A week of vacation in the middle of the semester. What more could you ask to organize a trip a little more important than a simple weekend trip? The initial idea was to go to Sikkim, a mountainous region in northeastern India for the trek. We finally decided for the Singalila Ridge Trek from Sandakphu to Phalut from Darjeeling, to reach the highest peak of the surroundings (3600m).
So we decided to go to Darjeeling, at the gateway to Sikkim. It was the perfect opportunity to take a breath of fresh air and to have a little contact with the Himalayas.
We took the train to get to our destination. However, this time, the distance was really very important. So the trip lasted 12 hours! If it can be a little scary at first, the time finally passed very quickly, thanks to the people we met, with whom we play card games and chess. Add to this we read a bit, and at night it was quite chaotic and we do not sleep very well. We stay in bed a long time, to doze and here we are almost at our destination.
After coming out of the Howrah station we take a taxi to the heart of the city. We stroll in the streets of Calcutta impregnated with the crowd, the smells, and the horns. In the former capital of India at the time of the British, it seems that time has stopped. The frantic speed on the road contrasts with the slowness!
The visit to the Victoria Memorial and its park gives us a bit of calmness during the day. We are a bit hungry. So near the New Market, we eat a plate of mutton biryani. In the evening we go to the Sealdah station to take the night train to Darjeeling.
Day 1 - Darjeeling
The night journey goes well. We arrive the next day, not very fresh, in Siliguri where we take a taxi to reach Darjeeling. After 5 hours of the journey through the narrow hill roads along edges of the precipices, we arrive in Darjeeling. Fortunately, the view and the surroundings with the tea plantations allow us to enjoy the fresh air!
We go towards an agency in the Mall road to organize the trek. We opted for a five-day Sandakphu trek, to make the most of the mountain and the landscapes. The trek is through a national park that passes through Nepal.
Around late afternoon, we run through the steep streets of this colorful, bling-bling city for local tourists. We have to find a place to sleep that is not a luxury hotel at a staggering price, all before the night. Still, we end up finding, at the corner of an unlikely lane a small wooden guesthouse. Let's go. I sweat although it's cold.
The night has almost fallen. We have already asked the prices in a dozen places before we climb the floors of this one built on the flanks of the hill. An old lady welcomes us. There is a wary and benevolent smile at the same time. She takes us to a surreal bedroom with low ceilings, large windows, and a large bed surrounded by small statuettes of Buddha.
We do not care about the price, even if the lady tells us something that is finally in our budget, and we put our bags. We are at home. After a dinner of delicately scented rice with spices and a little dal, we soon fall asleep in our little nest of love.
Day 2 - Singalila National Park
We wake up in the morning to a pleasant view of the Kanchenjunga. We have a typical Western breakfast with toasts of big country bread, and a potato pancake drizzled with ketchup. I was about to finish my pancake when two girls come inside the restaurant, and rush to us. One of them ask us, you are going to Manebhanjan, right? It may be easier to get a jeep if there are more members.
She's right. Her charm takes over our body and prevents us from saying anything other than a "Yeah, perfect" with a little daze. It is almost obligatory to be dazed before such a perfect sequence of events. We are like cocks in legs as we focus a lot on the legs too, to prepare for the trek. We have all the information we need on the Singalila Ridge Trek.
So in the morning, we drop some of our stuff in the lounge. And so we set off towards the center of Darjeeling from where shared jeeps leave for Maneybhanjang, the starting city of the famous trek. After an hour of the journey through the hill roads, we pass through the border between Nepal and India.
On the way, we also pick up our guide. I like this kind of gift from the universe. I am with two girls who look cool and with a guide, what's better? Independent travelers at the base, the girls tell us that they like to travel solo. We do not have to worry, as we will not be on top of each other. We land on a small eatery in front of a house around 12:30 that serves tea and momo. I swallow a few quick and our jeep starts.
We go to the ticket office of Singalila National Park to buy the right to walk for days in the heart of a pool of rhododendrons and magnolias, century-old trees with colorful birds and wild red pandas. Now begins a gigantic lane of the concrete road. We are not happy to move on this kind of soil when the nature is so beautiful around. Four hours after our departure, we see a good half-dozen different landscapes.
We feel the chill as we climb higher. I already feel that this experience will be more complicated than I thought. I did not think much. I just decided to go. Arriving at the first village named Tumling, I feel tired. These are the beginnings of a great learning, but for now, part of me feels guilty about not being better. The sun goes down and the colors in Tumling, 3000m above sea level, is incredible.
From the pearly pink floating on a blue horizon, the silhouettes of the mountains stand out like a surrealist decor. The wind blows and at our feet, the valley is filled with rhododendrons in bloom, like explosions of bright red, and fuchsia pink. White points of magnolia highlight this hallucinating painting. This kind of show makes us forget the suffering of the climb, and to give them meaning. Be that as it may, an appeasement seizes me.
The guide tries to show us rooms in a lodge for the rich, but we flew away to look for a decent place. I always end up loving the places a little small because I know that it is in these that the real things happen. We end up finding a small dormitory. The bed is spacious and we are the only ones in the dormitory. I discover for the first time the joy of removing wet sweaty clothes from the day of the trek to change into layers of warm clothes. Removing the hiking shoes, especially are on the first trek is an indescribable sensation.
Around the table, while waiting for the food, none of us really speak. Fatigue takes us by surprise. It is 6:30 pm and if I was not so hungry, I would have gone to bed directly. The conversations go beyond the skills of my exhausted brain, and I let the words go over my head. I focus on my feet, which I massage. And then finally! The food is served to us. The blessing has never been so brief and intense.
The rice is served with a huge spoon and small potatoes fried in oil and coated with spices come to complement the whole. The yellow dal sprinkles the whole thing and spoons of pickles made of vegetables and mustard seeds fermented in vinegar come to decorate this dish already worthy of maharajas. The first bites fill me with flavors and a joy without a name. And as my stomach fills up, my brain goes out more and more.
After a big thank you to the cooks, and to our guide, we agree to put the alarm clock at 5 o'clock to admire the view. Soon we go up to collapse in our beds. With the cold, it's a miracle that I came out of the room to go and see the night sky full of stars and the milky way. It is 8:20 pm the last time someone mentions the time, and sleep wins us.
Day 3 - Tumling