Sandakphu, the Beginning


Sandakphu

Can you remember your first trek? Obviously you can! Probably it is the sweetest memory of a traveler’s life. That moment when a person first witness a mountain by his/her eyes for the first time and feels the adrenaline rush through all over his/her veins, that single moment has enough power to hypnotize that person to realize again and again that “Mountains are calling, and I must go!”.

When I was ‘that kind of’ hypnotized for the first time I was a college student and guess, by whom? Well! They are often called as “giant” mountains! Mount Everest and Mount Kanchenjunga! The highest point of our trek was Sandakphu (or Sandakpur ) , altitude- 3636 meters.

The trek route was exactly the border areas of India and nepal, with some exhilarating landscape and people!
Our plan was to start our trek from from Chitrey ( 2340 meters above sea level). But due to the train late we had to start our journey from Manebhanjan (1928 meters), there is a rule that after 1 P.M. they don’t allow cars after Manebhanjan, that’s why we had to stay at Manebhanjan. Let’s start from the beginning!

Sun

We, 8 college friends and 2 professors of our college made a plan to go for Sandakphu trek. Well, the way we thought about that trek, was little bit different from others. We made the decision, not to use trekkers’ hut, not to use local food, instead of them we will sleep in tent carried by us, and we will cook by ourselves through all over the trek, carrying fuel and each and every food materials from our plane land.

From New Jalpaiguri Railway station, we rent a car and started our journey towards Chitrey, though we had to stop at Manebhanjan. Manebhanjan is really peaceful and a scenic place! You will find a metal board writing ” Welcome to Nepal” on that. We stayed in a local lodge as there was no place to pitch tent. Till that time I felt the most cold temperature of my life there! It was 8-9℃ .

Next morning when everyone else were sleeping, I woke up at 4:25 A.M., actually this time between the ‘ night and morning’ is my favourite one, I wanted to see the hill villages at that time, and trust me, it was marvelous!  I took a side of the balcony and fixed my eyes at as far as my vision can go, between the clouds, between the hills! It took my heart away from me! Taking some breakfast ( self prepared) we had to start our trek! My life’s first trek!

It was tough! Specially the route from Manebhanjan to Chitrey! I can still remember, after every 2-3 minutes i was shouting “Sir, give me cadbury please!”. Chocolate is a preferable food as a energy booster during a trek. After almost 2 hours we saw a place all-over covered by Colourful flags and we were able to see a huge hill portion, looking at the downside as Chitrey Was like the top point of an umbrella! It was beautiful! We moved from there after taking a cup of tea, and moved out legs from there. Our destination of that day was Meghma ( 2800 meter).

mountains view

We reached Meghma just before the dark, we had to show our id cards to the border check points just before entering Meghma! Have you ever seen the colour of fire in the air? The Sun was just going to rest for the day, but before going to rest he was spreading his body’s colour all over the sky!

We pitched our tent there, but it was impossible to fire a stove due to the heavy wind! We saw a local people, preparing a local alcohol in a small old passage covered by some plywoods. We asked him to give us the place as we need to cook our food there, he gave us the place taking some little money. Each and every one of us was exhausted! We finished out cooking as soon as possible, and taking some noodles and soup we took our shelters. Sleep was much needed!

Next day morning taking a heavy breakfast and a cup of coffee we moved our legs from there. I exchanged some indian currencies with the Nepal currencies and bought a packet of cigarette, named ” Shikhar”, as cigarette was really cheap there. Next destination was Gairibas ( 2600 meters). Way to Gairibas was not that much hard like last day. We faced more descending paths than ascending. We saw some waterfalls on the way, some different kind of birds which I had never seen before.

The place Gairibas is something different. Let me explain the events took place there and you will get the cause. Reaching Gairibas we took some local foods from a local shop. We wondered when the shopkeeper told us that the wooden house just behind her shop, is her house and that house is in Nepal and her shop ( where we were talking about this) is in India! The distance was maximum 10-12 ft.

view

We decided to stay at that shopkeeper’s house that night, the house was wooden and where I was sleeping there was a square shaped glass in the roof just above my eyes! That shopkeeper has a small boy. I loved that kid! I played football with him, the interesting fact is among the two goal posts one was in India and another was in Nepal, from the point we kicked off the small match, an Army was there holding a machine gun! The place is one of a kind! Even I heard an incident of leopard attack just some days ago to their next village.
The next morning when we were leaving for our next destination Kalipokhri (3186 meters), I went to that kid and hugged him, I knew I was going to miss that ‘onedays’s friend’.

on the road

Road towards Kalipokhri was full of ascends. In-between this day’s trek I was lost! Yes, I was lost from my team, I was all alone one that route! One side there was a 5000 ft pit and deep jungle on the other side! I was unable to see a single living creature almost for 2 hours. At a point there were 3 ways dividing from one, and I took middle one, and luckily I was saved! Crossing a blackish lake I saw some prayer flags and just beside that I saw our two guides! It was a relief for me! Then I realized I had reached the destination almost 2 hours before my team! I still don’t know how it was possible!

I can still recall the night at Kalipokhri, It was a full moon, our trek’s highest point was visible from there in between the clouds (just above our heads) in the light of the moon! Not a single star was missing in the sky It was spectacular! Marvelous! Exhilarating!

lake

Keeping the the last night’s atmosphere at the innermost part of our heart, packing our tent, we moved on next morning towards our highest point of this trek, Sandakphu ( 3636 meters). The last 2 kilometers of this day was the toughest one! But the scenic view was worth remembering! That time we stepped into Sandakphu, snow falls started with cool breeze! But we had to walk for move 2 kilometers as a proper tent pitching location was needed. We just went for 500 meters from there, snow fall started heavily. It was impossible to see even a person just one hand away from me.

Yes we were enjoying, but trust me walking in a heavy snow fall is not easy. Somehow we reached a proper tent pitching site and we had to pitch our tent as soon as possible as snow was all over the floor and the thickness was increasing rapidly. I covered myself with all the jackets I had. The temperature goes down when snow fall stops, and exactly that happened with us too. It’s was -8°c!

We were freezing. I opened my camera for some shot and two fingers of my left hand got freezed! They were not working properly. But at that moment we saw a slight part of Mount Kanchenjunga (8586 meters)! Oh my God! It took my breath away! But that was not for much time. Darkness came fast and grabbed all the field. As soon as possible we finished our cooking and went inside the tent after having dinner.

fog and snow

It was my life’s most wonderful night as well as most horrible too! Having two jackets and even being under the sleeping bag, I felt I’ll die out of cold! We had to go out to clear the snows over the roof of our tent, else it could have been broken. Probably I slept for maximum 40 minutes, and I woke up shouting ” Is this the morning?” ! But the time was around 11 PM. I repeated this event for more than five times that night! I was feeling like hell! All I was waiting for a drop of sunlight!

I woke up at 4:10 AM, and came out of my tent with all my effort, it was -10°c. That time I noticed a fire colour taking it’s place all over the sky. I smiled with the deep pain. After some minutes I saw the first ray of light over Mount Kanchenjunga! It was heaven! Probably more than heaven! The trees are sleeping under the layer of snow, behind that the light is taking the charge over the giant mountain! I realized that time, I can survive thousands of night like last night, to have a glance like this! Just after few minutes I moved my eyes towards left. Oh my god! It’s Mount Everest! The highest Mountain in the world! I have seen many pictures, but for the first time I’m witnessing! I didn’t know when a drop of tear came out of my eyes! Most wonderful moment of my life! Tears of happiness! Where ever my eyes were going, there were only mountains mountains and mountains!

We had to come back! The saddest part of travelling is “coming back”! Well, it’s also needed to start another journey, it’s a part of life! Having out breakfast we had to come back through a jungle route. Jungle has it’s own sounds, jungles had it’s own beauty! We were walking over snows, I slipped for more than 3 times. I got injured. It was a Rhododendron forest, but it was not their time to bloom. So we witnessed snowflakes at the place of Rhododendrons.

We were exhausted, mentally energized but physically tired. We were on the way towards the ‘citylife’ through the smell of jungle having the sweetest memory of our first trek in our inner most heart. Last waterfalls on the last day’s path were probably holding the sign of our trek ends pain. The jungle is called “blacked forest”, I think “black” is standing for the “trip end’s sadness”.

hiking

It was a successful trek! Even the snow fall was the first snowfall of that session, with our footstep! It’s meant to be celebrated, right? Reaching Sepi ( 1900 meters) we bought some chicken from the local shop and made that night “Barbeque night” with all my friends and professors. That night when everyone was in deep sleep, I came out of my bed to the nearby road, and saw the hills up above and I felt “They are calling me, and I must go”. That’s the beginning of my adventure life.

Author: Many thanks to Subhrajyoti Singha for sharing his story with us.


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