The challenging part in the morning was sharing single wash room between 10 of us, but thankfully that did not become so much of an issue as few of us had got up really early and finished all the morning rituals. Tea and Breakfast was ready at 6:30 and we had lined up for the acclimatization walk by 7.
The warm up exercises at the chowk were quite interesting and it was tough to carry out all of them for few of us, considering the age factor. But they were necessary to loosen up before the walk. By this time we had got used to the Darjeeling cold and it felt pleasant now.
The walk to the Japanese temple was a zip zap route with uphill and downhill portions quite close to what we would be exposed to during our trek to Sandakphu. This was just the trailer, as the slopes, distances and weather would get much challenging when we get into those mountains. The tall oak trees were omnipresent here and they really dwarfed everything around.
The Japanese temple is a quite old Buddha temple. The chanting of religious mantras, and the rhythmic sounds of the music gave a feeling of pure happiness and joy, a feeling of togetherness, a feeling of being one with God and realization of unlimited gift of potential within yourself. A day before I was wondering, whether I would be able to continue for this trek and now after seeing so many lovely people from all across India, I had got all my courage back. Isn’t that amazing?
The peace pagoda is a beautiful white structure with depictions of Buddha in various forms along with his messages. This place is quite secluded from rest of Darjeeling and it feels very peaceful out here. After the photography sessions, little bit of pranks and masti, we were ready to return. The leaders asked us to form the rows, gave few instructions and we were again on our return journey to the camp.
The day was reserved for any last minute shopping and we made sure, all this time is utilized for exploring the market. After the lunch, me, Mukund, Swaraj and Vinod were out for our shopping. The items on my list were Poncho for me and my sack, while Mukund wanted to buy woollen socks. I must have asked for Poncho at 10 different shops, but could not find it. Finally a lady in fancy market said she does have it, but it was quite professional Poncho @ Rs 850. I did not want to spend so much on a Poncho. I finally decided to go for a Poncho for my Sack as my rain cheater was good enough for me.
In the afternoon we packed the extra baggage to be deposited safely with the hostel before we leave tomorrow. After some rest we went out for our final round of shopping to the market. Vinod had some battery issue with his camera and had hard time finding the batteries. It was more of window shopping and exploring the shops than really buying anything for us. Compared to the population and size of Darjeeling, the market is quite huge and caters mainly to the tourists. This is one of the flourishing business in a place like this.
There was final briefing on facilities, discipline, emergency, route, weather and precautions, post dinner. There was this strange excitement in our minds. Tomorrow we depart for our five days journey in the mountains. Mountains, where not many people go, to see some of the untouched beauty, to accept the challenges of the weather and terrain and carve those fine grained memories for the lifetime.
It was a feeling of freedom, where what we trust is our own physical strength and will power, where the only help is the person walking beside you, whom who had never met before. No telephone network, on email, no tissues, no cheese burgers and mineral water bottles. It’s you and the nature, getting as intimate as you can with its beauty and learn a thing or two.
After the final packing and reminding each other to get up early we were in our beds to start for the journey to the peak that we had been watching from the base camp gallery for last two days and contemplating the trek.