This was THE day – the day when we walked upto Sandakphu (3636 metres above sea level) – the highest we were going to reach as a part of the trek. And so obviously it was a steep, yet short climb of 7 kms. We started the walk in the misty background after a yummy breakfast of Tibetan bread, porridge and puri. We all had our rain gear out and prepared for the rain. Otherwise, our strategy that day was to stay light, take the necessary stuff (food, medicines) in pockets, and no bags.
In the first lap, we met some kids walking to school… Imagine walking a couple of hours to study, at the age of 7 or 8! The kids looked so cute with pinkish cheeks, like an excess of rouge 🙂 We took pictures with them and then bade goodbye.
The way was decently uphill all the way, but I had expected worse; and so it did boost my morale 😛 I had planned and got diversions to ease the walk – my MP3 player. So I walked with music for my company most of the way. The mist kept clouding and clearing at irregular intervals, and I tried to take pictures whenever possible – the Joe, the paint markers on the road to show the way, a little difference in terrain (after a point of time it will be all green, brown and blue to you).
As expected, the rest of the group had gone a litte ahead and reached the only stop point for the day – a small hut @ nowhere. As Geetha aunty and I walked in few minutes later, Tejasvi welcomed me with an energy bar. We all had black tea and pineapple juice. EB started playing with the kitten and the hens, and I took pictures of them as well.
We stated our walk on the second and last lap towards destination Sandakphu. Let me describe the path to you. There will be as many hairpin bends as possible (and I was thankful I am not taking this route by vehicle ;)) whenever the mist clears out, you can see most of the trail ahead or atleast the mountain that you will be crossing in sometime; not very lush greenery, more of gravel and pine trees; and then the seats!
That was one of the most welcome sights – the seats. There were cemented blocks at regular intervals at the edge of the road, probably to prevent from falling off. But we used them as resting places and they were rightly spaced for that requirement. I developed this rule for myself – 20 steps of walk, 2 minutes of rest. After about 3 kms up, I had to give up on my rule. Reason being, insects. You see, for a climate that cold, I think any being would be attracted towards warmth, and me sitting on moss covered blocks of cement was exactly that. So these insects swarmed each time I sat to take rest, and my 2 minutes of bliss became 2 minutes of torture.
And all the way, I kept perstering our guide Norbu with questions ranging from Buddhist monastries, red pandas, the terrain and all that for timepass. As you know, we were in search of the red panda from the day before. When we asked about this to Norbu, he replied (he should have been frustrated with my questions by then), “You want to see red panda? I am red panda!”, pointing to himself (he was wearing the same red t-shirt that day).
We had almost reached the destination (I saw a milestone saying Sandakphu 1 km, which was concrete proof!), and the rest of the path was full of steep ‘S’ bends. As I walked up resting every few steps, (I was ravenous by then) this foreign lady walked past me, took a steeper short cut next to the usual steep route and vanished out of sight in a few seconds. She walked as easily as on a plain!! I just stood there, amazed. To top that, when I reached the clearing where the guest houses were located, I saw her sitting on a bench casually, waiting for 2 other guys who were coming behind me.!!!!!
I reached the cottage and went into the first room. Most of the group was sitting there and listening to what seemed to be a deeeeeeeetaaaaaaaaaailed narration of the Mahabharatha by Rohan. That was when I came to know that these guys had started the story an hour back during the walk.
After lunch, we had another example of our guide’s impeccable sense for details. Lavi and I came last for lunch and there were not enough chairs for both of us. So, we sat on the next table and had food. Buffet style food for our empty stomachs – dal, rice, papad, pickle… When we came back for dinner, later that evening, there were 2 extra chairs in the first table to fit the entire group in.! 🙂
Next up, the group splits into two, and we have some very interesting experiences on both ends.
– Until next,