We all humans, all we living beings are products of a process called evolution caused by mutations, simply put 'Changes'. They are inevitable to maintain the equilibrium in the nature blah blah blah... Please don't complicate your grey matter, it's just a travelogue right? Here I mean by change is nothing but in terrain. Yeah! A change from the south Indian thirsty green hills to the freezing high altitude Himalayan beasts where even your ass gets frozen!
If you are an adventure junkie who is looking to get started with your journey into the trekking world of Himalayas, I'd suggest Maenam, It would be a perfect choice for you. Maenam, 11,000 ft above sea level is 13 km up from Ravangla which can be visited by foot. It is know to be a traditional meditation place for monks and also a vantage place for spectacular view of the 3rd highest peak in the world, Mt. Kanchenjunga. The peak is surrounded by family of peaks namely Pandim, Simvo, Kabru Group, Kokthang, Rathong, Kumbhkarna so on. The entire trek passes through dense forests and huge canopies of oak, hemlock and sub-alpine rhododendrons occupying the majority of the trail and running parallel to the length of the trail. The amazing diversity in the entire flora of the region is a sight to behold. And also The Maenam Wildlife Sanctuary is a natural habitat of the Red Panda, Himalayan Black Bear, leopard cat and black pheasant cat. As some say paradise is not that far away.
Maenam trek was the most awaited event of my Sikkim expedition. Our mind was wrapped around an idea to start the trek early in the morning. But the severe cold in Rabong reminded us of the high altitude effects and had to abandoned the plan. Despite even thinking about touching the water was difficult but somehow we managed to refresh ourselves. We got out of the hotel and rushed into a tea shop to get warm our body a little bit. At the same time Diken, our guide was waiting for us in the hotel. We met him and the first advise from him was to have a heavy breakfast. But so as to adjust to our budget we had to replace the heavy breakfast with biscuits which later we felt it was a worst idea for the day!
The trek begins from the forest checkpost of Maenam wildlife sanctuary, next to the Ralang monastery.
The Ralang Monastery is one of the major attractions of this region. This monastery houses a huge statue of Gautama Buddha in the center with the entire range of Kanchenjunga in the backdrop. An out of the world sight to be seen and felt!
The sun was not on our side. It was a cloudy atmosphere when we left the forest office. We started moving into the wild at around 8'o clock.The trekking trail is a mix up of downhills in the beginning which becomes much steeper uphill when we approached to the top of the peak. There are two resting points on the way to the top. The climb gets difficult from the second rest point. The trail gets a lot more abrupt with 60 degree steep with gradual increase in the altitude.
Maenam Trek - Extreme weather, no leavesAs soon as we passed the second rest spot, the altitude differences were starting to take an effect on me which I couldn't notice myself. Diken called me and showed me the goosebumps on my hands and the runny nose which even I didn't even realize for a while! He made us to sit for a while and started explaining about the acclimatization processes we should take care during higher expeditions. For all of us runny nose was irritating. But felt happy that runny nose during the climb shows how healthy a person is. After a while of conversations we started moving up again. It would have taken another hour to get over with the forest area. We reached where the sky was visible above our head with no sign of the sun, still! It was cloudy and the pin-drop silence was giving the climate a chilling experience. There was no wind in the forest, which would have been much more difficult for the ascent.
We met a crew who were returning from the peak after camping the previous night. They greeted us by telling that it's much more colder on the peak and they left us by warning they saw the footprints of a bear on the way! In awe and frightened by that, we three sat together. By thinking the possibility of us three v/s the bear, we had to decide whether to proceed further or not. After a long talk, we agreed to face the challenge that put forth by mother nature and started up further.
Maenam Trek - A view of the trekThe remaining climb was not that steep. But the altitude difference and the reduction in temperature made it much more worse. We were able to see the ground slowly gobble up by the snow. There was a spot where the snow even covered our feet. I felt my mind was getting narrowed. I was not able to think of anything else other than pushing forward. Suddenly I noticed the camera in my hand. I tried to record a video of the mates, but I was not even able to turn on the camera. My fingers were numb. Despite that, I was not even able to close the zip of my camera bag but somehow I managed to keep it back inside. As in a manner to escape from these effects I tried to make an abrupt conversation with other two, which struck me that I was caught up by the altitude change very badly. When I opened my mouth I could feel my teeth shivering due to which whatever I was trying to convey to them was a complete gibberish. The fear of meeting a bear in such a situation quickened us to reach our destination.
It was 11'o clock when we arrived at Maenam peak. The temple up above the peak had no regulations of who devotes to the god, usually the natives do it. It's not strictly maintained, so climbers can even use it as a rest room.
Maenam Trek - A peek into the peakOur hands were numb. We were able to feel only the cold breeze passing in the air. While we were not even thinking about a movement, Diken, our guide, who was not even wearing a pair of gloves throughout the journey set up a small campfire. We couldn't figure it out whether his climbing experience or the inborn skills of a northeast resident who came to our rescue at that moment. It helped us a lot to regain some strength and energy. Luckily for us, we found some food left over by the team who descended that morning. And also Diken found out some potatoes, which he fried and gave us. After a long time, I thought of taking out my camera and clicked some shots! The weather was getting foggy with a slight drizzle. As long as the weather was not clear we decided to abandon the Valendunga trek. It is a 5 km trek from the Maenam peak which gives the best views of Kanchenjunga.
We chose a different path for descending. The one opposite to the temple. It was a little trickier than the previous one. Even this part of the mountain was covered with snow. This time it was descending through the snow. We fell almost every time. Most of the time we had to slide down on the snow. By the blessing of Maenam hills, we were able to feel the slight snow fall just before leaving into the forest part.On the way back, Diken was explaining about the majestic views of Kanchenjunga if the weather was clear. Then I remembered , "To gain something, we should miss something. Be patient, that is her secret!"