It was so freaking cold, we were glad we got a room with cots attached to each other which meant five of us- Priyanka, Bhavana,Reshma, Akshata and me could huddle in. We needed warmth really badly and none of us even wanted to attend any nature calls. The tin shed toilets were far. Mentally I made a tick to this box in my head, Winter Trek- DONE, no more winter treks!
We spoke and laughed out loud on absurd trends of Instagram and Twitter- serious uncensored below the belt stuff that was happening, Tinder trends, the one liners each one should have,you get the drift? Totally over the top and below the belt!
We got out to see the sunset and people were already clicking away. Some of them said you should have come earlier you missed it! I really didn’t care, I was happy with what I saw, I was content.
Time stood still, voices disappeared,people went into oblivion for me as I kept watching the vista surrounding us. Beautiful colours, changing every second…To be here, right this moment. It was not an achievement, it never was, to be in the Himalayas, it was a blessing.
The Mountains teach us that if we could just be quiet, just shut out those noises in our head and listen,magic happens.
Pictures will come and go.Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Groups can make you feel proud when you read comments/praises/applause BUT doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of doing this in the first place.. Aren’t you doing this for yourself? First and foremost?
Darshan gave me a glimpse of how brilliant his photographs are especially portraits of people. He quietly clicked and it was like he was taking a peek into their souls, no masks just raw uninhibited, capturing that rare moment in people where they were true to their selves.
I saw beautiful silhouettes of Harish and Ishwarya watching the sunset, it felt so tender and vulnerable, those moments.
Kanchenjunga was showing different hues of herself, from subtle to vibrant, it was electric.
The next morning was so cold that everything froze bottom up and I mean truly bottom up!! No brushing teeth, nothing for me and yes the gals continued their beauty regime unabated. Priyanka forced me to use moisturiser for my dry cracking skin. God bless that ever caring girl, she would give me wipes, moisturiser, cold cream every time.
Before we started for Sabargram which was a long 21 kms, we had to take that picture of reaching ‘Sandakphu’ and by god we were freezing our butts out while one after the other pics and clicks were happening!
I looked at the banner that said Sandakphu- altitude 12,000 feet and smiled, this was no summit, no early morning waking up at 2.30 am nothing, no killing oneself kind of climbs, I wondered if the group would get that photo crazy if they were trekking Rupin Pass or Goechala or Kanamo?? Well I won’t be surprised if they did it there too!
We would be descending and ascending passing through different gradients. It would also be the most beautiful and picturesque day. There were rolling meadows and the winter season made it mesmerising in its own way. The landscape would suddenly open up like a big heart and you would fall short of breath trying to grasp it all.
At one point midway,I started feeling terrible. Fatigue hit me suddenly, I didn’t know if I could go further so I told Priyanka I was feeling very tired and I needed some sugar, Saikat promptly took out his chocolates and sweetly kept a chocolate biscuit packet in my backpack pocket. Priyanka kept feeding me and asked if she should tell Tanmay, I said not yet.
Yet that hollowness from the pit of my stomach was rising, I was feeling like I would collapse. I panicked a bit thinking is it AMS? No shit!! How the eff can this happen now?!
I calmed myself and waited for some time then I called out to Tanmay who was walking with Revathi and Sujitha. I said I was feeling very fatigued. Revathi gave me dates and almonds and told me to keep eating it. Sujitha with her gentle voice was telling me to pace myself slowly. This was a new feeling and sensation and I hated being that way, to be vulnerable like this and ask for help. Himalayas balances and removes the ego right out of you.
Tanmay said that most of them are feeling fatigued today, it was a tough trek yesterday and it was a long one today, so worry not. I didn’t eat well that morning, my reduced appetite made it worse, I cursed myself for doing that. I was only responsible for my situation. At one point when Tanmay told me to give my backpack to Subashbhai for just sometime and carry his, I refused saying it’s ok I feel better.
Then he said ‘It’s ok to take help’ Those simple words stunned me. It really did. Why did I need to be strong all the time? The ego of not wanting to receive. I have been working on not being that person, yet it creeps back in sometimes.
Soon we reached a break point and I collapsed on the meadows. Everyone was tired, the fatigue of the long day and trek was taking its toll, so Tanmay decided to make this one a lunch break instead of going further. I stuffed food in my mouth no matter how much I hated it. Sujitha quietly kept on giving me biscuits and chocolates, God bless her. Priyanka was beside me with Saikat, Kinshuk was offering me more food to eat.
Looking up at the clear blue sky I felt much better. So blue you wouldn’t get to see anywhere else.. Doofy was touching base with each and everyone, like touch and go and running around the meadows. What a free spirit she was. She trusted us just like that and had made the entire journey with us. She was loyal, affectionate and gave love, pure love. Can we humans ever get there? Even a tiny percent of it?
The landscape was vast, mountains surrounding us, winter meant starkness and yet so stunning. There is a different beauty in bare landscapes. It reminded me of Haruki Murakami’s book, Norwegian wood. Somehow the landscape reminded me of that story.
In between I had an intense conversation with Kinshuk, about our lives, about family, relationships, openness, the trials and tribulations. I was telling him bits and pieces about my roller coaster life, nothing ever is smooth and so was he sharing his experiences. I remember him saying You are blessed, it was simple, profound and it hit me. Yes I truly was,in every way. Meeting the people I met through this journey of my life, the experiences I had I wouldn’t trade that for anything in this world.
The longest part of the trek had started. We would have to go over the mountains to the other side,far away. It was not the terrain but the distance. Our patience was wearing thin.
There were no water sources for the whole 21 kms we trekked and the 2 litres water we carried at the previous campsite was long over, I remember how we were sipping the few drops of water left. This my friends is the value of water. Up there it shows you, who you are, a big nothing in front of nature.
Priyanka’s feet was a goner. Her feet had bad blisters and every step she made was extremely painful. Added to that was her knee, it was pretty painful for her on descents. We would goad each other with Saikat cheerfully boosting us and we would go.
Revathi, Sujitha and Sunil were behind us and we were slowly making our way to the campsite. I could not bear to see Priyanka’s condition, the poor gal was in hell with every step and I could see the torture on her face but not once she flinched or cried she slowly made her way, step by step and she was a first time trekker carrying her backpack. She was a tigress.
Subashbhai was with us throughout, it was a terribly long day, breathtaking landscapes and a trek of 21 kms and we were finally there as we saw the colourful toilet tents and it was freezing cold. It was -3 degrees at 4.30 pm.