It was not a trek in the mountains. It was more like a trek in the clouds…
I had never been on a trek before. I didn’t know where or how to sign up for one. Whom should I approach? Are there agencies out there? Which ones are reliable? What should I buy? I wasn’t aware of anything.
It was a time when the movie, Yeh jawaani hai diwani had come out. Yes, it is impossible to watch the movie and not dream of trekking the Himalayas. Do check the trailer out. One thing entered my to do list then.
To go on a Himalayan trek. But the wish came with some preconditions.
I wanted to lug my back pack, pant my way up hill, camp in tents with the backdrop of mountains and streams, meet other travellers, maybe even fall in love- silly I know but blame it on the romcom, star gaze in the cold, make camp fires, sing songs around it, dance, play in the snow (I had never seen snow up close), make snow angels and a snow man too! Yes, I wanted the complete package! All of it.
And that is when I saw his cover picture on Facebook. It was breath taking. The snow covered peaks basked in the sunlight in all their quiet glory. A group of friends were huddled together in the foreground and seemed lost in the moment oblivious to the lens capturing them. Thick white tufts of clouds rolled out a carpet in front of them invitingly.
Flash forward two months my best friend and I were on our way to meet the mountains in person. Filled with vivid imaginations from the likes of Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, I couldn’t help but stare dreamily outside excited about the places and the people I would be encountering on the trek. And that is when it caught my eye. This massive cloud on the horizon unlike any other ambling along in the sky. It remained still. Unmoving. Almost stern. Even the other clouds in the sky seemed to know better than to taunt it. They tiptoed close but almost always shied away. In spite of the cozy confines of the plane, a sense of discomfort crept in as we moved closer. Suddenly the haze surrounding the cloud gave way and what I saw next stunned me.
It wasn’t a cloud! It was a mountain!!
The trek to Sandakphu was beautiful in more ways than one. We were put up in modest yet comfortable tea houses at the campsites. Every evening, the clouds would engulf the place and the sun would sink in to sleep in them.
A place that has firmly carved out a niche for itself, one that I dream of even now and wish to live in sometime would be Tumling, a picturesque little village in Nepal.
The sunset there was unlike any I had seen before. We were on a small mound that was floating in the clouds. Like a painter gone crazy, the sun splashed the fluffy white canvas that lay below us with bold strokes of gold, pink, orange and every other imaginable shade in between. It was an intoxicating sight as the colours gradually percolated into the clouds along with the sun turning the sky into a deep purple as the first star simultaneously appeared on the horizon.
Where the sunsets were magical, the nights were dazzling. I had never seen so many stars in my life! Every night, millions and millions of stars would set the sky aglow as they twinkled away happily to their heart’s content. Constellations were traced. Shooting stars were spotted. And I, used to just stare stupefied by how vast the universe was and how small a speck I am in it. My problems seemed inconsequential there. It made me realize what mattered and what didn’t in life.
Sandakphu is the highest peak in West Bengal and one of the few places from where you can view four of the five highest peaks in the world. This trek is special to me in many ways.
I got to see snow up close!
Made wishes in a wishing well in Nepal and yes, they came true! We made what we would like to call a snow woman in an obscure corner straddled between Nepal and India. Making a snow-figurine: check!
I got to experience subzero temperatures. Learnt how to play Mafia! And trust me, once you start playing that game, it is impossible to stop. We played it all night long on the last day of our trek.
I learnt a couple of cheesy Bollywood songs. We sang them in front of the campfire. We sang to the mountains, the clouds, to the people and to ourselves too. When I look back to it, we seemed to have been singing everywhere!
One of the highlights for me from the trek, a memory I continue to cherish even now, is a friend I found in a fellow trekker. We formed a friendship that was signed and sealed and that could only ever grow from then on because it began with chocolates and guess what? He still sends me a box of chocolates on my birthday! 😀
When we returned to our base camp in Darjeeling, it was Christmas. Belonging to a different religion, I had never gotten to celebrate it at home! And there in Darjeeling, in the midst of all the mountains and snow and pastries and Christmas trees and chocolates and carols and lights and Santa Clauses and zumba dances, I celebrated my first real Christmas.
I once read somewhere that life gives you those defining moments that make you who you are or show you who you are. The trek to Sandakphu did just that. It unearthed some parts of me that I had long forgotten, filled the painful void left open by a loved one, helped me understand better a friend I thought I knew inside out, re-ordered my priorities in life, gave me different perspectives and philosophies and most importantly, it ate some of the holiday fat I had put on ;P
P.S. None of the photos here were clicked by me sadly. All due credits go to my fellow trekkers who clicked them during the trek.