As a part of the mountaineering training that I underwent in Darjeeling, we were shifted to North of Sikkim to train in the Sikkim Himalayas. We took buses from Darjeeling to a place in North Sikkim called Yuksam (this is where we would trek up to base camp from). As weird as it was, all the height that we had landed on when we came to Darjeeling was lost to Sikkim as we descended to almost sea level. Which was ridiculous, and irritating, and hot. So hot. We were very comfortable in the Darjeeling cool, breezy weather that was stolen from us in the Sikkim heat. We literally rolled up our pants and sleeves as we got down in Jorethang for our lunch. We went to this restaurant called Big Belly and ordered a mismatched lunch of parathas, momos and thukpa. When we were returning, we went to the same place again. From Jorethang, we stayed at a little village called Yuksam, where our buses abandoned us with only our feet as the only means of transportation. For five days we trekked up to the base camp. For seven days we trained at the glacier. Two days to come back to Yuksam. And in all that time, we were in North Sikkim, experiencing different parts of it and almost at the border of Nepal. Often we had the guts to look up from our trekking path and watch the surroundings, and we couldn’t stop being astounded every time. The scenery was pristine, the mountains majestic and the snow impeccable!
North Sikkim? Definitely something you should visit…
I basically had nothing to all of my 3 month long summer vacations, and my parents were worried I would be freezing my ass. In front of my laptop. In my AC room. Watching Dr Who. So I applied for the Basic Mountaineering Course of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling. By a huge turn of luck or an enormous hand of fluke, my application got accepted. I got my acceptance letter on the 1st of April, for a course that began on 7th of April. And I had to report on the 6th of April. Well, there wasn’t much to think about was there? I booked a flight the very same day, shopped on 2nd and 3rd, celebrated my 18th birthday on the 4th, packed on the 5th and flew on the 6th. The flight went through Kolkata, on to Bagdogra; after which I took a taxi to Darjeeling (which is where my institute was… HMI, Darjeeling, see?).
I won’t bore you with the details of the month long training program I underwent. I won’t bore you with the details of how I froze my ass at the base camp, how I froze my ass sliding in snow, how I froze my ass crashing through ice glaciers, how I froze my ass peeing in minus degree temperature. But I pretty much saw all of Darjeeling. I walked through Darjeeling for two outing days that the institute allowed us, and two days after graduating from the institute. It’s a small place, Darjeeling. It takes a day to see it, another day to learn it by heart. In four days, we knew every street, every shop, every foreigner face that roamed the street. We knew the high end shops, the cheap shops. We knew where food was, where clothes were and where beds were. And we knew where booze was. We knew the prices of every piece of cloth, the cost of every food item, where we could bargain, and how much we could bring down the prices too. Which hotel cooked good food, and how much time they took to make every order. We helped everyone buy stuff for their family, whether it was a lady, or child, or man, or some long lost cousin. And one thing that we didn’t buy was tea. We just went shop to shop and tried them all. And we didn’t buy any of the famous Darjeeling tea before we flew back to Mumbai.
People usually visit Matheran on long weekends during the monsoon or winters. And I didn’t quite do any of that, as usual. I went in hot summers, just for a day. As it often happens in trips like these, everything went wrong. First, everyone was tremendously late. Which is quite alright if you are tuned to the Indian Standard Time. Second, we boarded the wrong train! Reason for this foolishness- the person who was supposed to know which train we should be boarding told us to climb the wrong train. Apparently, he was in the illusion that the wrong train was the right train, and so we had to wait for over an hour at some random station, return to where we began, and take a new train. We wasted over 4 hours in this nonsense. Then we took a car up to Matheran, walked through a deserted hill station that was out of business in this heat, and sat somewhere to eat Biryani. Biryani which had long overshot our budget, and wasn’t digested by our tummies due to that very reason. Then we walked around some more, singing the song Pompeii by Bastille (I had the very feeling that they portray in the song), then just took random pictures in the camera to immortalize the amazing journey we had survived together. Then we decided to take the toy train back to civilization. Except the toy train that we thought would take an hour to reach down took around 3 hours. The time we reached Neral station was the time we were supposed to reach home, and the girls started panicking. Most of us had lied at home about where we were going. We were supposed to reach home by 7, and there we were at the toy train station. We rushed to the non-toy train station and caught the earliest train possible. We jumped into the train, and made all kinds of plans to con our parents, in case any of them asked where we had been. Plans, plan Bs, back up plans, all ready, we left for home. And our parents didn’t even care.
The conversations of this trip stayed in our whatsapp group, the photos shared and then saved somewhere in the corner of the phone’s gallery. And then we just stopped the mention of this trip, a bad memory.
At least the next time I go there, I will know the mistakes that I don’t have to repeat.