Today was the day for us to embark on our mission. After the tea at 6 and breakfast at 7, SAN01 was ready to go. There was this typical YHI clap that elevated our spirits as everyone around looked upon us with pride. The 28 + 18 km distance to Dhotrey was to be covered by a Jeep. The route to Dhotrey was through thick pine forest and as we continued the view of Kanchanganga got much clearer. Dhotrey was supposed to be the last village in these mountains and there was very scares population beyond that point as the living conditions get really tough out there.
The thickness of the woods and the greenery was soothing and peaceful. Our driver was from Manebhajan, another village en route to Dhotrey, where we would have our short break. From Kadambari to Manebhajang it was 28 km by jeep, while from Manebhajang to Dhotre it was 18km. Packed lunch boxes were served at Manebhajan. There were few other groups like ours and it was interesting to see a group of Australian girls, probably in high school, who had travelled all the way from Australia to seek some adventure in Himalayas. Their spirits were appreciable.
Dhotre was waiting to welcome us and being the first group of the season probably we had much warmer welcome. The hot tea and delicious Momos was a treat as the villagers looked at us with appreciation. It’s a very tiny village but with lot of warmth and hospitality. Both of our guides were also from this village. After the introduction to the guides and final instructions related to discipline and safety we were waved off by the villagers for our journey into the unknown adventure and beauty. Having a full house of 54 people added lot of flavours and colours to our group and I knew that’s one factor which is going to make this trek more interesting.
The weather was fantastic as we left the village behind and got into the thickness of woods. This was supposed to be short trek to tumpling. Having started early in the morning we still had ample time. The plan was to reach early and take rest as it starts getting dark here, quite early in the afternoon. We had our first group picture taken right at one of the plateau as we took our first break. The tiny beautiful flowers, the never-ending range of mountains, the different terrains and extended horizons and the most prominent among all, the Kanchanganga peaks, it was a feeling of freedom and joy.
I am really speechless when somebody asks me why do you do trekking or rather more sarcastically why do you have to pick that load of rucksack, sleep in dormitory, fight with the weather and drag yourself to the peak in the extreme conditions, just to take few snaps and share few wows.. Well this is something that can’t be explained in words. You really need to feel it, embrace it and let yourself become one with nature and also to connect with yourself to know the joy it gives.
The group now was getting much more homogenous as everyone started exchanging their stories and that is one of the great things is to know people from all walks of life, from different corners of the world and understand their life and their view towards life. Beyond all those lighter moments and fun there was this deep fabric of togetherness and helping each other and enjoying the journey to the top and achieving something as a team.
We had walked now considerable distance and were at Tonglu to be greeted by a lonely village house. The family here served coffee on request and for many of us it was a treat in these mountains. The family survived in the toughest conditions, but they had all the beauty to surround them and that was uncomparable to any worldly pleasures. Good schools, vicinity to shopping center, better hospital, all this did not really matter to them, and the thought just kept ringing into my mind that all the hard work, pricy education, great career and lot of wealth, does not replace the peace of mind and serenity that these people here experience every day. Their daily plight for life keeps them strong and the hard work to earn bread keeps them down to earth. The cute dog in the back yard, few cattle and poultry, a cute house and a smile on their face are their huge assets.
After the inviting hospitality it was just few kilo-meters of beautiful mountainous terrain and we were at our first camp site of this trek. It was 3 pm and we still had ample time for ourselves. The owner of the lodge and his family had already gotten busy for our hot and savoury dinner. A huge rock in the front yard took our attention and well to our surprise it was actually the marking for India Nepal border. Our lodge was in Nepal on the other side of the rock and we were happy with the feeling of crossing the country on feet and it really made this an international trek for us. It was getting cold now and the Pune gang found a nice fire place in the dining room and got really cosy around it.
The wooden rooms, attached western style bathroom, wonderful view from the balcony, it was more than a five star facility at this height and for the price we paid. These are some of the things we can’t really buy, they need to be experienced, felt from inside and it was the same feeling at this moment. The hot soup at 5 was nourishing and as the dinner was getting ready we all gathered at dining hall for our campfire. It was off course the antakshari, which started with few popular number, but the fight got fierce with time. It was fight of the titans, Mumbai/Pune chi “Lavangi Mirchi” and “Punjab Ka Tadka”, well Bhangra Vs Lavni and it got into a terrific Jugalbandi.
The Egg curry, Escus Subjee, Potato-dal rice ,Nepali roti and Bournvita was the lavish dinner menu. The day one was awesome with sunny day and interesting fellow trekkers and great arrangements by YHI, one can’t ask for more. We had retired in our rooms to get up early and catch the sunrise.