It has been long that I am not writing anything for my blog. Well various reasons contributed to that and I would not say those are mere excuses. Actually I was busy handling other issues which prevented me from writing anything for a long time. Like earlier, this time also I will concentrate on writing my latest travel experiences. I would rather say I will pen down my first ever Himalayan trekking experience during the last week of December 2012.
This trekking expedition was not planned till November 2012. One day in office I was thinking that time is passing by and I am doing nothing for myself. I thought of taking leave to keep myself away from everything and I took leave from 24th December 2012 till 28th December 2012. Initially, I was not sure about what to do with my leave. First I planned that I will stay back home and will take rest. But then one day I was surfing the Internet and was reading various articles on Himalayas and on various trekking expeditions and suddenly I landed up on ‘Annapurna Trekking’ site, which reminded me about one of my friends who is involved in various trekking expedition. I immediately contacted him to know if there was any trekking expedition scheduled during last week of December 2012. Great news was waiting for me. He immediately responded saying that December last week a small group will go for Annapurna Foothills Trekking which is suitable for a first time trekker. Once all my queries were clarified, it was the time to take a decision whether to join the trekking group or not. As I was a lone traveler amongst the group, I was slightly in a dilemma to decide, but ultimately I decided to go for it and I finalized the same by mid of November 2012. Once I finalized the trip, booked my tickets and after that one month time prior to the trip was spent only on buying trekking stuff and that one month time passed very fast. I couldn’t even get time to visit gym to attend my regular fitness programme. I was slightly worried thinking how I would cope-up with high altitude and with day long uphill & downhill walking. But there was no looking back so I was mentally prepared to face all odds & adversity that would come in my way.
22nd December 2012 – The day started with preparing myself and then at around 10.30 AM I headed for Kolkata Airport. Once I checked in, I met our trekking leader and after a while we had our boarding passes and met three other team members. Soon after we came to know that our flight is almost two hours late. We spent time at the airport very annoyingly as we all needed to buy few more stuff from Kathmandu and we needed to reach there at least by 5 PM so that we could get time to explore Kathmandu market and to buy our important stuff. After much calculation & predictions, we arrived at Kathmandu at around 5 PM. First at Kathmandu, Tribhuvan Airport I bought a NCELL Sim card. To collect the same you need to provide two Xerox copies of your passport and two photographs. You can recharge the card at the airport store itself. This may help you not looking for recharging your card when you reach high altitude areas. From the airport we straightaway headed for our hotel. We kept our luggage and rushed to the market. From there I bought one down jacket, one thermal jacket, one pair of gloves, one woolen topi, one water bottle, waist belt, one trekking stick and chlorine tablets for water purifying. Once shopping was done, we went back to the hotel where I met my roommate, who was from Mumbai. After that we all had our delicious dinner together and we met two other team members. The father son duo came from Dubai. So the entire trekking group was present and ready to start our expedition.
23rd December 2012 – After having excellent breakfast offered by German Bakery, we started for Pokhara at around 9 AM morning. It was cold, but manageable. It was a great feeling for me as it was my first trekking expedition and that too all alone. I realized that in life you should do something for your own happiness and pleasure. When I looked outside from the bus and saw the mountain tearing river and the mountain’s lines visible at the horizon I felt overwhelmed.
I realized that life flows like the river without stopping for anyone, no matter what hurdles it has to overcome. It will never look back. Also one should always be strong, bold, and should keep his/her morale high like the mountains that always stand high with its strength & truthfulness. When cold air touched my cheeks I smelled the freshness of the air. I am always a nature lover, so I surrendered myself into the loveliness of Mother Earth. Far away from my country, my city, my home and my family I was simply grabbed by my ever charming boyfriend Himalaya. I whispered: Oh dear Himalaya! Will you invite me year after year to be close with you? Will you help me to reinvent my life from your lap? Will you allow me to kiss your feet whenever I want to? I was lost looking at the beauty of the Himalayas – there is something in you that makes my heart beat fast, hope this feeling lasts for the rest of my life.
Our journey continued within the serene beauty of the Himalayan foothills and by the riverside of Trishuli. We reached Pokhara sometime around 2 PM. After having awe-inspiring lunch at German Bakery we headed for Pokhara market place. On our way we were accompanied by the great Himalayan peak ‘Fish Tail’ (In Nepali, Machapuchare)
“Machapuchare or “Fish Tail” is a mountain in the Annapurna Himal of north central Nepal. It is revered by the local population as particularly sacred to the god Shiva, and hence is off limits to climbing.” – From Wikipedia.
We walked down till Pokhara Market place. For me it was a heart popping shopping area. I went crazy and speechless seeing the plenty of things that I can buy. Handbags, dresses, sweaters, coats, caps, books and what not… However I controlled myself and bought two books only. One – ‘Birds of Nepal’ by Richard Grimmett, Tim Inskipp, Carol Inskipp and “Left for Dead: My Journey Home From Everest” by Beck Weathers. Once we satisfied ourselves with shopping we had dinner and headed back to our hotel.
24th December 2012 – We started from our Pokhara hotel at around 9 AM. A small van carried us with our trekking luggage till Phedi. From Phedi we started our trekking, within the beautiful Nepal Himalayan village Dhampus. It was me who started first and the other team members started following me, but soon after all other team member crossed me and I started following them. For all of us first few hours were extremely exhausting as we all, except the trek leader, were first time trekkers. I was absolutely going out of breath and it seemed that it would be impossible for me to continue for 5 more days. After 3 hours of trekking we reached Dhampus, a beautiful small village. We all had our lunch at Dhampus. In Nepal famous lunch is “Dal, Bhat, Sabji” or “Momo” or “Thupka”. Believe me these are tasty and good for you as well. Dhampus where we had our lunch was a nice place. It was like the range of Himalayan peak like Dhawlagiri, Fish Tail, and Annapurna all were towering over you. Himalayan view from Dhampus was spectacular.
After lunch, we headed for Pothana, which was two hours walk. We continued through Himalayan woods. While we were walking through the woods I can remember I had seen lot of beautiful and colorful birds and could hear their chirp. While walking through the woods I can remember the soft sunlight of setting sun was softly touching us and it continued till we reached Pothana. When we reached Pothana, it was already very cold. We all ordered for ginger tea, few were looking for hot shower. I decided to keep myself dirty and to continue without taking shower as long as it was possible, because I knew extreme weather change may affect my health badly, and that would have created trouble for others. So I was happy not taking showers and skipping all those urban lifestyle. After having ginger tea I was loitering here and there near the tea house and then all of a sudden I found a bunch of yellow billed blue magpie was settling themselves in a nearby tree. I was excited and I started following their activities. Meanwhile, the sun went down below the horizon and the Himalaya took a magnificent look in the last rays of sun lights, which is unexplainable. However I took photographs and few of them I would definitely like to share with you all. With the setting sun, it was extremely cold and I covered myself with all possible warm clothes. Being a citizen of a hot city like Kolkata, it was definitely too cold. We had bonfire dinner and then went to sleep sometime around 7.30 PM.
25th December 2012 – In the morning, I got up at around 5 am to see the Himalayan peaks in the first morning lights. We all were standing almost in front of all the Himalayan peaks, it was whitish but not purely white and then suddenly it started changing its color from whitish to light pink. I was standing on the veranda of our tea house and waiting to see more color changes in the Himalayan range. Then suddenly, I looked at the other side of the horizon which is actually the opposite side of the Himalayas. I realized that the other side of the horizon is also changing its color and it’s turning red. Initially, I saw a half circled line rising up from the vast emptiness of the horizon. Soon it turned as a red plate, and then I realized that the half circled line was nothing but the sun. At Pothana, I saw beautiful sunrise and I felt it once again that the ‘Sun is new each day’ and each day it brings new hope, and every new hope helps you to start new life every day. Few photographs taken by me would probably help you to understand my feelings.
After having breakfast we started for our 2nd day trekking. Before starting our trekking I was lucky enough to spot a beautiful Yellow billed blue magpie, which was loitering very near to our tea house.
From Pothana the trail climbs gently through the forest to Bichok Deorali. From this pass Dhaulagiri was visible from several directions. The more we kept going up we could feel the fall in temperature. Here, the wind was very cold and sharp. I can’t remember the name of the place where we had our tea break; from there a steepish descent through the old Himalayan woods took us to an old suspension bridge at Bheri Kharka. Here I would like to share one of my experiences which I don’t want to repeat further in my life if I can manage to go for any other trekking expedition.
After the tea break we started descending. All of us almost started together. I and one of our team members were walking down together and we were talking to each other regarding our day-to-day life. Soon after she felt hungry and she told me to continue as she will wait for her husband and she will take something and then she will continue. My right leg is broken, so for me going down was a big problem and I was slower than my average speed of climbing up and compared to the speed of others. Hence I was expecting her to catch up with me very soon. So I continue descending. Also I could see our trek leader ahead of me; especially his bright orange color back pack was quite easily visible. So I continued. I continued going down through the dense Himalayan woods for almost half an hour. Then suddenly, I realized that neither I could see my trek leader ahead of me, nor any of our team members is around nor I could see any human being. I stopped and looked around. All that I could see is dense forest. I looked up I couldn’t see the trail following which I actually used to climb down. The trail was so fragile and curvaceous and because of dense forest it was not visible after few feet of my vicinity. I looked down, I couldn’t see the trail properly where it is going to reach. I realized that I am not with our team members. I got scared. I thought I was lost in the woods. I started screaming for help and at the same time I started descending fast, which was dangerous for me as I was losing balance on my feet. I thought I should descend fast so that I could reach my trek leader, but even after continuing for almost 5-10 minutes I couldn’t see his orange back pack. I lost hope and I started screaming once again, but none to hear my voice. My voice was lost amongst the shrill sound of winds passing through the woods. After sometime, I reached a place where I found debris of a very old house and found two trails going down. One trail was almost vanished and the other one was slightly better, but in the opposite direction. I got all the more scared thinking of which trail to follow and I thought that I am entirely lost. I decided to follow the trail which is slightly better than the other, and I almost started running down while shouting for help. Then suddenly just after a sharp curve in the trail someone was standing. Oh! What a relief. I explained him that since the last one hour I was all alone and as I couldn’t see anyone of our team member so I got scared and I started shouting for help. He asked me to relax and he pointed out that my shoe laces were untied which was extremely dangerous. I sat there for a while had water and started going down again and soon after I found that our trek leader was waiting down in a small hanging plane area. I reached there and I was shivering because of nervousness and just after 5 minutes I found that our entire team is coming down. Though I was not lost and I was actually following the right trail, however during that point, the fear of being lost into the woods was upsetting. I even started thinking how will I get rescued from this dense forest. Probably I was rescued by God.
Soon after my distressing experience, once again we all started walking and reached the old suspension bridge at Bheri Kharka, where we all practiced our photography skill in various ways and in various angles. From there we followed a level trail to the large Gurung village of Landrung. When we reached Landrung it was late afternoon and it was extremely windy. I took few snaps of the valley and the river Modi Khola, which was flowing far below from the place where we halted. We were the only guest in that tea house, so it was like a private trip arrangement for us. This tea house also had an attached toilet so we all felt that we were blessed and had a very nice closed dining room, with total glass windows. Once we reached we all sat on the hanging terrace of the tea house observing the beauty of the setting sun in the Himalayan valley. We all ordered for ginger tea. Soon after we ordered dinner. I had momo, hot chocolate. As desert I had Bournville which I was carrying from Calcutta. After dinner we all settled ourselves within the closed dining room from where the entire valley and the Annapurna range were visible.
Our team members were discussing on various topics like, photography, travelling, etc. I was the lone listener as I am always looking for words or expressions and not a good communicator, so like all the time I decided to keep myself silent and to listen to others. After a while when we all felt pretty cold we decided to settle ourselves inside the sleeping bag. Once everyone left I sat down there all alone for a while watching the beauty of the valley and the Himalaya in the dark. Then I called up my dad had a few words with him and with mom too. I explained my feelings to them. I tried to show them how the Himalaya looks like; I explained them how a Himalayan valley looks like, how cold that place is. I expressed them my love, my gratitude for bringing me in this beautiful world and help me to grow and to select a path of my own which I wanted to follow. I thanked them for all their help and support. They felt enormously happy, seeing me happy. What else could I give them except happiness.
26th December 2012 – After two days of trekking we all were slightly tired. Another reason of our tiredness was our mental blockage. On 26th December we were supposed to trek to a large village of Ghandrung which was entirely visible directly across the valley from Landrung. Basically, Ghandrung was a mountain village and the entire mountain was visible from Landrung, and we could realize that how much we had to climb and that was the main reason of our mental blockage. From Landrung we first descended to the Modi Khola River and crossed a large suspension bridge. Through the beautiful Himalayan village we continued our journey and reached Ghandrung at around 2.30 PM. Ghandrung is the headquarters of the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP). The view of Annapurna Mountains and Machapuchare from Ghandrung village was stunning. At Ghandrung we stayed at Gurung cottage and we met Mr. Gurung at his place. Mr. Gurung is a lovely, jovial man whose hospitality is worth mentioning. Once we reached he offered us hot ginger tea. Soon after, we again ordered for another cup of hot ginger tea with omelet. I started moving here and there around the Gurung cottage. Gurung cottage was well decorated with a beautiful garden and its colorful flowers. From Gurung cottage, the view of the Himalayan Mountain Fish Tail and Annapurna was spectacular. I also spotted few different species of birds. I spent some time here and there around Gurung cottage and soaked myself in the freshness of Mother Nature. The best part of this place was that we were very close to Himalaya, and it seemed that I could easily reach the base of the Himalaya. I walked down through the village trail and came back to Gurung cottage once darkness started covering the valley along with cold.
27th December was our resting day, and we engaged ourselves exploring the village and doing some random photography.
28th December 2012 we came down to pokhara valley at around 2.30 pm. After freshening up I had lunch at German bakery and then headed to Pokhara market and engaged myself in buying woolen stuff for all my family members.
29th December 2012 back home to Kolkata.
View of Himalayan Mountain Ranges from flight