As we approached the tiny village we were told that right at this point we were trekking between India and Nepal and we would be doing that the whole time on the trek.
Kalipokhri meant Black Lake, and it was truly one as we saw the waters, a dark black blue colour against the backdrop of the beautiful clouds covering the region.
People started going trigger happy with their cameras while I stood watching and Subashbhai told me I must take a picture, this setting doesn’t happen often. And when somebody like him says it, I respect it and so I did.
Enroute we saw a guitar out in the open and Saikat casually picked it up and started strumming it.
This guy didn’t mention that he played Guitar and was a really good singer. He didn’t like to sing it like a performance but he sang when he saw something beautiful, when he was happy, when he was trekking and am glad to say we got to listen to his soft melodious voice for the remaining days of our trek.
The temperatures were below sub zero level as we huddled in the dining hall. Tanmay narrated the story of a trekker’s death during Goechala trek. He had finished a different trek and was about to go to Calcutta when he was told by the head office to pick up the body of the trekker, meet that guy’s family and make sure arrangements were made to send it back.
What remained with me was when he said Subhashbhai and another staff member carried that body all the way down.. For those who don’t know Goechala in Sikkim, it is a tough trek, tough terrain and unforgiving.
The atmosphere was intense for a while so Tanmay lightened up by singing a song and this was his usual question, anybody would like to sing?? Knowing fully well nobody would volunteer and he would only get to sing 😁
As we were getting ready to go to sleep, there was an important matter to be settled with regards to our tiny mascot/warrior/ babyangel of our group, Doofy.
It was too cold for her to be outside and she had nicely plonked herself on Darshan’s bed during soup break and I remember him calling me out and saying please take her! I gave her to Tanmay who promptly took her inside with him and that’s where she would sleep at night in his arms for the entire duration of the trek.
Manal tried her best to get Doofy to be with her,Tanmay convinced her that other roommates might get uncomfortable plus the owners of the T house will have a problem. Tanmay will keep Doofy close to him as well as handle her midnight nature calls.
This time we had Ishwarya joining us five (Priyanka, Bhavana, Akshata, Reshma and me) The quiet gal she is, I noticed that she joined in with the rest of us, laughing at our absurd thoughts and jokes. I got to know Akshata better, she was full of energy and helpful.
Reshma, the lass was getting maximum attention from the loud Kannadiga boys and of course Tanmay’s. As for Mr.Trek Lead, this time he took the Oxymeter readings and didn’t make a peep of extending his stay. I think it was because of Ishwarya’s presence, not knowing how she would react to it plus all were pretty tired.
The next morning we were set for Sandakphu. But we did have a hiccup that morning and Tanmay rightfully did what he had to.
In the morning as we were getting ready we saw Doofy up and about and all set to start the trek except that one of the dogs of the owners got out of his leash and started chasing Doofy, Luckily someone managed to hold the leash and tie him up. But Doofy was no less, the wild one she is, she would run! Couple of times I grabbed her and kept her with Tanmay inside the kitchen and in a few minutes she would jump and trot in front of the other dogs. She was a naughty one!
We were supposed to start sharp at 8.15 am to Sandakphu and in the mountains it was really important to start on time. The weather was unpredictable up there and it was going to be quite an ascent today and we needed to get there. But the process of clicking selfies, pics after pics was continuing with Tanmay repeatedly telling others to call out people who got out to the lake to take more pics and by the time we assembled it was 8.45 am.
I remember when he asked me, Swapna can you guide the team for some stretching exercises? I said that Revathi would be an apt person, she was a cyclist and into fitness and she could do it. Calmly he assembled us, asked Revathi to guide us through stretching,told us it was 8.45 am and we will move only at 9.45 am because we didn’t value the time given to us, he didn’t want to take individual names but yeah the Himalayas would let us know the consequences. Everybody was stunned.
This was the first time for me too as a trekker to see a team not starting on time repeatedly and he did the right thing. How would one learn otherwise.. Of course the impulse of apologizing to him instantly happened as he sat in the kitchen with the staff.
Subashbhai told us to just let him be, he also said the weather is unpredictable, one wouldn’t know how that delay would affect our trek. I really don’t know if the team understood the gravity of the situation.
We all were responsible for being on time. Subhashbhai sensibly said he will come out smiling after some time, give him time to cool off and so he did and we started off finally.
The trek today was 7 kms and seemed shorter but we would have a steep ascent of 4 kms that would bust our lungs leaving us exhausted.
We were tagging along last with Subashbhai and that’s when I actually got to speak to Suvadeep. He was by far the most sensible. Very observant and sharp and he was very clear what he wanted to do during this trek.
He wanted to interact with the locals, guides, listen to their stories and lives, explore the village and that’s precisely what he did. He was an inspiration to me. To be able to be on your own and not worry about ‘blending in’ or be a part of group dynamics.
He did what he wanted to without judging anyone. I was also surprised by how spot on he was in his observations, he is one awesome guy
From a gradual ascent we were at the cusp of starting that steep ascent. And it looked never ending by God! We were going up and up and Tanmay saying reaching, we are just about reaching and this happens every time on every trek.
There will be moments when you wonder why are you doing this and why are you a sucker for punishment!
Kinshuk was commenting Aayega Aayega! Kab Aayega Bhai!!(Coming Coming! When is it coming brother??) I was caught between getting stomach cramps laughing at Kinshuk’s comments to climbing up, I truly didn’t know which one was tougher!
Finally after what looked like forever, we saw the signpost that said SANDAKPHU – 0 KMS and if you think this was it, No Sir! The bloody pathway was leading us further up!! Kinshuk was like Kisne lagaya hai bhai yeh Sign??(Who put up this sign man??)
Seriously we wanted to give a kick on the back sides of those who set up the bloody sign! These are some of those moments I truly cherish, that exhausting lung busting climb up and the comments, the really witty ones coming from trek mates and we keep doing it time and again 😁
Finally we reached the canteen on top and devoured biscuits and black tea, exhausted. And there was the view, that beautiful view. Clear skies, freezing minus temperatures in mid afternoon and it was all worth it.
Tanmay had decided not to camp in tents but put us up at the goat house at Sandakphu campsite. And if you think it’s a name, no it’s not. They really kept goats when humans were not around and one could smell it through and through. It was too cold.There would be no option but to camp at our next campsite Sabargram which would be way colder than this so we were thankful for whatever was given to us today.
We reached the goathouse and assigned to our rooms. There would be a beautiful sunset and interesting conversations!