It was tough to get a full night sleep at Sandakphu. Sleeping full night without a break is difficult in these places. Although you go to sleep quite early, the cold is so overpowering and penetrating, kind of omnipresent, that it does not let you get cozy or comfortable and the thick layers of blankets can’t make much difference.
But the morning greeted us with a mesmerizing sunrise. The beautiful Kanchanganga on the left and the Everest peaks behind. The typical foggy and mystical views of the mountains, the white snowy surroundings, it was an awesome experience. We really had tough time finding our way to the top, as there was considerable elevation and the early morning darkness made it even tougher.
We were those passionate few souls coming out of their comfort of beds and waiting in the snow at 5 am in the morning to get glimpses of Kanchanganga, in the shimmering rays of the morning Sun and see it as close as it can get. The Morning Sun’s reflection from the Himalayan range behind was terrific. I bet this trek, rather this batch, was blessed with best experiences and that got proved again today with clear weather, with clear views of the snowy peaks of the Himalayan mountain ranges.
Satisfied and happy with our luck as well as achievement now it was the enjoyable part of our trek, the downhill walk towards Gurdum , then to Rimbik and back to our base camp. The water was ice cold and nobody really felt like brushing teeth or washing hands after the hot breakfast. We were to reach Gurdum for lunch and so there was no packed lunch here. The Camp leader here was the most friendly and jolly good fellow.
It’s just last few days we all had met and we knew we would be heading to our own destinations, soon after we reach base camp. But that really did not matter at this point, we all were part of a mission and each doing his/her bit to make it successful and collecting memories for lifetime. The beauty, the hospitality had touched our minds and our hearts would linger in those memories for years to come.
The 14 km distance was covered in 5 hours’ time. This trail was most scenic with snow clad paths in the beginning followed by bamboo forest, thick jungle and lot of fun. Sun, now shining much brightly with drastic change in temperature from 0-5 degrees to 20-25 degrees. Everyone now was eager to get back to their T-shirts and shorts from jackets and sweaters.
The Kanchnaganga was smiling at us and telling us stories, he had witnessed over the years. The dramatic mountains, the thickly wooded green forests, tiny little houses at corners of the mountains, it was so peaceful and calm here. Nature played an important role here and it was still away from, so called modernization by the species called as mankind. The age old remains of burnt forests had created a very different kind of landscape here.
Gurdum was a cluster of few houses with a nice setup of hotel that we stayed in. The wooden cosy houses are peculiar to Sandakphu trek. Right from Tumbling till now, the stay was wonderful and memorable. The weather obviously is challenging and a full night sleep is rare at places like Kaalapokhari and Sandakphu unless you are immune to cold.
Meeting people from different parts of the country, understanding their views, culture, aspirations is always fun. I did not know Mukund from Nagpur, nor did I meet Nikita Tomar earlier. All of these new faces and names, be it Sudarshan, Nithin from Banglore, Mutthuswami and his LIC gang from Hyderabad, Vinod, Vidit, Gaurav, Lalitha from Mumbai, Sabyasachi from Colcatta, Chaitanya, Swaraj, Vivek, Manish and gang From Pune, Uday, Yogesh from Delhi, Akhilesh, Karthik and his IIT gang, Adar, Hareesh, Sumeet and Poorva were familiar faces and close friends in a very short time.
I won’t be able to list out all the names out here, but all of them were a great additions to my friends list. The two smiling faces, our guides who were always with us and it was great to learn few things from their lives as well.
The connection that gets formed in these eight days of stay together is interesting part of trekking. There are people coming in groups while few coming alone and effortlessly becoming part of any group. There are few students while few freeing themselves from family responsibilities and now wanting to live second phase of life at their will. It’s an experience that can’t be duplicated or replaced by any other thing and that’s what all this is about called as trekking.
The temperature was quite favourable and the atmosphere was quite pleasant. The “Aloo parathas and Aachar” served our taste buds. The accommodation was in line with benchmark this trek had set and the contented souls had nothing more than praise. The beautiful booming flowers and tomatoes raised with love, formed the part of their pristine life. Hospitality and helping nature was evident and contagious.