Since last few days I am again feeling my immense attraction towards Himalayas. It’s tough to resist my feelings. I have to find something that allows me to connect with Himalayas. Hence I have started recollecting the memories of my last year visits to Himalayas and decided to pen down my experiences which is the best possible way to express my feelings. Here we go.
Last year we visited the gorgeous Sikkim. Our target was to reach Gurudongmar Lake which is one of the highest lakes in the world, located at an altitude of 17,100 ft (5,210 m).
We started from Kolkata on 14th October’2010. We reached at Bagdogra around 2 pm. We were picked up and headed for Gangtok. It was a long tiring journey. The temperature difference was extremely sharp. At Bagdogra you may even feel the temperature is higher than Kolkata. But soon you will cross the Sevoke you will feel the sharp decline in temperature.
Hence it is strongly recommended that please keep the car window closed until you are accustomed with the temperature. Otherwise you goanna be a sufferer of bad headache. I must say that the last year, road conditions were pretty bad on few areas and those patches made our journey more tiring and lengthier. At the same time the thin serpentine road on the lap of the lower Himalaya was truly scary. If you are Acrophobia-tic please do not look down.
But everything will be solaced by the road side greenery and with the constant companion of the river Tista. It seemed to me that Tista was assigned to cut the mountain wall and to bring life to the plain. The look of Tista with its silvery sandy banks and with glittering waters with setting sunrays was awesome. At the foothill of Himalaya Tista was looking like a silky whitish-brown ribbon and as if it was there to prettify our beautiful mother earth. The beauty of nature was overwhelming and indescribable. I soaked me in the freshness of the basic elements of nature – Air, Water, Earth.
Slowly darkness prevailed all across, and we continued our journey towards Gangtok. We reached Gangtok around 7 pm checked in hotel Silverline located at Tibet road. After entering into the room I settled myself within a blanket and ordered for hot chicken soup. Sankho took shower to freshen himself and that was a mistake, soon after he was having very bad headache. Next day morning he woke up with temperature, body ache and with acute cough problem.
If you are reading this blog right now, please note that do not take bath immediately once you reached Gangtok. First get yourself accustomed with the temperature differences, and then act accordingly. It’s not necessary that you will also face the same problem, but as a precautionary measure you should always keep these points on your mind.
15th October’2010 we planned to hang around Gangtok. We visited Rumtek monastery, Banjhakri falls, Tashi view point, Hanuman Tak, Ganesh Tak and moved little here & there before we came back to our hotel.
16th October’ 2010 we woke up at around 8 am in the morning. I parted the window curtains and wept seeing the outside. It was raining heavily. We waited for the right time to move out. After a while we realised we need to start else we will be late. Before we leave the hotel, I got to see the glimpses of a beautiful tiny Green-backed Tit. I was fortunate enough to capture it in my camera.
We headed for north Sikkim. Our destiny was Lachen. It was a damn bad gloomy and rainy day. Continuous rain made the day cold enough. On the way we crossed few famous places like seven Sister’s Water Falls, Mangan, Singhik and Chungthan along with few not so popular places but still very beautiful in their own way. We had our lunch in a roadside restaurant. In north Sikkim, every restaurant runs by local people and they will serve food which is cooked for their own family members. Hence taste and freshness is guaranteed. I cannot remember the name of the place where we had our lunch but I can remember that I had seen a beautiful Common Green magpie there, but I was unable to take a photo of it. We left that unknown beautiful place. Lastly we crossed a place where we needed to submit our identity proof. Remember, to visit north Sikkim; you need to carry your passport size photographs and your identity proof. After we crossed the check post soon after darkness prevailed and we could see nothing beyond the range of the car’s headlights. Only we could understand that we were entering greater Himalayan range and in more dense forest. We reached lachen at around 8 pm. It was pretty cold there. The temperature was almost around 7 to 8 degree Celsius. Lachen is a place situated at 9800 ft above the sea level. Rains continued with biting colds. We had our dinner soon and slept early, as it was told to us that we need to reach Gurudongmar early preferably even before 10 am. Because more the temperatures go up in the Gurudongmar Lake area stony wind starts blowing. Next day we were supposed to start at 4 am morning.
It was 17th October’2010 at 3 am. I got up. It was extremely cold and dark outside. Sankho got up little late and that was the early sign of problems, which I realized soon later. I got ready. I was dressed up in layers. You can say base layer, middle layer and the top layer.
Well base layer included the clothes that were in direct contact of your skins, it was apart from the UGs, spaghetti tops and tight leggings. Middle layer consisted of tight T-shirt and tight jeans along with a tight woolen sweater. Top layer consisted of a Jacket. Apart from all these I covered my feet with two layers of woolen socks and trekking shoe and had had a good woolen hat cap. Believe my words, all those layers really kept me warmed all along the road. If you are noting down my tips then don’t forget to carry a good quality eye glasses.
On the contrary, Sankho was not so prepared. He took it lightly, and stated our journey towards Gurudongmar, only with a heavy jacket apart from his regular jeans and T-shirt. I made a mistake not to carry his stuff separately. Soon after we had started, we reached a place of 10,000 ft altitude. Sankho started telling it was extremely cold and he made a blunder by not taking additional warm clothes. Outside it was drizzling, and we continued our journey towards higher terrain in the dark.
Probably I won’t be able to express all of my feelings in words, because I don’t have any perfect words in my dictionary to explain the whole experiences. It was scary, attractive, dangerous and addictive. What else!!! Once you started you cannot stop. There cannot be any look back. I can still remember that the day before, from Singhik I saw a peak where I found snow started covering the peak, and during the journey I found suddenly, that stony masculine peak was just standing infront of me with its head up. I realised that the thin lines of snow were actually the snow layers covering the peak. I loved the way it was. It seemed to me that I was moving around my best boyfriend ‘Himalaya’ and he was looking at me with full of its curiosity. We crossed few terrible land slide areas. We experienced some traumatic scene.
Sankho started telling about his breathing trouble and he was restless. At around 8 am we reached Thangu Village. Thangu is a small mountain village with countable families. For us Thangu was a stopover place. I had light breakfast there with a cup of tea and breads. Sankho took drinks there, to resist the cold along with his breakfast. That was the second mistake by Sankho. You should not take alcohol while you are climbing up. When you are resting you can drink to keep yourself warm. Anyway mistakes are for learning and should not be forgotten.
At Thangu I saw lot of White capped water redstart. I took photos of them. The most incredible experience was the unforgettable hospitality shown by the village people. Hearts of those people were fresh, pure and strong like Himalaya. They were honest, friendly and helpful. I never had seen such lovely people. I wish I could stay there few more time, I could hang around in the valley, and I could lie down on the green meadow. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, hold it for few seconds grabbed the essence and moved forward.
We started towards north. While leaving Thangu, a local man said that ‘uppar baraf girr raha hain’ that means snow started falling at higher altitude. We were continuously climbing up and realised soon after that we cannot see any more trees. It was all stony mountains covered with sticky green grass or moss. Soon after we realised we had entered a region where snow fall had already started. Where ever I looked at it was all white. We reached almost at height 15,000 ft. Sankho was in a bad situation. He had acute breathing trouble. I asked him whether to return, but he allowed me to continue. Sankho stopped talking. It was scary. All of a sudden I felt that we left the last localities far behind. We had almost finished three fourth of our journey. We were within the region of greater Himalaya. It was also a Himalayan plateau area. More we climbed up we entered deep inside the Himalayan plateau area. There was no road; it was a strange flat area. No sign of human being, no sign of any creatures. I was suffering from visual illusion. I was continuously within a dilemma that we have lost track. Sometime it seemed to me that we were suppose to follow the right side track, sometime it seemed to me we were supposed to follow the left side track. But in reality there was no sign of track. All were snow covered flat mountain base. On our two sides Himalaya was standing like great wall.
Rains continued, but it was heavier than before, because it was falling with tiny snowflakes. Everything was white all across. Right to left; top to bottom – snow and clouds with us all the time. We continued our journey. Sankho was in a pretty bad condition. I was scared as I need to depend on the Sherpa only at the same time I was worried for Sankho as well. But Sankho was desperate to reach the destiny. I could understand his feelings. The whole year we usually waited for these days, to come up at Himalaya, and after that we cannot return with empty heart. So journey continued…
After a while suddenly we realised that the flat plateau area was no longer there, rather again we started climbing up and continued the same almost for 1 hour and finally reached a place, where our Sherpa looked at me and said ‘you move up’. He looked at Sankho and said ‘I will take care of him’. I looked at Sankho he was lying on the snow bed and uttered ‘Go ahead’.
I started all alone. From the back Sherpa said ‘do not waste your time, snow storm will start soon’. I stopped for a while, and then moved forward. I could see one other group was climbing up. But I could only see them as few moving points, not as human structure even. They were far ahead from me. I climbed up for 10 minutes, and then turned back, and from heart I felt I should not leave Sankho all alone. I was standing there for few moments with dilemma, whether to move forward for all desired Gurudongmar Lake or move backward. I descended to the base. I came closer to Sankho, and told him we will be back here again.
Last year we couldn’t make it till Gurudongmar.
Five years back when I wrote this article with the hope of going back to Gurudongmar with Sankho once again, I never knew this trip would be our last trip together. Well we no longer travel the same path. We had said goodbye to each other and we had freed ourselves from any bonding and attachment. We defined our own destiny and moved ahead.