Stairway to heaven

Stairway  to heaven

The ‘first’ of everything in any facet of my life is always special to me and remains fresh in my memory till date. My first Himalayan trek is no different. A lot of people used to tell me that if an Indian didn’t visit the Himalayan terrain, they are missing out on a major thing in their life.

 Its majesty, personality and beauty can never be captured in pictures or words. So after some research, I found out that a trek to Sandakphu, the highest peak in the state of West Bengal and Nepal, is possible as it’s a simple beginner’s trek. I contacted a youth hostel, decided to follow their rules and backpack up the mountain.

I flew to Kolkata and had to catch a train from there to Siliguri. However, my train tickets were not confirmed so I took a bus. From Siliguri, I reached Darjeeling by evening. It took me a day to get used to the high altitude so I spent some time in Darjeeling, wandering and lurking around the ‘elite town’. I saw many tea estates and several colonial style buildings. It was a calming feeling to feel one with the past. One of the biggest highlights of the place was a Buddhist monastery I ventured into. I understood what silence was when I went inside.

I started my trek the next morning. I went to Dhotrey by jeep and trekked to Tumling. Tumling is a small hamlet in Nepal and known for its spectacular views of the Eastern Himalayas. It is a favourite stop for trekkers going to Sandakphu and is dotted with cute cottages and huts. The atmosphere was very salubrious and there was a lot of greenery around me. I was thrilled that I had crossed the border. The line between India and Nepal is actually blurred. This border, unlike Aksai Chin or Wagah, is not a high point of tension or drama. There was nothing to separate the borders except for stone slabs where ‘Nepal’ and ‘Bharat’ are written. It is a free way for all. I could see the Kanchenjunga range from there. Once I saw the third highest mountain range, I understood why the Nepalese refer to this as ‘Sleeping Buddha’ and Hindus refer to it as ‘Sleeping Shiva’. From there, I went to Kalipohkri. The climb wasn’t as tough as I thought it would be. I walked along roads and jungles and the view was very scenic. Soon, I had a small glimpse of the Mount Everest. It was a dream come true. For a day, I woke up to a view of Kanchenjunga to my right and Everest to my left. I wondered when I would scale the Everest and how much the climb will change my life.

The next day, I set off for my summit point — Sandakphu. Here, nature is at its pristine best. It is aptly called the ‘Paradise of Trekkers’ and the peak is a vantage point from where one can see four of the world’s highest peaks — Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalu and Lhotse — in a continuous snow-clad arc. The place is filled with magnolias, rhododendrons, primulas and other sub-alpine flowers. It was only a six km trek but was very tough as the incline was about 80 degrees. I was scaling between India and Nepal.

As they rightly say, the most beautiful view is always after the hardest climb! The view that I got of the Mount Everest was unparalleled. It had a magnetic, hypnotic effect and for a long time, I just sat at my base camp, looking at Everest.  I reluctantly got down and went to Gurdum. It is a small village and borders Bhutan. This was the first glimpse of civilisation that I tasted after being amidst the mountains for so long. I spoke to a few locals and understood their lifestyle.

 They told me about how it was difficult for them to avail food supplies as they have to climb upwards to get them. I reached the finish point — Rimbik — where the youth hostel celebrated my journey by letting me feast on ‘paneer’. I came back to Darjeeling
the next morning with loads of memories and pictures.

If I miss anything, it is only those mighty, majestic views. You just cant get the mountains off your mind once you see them.

Hiren Jobanputra

(As told to Anushka Sivakumar)

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