As we gathered up after a quick breakfast, we introduced ourselves to pair of couples, Stanley and Mirca, couple from Czech Republic in their late fifty’s. Stan, six foot three and well built who was an software engineer from the FORTRAN era, speaks eloquent English with strong Czech accent. Mirca, a warm, soft spoken lady, a runner who completed a 50k marathon few months before we met. Stanley and Mirca run a cycling sport company back home. Hubert and Julia, from Germany, were full time backpackers. Hubert, when I inquired number of countries he has traveled, he thought for a second and said he doesn’t have any count. Attributed with natural elegance, Julia is second time in India for the year.
We headed towards the mountains crossing the village, as our climbing began and through the edges of the mountains, beautiful Rathong Chu was in the vicinity down the valley. A person, from behind me told “slow, slow, conserve energy” and after exchanging few words with him he walked past. Nima, come as a liaison officer representing Sikkim govt for a team going for an expedition. We reached Tshoka at round 6pm after 18 kms of trek that day. I had excruciating pain in my left knee due to over use of my left leg while climbing.
Next morning, we started towards Dzongiri. After few an hour of walking, I again stumbled Nima, whom I met a day back. We had a long conversation ranging from personal life, education, internet, climbing, high altitude sickness and many more.. Nima is a climber, mountaineer for past fourteen years and has climbed many summits. In the era where social media deserves status updates for our trivial actions and slacktivism , He is an accomplished climber, liaison officer, has been an sarpanch, also runs a small school. Nima, who decided to earn my utmost respect told “I am climbing Mt. Everest coming march”, that’s scheduled next month. This man’s simplicity and how he made things look simple made an impact on me. Our conversation lasted till we reached Pethang, which looked like I have walked into Europe.
We spoke to each person who were descending, and same was the case when we were down hill. Later in the afternoon we reached Dzongiri, which looked like a barren land, by early evening the weather changed, it was bliss to see snow fall for those of us not seen before. It’s said it is a good thing for the sky to clear. We barely slept that night. I came out that night at 2 am to see the snow blanket, the sky has cleared, it was a phantasmal beauty, stars looked closer than ever before I have seen. At around 3.30 am, we left up for the Dzongiri view point from where we can see kanchendzonga along with other smaller peaks. We walked across the ridge the gusty winds blew as powerful to push one down to ground, we had to sit or hold hands when winds blew. As the orange light hit peaks of the colossal rocks, pain, struggle to come up till here and perceived sadness of my life were nowhere seen. After spending some time at the top watching the sunrise and clicking few pictures we got back down to our huts.
At around 9 am, leaving back one of our team member we proceeded to Lake Laxmi, glass like tranquil water, calmness beyond silence. Prayer coins are found at the floor of the lake. At Dzongiri, as snow fall started remaining day was spent at Dzongiri chatting with our team members. Next day we came back to Tshoka, that night bringing the trip to a beautiful end, we sang songs together along with guide Nima Sherpa, yak person Gyalpo Bhutia, cook and the help whom we lovingly called ‘chotu’. Hubert, to my surprise asked us to sing Kishore kumar’s ‘chalte chalte’ which he said is one of his favorite.
Next day, at around 10 in the morning we started to Yuksom. With huge baggage of memories and experience we paced downwards. While the trip gave me time for self introspection, better understanding of my friends, these giant white mountains were unapologetic, disarmed my ego and belittled life.