldn’t have fallen irrevocably in love with the Himalayas.
There were conversations between the group, laughter, clicking pics and all and I was drifting into my own zone. We got ready and I remember looking at the Sleeping Buddha and getting into a trance. The rays of the sun made the mountains shine and glisten.Not all can be clicked, sometimes one needs look at it in silence and feel it.
And I truly wished at that point of time to be left alone, to be in my thoughts and not talking but people interrupt unintentionally and I didn’t know how to say I need some space without offending people and their sensibilities and I still don’t know so this is something I need to work on, to be able to say it gently.
Very rarely you get people to be in silence with and I was blessed enough to get plenty of that with my mates on Roopkund, Har Ki Dun and Rupin Pass- more so when Himanshu- the awesome zen like trek lead let us be.. And yes every experience is different yet I couldn’t help but compare.
After the usual checklists and stretching exercises we started. The entire pathway of our camp at Nepal seemed like a mini wall of China. And there was the mesmerising view of Sleeping Buddha as we trekked.
Today would be 13 kms. Our destination would be Kalipokhri. But first we would enter Singalila National Park and we would have to pay 100 Rs for using the camera. I had kept my wallet deep inside my backpack so Pravin gracefully loaned me the money. Once the usual pics were clicked by the group we set on our way.
In fact there is a motorable road that goes all the way till Sandakphu and I remember some cynics telling me long ago not to do Sandakphu,waste of time, there is a road blah blah blah.
But guys, the hiking trail is something else. Nothing can prepare you for the view, the never ending mountainscapes, valleys, meadows and it leaves you breathless.There have been moments when I stopped, looked around, took a deep breath and felt really blessed to be right there.
I started walking with Subashbhai for some time and asking more details on Northern Sikkim, Suvadeep would join in too and listen intently. Saikat was also similar, preferring to know about the locals, their lives, their journeys.
Priyanka would listen in, talk in Bengali to Saikat and this gal used colourful words in her native lingo when she retorted and in such a cute way that I actually learnt a couple of them! Kinshuk was right, our gal was a cute Chipmunk! 😊
As we ascended and descended sometimes steep ascents we saw the landscapes subtly changing, there was a lot more snow, Old and new snow as we gingerly walked on them.
And little Doofy was making her presence felt and I mean slowly to each one of us. She trotted confidently in the front and in later days she would actually show us the way when we drifted apart. Whenever we saw Doofy we knew we were on the right trail.There was another big gal with her, presumably her mother who tagged with us. The little one had taken a special liking to Manal and Darshan.
Manal was sick, throwing up, weak and not a whine, nothing from her. She resolutely trekked in the front with her siblings and hugging and holding Doofy whenever we had breaks or whenever other dogs got territorial and went after the little one. I admired this gal.
There was click click click like the paparazzi going on all around. Every moment, every scenery and every time.
This time I carried a basic DSLR camera after 3 years and honestly didn’t like it at all. Lesson learnt!
At one point I noticed we were way behind everyone and it was one of the most beautiful moments. It was just me, Priyanka, Saikat and Subashbhai and seeing Darshan in between quietly clicking in silence.
This is when Subashbhai spoke about one of his terrifying treks in Sikkim, caught in a snowstorm for days with some foreigners, completely stranded with no food and water and every chance of it leading to fatal death.
My spine chilled as I heard him out. I can still recollect every word of what he said and how he said it.This was no fiction, nor was he narrating it dramatically but as a matter of fact.
These guys braved near death situations so many times and were nonchalant about it. Their hearts were big, really big and we the so called educated city people made a big deal about every trivial thing.
And there it was. We saw it. The place, that space, covered with clouds, and we were up and over it.
How can I describe that moment? That time, that zone when we stood still in raptures as the clouds enveloped the entire region like a huge fluffy pillow, like heaven and we were standing over it, watching. Was this real? Our very existence seemed unreal.
Tanmay said you have no idea how lucky you guys are, not everybody coming to Sandakphu gets to see this, there is a particular time you need to be at and the right weather.
Tears filled my eyes, it was overwhelming and I remembered Himanshu my previous trek lead who showed us these pics and the way his eyes lit up filled with emotions and said ‘Just do Sandakphu’.
I thanked him with all my heart, my loved ones, the ones who were with me always no matter what and the ones who pushed and encouraged me to do this, my buddy Bhim whom I wished could see this and my heart was filled with love, lots of love for everyone.It was a gut wrenching love that I felt with the universe.
And Himalayas.. Without her benevolence we could not ever see this, she was kind, patient and only took in people who respected her and she showed it time and again.
We really pushed ourselves away from that place, that space in the clouds but no worries she seemed to say, You can see me till you reach your destination and so it was, as we trudged our way towards the camp.. We were an hour and half late but who cared? It was dusk as we entered into the tiny village of Kalpokhri with Doofy leading us.