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|27th November 2006, 10:40||#1|
Few days close to Heaven: The Dzongri Trek
This is one travelogue I should have written long back. But I kept procrastinating for more than a year, only because it would take too long to write. This travelogue is about the most difficult and the most fascinating trip undertaken by my wife and I till to date. First I thought I’ll make it a simple pictorial, but that would not begin to describe the essence of this trip.
This trekking trip was my wife's idea, like most of our other trips. The basic idea was to trek the Himalayas, somewhat strenuous trip, but nothing too difficult. My wife and I hardly have any experience in trekking. My wife researched the idea for months on the Internet, identified many possibilities, and finally picked an adventure travel company called Siniolchu Tours and Travel specialized in trekking expeditions in Sikkim. This company had many glowing testimonials on the Internet and that helped us make up our mind. This finally turned out to be a very good decision. Once the company was settled, we had to decide our customized package and after days of discussions, we decided on an 11 day trip that included 6 days of trekking and SUV riding for the rest. I won't reveal pricing information since these are negotiable based on the package content. All the presale part was handled very professionally by the tour company and we made payment via local ICICI branch.
Our itinerary was something like this.
1) Fly from Bangalore to Bhagdogra airport - 5 hour (135Kms) SUV drive to Pelling - Stay for night. (6500ft)
2) Some minor site-seeing at Pelling - 4 hour (65Kms?) SUV drive to Yuksam - Stay for night (5800ft)
3) Say bye to civilization, roads, hotels and electricity - trek 17Kms of mountains to Tsoka trekker's camp at 10,000ft.
4) One day rest at Tsoka.
5) Trek 10Kms to Dzongri trekker's camp at 13,500ft (some part of the trek as high as 14,000ft)
6) Early morning 1 hour trek to Dzongri mountain top to watch sunrise on Mt. Khangchendzonga. Climb down and stay at Dzongri.
7) Trek back to Tsoka.
8) Trek back to Yuksam, back to civilization.
9) 5 hour drive to Gangtok, rest for the day.
10) Sight seeing in Gangtok for half day, rest for the day.
11) One more 5 hour trip to Bhagdogra Airport. Fly back to Bangalore.
The heights and distances are approximate since different sources give different figures.
Next we had to arrange the flight tickets to Bhagdogra from where the tour company would take over. That was a minor saga by itself. I first sent my assistant to get a quote for two return tickets from Bangalore to Bhagdogra. I got a quote of Rs.64000 per person!!! When I called the travel agent, the agent explained that the Bangalore-Kolkotta sector itself costs Rs.27000 per person one way, then she says "Shall I book it then?", I screamed NO. This was simply ridiculous. By this time we had paid the tour company some handsome advance to buy the supplies. Therefore, both wife and I visited the agent personally and told her we will look at all options. After an hour long brain-storming various options, we chose to travel via Bangalore-Delhi- Guwahati-Bhagdogra and back same way using Indian Airlines (Bangalore-Delhi) and Jet Airways (remaining segment). This brought the ticket prices down to Rs.47,000 for two!! Just compare this to Rs.64K for one person. The travel agents can be such a rip-off.
This was no ordinary trip, and we knew we had to prepare a lot. Physically as well as supply wise. My wife doesn't exercise at all like most Indian women, but she is naturally petite. But that wouldn't do for this trek. She had carefully chosen the semi-strenuous trek knowing her limitations. Still she knew she had to shape up. Being a life-long fitness freak and martial artist, I knew I was quite safe. I recommended her long brisk walks around our apartment building and lots of Indian style squats. She had to really build her stamina, and strength in her legs. However, I knew there were chinks in my armour too. Being muscular and heavy, my stamina was on the lower side. I usually run out of steam after running couple of Kms. So, I too decided to train regularly and build my stamina. However, that never happened although I had 2 months to train, work got hectic since couple of new installations were going live and I barely had time to eat and sleep. I think my stamina actually went down due to lack of exercise. But my wife trained regularly, this was her plan and she wanted it to work. Meanwhile my first cousin (and his wife too) comes back from a 3500Kms Bullet bike trip to Ladakh and Khardungla pass. He had gone through some trying times battling altitude sickness. When he saw our plan, he simply told my wife that she can't hack it. That was not very encouraging, but we decided to go ahead anyway. But we borrowed their heavy duckback raincoats that served them well during the Himalayan bike ride.
We had to do lots of shopping for this trip. Duffel bags, backpacks, winter clothing, hiking boots, various medicines, insect repellents, etc. After living in New Jersey for nearly a decade we knew how to dress for winter. We had quite a big list, can't recall everything. But it took us numerous shopping trips to collect everything. We also read lots of material on altitude sickness and how to avoid it or prepare for it.
Photography was to be an important part of this trip. Although I was a SLR user 1989, I had become point-n-shoot photographer after switching to digital in 2001. By this time I had a Sony CyberShot DSC F-717, which I mostly used in auto mode. Since this camera had a maximum wide-angle at 38mm, I knew this needed to be improved for this trip. Therefore, I got a fish-eye extender lens. Also considering we won't have power for 6 days, I got an extra battery too. However, I didn't think much about brushing up on my technique for this most important photo shoot, and the results finally showed. Aaaaaggghhh!
As the day got closer, my wife could do 5Kms brisk walking followed by 50 squats in a single go. I only did 100 squats in one go everyday and nothing else, had no time. Meanwhile we were facing problems in a newly installed production system. It was getting serious enough to stop me from going on the trip. Although I had delegated my duties to others, the ultimate responsibility was still mine. After a few sleepless nights, the problem was solved with only two days away from the trip. The coast was finally clear. We made the remaining payment to the tour company to engage the staff.
October 5th 2005
We took the 6AM Indian Airlines flight and landed in Delhi. Within India this was our first time anywhere north of Mumbai. It took us quite some time to figure out how to switch to the Jet Airways terminal, we were saved by a 90 minutes gap between flights. The fish-eye lens was dense, I had to open the hand-bag at every security check since they couldn't recognise it in the x-ray. We finally got on to the Jet Airways flight to Bhagdogra via Guwahati and our tension was finally eased since the tour company would take over once we landed. We landed in Bhagdogra 90 minutes late, and the tour company folks were waiting promptly.
I must confess at this point that I don't much about north east India. I expected people to be talking unfamiliar languages, dressing differently, etc. But during the brief halt at Guwahati, I was surprised to see oriental looking ladies wearing saree getting into the flight. Even the tour company staff who picked us up, looked quite different, but behaved like any other Indians. I know it is an odd comment, but it was a little odd for us to meet so many foreign looking people who are as Indian as us. But I noticed that most people could be classified into two groups, oriental look or darker south-indian look. When I enquired with the driver, he told me they are Bengali, not south-Indian. Hmm, so much about knowing your own country. Until this point, I had figured that all Nepalis are from Nepal as in Nepali national. When I saw the driver and his two colleagues speak in a strange language, I asked about it and they told it was Nepali. I asked them whether they are from Nepal, after a quick glance at me the driver said they are all from Sikkim. Then I asked them why they speak Nepali if they are from Sikkim, shouldn't they speak Sikkimese or something like that... At this point all three looked back at me, and I was told Nepali is the state language of Sikkim. I was further told that Nepali is the name of the community spread over Nepal, India, Bhutan, etc., and Nepal got the name from the community, and not the other way. In other words, the Nepali doesn't refer to citizens of Nepal, it refers to the member of Nepali community spread over Nepal, Sikkim, north Bengal, Bhutan, etc. I figured this trip is going to be very educational.
There was a time during the trip planning where I considered driving a rented SUV in Sikkim, after some thought I gave up the idea. For one thing I am not familiar with 4x4 driving and secondly I didn't want to drive in unfamiliar road conditions. This turned out be a very good decision. The trip from Bhagdogra airport to Pelling took 5 hours although the distance was only 135 KMs. After the riding the ghat section for couple of hours, my wife asked the driver when the ghat section will end. It only invited a confused look. It finally dawned on us that entire Sikkim was a ghat section. That is why Sikkim doesn't have an Airport, the closest airport is Bhagdogra, which is in West Bengal. A flat ground in Sikkim is as common as an oasis in the desert. The roads were mostly good, except in areas where there were landslides. One wierd thing though, we always found one river or the other flowing next to the road. The cliffs and the mountains along the roads were huge, the mountains in the south look like mole hills compared to this. There were medium to small water falls all along the road, we probably saw 20-30 water falls during this drive. The odd thing was the water from the smaller waterfalls didn't have any covered gutter, it flowed right over the road, and the damage to the road by the ever-flowing water was visible. I wonder why they don't make a covered gutter under the road for this water to flow. What happens if the water-flow increases due to a rain, it can bring the traffic to a halt.
This is actually a road that is part water fall.
I also found the drivers to be courteous and cautious, I never saw any trucks or buses speeding in the wrong lane or coming off a blind curve. Wait, actually I never saw a bus or a truck during this whole drive. About 90 percent of the traffic comprised of Jeeps, mostly mahindra commanders and armadas, some sumos and qualis, but no expensive SUVs like Scorpios and Safaris. It turns out that Jeeps handle almost all the public transport needs of Sikkim. It was hilarious to see Mahindra jeeps with destination boards mimicking the buses.
It was dark by the time we reached Pelling, our stay was at Norbu Ghang hotel. This was a very nice place, the decor was native. But the food menu looked very mainstream, no native delicacies. Weather wise, there was a definite chill in the air, but nothing harsh.
October 6th 2005
We woke up early hoping to see the sunrise. Instead we found ourselves staring at a breath-taking view from the balcony. But Mt. Khangchendzonga was hidden by the clouds; we didn't get to see it as expected.
The view from the hotel at Pelling. See the white dots, they are buildings.
Sun didn't show up until 10AM, it was hidden behind mountains until then. We did some sightseeing around Pelling and then took off to Yuksam, which was the base camp for our trekking expedition. The distance between Pelling and Yuksam was mere 35Kms, it however took 5 hours because we did some sight-seeing on the way, and roads that were fit only for 4x4 vehicles. I was amazed to see a Maruti Zen later at Yuksam.
On the way to Yuksam (5800ft), we stopped in many places to take tourist snaps, this was probably the most beautiful drive we ever undertook, I was glad I wasn't driving, I would have missed all the views. The photographs we too make no justice to the sceneries. Two notable places we stopped by were Rimbi Falls and Khecheopalri lake.
A wooden temple and stone shrine next to Lake Khecheopalri.
Khecheopalri lake which sacred to both Hindus and Buddists.
A view on the way.
A common view in Sikkim, a valley with river flowing through it.
We reached Yuksam around 2PM and checked into Hotel Tashigang. These hotels have a convenient arrangement with trekkers; we booked for two nights, one night before trek and one night after trek. Then there are the sightseeing type tourists too, who just look around go back. But we belonged to the other type, and we were tingling with excitement. This time the hotel restaurant menu was exotic with all the native dishes, we had chicken Thukpa, which is basically the local noodle soup and was very good.
Around 4PM we were visited by 3 guys, the trek guide, the cook and cook's assistant. Our trek guide was a 44 year old Nepali named Rajendra Pradhan (Rajan for short), the senior most guide of Siniolchu tour company. He was very happy to note we could speak Hindi, talking English all the time was not the most comfortable thing for him. The cook Suman Suba was more fluent in English and enquired what kind of food we preferred, he was delighted to discover we were open to any kind of food and that we had chicken Thukpa for lunch. Rajan was very concerned about our luggage, he wanted to know what kind of bags, how many bags, and he advised us to leave anything back that we wouldn't need. He even lifted each bag to get an idea of the weight. The significance of this didn't strike us until we realized that all luggages will be carried in person by porters all the way and back. Our team consisted of one guide, one cook, and 5 porters, one of the porters doubled as cook's assistant. These guys have strict hierarchy, trek guide is the leader, cook is second-in-command, and both should be able to speak English. The rest are porters, who can aspire to become cook or guide provided they can pick up English. Their pay packets too follow the same pecking order.
At this point we were a little overwhelmed to realize that we two will be assisted by 7 people. The curiosity got better of me and I asked why we need 5 porters. Rajan told me that our luggage will be carried by one or two at the most, the rest will carry the tent material, food supplies, groceries, kitchen appliances, etc., not to mention their own luggage. We were going out as a completely self sufficient team for 6 days. I recalled how even Mt.Everest climbers use dozens of Sherpa porters. Holy cow, this was going to be some adventure.
That evening we did some small trekking on our own around the hilly town, visited the coronation throne of the last king of Sikkim. This is a beautiful hilly town, it even had a decent school with a big playground, and we already know how rare it is. For dinner we had chicken momo (dumpling) which was served in a clay pot, just superb.
October 7th 2005
The adventure begins. We were leaving behind roads, power, transportation, plumbing, etc., for 6 days. The breakfast (bread toast) was served to the room, and we both took early showers, our last one for next few days. The porters came around 7AM and left with our check-in luggage, we won't have access to it until nightfall. On our backpacks we carried duckback raincoats, drinking water, snacks and I also carried the camera with the heavy fish eye lens. We started at 7.30AM and weather was partly cloudy. The first couple of KMs was within the town, on paved roads. Then the guide asked us to go ahead in a trail, he had to collect our trekking passes from the authorities. But this trail had couple of forks and we took the wrong turn.
After an hour of walk on the hilly terrain we came across a bunch porters resting, and they had our duffel bags. Then we spotted our cook among them. This was our team. I knew they had left earlier, and we were elated that we were able to catch up with them. But the elation didn't last long. This was a hillier short cut and we were supposed to take the easier route, we had only covered the flat part of the short cut, the next part was tougher. We had caught up only because we were fresh, trail was flat until now and they were at the end of their rest period. At this point we started along with them, and soon the porters left us behind, and the guide caught up with us. He said he looked for us in the easier route and then he found out we took the short cut, and chased us down.
A stream that we had to cross without a bridge.
We had dressed warm with almost 4 layers of cloth. The innerwear, sweatshirt, sweater and a shell jacket. Soon we started to peel away the layers since we were sweating in liters, we were back to the basic two layers as in hot climate. The climb started getting tougher, we started taking longer and more frequent breaks, and I could see the guide getting irritated since it affected his timetable. Then it rained, and we were too tired to even open and use the heavy raincoat. Every piece of item in our backpack started getting heavier. The fish eye lens (680 grams) started to weigh like a ton. Sometimes we were too tired to pull out the water bottle from the backpack. I often saw amazing views, but was too tired to take a photograph. The trail was mostly two feet wide, mountain wall to one side and bushy cliff to the other. We had to be careful not to lean to the wrong side. By this time our guide managed to make us each a 5 foot long walking stick out of the bamboo trees that grew along the trail. This basically changed the dynamics of our walk, we could start using our hands to help the tired legs and it enormously helped with our balance on the narrow trail. It started to dawn on us that may be we picked the wrong adventure, and started thinking about the odds of we doing this for 6 days.
A majestic foot-bridge.
It was around this time our guide made an important discovery, he realized we weren't really trekkers. Sure, we looked fit, but didn't have the legs to carry us all the way. For some time he was not very happy, because he may to change plans or even cancel the trek due to our inability. Around 12PM we reached our first milestone, the lunch break. We crashed on the ground at this small hut where our cook had our lunch ready. We were given some kind of native juice, followed by soup and main course. I don't remember the exact menu anymore, but it was delicious after 5 hours of body wrecking mountain trek. Our water bottles were refilled.
Here we had our first candid talk with the guide who was really disappointed with our performance. We said we trained by walking on flat tracks, but the hilly terrain totally turned out be a different cup of tea. He said porters were worried they might lose the money promised if the trek were to be cancelled. At this point I told him that we won't ask for any reimbursement since it was not their mistake. I told him that we had chosen the semi-strenuous trek since we were no seasoned trekkers, but this trek is turning out to be ultra-strenuous trek. Then the guide told us that this trek is indeed a semi-strenuous trek, but for the seasoned trekkers. But might turn out be an impossible one for the uninitiated. Check this site, see what they say about the difficulty.
By this time the guide had collected his thoughts, and he proposed that we continue the trek until the first destination Tsoka, after that we can rest for couple of days and walk back. That way we can salvage the trek to some extent and not walk back right away with our tails between our legs. The first destination was Tsoka, 17Kms from Yuksam, and we had covered 8Kms until now. Our legs were cramped, and my feet had blisters from the new hiking boots. My wife had decided to switch back to her normal sneakers after having trouble with it during her training sessions. Since I hardly trained for the trek, my boots were new and untested. Frankly I had expected to fare much better than my wife, but the fact that I was as tired as her really stumped me. After two decades of fitness training and martial arts practice I expected much more from my body. But I was truly humbled by the rigor of trekking uphill terrain. For sometime I blamed the rarefied air for my short comings; however I was soon informed that it doesn't begin until we cross 8000ft, we were still below that. I am sure I could have kept going forever in a flat track, but the hilly trail is something way different, it is like being on 1st gear forever; imagine how tiring it could get. Anyway, we decided to continue along as advised, it was only our pride and indignity of turning back that kept us going.
Now that we knew our trek was shorter, we started off from lunch with renewed energy. Meanwhile the guide got us two more bamboo sticks and now we walked on two walking sticks, it was really much more helpful. But the trek only got tougher. We took long breaks, and tried not to walk faster. The guide told us to pick a comfortable pace and stick to it. He told that any attempt to pick up pace will only get us more tired. But our pace was much slower than his. So he tried different ways to keep pace with us. He took the camera bag and carried it for me. Sometimes he would walk ahead and wait for us to join him at some comfortable resting area. Sometimes he would meet some an acquaintance and start chatting with them while letting us to briefly get ahead, but he would catch up with us in no time. In other words he ran circles around us while we slowly trudged towards the destination. Now that he had accepted us for what we were, he started telling us stories of other trekkers he led. He said 99% of his clients were foreigners. He wondered why his fellow citizens (Indians) didn't relish trekking. I told him that after looking at our plight, the reason should be apparent. My wife and I are among the adventurous type and maintain above average fitness, still we came up very short when it came to mountain trekking. An average Indian with a budget for a trip like this will spend it on a luxurious leisure trip rather than suffer on treks like these. He worked for a premium tour company, probably best in the business, pricey but provides great service. The younger, fitter and adventurous Indians may not have to budget for hiring his team, they might go with a discount tour company with minimum frills. This was a very interesting topic for him since it directly related to his income. He talked about how well-to-do Indians visit any place with roads and hotels while completely ignoring the trek which is his bread and butter.
A porter carries 30-35Kg on his back.
Later he talked about other trekkers starting with his 12 year old daughter. He had taken her all the way to Goecha La which is the strenuous trek destination at 18,000ft. She had handled it pretty well, she has inherited her dad's traits I suppose. At 44 he was tough as they come, he told how he did 50Kms trek in a day because of an emergency. Then he mentioned about his last trek where he took a middle aged couple (husband 70, wife 55) through the same trek as us. They apparently handled it very well... can't say that made us feel better. Then he added that they were seasoned trekkers, thanks for small mercies. And later he was humble enough to mention that once he too was humiliated by an American woman in her 20s, she practically ran up all the way to Dzongri in a day, he and the porters had hell of a time keeping up with her.
Trekking in a deserted Himalayan forest is totally a different experience. Away from all distractions like people, work, TV, newspapers, Internet, SMS, etc., you have to learn to become one with nature to enjoy these long monotonous walks. Since both my wife and I spent considerable time in forests and farmhouses during our growing years, it wasn't hard to slip back and enjoy the solitude. Occasionally you keep meeting other trekkers coming back from their treks, we were feeling really envious of them, I mean they have done it and they are coming back. What an accomplishment, it sounded so wonderful to us. Once in a while we used to come across bunch of kids in their late teens or early twenties literally running down the trail. We used to get out of their way as soon as possible. Most of these kids were Indians (Nepali/Bengali) and were extremely fit and agile. The guide told us that these kids were from HMI (Himalayan Mountaineering Institute) of Darjeeling. This trek was part of the syllabus for HMI students. They go all the way to Goecha La and back. We definitely envied their energy. Another common sight was transportation yaks, these are actually yak cross-bred with cow to create a less aggressive animal. While most luggages are carried on back by human porters, many tour companies use yak-cows to transport the luggage. You can hear these yak-cows from a distance because of their neck-bells and for good reason. Since most of the trail is only 2 feet wide, you don't want to come face-to-face with a yak-cow since it will continue walking ignoring your presence. The moment you hear the bell, find a nook or corner to stand safely while letting the yak-cow pass by you. If you don't find a suitable place, then you have to start walking back until you find one. It is really amazing to see how these yak-cows can ascend/descend excess of 45 degree gradients with ease, surely they got it from their yak side of family.
See the width of the path as a yak comes at us.
Apart from underestimating the effort, we totally underestimated the terrain and the approach to this trek. When we heard we will climb 4000ft on the first day, I figured it was easy. What is 4000ft afterall, much less than 2 KMs. It took us half a day to realise we will be climbing many times more and climb down many times again. Our destination was many mountains across, that means we have to ascend and descend the mountains in between. It was like climb up 1000ft, climb down 800ft, climb up 1500ft, climb down 1200ft, climb up ...so on and so forth, the final tally will be 4000ft on the positive side. In addition, since we couldn't climb vertically, every trail zigzagged along the face of the mountain. Therefore the arial distance of 1Km took 5-6Kms to walk. You could often see a town from high in the mountain that would take a day to reach for even a seasoned trekker.
As the evening approached, our guide had a new problem to deal with. He realized that we were in no condition to reach the planned destination Tsoka. Therefore he had to change plans to arrange for alternative camping area. He sent new plans through a passing by porter to his staff at Tsoka. They were to come back to a place called Bakhim which is 2KMs before Tsoka. Bakhim has a government guest house and is located at 9000ft altitude. Even with a closer destination, we were getting very close to total exhaustion, at every turn, we see the next turn of the zigzag trail, and we were almost in tears. But the guide kept nudging us ahead saying how close the new destination is, how we can rest for the day, etc. It was almost 5.30PM when we reached Bakhim. Within 5 minutes we saw our porters lugging the luggage back from Tsoka. Truly, these guys could run circles around us in this terrain.
Our guide had excellent connections, and had managed to find couple of good rooms for us and his team. Once the luggage arrived, we were ushered into our room upstairs and were supplied with hot water for our tortured foot. Hot drinks and some snacks followed. It is around this time I heard a girl speaking in Kannada. I commented to my wife about the odds of hearing the native tongue 3000Kms away from home on a remote Himalayan mountain. But I spoke in haste, little later I could hear only Kannada conversations from every side. This won't usually happen in Bangalore too since most youngsters prefer to speak in English. My curiosity got the better of me and I booted up again to check it out. I found a huge gaggle of girls and boys led by some older folks (teachers), I spoke to them in Kannada to their surprise. They were all from Sri Kumaran's Highschool, Bangalore, basically from my neighborhood. In elite to less-elite schools of Bangalore, most students speak in English even though they are fluent in Kannada. I don't think this school is an exception, I have known many students from this school since my school days. Therefore, it was interesting to find all of them switch completely to Kannada when they were so far away from home. In a way it was nice standing at 9000ft, 3000Kms away from home talking to strangers in your home town language.
The dinner was a gourmet affair, full with appetizer, salad, main course and dessert. The food was not only tasty, the presentation was also excellent. Not to mention elaborate dinnerware, it reminded me of the formal dinners I attended in USA. Then I realised that our cook mostly caters to foreign clients, his presentation is fashioned after that. Although he did inform us that he was happy to present an Indian menu for a change, something even his team can enjoy.
A view from Bakhim guest house.
After dinner the guide told us to relax, sleep well, and get up late. Our next destination is only 2 Kms away and we will be resting the remaining day. But we were not sure whether we could move our legs next day, therefore we had to keep our options open. We decided to keep an open mind. We will try our best to reach Tsoka next day and rest there. The day after if we feel like it, we may even try going further. It was an overly optimistic thought at that time, but we decided we had to try if possible.
The government guest house at Bakhim was really pathetic and we too didn't want to spend one more day there. The building could house 50 people, but had only one toilet, and without any running water. When I enquired about flushing, they told it will be flushed once for all after everybody is done with it. A refreshing thought!
The night was really cold, and we were shivering pretty badly even while wearing our thicker jacket. There was no heater or electricity, some of the glass panels were broken, so there was no stopping the draft. Meanwhile, one of the porters dropped off two small bundles in our room; he said it was our bed (sleeping bag). I opened it quite skeptically since I was not convinced that such a thin looking sleeping bag would keep us warm during night… Holy Freaking Cow! It was a Down sleeping bag, the best possible choice. Later the guide told us that one customer donated it to the tour company after the trek. A generous gift indeed.
After such a tiring day, sumptuous dinner and in down sleeping bag, we knew we will sleep like babies. But we both didn’t get a wink of sleep. The kids in rooms all around us and below us kept yapping late into night, and we couldn’t catch a whiff of sleep. The sleeping bag was very warm and comfy, but sleep simply eluded us.
October 8th 2005
The morning tea arrived at 6AM, and they didn’t have to wake us up. Since we didn’t catch any sleep, I actually got up at first light, which happens very early here. I carefully stretched my body in various directions to identify sore/raw points. To my surprise, I didn’t find any sore points, I was perfectly fine. When told this to my wife, she too got up and did some stretches and she too was feeling fine. We completed the morning rituals with one less work, no flushing. The breakfast was again gourmet fare, oatmeal, porridge, omelets, bread toast and what not. When the guide came to our room, he almost didn’t ask the question he came to ask. When he did ask it, he already knew the answer. We were both ready and raring to go. It was an amazingly refreshing morning after the day of torturous trek and sleepless night. We left Bakhim at 7:40AM and the guide predicted we’ll reach in two hours knowing our pace and the vertical terrain. But we reached Tsoka at 9AM, 40 minutes ahead of schedule.
At Tsoka we checked into a private hotel with 5 rooms and this hotel actually had two toilets with running water outside. If this is not luxury, what is… after a night at Bakhim, we could really appreciate it. Some of the guests there used to call it a five star hotel. This is one government apathy I have seen everywhere in India. The government talks so much about promoting tourism, but they can’t provide clean toilets, let alone other facilities. I mean just provide clean toilets with running water at all tourist spots and that will go a long way. In Sikkim, almost all public toilets if at all they existed in the first place, were filthy and didn’t have running water. Only privately maintained toilets were clean.
The rest of the day passed slowly, we met other trekkers in our hotel. There was a Dutch couple in their mid-50s, the husband was a soccer coach. There was also a Singaporean girl who had joined them along the trek. They were resting on their return journey. They had faced severe rains during their way and had considerable trouble dealing with leeches all the way up and down. They also didn’t get a good view of Mt. Khangchendzonga because of clouds. We just hoped we will get lucky. Our itinerary had two mornings at Dzongri to deal with the possibility of cloudy day.
There was a lone German who was recuperating from a severe attack of altitude sickness. All his buddies were in Goecha La, but he had to return midway to Dzongri since he could barely stand. The guy was almost a foot taller than me and was very fit. He was very disappointed to be left behind, and even ashamed that he succumbed to altitude sickness. But then the Dutch guy told us about a band of British soldiers who recently tried reaching Goecha La in a day. One of the ultra super-fit soldiers got so sick he was still in a hospital in Delhi even after two weeks.
Altitude sickness or AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) can attack anybody, it doesn’t differentiate between fit and unfit physique. While you are here, take it slow, acclimatize to the height (which is what we were doing in Tsoka), take preventive medicines, and if AMS is detected, swallow your pride and turn back. The medicine is same as the one prescribed for heart attack, to make the blood thinner. However, our cook was putting us through a careful diet that prepared us to avoid AIMS. Even the boiled and cooled drinking water he supplied us was heavily laden with garlic.
The kids from Bangalore were all put up in another hotel about 100 meters from our hotel. It obviously didn’t have enough rooms. Therefore, they had pitched many tents all around the hotel. When I say hotel don’t take it in literal sense. These hotels are just wooden shacks smaller than most homes. But they seemed to be having the most fun, they had a cricket match going whole day, even when a cloud covered us up. I did some photography, but I had to be careful not to overdo it and drain my batteries, there was no way to re-charge until we return back to Yuksam. There was a wonderful rainbow (biggest we ever saw) that lasted one hour.
A glorious double rainbow.
Cricket in the clouds.
Otherwise I spent my time reading Sword and Scimitar by David Ball. And I could get Airtel signal for a while in the morning. When I called my mom, I could make out she was hugely relieved and almost blurted “Are you safe?”. I said “Yeah, it was very difficult, but we are holding up”. But she was talking about the major earthquake in Kashmir, I had no clue about it. They were worried sick after hearing the news in the morning. I was glad I made that call that day. Then I told her we are at least 2000Kms away from it and we didn’t even know. We found out more news about the earthquake only after reaching Gangtok 5 days later.
We did some wandering around the village, we checked out a monastery at the top village. I have noted that all monasteries here are located at the most scenic location of the town/village. Also, you can find a shrine at every mountain peak. It was interesting to find that this village lives entirely on trekking business. During winter this village is abandoned, fully submerged in snow, the village population moves to lower level villages. As we were passing by a restaurant, the lady of the restaurant beckoned us and asked whether we are from Bangalore. We were surprised how she knew, and then she said she heard so many speaking in Kannada, and so she figured we were all from Bangalore. I told we were not with that group although we too were from Bangalore, but I wanted to know how she (a Nepali woman in native dress) recognized Kannada. Then she says “I am from Mysore”. Whoa! She went on to explain that she grew up entirely in Mysore in the local Nepali community, but came to Sikkim after she got married to a guy in Yuksam. Now they run this restaurant in Tsoka. She had an 8 month old baby on her back. So my wife wanted to know where she gave birth. Now this is a real shocker, this lady from Mysore walked her way back from Tsoka to Yuksam while she was 8 months pregnant and traveled to Gangtok by jeep for the delivery. Having done that stretch on the previous day, we couldn’t even start to imagine how she did it. What are these people made of…
The guide told us to leave most of the luggage behind and take only what is needed for next two days. Therefore, we had to completely rearrange our bags so that we could take only one of the three bags. We had to do everything before nightfall since we didn’t want to repack under candle light. This is one of the times you realize what electricity has done to mankind. Before electricity, people did all important work before nightfall, and slept early. The light bulb gave us all few extra hours every day.
This night was colder than the previous day, but the down sleeping bag was able to handle it easily. But for the second night in a row, we didn’t get any sleep. It was like we were in a strange no-sleep land.
October 9th 2005
Cock-A-Doodle-Doo! We were kicked from our thoughts [not sleep] by a loud crowing. The time was 5AM and we intended to sleep or try until 6AM. Cock-A-Doodle-Doo! Again.. and again…The stupid cock kept repeating every 30 seconds like an alarm clock without a snooze button. After it went for 10 minutes, I finally got up and found the sucker right next our room window. I took a photo with my shaking hands (it was cold!) and threw something hard at the cock, the c(l)ock was finally silenced.
Tsoka village from the top.
The trek on this day consisted of traveling 10 KMs in rarified air where most AMS victims get their first attack. Also, the degree of difficulty is much higher in this stretch due to the higher rate of climb combined with lack oxygen and steeper trails. We started off around 7:30AM and soon we had our local high school kids keeping us company. This time we had really lightened the items in our backpacks, we decided to get wet rather than carry the heavy raincoat. Fortunately it never rained after the first day.
Soon I noticed that most of these kids were on their own. Their team had about 7-8 guides, but they couldn’t keep up with the 52 member group which was probably spread across 2-3 KMs. They even had a kid who was yet to count 7 years, I believe he was the child of one of teachers. I expressed concern to our guide about the possibility of some of kids losing their way in this jungle. I mean this is a dense jungle, denser than any southern forests. One slip or wrong path and you can vanish from the area of visibility. The guide said trails lead to the same destination, so that is not a concern. But slipping is a concern, so it is better to travel together. But he noticed many other mistakes those kids were making, like running to catch up with friends, wrong diet for high altitude, and some more I don’t recall anymore. He concluded that either the kids were not instructed about them by the guides or the kids just ignored them. Some of the guides were from not local, but from Bangalore. I asked one of them why they chose such a difficult trek for high school kids. He confessed they were not aware of the degree of difficulty, but the kids seemed to be handling it very well.
We had lunch at Pedang which around 12,000ft. While we were seated on the picnic carpet having lunch, we could see the kids passing us by and picking something from couple of baskets. Later we passed by the baskets and it had buns and apples. That was their lunch; our guide was spot on about the diet.
The climb started getting steeper, in this stretch we actually get to climb higher than the final destination. We thought we had climb little over 3000ft, but it was not true. We had to climb much higher and then come down to Dzongri. The trail was getting really rough, it was like walking on dry riverbed with full of rocks. We couldn’t just walk, we had to balance on rocks, jump from rock to rock, and heave ourselves up into big rocks very often. And then it got worse. Most of the trek until this point was within the thick forest, under the shade of tall trees. But at one point, the whole scenery changes, we start climbing a steep and bald hillock which has 70 degree elevation. The trail path is cut into the hillside in the usual zigzag pattern. The mountain was almost chalky and the other side was 1000+ ft deep cliff covered by thick clouds. It had an eerie feeling.
Climbing along the clouds.
We finally reached the top of that mountain; our guide told that is was the highest altitude in our trek. The place was called Diori Dali or something like that, not sure about the name or height. We were tired like hell by the time we reached there. But it was different from the first day. I think we were much aware of what to expect and we were much closer to the destination. I also believe our stamina level must have received a boost by the first day of walking. I remembered reading how Frank Hopkins, the legendary endurance horse rider used to build stamina of his horse during the first half of the race, the movie Hidalgo was based on him. Our endurance had much increased.
At the highest point.
A 17 year old porter with his load
|The following BHPian Thanks Samurai for this useful post:|
|27th November 2006, 10:42||#2|
After this point the vegetation was very different, the trees all looked like pigmies, like the Japanese bonsai trees. The colors were vivid, like fall colors. There was no dense jungle, no shade; it was bushy open country terrain. But the good news was that we were going downhill, the path got easier and smoother. The altitude was somewhat closer to 14,000ft, and we were walking slowly enjoying the trek. After Pedang the guide stuck close to us, talking to us, encouraging us and I could make out he was in a very happy mood unlike the first day.
Miniature vegetation around 13000ft.
Finally the destination was visible; he showed us a tiny green speck and told us it is our tent. That night my wife and I were to live in a small green tent on the top of a hill. We were finally there. There were two trekker’s huts there and our tent was next to the one on the top. But the toilets were next to the hut at the bottom of the hill. To our dismay we discovered that the walk to the toilet was a minor trek by itself, needing both sticks. It could get very tricky during night.
Do you see the bright green tent?
We still had couple of hours of daylight and I saw many Indian trekkers here I hadn’t met before. Then I noticed many of them taking snaps at nearby hill tops. After we rested for a while, we started feeling very cold, probably because we were not walking anymore. Now we were forced to wear our thickest jackets and I decided to join the photographers. The first bunch of photographers I met turned out to be from Bangalore, this had started getting really weird. Next guy was an Israeli and then couple of Chinese girls. Actually I spoke to one of the Chinese girls mistaking her for the Singaporean girl from Tsoka, thanks to the head-gear and oriental eyes. Once the confusion was cleared we had a big laugh. They too had met her on the way up. One thing I noticed all the way up is that all trekkers are quite friendly to each other, probably because there are very few people here and all are going through similar experience. Can’t say the same thing about guide/porters, I noticed some guides and porters who were quite rude to trekkers from other parties. Meanwhile our team was extremely nice and polite and well behaved, even to other trekkers.
A view from Dzongri camp.
That night while we were having lunch, guide had a special message for us from our porters. They were all very happy and impressed that we two misfits pulled it off and reached Dzongri. Apparently some of the porters were taking wagers on when we would give up. That night our porters were all singing old Hindi classics at the kitchen fire and I too joined them. One could see new respect in their eyes unlike the first day.
This was my first experience in a tent since my NCC camping days, and the first ever for my wife. It was a double layered tent to keep the weather out, and it could be completely zipped up like a bag from inside. It was not tall enough, we could at the most stand on the knees in the center. Otherwise you can only sit or sleep, and it was big enough to hold only two occupants. It was here we first started noticing the affect of rarified air. While we both were spared by AMS, we couldn’t escape the lack of energy precipitated by lack of oxygen. Every time we had to get in or get out, we had to remove or put on our thick jackets and shoes. That might sound easy, but it was not. Imagine having to rest for five minutes after putting on one shoe, and again after second shoe. Then again rest after putting on the jacket in the cramped tent, or few more minutes after crawling out of the tent. As the guide later explained us, one needs to breathe 4 times to get the same oxygen you get from one breath in lower altitudes. This cuts your stamina down by many times.
The next day we were supposed to leave at 4AM so that we can reach Dzongri top by 5AM. That means we had to get up by 3AM. So we hit the bed by 8PM, and as usual we didn’t get any sleep. This was really turning into mystery, we hadn’t slept for 3 days and yet we had somehow managed to remain sane.
October 10th 2005
We had just tea and biscuits at around 4AM and left on a quick trot. This time none of porters had to come. But the guide made one of the porters carry our backpacks so that we could climb with no weight on us. That was a great help since we were suited up with heavy jacket, gloves and head-covering for the first time in this trek. The sky was clear according to the guide, and we hoped it remained so. We really wanted to go back to Tsoka same day if possible.
We couldn’t use two walking sticks since we needed one hand for the torch. We could barely make out each other in the dark, the one foot wide path was invisible among the bushes. The trail was very steep in certain portions, and we started getting really exhausted in the rarified air situation. Our hands were getting frozen right through the thermal insulated gloves, I wished I had my winter gloves from NJ. Then I called the guide and asked him what kind of glove he used. He turned and my torch revealed that he was not wearing any gloves, same went for the porter. The porter was actually wearing Hawaii slippers. I was just stunned and kept walking.
We finally reached Dzongri top by around 5AM and we were the first that morning. As usual there was a tiny shrine on the top and our guide and porter held a silent prayer. For these guys the mountain is not only their source of income, but also their main deity. Actually we were too early since the guide added too much buffer to compensate for our speed. So we quietly looked around in the dark trying to make out various shapes. Then we noticed the camp where the high school kids were staying. It was almost 2 KMs of hilly walk from the trekker’s huts and toilets, but quite close to Dzongri top.
Our main goal today morning was to watch the rising sun hit Mt. Khangchendzonga and rest of the seven sister mountains namely Rathong, Kabru, Simvo, Pandim, Jopuno and Narsingh. Mt. Khangchendzonga among them is the tallest mountain in India and 3rd tallest in the world. The twilight began and I started clicking. The feeling was intense, the view spectacular, the golden tinge on Mt. Khangchendzonga was just mind-blowing. Only pathetic thing was my failure to capture this beauty in my photographs. These photographs are just the tip of a gigantic ice-berg. You want to see the real thing, you have trek your way to Dzongri top. May be that’s how it is, one has to earn this view by climbing all the way. The sense of accomplishment was so profound, I could see it in my wife’s eye, and I bet she saw the same in mine.
The golden sunrise on Mt. Khangchendzonga.
Rest of the sisters.
Meanwhile rest of the trekkers had joined us and the top was getting quite crowded. Then I noticed that most of the kids were under dressed for the cold. Many of the girls were wearing just a sweater over cotton salwar suit, and boys were no better dressed. Most of them just had sweater, and few had thin jackets. That might suffice for Bangalore winter, but at close to 14,000ft, at below freezing temperatures on a Himalayan peak, it was ridiculous and outright dangerous. They were shaking like a leaf, and my wife and I looked like Eskimos compared to them. Obviously these kids had received very little instruction/guidance regarding how to prepare for intense cold weather. Our guide had been right all along. We just hoped they get back safely without any lasting effects. In fact we found that many of the kids who were not comfortable finding a bush, had trekked all the way (2 KMs) to the toilet and back before climbing to Dzongri top. I was really impressed by the tenacity and sense of propriety of those kids.
We started back to the tent around 6:30AM, and it was a delightful walk considering the amazing views. It was like walking in the clouds. The fisheye turned out be useless since it got all fogged up all the time. Almost all photos from Tsoka and above on fisheye were fogged. That was a real disappointment. Besides, taking photos from a fisheye lens is very tricky and I hadn’t prepared for that.
Our guide, our shepard, Rajendra Pradhan. On our way back from Dzongri top.
We had the usual gourmet break-fast watching over a grand view. Then we told the guide our intention of returning on the same day back to Tsoka, he had no objections although he was surprised we didn’t want the rest day after all the walk on the previous day. Frankly we didn’t want to deal with long distance toilet, cramped tent, or rarified air. We had accomplished our goal, and we wanted to be back at our five star wooden shack at Tsoka. So we left around 9AM and were on our own. Since we knew our way this time, the guide let us go ahead, he knew he could catch up even after starting late, which he did.
Mt.Pandim was visible on our way back, with a melting cap.
Somewhere around 11AM we encountered a major problem. I saw my wife starting to limp, she had pulled a muscle in her leg and found it almost impossible to bend her knee. Initially we thought it was a cramp, but resting didn’t help. The pain was intense. All the walking from previous day and the walk from the morning had taken their toll. It was mostly the morning quick walk that precipitated the muscle pull. By this time the guide joined us. And he had a strange medicine to offer, a mixture of Vicks and Burnol ointment. Since he was the expert, we applied the vicks/burnol mixture to the affect area and around. My wife certainly felt better, and started walking again, but she still couldn’t bend her knee. As I mentioned before, this terrain was much steeper, and involved lots of climbing up and down. Doing it without bending the knee is not really an option. Therefore we took it slowly, there was no option of stopping since we were middle of nowhere. Meanwhile we came across a girl who was crying her heart out because of exhaustion and a teacher was trying to convince her to keep moving.
My wife negotiating the trail with an unbending knee.
We kept moving and the kids started passing us by again like the previous day. This time most of them noticed my wife limping and had some kind words for her. At one point we had the usual yak caravan coming our way. I found a ledge towards the cliff, and let the yaks pass by. However, one yak came closer to me and the load on its back nudged me hard towards the cliff. I went off-balance and did a 180 turn, but was able to restore my balance thanks to the sticks.
Today there was no lunch break since it was expected that we can reach Tsoka by lunch time. Our porters who had passed us long back had noticed my wife’s injury. When we didn’t show up at lunch time, one of them actually came back planning to carry my wife on his back on a big basket. Sometimes injured trekkers are carried down like that. But my wife refused to be carried like an invalid, and she finally managed to limp about 7Kms to Tsoka. We finally had our lunch at 3:30PM.
Our guide had done it again, although we were not expected back at Tsoka, he still managed to get a room for us at the same hotel. An Australian couple who were booked in the same hotel ended up staying in the tent outside the hotel. As we came to realize, the trek experience depends a lot on which tour company you hire. They were on their way up, and were already little out of breath. This couple had extensive trekking experience in the Australian flat lands, but the rarified air was already getting to them. The husband was friendly, but the wife remained aloof from us that day.
The next day was going to be our rest day, but the guide wanted to make sure my wife’s injury was fixed before the next trek. He prescribed a regular application of vicks/burnol mixture, she also took Flexon (pain-killer) 3 times day. She was determined to walk out of here on her own legs.
Starting today our diet was changed. The cook informed us that we can start eating normal stuff since our main trek is over, and we didn’t even we were on diet. We saw lots fatty stuff on the menu and we didn’t mind. We slept for the first time on this night. We had finally understood why we didn’t sleep all this time. We were not used to sleeping after being so sweaty and dirty, after sweating a liter or two every day, we couldn’t sleep with it. It took us four days before we could ignore the dirt and sweat and fall asleep.
October 11th 2005
Nothing much happened on this day; the porters/guides mostly played cards. My wife was nursing the injury whole day; and I finished the book I was reading. The Kumaran’s kids who kept us company throughout the trek had no rest day; they left for Yuksam in the morning.
The Australian couple went for a recon trek for 2 Kms to checkout the terrain. The Australian wife finally started talking to us probably because she realized what was ahead and that we had already done it, in fact my wife had done it with an injured leg. In fact we were giving out tips to them, to the seasoned veterans.
That night was celebration night, the last dinner served by the team. We both were felicitated with a traditional shawl by our support team, and there was sweet pizaa, cake cutting, photographs, etc. I tipped each and every member according to their rank.
Candle light dinner.
Cutting celebration cake while the guide provides light from his headlamp. Notice the felicitation shawl.
Our Team from Siniolchu Tour and Travel company.
We slept soundly again and my wife’s injury was almost cured.
October 12th 2005
We finally said bye to our five star hotel, and started walking towards the civilization that was 17Kms away. My wife’s leg felt fine and we decided to take it slowly. But there was an extra spring in our legs since we could actually take a shower today after 6 days of sweat and dirt.
The Mountain Lodge, our 5 star hotel.
By 11:30AM we were at the lunch shack and found our porters stunned. For the first time in 6 days they were not ready, they were still unpacking the groceries. These guys usually take steeper short cuts to reach before us and be ready with food. Few minutes later the cook shows up and he too was shocked to see us there. He apologized profusely and started the fires going and it was fun to sit and watch them cook with a weird smile on their face. The guide joined us later and the rest reported to him. He had a big laugh.
We told our farewell to most of the team since we wouldn’t be meeting them later. Then we started on the final leg of the trek. Although we were not very tired this time, I was getting a little impatient every time I had to climb. There was one point after a bridge where we need to climb some really steep hill. I was like “Hey, I am supposed to be going down, I should I climb…” At one point my wife stopped to take a drink. She rested one of the stick on her shoulder and it just slipped and vanished into the bushy cliff on the side. So I had to give up my second stick to her, she needed both the sticks due her delicate knee.
Is this a waterfall?
Nope, it is the trail.
Some more crazy trails.
After few hours of never ending trek we finally spotted a helipad and a jeep on a hilltop. We were finally back. We still had 3 KMs to go, but now on it was either downhill or flat track. We finally walked into the hotel along with our sticks and approached the reception. Even before I could open my mouth, the receptionist handed me the room keys and pointed me towards the room. I guess they know how tired the trekkers are when they come back. That was the fastest hotel check-in of my life. We got into the room and were all ready to hit the showers. But our luggage had not arrived. It took an hour for our luggage to arrive; at least it felt like an hour. Meanwhile we didn’t want to sit on the bed or any chair least we sully it. We had a fairly good idea how dirty we were, and when I looked into the mirror, I realized how sun-burned or tanned I had become. Aah! The feel of hot water on the trek-wary legs, it was heavenly, it felt so good, I never remember enjoying a hot shower so much. My wife kept banging on the bathroom door to get me out. The best was yet to come.
After getting freshen up, I mean really fresh and clean after all these days, we decided to celebrate with a drink or two. We went down to the restaurant and ordered the native beer with peanut malasa. They didn’t have the beer in-house, but they had it delivered it from outside.
Chang, the locally brewed millet beer. The wooden barrel contains fermented millet, pour hot water into to the barrel and wait for 5 minutes, sip through the wooden pipe. Once the beer runs out, pour more water and repeat the process. Good for 5 rounds. The Chang was heavenly; we both got light in the head and were feeling so good and deliriously happy. I don’t know whether it was the Chang or the sense of achievement that made us tipsy. We drank, laughed and talked for hours. There was another tourist group having snacks in the next table, couple of them ladies stared disapprovingly at our drink & laugh, but we didn’t care. We had just completed 56Kms Dzongri trek, and they were just a bunch of tourists. Hic!
By this time we had grown really attached to our bamboo sticks. We seriously considered carrying them back to Bangalore, but it was not a practical thing to do, especially via aircraft.
October 13th 2005
We started off to Gangtok, our trek guide and cook joined us for the ride. It was also Dusserah, a really big festival for Nepalis. On the way our driver, guide and cook got themselves huge vermilion patch/bindi on their foreheads. Practically everybody on the street had the same patch on their forehead. The drive was again a visual treat, few more water falls, lots of valleys; as usual a river is always flowing next to the road.
A typical Sikkimese hill town
We finally reached Gangtok after a 5 hour drive around noon, the whole city is built on mountain slopes. We check into the hotel and rest for the day watching television. For the first time we got to see reports of the earthquake. The hotel at Yuksam didn’t have TV or newspaper, therefore this was our first access to news media in 8 days.
October 14th 2005
We basically did the tourist round around Gangtok, Rumtek, etc. After the trek, all this touristy sightseeing felt lame, frankly we should have skipped Gangtok altogether from the itinerary. I mean it was nice, but not after Dzongri trek. We wanted to remember the natural Sikkim, not the city streets of Sikkim. That night we ordered Chang, it was bad, no where close to the stuff we got in Yuksam.
October 15th 2005
One more 5 hour drive to Airport, great visual treat, you can’t get tired of watching these roads. As we were waiting for security check, a giant of a man turns and talks to us. After couple of seconds I realized he was the AMS affected German from Tsoka. All his friends were as tall as him. I told him we finished our trek successfully, he was happy for us, but I could sense a glimmer of sadness. I could feel a strange kinship with him, it could have been us. With that thought we flew back home. After a few days close to Heaven.
Last edited by Samurai : 27th November 2006 at 17:06.
|27th November 2006, 11:28||#3|
Join Date: Mar 2006
Thanked: 377 Times
A picture can say a thousand words - what more can I say.
Thanks for sharing one of the most beautiful places on earth - that is one lovely (and difficult) trek - glad you both made it!
|27th November 2006, 14:01||#5|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: In my Office
Thanked: 15 Times
Great write up! I read it all in one go. And I loved the pics too! You folks were definitely close to heaven. I really admire you and your wife for the effort and sense of adventure. Rock on!
|27th November 2006, 15:37||#6|
After giving up my film SLR and swiching to digital in 2001, I hadn't really done any serious photography. Therefore after the debacle at Sikkim, I threw myself back into the world of real photography, studied John Shaw, bought a dSLR and few lenses, a manfrotto tripod and eventually CS2. I am in constant learning mode these days. In a year or two I may go back again just for the photography.
Last edited by Samurai : 27th November 2006 at 15:50.
|27th November 2006, 16:17||#7|
Join Date: Jan 2005
Thanked: 22 Times
Thats one really inspiring travelogues .. great pics and thanks for your time sharing your detailed experiences with us all.. It must have taken you quite some time to recollect your thoughts and pour it out in this article..
|27th November 2006, 16:28||#8|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Oct 2005
Thanked: 176 Times
Wow what a trip Samu!!!! That was certainly an exhaustive report to read too. Lovely trip, great pics & excellent determination on you two's part.
Had a wonderful time reading it but thought can I do it if I wanted to go on a trek? Then remembered that I've been going through virtually no physical exercise for the past two years so maybe it's not such a good idea!
|27th November 2006, 16:37||#9|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Mar 2005
Thanked: 2,666 Times
What a trip and a half!
I havent read the entire post, but the pictures tell the story themselves. Amazing!
|27th November 2006, 16:48||#10|
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Madison, WI
Thanked: 0 Times
Samurai-San, great write-up with such minute detail. I was virtually there to enjoy the trek, thanks to your photographs (however average they may be).
|27th November 2006, 18:05||#12|
Join Date: Mar 2006
Thanked: 377 Times
I finally got down to reading your very long travelogue.
Boy, you guys really did prepare for the trip. You should have given me a PM and I would have glad to meet you folks at Bagdogra and perhaps even arrange things locally from Siliguri! And, puffdamgcdragon , our fellow team-bhpian who is in the travel business, would have been a big help I am sure.
The 5 porters - well don't you think it was an overkill? Here we go by one porter for two people - you guys sure seemed to have trekked in luxury! he he.
The pictures are truly truly amazing.
|27th November 2006, 18:33||#14|
|27th November 2006, 18:44||#15|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Jul 2006
Thanked: 383 Times
Wow Samurai , now i know why you have chosen your nick name :-) An excellent travelogue .Hats off to you guys for love of adventure and the determination you exibited ..
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