Having touched the highest peak in our journey, one can consider it would be a cake walk from then. But, our organizer Wangchuck had arranged for a drive specifically for this day, a 21 km walk. We all were given a choice – 14 km drive and then 7 km walk; or walk throughout. Geetha Aunty and I chose the jeep straight away. Sandhya aunty and Jayati aunty told their decisions later in the morning. So it was a 4 people with Norbu in the jeep and the rest 8 with Pemba by walk.
It was an amazing way to start the day – a view of the mountains and sunrise at 4.45 (believe me I have not woken up this early since public exams!) My camera had gone into video mode somehow and by the time I adjusted the settings – took me 5 seconds – and clicked, all I got was mist, mist and mist everywhere 🙁
So we got ready – standard wet wipes and facewash routine – and after breakfast of “I don’t remember what” (I’m sure Amul cheese spread, homemade jam, porridge was in the menu), we started off split in 2 groups.
One km of drive later, we met the walking group on the way and went past them, waving goodbyes, This might have shattered the plans of those who were counting on us starting late and meeting them 4 – 5 kms down the lane, where the tired ones could take the jeep.
The jeep drive turned out to be equally interesting as the walk might have been. The road was totally bumpy (I call it a road for want of better term) and the previous day’s rain had washed away mud on the way and on the whole made the route un–jeepable, especially with people in it. So there were these stretches of few metres that we opted to, or rather had to walk. It was a great time to pose and take pictures and admire the beauty of the mountains. There were 2 other people travelling with us apart from the experienced young driver and Norbu. And they were there solely to help even out the route for the jeep to ride on it. We did not know initially they had come all prepared with spades and stuff, but it was a sight in itself, watching them jump out of the jeep time and again and working with spades and shift rocks.
We stopped at a remote hut in the midst of nowhere for tea, rest and rest room :P. After the rest was the 7km walk. The sun was up and shining – the perfect timing to click pictures. Sandhya aunty went ahead looking for views. And I clicked at practically everything I saw. There were poppy pastures, winding roads, trees struck by lightning, yaks and joes, rhododendrons… And lo – the mist is back again. Made me pack and put in my camera back into my jacket. Something to note here is that we stopped carrying bags from this day. Its jacket and pant pockets for the barest necessary stuff to be carried on self, and the walking stick if necessary.
We reached the cottage – our first Indian stay since Darjeeling, and it was already drizzling then. It was FREAKING cold and I felt feverish. So I skipped lunch (did not miss anything coz it was just noodles) and snuggled into my sleeping bag. They gave me a makeshift hot water bag – a Bisleri water bottle filled with steaming hot water! It was a blessing at that point of time, believe me!! Later, we all took refuge in the kitchen, which had a comforting fire burning for cooking purposes. I used the time to take notes for future as to what happened each day, on the back of my air ticket print out.
Around 5 PM, the rest of them walked in one by one, and they had another post worth stories to tell. I ain’t going into detail here, but I shall tell you one instance. The kids had decided to fool Pemba, who was the guide who went with them. So they all walked ahead and hid from sight before Pemba walked up. It seems he went about shouting their names and got scared. Then these evil plotters came out from their hiding places and they all started laughing. Good that Pemba took it as a joke 😉 Back in the cottage, one line unanimously agreed by all the walkers was, “T’was one helluva walk”.
If I forgot to mention the dinner that day, it would not be a completed narration. Something we had all been wanting to have ever since we stepped foot on Darjeeling, something we kept asking time and again for dessert. We had finished the main course – rice again – and Pemba announced it was gulab jamun for dessert and went in and got a huge container, a wide grin / smirk on his face. And there it was! The treat – RASAGULLAS!!! Yummy, delicious, give it twenty more adjectives 🙂 🙂 We were able to get around 2 – 3 each.
No electricity for that night; no mineral water either. I tasted mountain water for the first time – it had somewhat of a charcoal taste. We were given candles and spare blankets for each room, which was a 4 bedded one. We did have a Spare Oom (spare room) – wonder if it had a Narnian wardrobe in it. Well, we have already been having enough magical stuff around us, so it didn’t really matter!
– Until next,