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Posts tagged “Sandakphu Trek

Day 6 (Sabargram to Gorkhey via Phalut)

It was a bitterly cold morning on day 6 ; the wind chill making it worse. Most of us managed to wake up though ; to catch the beautiful sunrise over the mountains.The golden red hue over the sleeping Buddha was mesmerizing to say the least.

Worth the freeze

Nikhil was responsible for the group photos ; the group managed to pose despite the freezing cold. The beautiful sight provided us with the necessary warmth :). After the photo sessions it was time for breakfast and the long day ahead. After a quick breakfast, we departed for gorkhey-phalut. A significant part of this day’s trek is downhill; we were going to give away all our hard earned ‘trek up’ miles. The plan was to go to phalut and then to gorkhey; the overall distance being 21 km!
From sabargram , it is completely downhill to gorkhey, almost 15 km ! On the way we passed through a beautiful bamboo forest which was probably the most enjoyable part of the trek.

Through the forest

We were under the cover of the forest ; birds chirping, the sunlight through the leaves and the occasional cool breeze through the trees ; it was fantastic. We were given lunch on this day, freshly made fried rice. The idea was to reach a intermediate checkpoint and have a lunch but we were walking pretty fast ; so we ended up deciding that we would have lunch directly at the destination.

Samandan visible in the distance

After almost 5 hours of trek,  we finally reached Samandan village ; under the impression that this would be the end of our trek. The ends of my toes had already gone numb. But shirin informed us that gorkhey was another 2 kms away from samandan; fate had spoken; I would lose my legs on this day !
Samandan itself is a beautiful village; almost too picturesque to be true.

Samandan

Me and kushal used up our last bit of energy to reach gorkhey;  an amazingly beautiful village located in a valley between two mountains.

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After off loading our luggage, all of us gathered at a “shack restaurant” providing providing food to travelers. Hot Wai Wai noodles tasted heavenly at only 50 INR a bowl ; “how come this taste is missing in bangalore”, I pondered. Maybe it is the himalayan water. Regardless, I ended up having 2 full bowls.After checking in into a dormitory,  it was time to just relax and have some hot tea and macaroni, courtesy indiahikes evening snacks. We were now below 8K feet and there would be no more BP measurement; Naman, karthik and karun rejoiced at the very thought of that. A part of the group decide to split up and head to the nearby stream cool their heels, literally. Others decide to hike up the hill to get some mobile signal to book the tickets back home.  I just wandered around taking snaps of the beautiful village and the river stream.

Trek up to get the mobile signal

Come evening Vivek asked for some IH feedback regarding the trek; he heard no complaints as expected. Buddhaji narrated stories of his experience in the mountains and history of Sikkim ; his “talk” was pretty long and I fell asleep for a few minutes in between. The sound of the dinner bells woke me up though ; specially prepared country chicken curry was enjoyed all but I stuck to the vegetarian though. The night again was bitterly cold but the dorm was nice and warm. Thankfully I had run out of battery only on the last day ; we tried to enjoy the group company to the maximum ; after all this was a going to be our last day in the mountains;  the next day was the trek back down and home.

Day 5 (Sandakphu to Sabargram)

Me, karthik and Nikhil woke up early in the morning to get some shots of the much anticipated sunrise; it was freezing cold outside with the wind. We braved the cold to witness a once in a lifetime shot.

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Totally worth it ! The big 4 visible at a distance with a sea of clouds separating us or the sleeping buddha glowing under the morning sun; the pictures don’t do justice.
And what better way to start a trek than a breakfast of champs ; Pancakes,Jam, bread and egg. And we were off !

We were to trek 16kms today to sabargram which also happened to be the only tent camping experience during the trek. This day also turned out to be the best day of my trek since I ended alone for 3 hours with not a soul in sight. The initial 3 hours are on a semi-motor able road leading to the meadows. Due to the group size, again we got separated ; only I hadn’t realized until much later that I was that last one. I walked for 3 hours , on the motor-able road and the beautiful meadows taking shots of the picture perfect landscape and enjoying the solitude.

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Somewhere midway , I found karthik and chirin waiting for me and apparently I was the black sheep; the last one in the group. :(. Vivek was angry with my pace and I had to hurry up. Chirin found us a short cut, albeit a difficult one; after half hour of super brisk trek, we ended up overtaking the group. A few yaks greeted us at the check point.

Hello there!

While the solitude was totally worth it, the price was 20 seconds of rebuke from vivek. After this point, I was forced to be in the middle of the group for the long way ahead.

So far away

The trek got reasonably difficult from this point and from a particular junction, it was almost up at 45 degree angle. This stretch took a toll on us.The sun blazing away to glory did not help either. A short distance from here we finally halted at a beautiful valley for our lunch; khichdi and apples it was.

View from our lunch point

This was a much needed rest; a few dozed off under the warm sun while rest finished our lunch. Sabargram was still 4kms away !

This is too steep !

After almost 2.5 hours of trek , we finally reached sabargram. Preetha was already at the spot and sketching away while rest were higher up atop the hillock. Small lodges at this point would serve as the dinner room but our tents were pitched higher up. So this wasn’t the end of our journey; just great !

Another 10 minutes of walk and finally, we arrived at our destination. Naman, Karthik and others who arrived early helped Buddha bhai to pitch the tents while rest were just relaxed in the tents. By the time we arrived at 3.30 , it was already time for tea after a mandatory round of stretches. The view of Kanchenjunga is spectacular, after we were only 60 kms away.

What a sight

The bad news was that tea point was again 10 minutes trek down; like my knees hadn’t suffered enough already. The plan was to finish dinner and come up only in the night. So off we went again. Everyone huddled into the dinner room ; sri kishen opened his bundle of snacks as well; cashews, pumpkin seeds and wasabi mix. We still had hours to kill and what better way than singing songs; especially when we had super talented singers like prashanth and mahita in the group. Time just flew by and it was already evening; I rushed to the top of the hill again to get some shots of the sunset.

The final sunset over the sleeping buddha

After dinner and the final hike up, it was the most important activity of the trek; the astro shots with the lighted tents. The shots came out fantastic to say the least, at least on camera LCD.After some delightful shots , it was finally time to get some much needed rest.

>> Day 6


Day 4 (Kalipokhri to Sandakphu)

So today was the day where we would finally hike up Sandakphu; this is challenge we were all here to complete after all. After a short walk of about 1Km on the windy road leading to sandakphu, the tea house is finally visible atop the sandakphu, far away, 6kms i.e. The trek route again lies on the border of India-Nepal.

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At certain junctions, there are small shacks offering refreshments. The trail from here to Sandakphu is a steep incline of 4 km and zigzags up the hill. One can choose between two routes here – the left one which goes via Nepal and is a longer trail with a gradual ascent, or the more popular shorter route with a steep ascent. We chose the steep one obviously.

Stairway to heaven?

Midway a tower post gave some wonderful view of the valley.

Above the clouds

All along the route, there was a semi motor able route leading to the top running parallel to the trek route which is steeper. The top seemed closer atop every small hillock but seemed far away after every descent; why was the mountain testing us ?

All along the way, the views kept getting better, with clouds playing hide n seek from behind the mountains; sometimes engulfing the valley; other times disappearing without a trace.

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The mules carrying supplies, luggage raced past us at many junctions; for once it seemed the mule was having a better time than us. After 4 hours of trek, we finally reached a point where sandakphu was within reach.

Within Reach finally

Well, almost within reach. It was another 500 meters at least fro this sign post; when the incline is at 45 degrees, that’s a lot.

At this point, there is another ‘short cut’ leading to the top with a even steeper incline; me, Nikhil,Yash and kushal decided to give it a shot in hopes of cutting our trek time.

The slippery incline

The “stairs” were covered in a thin sheet of ice and it was very slippery; so slippery that yash decided to turn back. After much struggle, nikhil managed to hike up but I had underestimated the hike; the gods of friction abandoned me suddenly and with the gravity assist , I ended up hitting my head on the ice , on the ground, and slipped about 2 meters. In all fairness , i thought that this is the end. Can’t continue with a bloody head right. Thankfully, while I did hit my head bad and lost consciousness for a few milliseconds maybe, I was able to regain balance and give it another try, only more carefully. Kushal, right behind me, learnt from the folly of my ways and managed to safely trek through the slippery passage and quick 5 minutes walk, we were at the top of sandakphu, FINALLY !

It was a gorgeous sight with a crystal clear view of the sleeping buddha in clear daylight.

The sleeping Buddha

A traveler’s lodge served as a rest point / tea break joint where we snacked on some hot tea and Good Day cookies. Temperature here was -2C in broad daylight. Heck, we managed to get a good mobile signal here as well; a lot of trekkers called up their homes. I called up my work buddies to inquire on the state of the chip I was working on; I was trekking in the mountains at a very critical state of the project.

Tea Break !

Thankfully everything was fine. After some light snacks, it was time to move on. Our tea house was another 1.5 kms and this time the walkway was flat.

At the tea house

The tea house is run by a pleasant aunty and we all checked into our dormitory; all the guys in one and the women in another.

At last we arrived

We were provided with additional sleeping bags & liners since blankets cannot be washed in cold icy waters. Almost immediately , lunch was served; the usual course. After lunch , we had multiple options. Behind the lodge, there is a nice place to take good shots of valley; one can spot the clouds being held hostage by the high mountains.

You shall not pass

Some of us scouted the area for good photography locations, for eg, the top of hill behind the tea house while other huddled inside the observation room to play dumb charades ; made more fun with Hot cauliflower pakodas served with tea, i gobbled at least 6 of them. Soon enough it was sunset time already and half a dozen of us rushed to the top the of the hill to view the sunset; it got pretty crowded up there pretty fast and we had to jostle to get a proper shot through; made worse by the biting cold and the fact that we had to remove our gloves to get the camera settings correct. The sunset was breath taking for sure, the red hue over the clouds with glowing horizon; it was magical to say the least.

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After a quick dinner, a lot of us assembled to take shots of the milky way; it was the first time in the trek that we had a clear night sky. Actually it was the first time that many of us were viewing the galactic core; so surely a definitive moment of many of our lives. The shots came out pretty decent and definitely gave me more inspiration to upgrade my camera before my next trek.

What a sight

A final shot of sandakphu before hitting the sack and I called it day.

Under the night sky

>> Day 5


Day 3 (Tumling to Kalpokhri)

With a lot of difficulty, we (Karthik,Nikhil,Me) managed to wake up early in the morning, before sunset, in the biting cold, to get some shots of “The sleeping buddha” with the morning glow on the Kanchenjunga peak. As it turns out, from our locations, the sunrise was obstructed by hills; but the morning light was just warm enough for a good shot. By the time we got back, most of the group was already awake.

The morning glow

Vivek arrived in some time to take BP reading of the BP patients , namely Karun, Karthik and Naman while rest left for breakfast. The breakfast was hot poori, sabji and pulao. I ended up eating lots this morning, (shouldn’t have).

By 8.30 a.m or so , everyone was already raring to go while some engaged in morning stretches. Day 3 journey would comprise of 14 kms of trek which we were expected to finish in 6-7 hours. A motorable road passes through this area which takes one to nepal. We obviously took the non-motorable trek route and reached Gairibas after a few kms walk on a flattish terrain. The sun shone brightly over the multi colored hills.

Early Sun

The trek itself is just on India-Nepal border ; to the right is India and to the left nepal.

This is the also the day where we enter the singhalila national park, officially; since we paid 100 INR per head for the cameras; also the day where nikhil dropped his lens was stuck without a proper viewfinder for rest of the trek.

Through Singalila National Park

The trek us through a dense forest and for the very first time during our trek, the 4 great mountains along with everest were visible to us, at a distance of course.

That’s Everest

All of us stopped here for a customary round of photography. From here, the trek went downhill which brought us to some stunning meadows and a majestic view of the entire valley.

Meadows

From here, we were also able to spot in the distance, the long route which we would take for the rest of the day.

Route ahead visible in the next hillock

The rest of the trek to the checkpoint was downhill for a good 1.5 hours or so through a pretty dense forest with the trail made by / for trekkers ; I ended up pretty much along for this part of the trek ; almost concerned that I wasn’t lost. We finally reached Gairibas at around mid day for a well deserved break. Garibas has some refreshment stalls and shacks to refuel. There were atleast 100 tourists/trekkers here on that day. I am not sure whether we were on the Indian or the Nepal side.

At Garibas

Here we were treated to some hot momos courtesy Indiahikes , 6 per head with super spicy chutney. It was veg version, so karun went and ordered the chicken version and most like that one better. Some just dozed off for 15 minutes by the road side meadows and rest enjoyed the refreshments before what looked like a pretty intimidating hike back up to our lunch point,kaiyakatta.

This hike to kaiyakatta was a steep one, almost 2kms and tiring indeed for most of us; made worse by tourists going up the hill in a landrover and probably thinking ,” What’s wrong with these people, why walk when a jeep is available ?” That thought definitely crossed our minds. We tried to take a couple of shorts cuts, steeper , but with the hope that it would cut our travel time. Well, it did but not by much. At the very least, I remember Yash, Nikhil and me struggling through this part. Finally after 2 hours or so, we reached Kaiyakatta. Atleast 10 trekkers were already reached before us.

As lunch was getting served, Siddhika & co. took a cake to celebrate; never really saw lunch time as celebration but as long as cake is there, who am I to question. Turns out Siddhika was getting a year old on that day. So all of us joined in to celebrate her birthday as well; “maybe I should give this a shot next time”, came to my mind.

Anyhow after a hot lunch and happy occasion, it was the next and final leg of the day’s trek; the walk to Kalipokhri, which was 4 kms away through the misty forests.

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As usual, due to the long distance, group was significantly split up which was a good thing. The misty weather provided a perfect opportunity to trek alone in nature. The sun shone in through the mist at a distance which was a wonderful sight.

Through the mist

After 2 hours of walk, we finally reached Kalipokhri, a bean-shaped black lake surrounded by waving Buddhist prayer flags. Kalipokhri translates to Black Lake. Another 5 min walk and we were at our tea house for the night, pandim lodge.

Beyond Kalpokhri

By the time me and kushal reached, the main dorm was already completely occupied; it turned out to be a good thing though. Me and Kushal ended up in a smaller room with kamlesh; with an attached bathroom. Phew, that would our mornings much less hectic. By the time we were done settling down , we were called for the post-trek stretches. It was difficult on this day; the tracker was showing almost 14kms of walk and I sure could feel them in my legs. By the time we changed into our thermals for the night along with additional 3 layers , it was already evening tea time. Most huddled up into the dining room by the kitchen, it was nice and warm. Preetha and Sonakshi got busy with sketching while the rest just enjoyed the warm tea. There wasn’t much to do for me either since the moon was up the sky making night photography impossible again.

Our cosy Dining Hall

As we went about discussing our interests and hobbies , sonakshi was in the line of fire. The group forced her to sing, which she did, pretty nicely might I add. Her singing sped up the kitchen folk and served us dinner at 7.30 p.m. I wasn’t hungry but there was an interesting dish to eat; squash, a local vegetable. I had never heard of it and decided to taste it at least. Soft and sweet, I ended up eating 3 chappatis with it. Srihita did not like the taste much I guess, she wanted noodles for the night. And what better way to prepare noodles when you have the Instant Gas burner kit. Srikishen got the setup ready in our room and whipped up a hot bowl of noodles in no time.

By the time he switched off the burner, it was time to hit the sack.

>> Day 4


Day 2 (Jaubhari to Tumling)

Early mornings are always difficult,  when the temperature is the single digits, more so. After a hot breakfast , we assembled at the courtyard for the first day of the trek. Our guides were buddhaji and chirin. Buddhaji was from village close to jaubhari and so was chirin. The first thing vivek taught us was to how to tie a shoelace such that it never gets loose during the trek. I managed to get a loose variant of the method to work for me. We were also given a set of eco bags to collect garbage wherever found all along the way.

The initial 5 min trek from the base camp to the ‘main road’ got most of us panting, it was the beginning of the journey after all.

The initial trek was up a concrete path up next to the main road. Across the road,  a trail going up the hill to Upper Chittrey. This is a steep climb of 3 km, through a thick forest, and takes about 2 hours to reach.

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All along the way, we were surrounded by tall pine trees and Rhododendrons waiting to bloom. As we proceeded through the forest, the group fragmented. I decided to stay either the forefront if the group or the trailing everyone to ensure some good shots. As I realized on the first day, I wasn’t fit enough to lead the group; I decided to trail the group in the future and stay somewhere in the middle , alone.

Towards the end, the trail required a steep uphill hike but the views it presented were breathtaking. Darjeeling was visible on a hill top far away.

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The sleeping buddha was visible to us for the very first time from atop the hillock.It was breathtaking.

The sleeping Buddha

Here a motor road going upwards; a little below, towards the left, is the Chittrey Monastery with Buddhist prayer flags fluttering in the wind. This is Upper Chittrey, where we took take a break with hot tea and biscuits. Nepal is just downhill.

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From here, the trail gradually went uphill. There are steps cut into the mountain at certain locations to help locals and trekkers climb through the forest until Lamyadhura. This was a difficult one for me for sure and between taking shots, taking quick resting stops and trekking again, I ended somewhere in trailing lot. All along the way, we could see the motorable road next to our trekking route with land rovers taking tourists up to sandakphu and phalut. It was another 3 hours of trek by the time we reached Lamaydhura,  a small village with a handful of Tibetan families that run a small tea shop. It is a cozy place to take shelter , enjoy a lunch/tea. I bought a packet of chips and a snickers bar to keep my mind occupied.

The trail from Lamaydhura to Meghma is a 3 km hike up a steady incline. It also has some leisurely walks over grassy terrain and motor roads. This is the easiest gradient of the day’s trek. Chimal and magnolia trees are scattered along the route.

As we departed from Lamaydhura, the weather suddenly turned cold and mist took over the hills.

Incoming Mist

Many of us reached out for ‘warm clothing’ before resuming the trek at this point. Somewhere along the route, sri kishen took out his ladoos over a hilltop and that provided some much needed relief and energy.

Some of us ended splitting up, one group including myself ended up taking the motor able route unintentionally while another group took the “trek route”

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After about 2 hours of walk, we reached meghma, our lunch point; finally !! . There is a monastery here which was closed on that day.

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The tea house here is run by a small tibetan family who cooked up some super delicious dal, chapati, Cabbage curry and rice for us. Hot omelettes , made on order, were totally amazing when the temperature is a cold 2 degrees outside.

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After a hearty lunch at meghma, we are off for the final leg of the journey, Tumling; an almost flat walk which takes about 1.5 hours. The misty evening added an eerie tone to the trek; I loved it.

Mist over the hills

The road from Meghma to Tumling was covered in mist and we passed through a number of small villages on the way; overall it took us about 1.5 hours or so to reach tumling.

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We finally ended the day at Tumling lodge. The temperature was already touching almost 0 ; we were shown our dorms as soon we arrived. All the guys huddled into one room and all the women in another. After arrival, vivek gathered all of us for the mandatory rounds of stretches (& massage).

View from our lodge

As evening approached and weather turned colder, we all made base in the lodge near the dining area and decided on play a game of Name tagging while sipping on hot tea and pakados. The game is to associate a tag with the name of the person and try to recall the tag-name combo of the entire group , all at a time. We had Madmax Mahita, Stupied Soham, Perfectionist Pooja, Kinetic Karun, Killer karthik, Notorious Niranjan, Yummy Yash and Naughty Nikhil from the ones that I remember. It was fun until we all of us ended up recalling all the names. Mafia was suggested next; the game most played in all treks. Prajakta wasn’t all that enthusiastic about it; she was fed up of mafia on all her previous treks, she had been on many. Rest of us were reasonably excited I suppose. Niranjan was god for the first round and as bad luck would have it, I was killed in the first round Mafia , Darn it! Mafia had this round. Karun was made God in the second round; this round was fun since I was part of Mafia along with Kushal ; I was about to be kicked again but begged the villagers to spare at least a round; they fell for it and I survived the gauntlet some more until my ruse was up ; I made it all the way to the end until being nabbed by the villagers.

A good 2 hours were spent playing the game and it was already time for dinner. It was the usual again, chappati, dal, subzi and rice. After a hearty dinner and tiresome day , it was time to retire to the cosy dorm for well deserved rest. But the night beckoned us !

It was super cold outside. The ones with the DSLRs, me, Karthik and Nikhil bravely ventured outside to try our luck with the night sky. It was a very bright moon lit night; the sleeping buddha was visible at the distance under the moonlight but the stars definitely weren’t. An exposure of 30s was creating a day light effect. The shots actually looked quite interesting; so I decided to go for them post a reduction of exposure time.

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A final shot of the sleeping buddha exhausting 1 bar of my battery and we were off to bed.

Sandakphu under the moonlight

 

>> Day 3


Day 7 (Gorkhey to Sepi)

Our last day was finally here; the initial part involved the trek back up to samandan and then begin the trek down hill. On the way it was all up this hill and down that hill, pretty much the entire route. On the way we passed sone beautiful streams ; unfortunately there was no time to even photograph them since the most of the group had raced on ahead. Quick snaps and again on the way.

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After almost 3 hours of trek we reached our checkpoint to have snacks and tea;it was a pretty wonderful sight.

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Thankfully , from here on it was completely downhill. On the way , me and kushal discussed everything from stocks, origin of jp Morgan and corrupt CAs of india.

Bridged pathways

After almost another 3 hours of walk, we were finally down , back to civilization. It was almost as if the bridge personified the end of the journey and was there to greet us; But was it the end of the walk itself , not quite. Another half hour of walk on the tar road and we were finally at the lunch point. Mobile signal on my phone after 7 days; wow. Messaged family that I was on my way !

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The lunch was hot rice with curry and soya chunks; the soya chunks were some of the best I have tasted in my life. Cabs were ready to depart by the time were done. We thanked our guides vivek, Shirin and bhuddha ji, a final goodbye and we were off ! It was a race against time now; we were supposed to reach railway station by 8 p.m and the train was scheduled to depart at 8.30 a.m for a dozen of trekkers. It was close but thankfully the train was delayed,as expected from the Indian Railways. It was me,Karthik, Kushal and Prajakta who were staying back at siliguri. After dropping off Yash & nikhil who were with us in the jeep, we decided to indulge ;  some hot pizzas from dominos awaited us. Cheese burst, Lava cakes and coke; what a way to end the night. Waiving final good byes to Prajakta and Kushal, we ended the night.

The trek memorable, the group wonderful and landscape beautiful; I couldn’t have wished for a better way to end my 2018.


Day 1 (Bagdogra to jaubhari)

The trek group meet up point was the NJP railway junction. The cabs would pick us all up and get us to jaubhari, our basecamp. After a ridiculously mini complimentary breakfast at the radha rani lodge and half hour of searching for the meet up location, we finally met up with the entire trek group. Sri kiran and mahita were there with their 8 year old daughter , sri hita. Most were from Mumbai including rahul,siddhika, kamlesh, darshan, kushal, soham, karun, pooja ; We along with niranjan, sonakshi, yash, nikhil from bangalore; Srikiran family from Pune ;naman from Kolkata; prajakta from hyderabad and preetha from Seattle. The customary introductions revealed something rather funny, the youngest member of the group , sri hita, was also the most experienced trekker of the group. This was her 4th high altitude trek and had been on over 40 treks on her life..of 8years ; Incredible achievement !. In all, we had 4 vehicles and 20 trekkers, and we were off ! We left at about 11 a.m or so the estimated time to jaubhari is about 4-5 hours.

I was with prajakta, naman, kushal and darshan in the cab. As we made our way through the well kept army camps at bagdogra and proceeded to jaubhari, the discussion in the vehicle was mostly around our past treks, our regular(boring) day jobs and potential difficulty of this trek. Prajakta was already on 7th high altitude trek, Kushal had been to kedarkantha and it was a first for naman and darshan.

2 hours into the drive, we stopped for lunch at Nesang’s Gorkha Cafe at Mirik. The weather had already turned cold and we were hardly at 5000 Feet; many scampered to get their jackets from their packed luggage on top of the jeeps. The Cafe is nice but it takes a while to get the order though. Me , Nikhil, Darshan, kushal and Naman got ourselves a table and decided to order some hot Thupka’s , veg chowmein and hot tea (excluding naman who did not take tea). The lunch took forever to arrive and the discussion at the lunch table was again around past treks and adventure sports; (and how we would never risk sky diving at Mysore).

The thupkas and chowmein, when it did arrive was totally worth the wait. Hot soup soaking in veggies and thin noodles, tasted heavenly in the cold weather.

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After a hearty lunch, we proceeded on to jaubhari. By the time we reached, the weather had turned gloomy and it was already cold. A nice cup of warm tea and biscuits provided much needed relief (and internal heat). After settling for our dorm rooms (7 in 1 room) , the setting sun brought the entire group together in the courtyard sipping tea while preetha sketched away to glory.

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Some of us managed to take some snap in the midst and post that huddled together in the dining room to meet our trek leader, vivek , and get our initial formalities done ; including submitting our medical certificates. Well, the medical check up sprang up a few surprises, Karthik, Naman and Karun were the BP patients of the group and would be closely monitored throughout the trek.

The dinner was phulkas, Dal, rice and a subzi along with banana mash for dessert. The hot food on cold winter night was something many of us were experiencing after a long time. (and of many it was a first time). The water was ice cold and washing tiffins was a big time head ache for sure; its all part of the himalayan trek experience though.

After dinner, I went out to take a look at the night sky for some potential shots; it was a bit cloudy. The warm dorms with thick blankets beckoned; I was done for the day.

>> Day 2


Day 0 (Planning and Reaching the base camp)

The Planning Phase
As usual, planning for 2018 year end vacations started 4 months before the actual end of the year , I was already done with my year plan of 1 international trip i.e Vietnam; so now it was time for the yearly himalayan trek. After much deliberation and going through multiple treks with karthik including kedarkantha, brahmatal and sandakphu; sandakphu it was.

The trek looked a bit intimidating for sure, 81Kms in 6 days; and some days it was a difficult 21Kms in 1 day. I hadn’t done some like this before and this was going to test my limits for sure. I decided to take it up nonetheless; after all life is all about pushing limits. The trek required us to reach Bagdogra and then move pretty close to darjeeling for the base camp. After much searching, we landed tickets at about 12K per head, kinda expensive but bagdogra being a small airport , not many flights fly to it. The trek itself costed us about 9K; pretty economical for the life time experience in the mountains. As such we booked our flights at pretty convenient times; leaving BLR at 3 p.m post a nice good night sleep and leaving bagdogra at 12 p.m (again after a good night sleep post a hectic trek). Spice jet though managed to screw everything for us, we propose, spice jet disposes. They pre poned both are flights to 6.30 a.m and 9 a.m :(.

The 4 months to trek were quite exhausting; and not in terms of the preparation for the trek. Corporate workload,,sheesh… Barely managed to squeeze in some time for the morning stamina runs; 5km in 35 mins was the mandatory target as per Indiahikes. 1 week before the trek , i managed to achieve the target but would have liked to be much fitter. Apart from this, there were some mandatory purchases; last trek to chandrashila I had a winter jacket which itself weighed 800 Gms adding to excessive weight. Apart from this, my backpack was torn, my head lamp was screwed , thermals were torn , woollen cap was missing and needed another set of gloves. So had to purchase a nice down jacket along with a dozen other item. So finally my 70L backpack had the following items with some space to spare.

Padded Jacket
Thermals
Fleece jacket/1 Warm Layer
Wollen jacket
3 T shirts
Undergarments
Neck Warmer/Muffler
Monkey Cap
Head Warmer
Socks
Pouncho
Pole
Gloves
Medication
Lamp
Medical Kit
Toilet Kit
Toilet Paper
Lunch Box+Spoon
Bottles
Slippers
Plastic Covers/Ziplock
Sunglasses
Facetower
Pants
Mug+Tiffin
Notepad & Pen
Camera
Spare Batteries
Tripod
Mobile +Charger
Passport+Print
Wallet
Tickets
Camera Charger
Headset
Cash
Extra Paper Napkings
Wollen Socks
Mouth Wash
Moov
Small Toothpaste

Thank god I packed everything over a period of 1 week. The last week before the trek was especially hectic and I pulled 3 all nighters before the trek ; not the best state to be in before a 81Km trek.

Day 0 (Reaching the base camp)
I was stuck in a mandatory meeting till 10 p.m and had to leave for the airport at 2 a.m. Managed to book a cab via OLA but was definitely concerned whether he would show up; had happened before.

After about an hour of sleep, was up and ready by 1.30 p.m or so and , thank god I received a message that the driver was on his way. The trek was on !

Before leaving , made my mandatory call to karthik to ensure that he was up; it would take two to make this trek a success at our end. Now unfortunately (in a way) there was no traffic at all on the way to the airport; which meant I was at the airport early, 3 hours early. With nothing to do,binged on some sitcoms on youtube eating up free airport WIFI bandwidth.

Karthik managed to reach by 4.30 a.m or so ; so we had some time to spare. Subway SW at the airport always managed to rescue us from our early morning hunger; albeit at an expensive price. 300 Rs for a sandwich is a lot but that’s how airport prices are unfortunately. We managed to kill about half hour gorging on the sandwich and then proceeded to check in. The flight was again late by some delta time but that’s expected I suppose. 2.5 hrs of disturbed sleep and we were at bagdogra; we expected it to be cold but it was actually pretty warm. We managed to negotiate with a rickshaw driver for 200Rs for about 10Kms which is actually a lot but we were too tired to care (lack of sleep). The lodge we booked, radha rani lodge is located very close to the NJP railway station which happened to be our pick up point the next day as well; the rooms were decent enough.

After a quick checkin and freshen up, late breakfast was on the cards. Right outside our hotel, a local sweet shop selling hot freshly made radha ballabi’s caught our attention; the reasonable crowd at the open cooking station only aided our decision further. Took us almost 15 minutes to get a table actually ; a right decision it was. Freshly made hot pooris with hot potato curry on a cool winter morning; just wow ! I managed to pop in a Kala jamoon as well ; how could I let go of a local delicacy.

A tea stall was next on the list; located 25 meters from the breakfast joint. The hygiene conditions of this particular tea stall were definitely questionable ; we went for it nonetheless; we were on vacation after all :). So after a hearty breakfast, it was time for the mandatory nap; and nap we did for 4 hours. The reset to our tired brains also made us realize that there were a bunch of items still left to be purchased; towels, deodarants, some light snacks etc along with the dinner of course. I recalled a nice little bakery, mio amore right next to our lodge; it was lit up with lights in the evening and looked very inviting. The idea was to have a snack only, it ended up as the dinner. We ended up purchasing brownie, cakes, hotdogs,burgers and what not. Dinner first, trek essentials later!

Back in the room and a good hour spent on gorging on baked delicacies. The night was still young and we decided to meet up with some trek mates, if at all possible. Kushal replied on the WhatsApp group with his location 2kms away, too much effort we decided. After purchasing some of the remaining trek essentials and an hour spent on binge watching BBT back in the room, it was time to rest our bodies and minds for the last time, properly, for the hectic but exciting journey ahead.

>> Day 1