Travelogue: Of Winds, Chills and Thrills - Sandakphu and Darjeeling

10th Dec 2021
Photo of Travelogue: Of Winds, Chills and Thrills - Sandakphu and Darjeeling by Vikram Mn

By the time I finished KGL I had already decided what my next trek is going to be. There were some questions raising in me and as well as due to the surroundings before the KGL trek, about how am I gonna go about Sandakphu but I got all things sorted out quite soon. The trek group this time was varied. Andal and Raja were supposed to come but Andal had other plans and unfortunately Raja couldn't make it due his close friends' marriage. (He finished it the next week with another friend of his, so I'm happy at least he didn't miss it altogether). So, it was me plus three newcomers. Needless to say, I was dazed and confused.

Even before the KGL trek I had hinted to my college friend Sindhu about a possible trek in August but didn't call her before the trek. As soon as Andal and Raja confirmed I thought of not making the group bigger because even I was not sure of my own fitness especially after Corona. And, the situation outside was meek, I didn't want to spoil anyone's first experience, in case if trek/flights gets cancelled. So, kept us just between three.

This time it was all too simple. One regular template message about the trek and Sindhu said, 'yes'. It was all too easy and too hard to believe. So, I kept on confirming with her two to three times before booking. And I asked her not to make a family trip and she was okay with that too. She was ready to travel solo. That got me scared. I kept on asking whether her husband would be okay, whether her family would be okay, would there not be any rift with anyone etc. Going by the word of mouth, I understood that she's a little, teeny weeny bit tube light, so I had to make sure that it's all good from her part.

Then came another surprise. She inducted two more people in the trek and guess what, they're couples. After a bad experience in one of the previous treks and even if otherwise, I was not so welcome about the move. But here I was more pissed because of her naivety. I was worried what would her husband think when he's not going but one of her friends, a couple, are going. She said, it'd be okay. I was again left dazed and confused. I'll explain this further when we talk about the trek. That became the gang for the trek.

We were supposed to go by train and return by flight and her friends were not keen on train journey, so she too skipped it and took flight. There were varied reasons for it, but it didn't matter because it was decided. I was not comfortable about the plans changing every now and then. Anyways I took the train, solo.

Day -1 - Vada Chennai

It was the first time that I was going to Perambur Railway Station to board the train. I saw that many north bound or especially east bound trains had been shifted to Perambur Railway Station nowadays. I was excited as well as nervous about it. My family had already gone to their hometown a week prior, so I had to manage all my stuffs here alone. I was happy that I could plan stuff in a way I wanted but pissed of the responsibility of locking the house, taking care of electricity etc. I also had interviews, taking interviews etc. Worse, I had to think of what to eat because I just couldn't nosedive into stuff I wanted to have. I had to be trek fit, so I had to be cautious on that aspect as well. So I indulged carefully.

On the day of the start, it was even more nervous as I had to make sure rooms are locked properly, TV has been plugged off and most importantly go to bus stand on my own in hot sun. Luckily I got Ola Auto for Rs. 50 to the bus stand. I started sharp at 1 PM so that it would give me time to have lunch and board the train at 3.40 PM. I reached Thiruvanmiyur Bus Stand at 1.15 PM but to my horror there was not a single 29C to Perambur. Talk about Murphy's Law. I've never seen the bus stand not have a 29C anytime before. I waited close to half an hour and kept my bag in an empty 29C which just came in but at the same time another bus from the depot came out and I hurriedly had to run in with my hefty luggage. Thankfully I got seat as the bus was not crowded.

The journey to Perambur Railway Station took forever. So much so that I got restless and thought of computing what I'll do if I miss the train. I got a call from my manager about a complaint from my teammate for leaving early, a familiar story in my previous organization, but I didn't expect it in this company. Anyways I was not deterred even though pissed. After an arduous one and a half hour journey, I reached the bus stop. As I had already inquired about the restaurants. I jumped into Srinivasa Restaurant immediately and ordered meals. It didn't take even ten minutes for me to finish the lunch, which was surprisingly tasty than I expected. Also, it had an enticing sweet shop from which I bought Sweet Seedai. I wanted something which would last the time in the train as well as be a good time pass. Sweet Seedai indeed was tasty.

Around 3.30 PM I reached the station. With just ten minutes around, I settled in the station for the train. BNC AGTL SPL (02983) came on time. I had to walk a long distance to get into my coach. Thankfully my place was empty, and I quickly settled. Called my teammate about the call I received and my family too. Only post that I started relaxing. I knew then that I was in my forte and nothing could go wrong post that.

I tasted the Sweet Seedai which was excellent. It started drizzling as soon as the train went past the railway station. When you're in good mood everything is romantic. Shabby coaches, smelly restrooms, yucky rain water flowing inside the windows, everything. I dozed off immediately and woke up only after an hour. That's when I felt truly relaxed. It was a hectic day right from the morning where I had to wash clothes, pack, get ready etc. Now I felt relieved.

My coach mates were nice, especially the guy opposite to me. Generally, only in Sleeper Class you get to meet all kinds of people, get to know their experience, know about the outside world. How much our world and their world differ. After a little bit of conversation about everything I got to know that he was from Sikkim, near Darjeeling border and the others were from West Bengal, near Jalpaiguri. When I thought I'll start reading ' Pirivom Santhipom ' I realized that the light in my coupe was not working so I had to shift towards the aisle to read. The book was irritating from the word go but luckily the coupe wasn't much crowded so I could get space and position for reading. For dinner, I got Chapati for Rs. 60 and slept off.

Day 0 - Tuk tuk meditation

It was a monotonous or in my words a peaceful whole day in train, just the sound of railings, wind blowing to the face and tuk tuk shake of the train. With a page turner in hand and the last trek of the year to go to, it can't get any better. We had varied conversations about all sort of stuff the whole day. I had a not so hot but amazing Bread Omelet for Rs. 20 in the morning. Idly Vada for Rs. 30 for lunch. As I had headache post afternoon nap, I was compelled to have a not so bad Chai for Rs. 10. Because of the slight headache I didn't read in the evening. I didn't want to spoil my health, reading in the bad light. I read about two third of the novel, thinking that I'd complete the remaining part either during trek or during return journey. For night I had a horrible poori for Rs. 20.

It was a surprise that in such a long journey there was no pantry car. I wouldn't have bought anything from the pantry car, that's a different issue but wonder how IRCTC was operating without pantry. Also, like typical East bound trains, the restrooms were shabby and were never cleaned even once. Water too wasn't flowing in most of the taps. That was another reason for me to not eat anything heavy. I thought it was better the ladies took the flight because they couldn't have done with these restrooms. Generally, the Dehradun train that I take has clean restrooms, but this was bad, just like the train I took to Bhubaneswar once.

The other folks wanted to sleep by 7 PM but as I insisted on sleeping at least a bit late, so we slept around 8 PM. The train was running a good three hours late, so I knew we were definitely not going to reach on time at 4.30 AM. The night got colder, and I could sleep properly only because of the blanket. I saw many struggling to sleep because of the cold and wrong attire. Earlier, the Sikkim Guy had told that Darjeeling cold is something else, it gets on the nerves. I was both scared and thrilled.

Day 1 - Reporting Day

Even though I was happy that the train was running late, it started to get a touch too close for me to catch the Toy Train. The train finally reached New Jalpaiguri Station at 9.30 AM. A good five hours late. I wasn't really worried about the train running late, it was indeed a thrilling experience. To my surprise, the station was quite big, and I had to do a bit of searching to go the Meter Gauge junction. When I went there, someone notified me that the train had been stopped from New Jalpaiguri Station and would rather start from Kurseong. To be honest I was happy of the change because, in the YHAI website it was mentioned that we had to report it before 3 PM. And I got info that trains generally run late.

So, after a bit of search and close to 10 AM I boarded the IRCTC arranged School Bus to Kurseong. It took a while to start, so I had Momo at the railway station for breakfast, which was brilliant. I didn't really feel sleepy in the bus, I got a good seat, and we had a break for Chai in the middle. The momo was tempting again but I didn't want to overdo it. I loved the sight of winding roads and fishes being cut everywhere. Guess it was more happening because it was a Sunday. Due to a year of buying fishes, I could recognize what's what just by the sight of it.

Even though we started late from Jalpaiguri, we reached Kurseong in about three hours. Everyone was so excited about the Toy Train and were taking 'n' number of pics. I too wasn't different. My coach was tugged in the reverse, so it was different to sit in the train with roads going afar from me. I thought I'd hate it but I kind of loved it. I restarted reading the novel. To have a book in the hand and be part of a slow-moving heritage train and look at the winding roads, curious people, and heavenly peaks, it truly felt godly. I felt like Bharathi singing, " Nirpathuve Nadapathuve Parapathuve ".

I reached Darjeeling at 5 PM and thanks to Sindhu's info, spotted the Base Camp even before getting down from the train. It was a nice feeling when the touts were not troubling me for rooms and taxis. They probably knew that I was a man with a plan. I reached the Youth Hostel Base Camp. There was a Tamil guy at reception. I immediately submitted the documents and got the Admit Card. Thankfully there was no question about arriving late. The atmosphere looked pretty chilled.

I got a good large three bed room for the night. There was already someone sleeping in the room. There was also a Mallu guy who was in the room, who was part of next day's trek. I switched on the geyser, without knowing that it's centrally operated but got enough warm water to bathe. Couldn't wash my hair though. I got down for Chai and Aloo Bonda which felt heavenly after train food for past couple of days. By the time I was getting ready for packing. Sindhu and co. came, we quickly got introduced and got into business.

They had shit load full of luggage, I gave some suggestions about the trek, packing and stuff, which would have been overwhelming at the beginning. But it's always good to see first timers and the mistakes that they make, which reminds of how I was a decade ago. I can't believe that we shopped for six months, on every weekend, for the first trek. It took them a while to pack and they also had to take few printouts for which Amar had gone out. Sindhu and I started with our dinner while Anju was waiting near the lobby. At that time I asked Sindhu about the doubt I mentioned earlier, whether her husband wouldn't be pissed that he's not there because we didn't want it to become a family trip whereas her friends who are a couple are there. I was relieved only after hearing that they were her husband's friends and she had also called him too for the trek but he wasn't interested. It took a while for Amar to find out the shops and take printouts so they were late for the briefing, which lead to some silent bitching by the organizers. Anyways everything was sorted out and I went to sleep. A much needed one after three long days of journey. We dozed off immediately. The quilts were of great help to sleep peacefully.

Day 2 - From the Base camp to Dhotrey by Jeep and trek to Tumling (9450 feet.), 7km

For a change this was one of the YHAI treks which didn't have an acclimatization day. They informed it was because it didn't have an altitude problem. So there were absolutely no talks about AMS, thankfully so. I asked my roommate to wake me up at 6 AM, which he did. I went down, had tea, saw Sindhu and co. coming down for the same and in about an hour we assembled downstairs for flag off. Surprisingly they were on time. That's the first success. Generally the first timers get late. We were always the last one to start during our first trek. They also seemed to have packed reasonably well. After few last minute calls we set off for the day.

The initial journey till Dhotrey was by jeep. I thought it'd be max an hour or so but it was longer, plus there was road blocks due to landslide so it was far more adventurous. We took the second jeep from base came, we four of us sat in the middle so it was considerably warm. I asked the coordinator about the view from Tiger Hill. He told it'd be just a different angle of Sleeping Buddha and from Sandakphu the Sleeping Buddha would be lot more closer. In fact anywhere from Darjeeling, the Kanchenjunga range was visible. So I decided then and there that we'd drop the Tiger Hill plan.

After spending a considerable amount of time in jeep, my legs were itching to walk. At the dropping point few chose to buy lathi for Rs. 20 and we met our guides Nima and Rohit. We were informed that Nima would be leading and Rohit would be the sweeper and they kept their positions till the end of the trek.

The trek started off mildly with a little gradient and walk in the forest. Nima explained about two types of Rhododendrons to start with and was ever talkative post that. Everyone kept up with a reasonable pace. We took breaks more than often and I was feeling a little breathless too. But thankfully due to low altitude, I was able to get back my breath quite soon. During may be the second or the third break, Nair sir informed about how offloading could be possibility. I was naturally against it and there were few who didn't want to do too. The trio had a little thought about it but then decided against it.

In sometime we reached lunch point which was darn cold. I was in two minds whether or not to take out the Down jacket and then decided against it. There were different types of birds too waiting for us to leave the leftover food. As it was getting colder we decided to leave from there in a while. In some time we reached a road which they said as Indo-Nepal border. After a short walk we crossed that border and reached our destination. It was super misty and we were skirting along the Indo-Nepal border. In fact the whole trek was designed in such way that it goes along the border.

Our Homestay in Tumling, Siddhartha Lodge, was amazing. In fact one of the best things about the trek was, there was no tented accommodation, so cold would not get on our nerves at night. We men got a huge dorm which looked like an English attic and the ladies got a small room. But we had only one restroom for the whole pack so it was a disaster that way.

We went to the nearby point for sunset. As there was mist everywhere nothing was visible but we didn't waste the chance and attended a Nepali wedding and few of us even danced to their tunes. It was a good cultural experience. Once we came back to the room, Nair sir showed us his yoga skills which got overwhelming for a few. Post that we four went to the fire place and warmed up nicely but the cold just refused to stop bothering us. We then snuggled up with a blanket in the sofa nearby and heard songs. Suyash came out of the session exhausted and joined us and the number continued. The conversation went on for a while. The other groups which had come down were young and happening. They were dancing to the tunes of latest Bollywood songs. They were to go by jeep to Sandakphu the next day. Due to all these happenings the dinner got a bit late but the food was sumptuous so we had a great dinner and slept off immediately.

Day 3 - Trek from Tumling (9,450 ft) to Kalipokhri (10,400 ft), 12 km

We woke up around 5 AM with biting cold weather and went out in half an hour for sunrise. The cold was just unbearable. I couldn't feel my hands and legs. Even with three layers and a down jacket, it was impossible. But we were lucky to witness both a glorious sunrise as well as good views of Kanchenjunga and surrounding peaks. Nima tried to teach us the name of peaks 'n' number of times to no avail. Anyways I'm not a kind of person who memorizes so it felt lovely to enjoy the moment.

We came back, sat by the fire or almost kept our legs on fire and then changed up quickly. Food was eclectic. Especially the special kind of bread they made. We started off on time. The initial walk was through the road we saw the sunrise. I was worried whether the whole track for the day was going to be through road. But after a point we took a different trail. We saw frozen roads, roots and small streams en route. After paying a fee for taking the Nepal road we had a good leisure walk till the Momo point. Dharmesh, the wrecker in chief, earlier that day told me that Yak Meat and Rhododendron wine would be available. Nima said that the wine would be just too heavy and I understood that the wine would be nothing but a desi daru like I had in Mizoram in the form of Rice Wine. Anyways as it was something new, I was in. Plus it was the anniversary of Anju and Amar. So there was an occasion also as an excuse. That instilled some spirit in me for the day. I inquired about Tongba (a millet-based alcoholic beverage) and Rohit said that was quite easy to get and I could have had it at the Chai point but I wasn't brave enough to have alcohol en route so told that I'll have it at night. Dharmesh and co. were game for that as well.

Post that it was a good one hour steep hike but through roads. After few huffs and puffs we reached the lunch point where Anju and Amar were commemorated for their anniversary with a white cloth around their neck. Lunch was the same old Dal Rice with even no roti. And as soon as we finished lunch it started getting cold. After that the walk was again a gradual ascent. Sindhu and I walked in front and Anju and Amar were coming behind. We saw a lake covered with mist. Nima said it was a holy lake and he'd take us there the next day morning for prayers. He was pretty insistent on Amar and Anju going there for prayers and throwing a coin.

Within few steps we reached our days camp and en route Nima showed us the Tongba point. It was all misty and romantic. Also the day's walk wasn't arduous much. Sindhu showed first signs of hyper. While I was in the lodge, she went out to see sunset. The sky seemed to have cleared. Nima took us to another point for sunset where it was freezing cold so we came back immediately.

After checking in the room, Amar paid for the wifi, which we all used to make calls. We set off to the party in a while. The others seemed to have already gone by then. It got late because of us four but we quickly got into their company. Another commemoration happened for Anju and Amar and we drank for that. Anju and Sindhu showed their naughtier side by taking the only available shot for themselves but thankfully I pulled it out at the last moment and shared it with Amar. Tongba was fine but just like I imagined Rhododendron wine was another form of Rice Wine just with a mildly different flavor but heavy. Just two shots and few sips of Tongba got me tipsy for the night.

Day 4 - Kalipokhri (10,400 ft) to Sandakphu (11,950 ft), 6 km

It was The Day. It was mentioned as just 6 km but by far the most arduous day of the trek. I guess the guilt of alcohol the previous day kept running in my mind every time I was huffing but it was not just me but the whole gang. The initial walk till a chai point where Nima asked everyone to compulsory wait for some time was decent. Anju and Sindhu got some Nepali currency in exchange of Indian currency in that tea shop.

The first steep climb started from a nearby steps which looked like a Stairway to Heaven. Post that it was only ascent. There were few photogenic spots and even though we were panting we were doing fine till the point where we had Suyash's savouries. But post that it was disaster. Thanks to the hunger pangs and the quality taste of those homemade snacks, we gobbled it up quite a lot. That led to some serious dismay post it. The walk to that day's homestay was almost impossible.

We got a two sharing room and quickly layered up because the cold was at its worst there. Also there was heavy water scarcity. The keeper of the lodge was an ass who was pissed off at every juncture. After having a late boring lunch, Nima took us to Aahl to watch sunset. He told it was just a km from there but it would have been easily 2.5 km from there. The place was literally freezing with heavy winds. Sindhu and I got a good spot to watch the sunset which was just not setting. With clouds beneath the feet and sun at a distant place, it felt all too emotional. Wish my better half had been there with me. It'd have been a point to relinquish. I sat there for half an hour to protect Sindhu's GoPro but the cold started getting on me so I went inside the glass room made specifically for that purpose.

As soon as the sun set we clicked a couple of photos and insisted on leaving that place immediately but the hyper enthu Sindhu was only keen on seeing the sun set and go to basement. The lights went off and it became dark so my footing was also going hayware due to cold and restlessness. I injured my left ankle a little bit because of that. But finally came to room.

That's days cold never left my body. I felt cold till the next day. We four were hearing out Kapil's Roopkund stories and a possibility of pony for baggage the next day. The trio already decided on giving their bags. The dinner was so-so but as we got two man room I slept off peacefully but not without Sindhu disturbing me before that.

Day 5 - Trek from Sandakphu (11,950 ft) via Sabargram to Molley (11,807 ft), 12 km

Again, we got up in the morning for sunrise. This time Suyash accompanied me. It was freezing alright but it became a norm. As it was the best and last point to view Sleeping Buddha as a whole I too tried to bear the cold. Of course my hands and feet became numb but I had the satisfaction of seeing a glorious sunrise and the rays falling on those mighty eight thousanders.

Post an amazing Chow Mein for breakfast we set off to that day's trek with oily under boiled fried rice. We were informed that there wouldn't be vehicle available for luggage but we got one on the go which coincidentally was cheaper than the price discussed the previous day. Daniel too jumped in on the truck along with the bag. The trio who had packed for offloading had repacked it so that they had to carry, had to again unpack for offloading. The walk for the day was pretty easy with great views. Plus, most of them or at least I can say my gang were happy because they were without their bags and had the satisfaction of completing Sandakphu, which was the highest point of the trek. They were walking with glee. Nima showed us a place where Yak festival happens. Post that we rested at some tea point and then at the lunch point where we had our lunch, much to annoyance of many, because the Indiahikes group had hot lunch just few minutes before in our break point.

There was gradual ascent and level walk to the place where Danny boy was waiting for us from 11.30 AM in the morning. We were having a compulsory horrible chai there as a mark of waiting charge. We were informed that the homestay was just about a kilometer from there but it would have been definitely more than a double the distance. But as it was gradual descent it wasn't much difficult. Our homestay was next to an army camp so they came in and got all our information.

There was a little commotion because Didi was not happy about the treatment she received the previous day where she didn't get any help in changing her room but she was adjusting with a male member in the room. The issue didn't blow out of proportion as everyone were too tired. May be doctor sir's massage too helped Didi in cooling down. Doctor Sir was very much like the teams physio who had his own personal kit which he used for the benefit of others.

The bathroom as many commented was five star but again a single one for the whole group. We played a game of Uno before dinner. We four and Suyash and Kapil. The food was pretty average and Horlicks was pretty thin. So Dharmesh and co. resorted to Anda meal by the side, good move I say. We played Uno for some more time in hall as it'd disturb people in the room. It got freezing cold and Kapil was shivering, still it didn't deter him from playing game after game. It was fun. Sleep, post that was never a problem

Day 6 - Trek from Sabargram -Molley (11,807 ft) to Gorkhey (7,546 ft) via Phalut (11,795 ft), 16 km

Walk back to Sabargram from Molley wasn't as annoying as we thought. We completed it in half an hour. From there to Phalut it was a mix of gradual ascent and steep ascent. Near to Phalut the ascent was little steep but that was it, nothing else was interesting. I guess that was the day Sindhu and I talked about our horrible college and it was nice to know that Sindhu too remembered that the only time we both actually talked with each other was in Machines lab. I remember telling, in fact praising about her to my friend Arun that day.

There was a scary viewpoint in Phalut where were we got to be really careful because a slip there would break our bones. But the views weren't as enticing as I thought it would be. The place too was lonely and morose. We had a horrible hot lunch of unboiled rice and Dal. We got Yak Cheese for Rs. 200. But it wasn't like how I imagined. It was hard and dirty.

Nima insisted everyone to stay together post that because it was a forest range and bears had killed someone from Sikkim recently, so most of them stayed put. As we got into the forest during the trek, Sindhu started taking some videos because of change in locales. That day's path was a relief from Kanchenjunga which became overbearing after certain point like betaal clinging onto Vikram's shoulder. So to shake it off and walk felt like a relief.

Problems started only around 5 PM where it was getting dark and there was still "aur do km" (still 2 km). It became dark and I had to use head torch. Nima was racing with Dhamesh and co. and we four too had to catch up to his speed. In a way it felt great as legs were going on its own but for the last few meters when Nima took my torch to search remaining people, it got bad, nothing was visible and to trot to the homestay was difficult.

We were warmly welcomed by Chai and Pakoda at Om Shanti Homestay. Everything about the place was amazing. I perspired for the first time in the trek. Had three glasses of chai and three pieces of Pakoda. Amar and I got great room with Jaypal, where we were warming down but as all good things don't last wrong. The seniors of the group, Bhupendra and Modi ji were not comfortable with a double bed they were offered so they wanted to shift to our triple bed. I was pissed because of that but anyways Amar and I shifted to the double bed. Nair and Kapil were in the single beds in the room.

We had great dinner with some local vegetable and played Uno for a while. Amar informed that Sindhu and Anju were planning to carry the luggage the next day as it was last day of the trek. I was happy. All were in great mood so happily slept.

Day 7 - Trek from Gorkhey (7,546 ft) Via Ramban to Shrikhola (6,234 ft); 15 km, Then to Rimbick by Jeep

We started a little bit late after a hefty breakfast. Everyone were with the bags, not sure whether it was because of the unavailability of vehicle or just that they were enthusiastic. The walk through forest was lovely. Within no time we reached the lunch point, the same Dal Rice felt eclectic. Nair sir told us to pool in some money for guides and also share the money to Doctor Sir who paid for most of the Teas. I suggested to use a cover so that none would know how much each would have given and also wouldn't be compelled to give money. Nair sir accepted the suggestion.

Post lunch as we got signal back Anju was playing songs. I was just about commenting how bad my last day experience in KGL was but with newly laid roads for last three kilometers it was irritating to walk and almost spoilt the entire trek experience. What's worse, we again had to wait a couple of hours and fool around as jeep hadn't arrived. But as there was satisfaction of completing the trek, many weren't complaining much. Ideally they could have arranged vehicle right from Ramban as the roads were there.

The Rimbick camp was a typical YHAI camp with strict officers. We got our bags back. The men got into the dorm and got ready for the cultural program, which actually was annoying. After decent food and certificate distribution the party happened. HIT was a huge hit with myself as well as the ladies. I tried to smoke up too but it wasn't strong enough to give a kick. Sindhu was enjoying Rohit's song. Danny and Nima too sang once in a while. So the DJ cum party was a nice ending to a leisurely trek. For me Anju and Amar's anniversary party was the best. I loved everything about it, the place, the drink, the food and especially the mood. The final day's party felt more like a compulsion. Anyways I don't complain.

There was a lot of ridiculing and male bitching which was fun but unfortunately couldn't put up here. We slept quite late but slept well.

Day 8 - Checkout after breakfast. Darjeeling shopping

We woke up to resort like feel. Had bread, butter and jam and were relaxing with slippers. Wearing a slipper had become such a luxury, thanks to the cold. We got news from pissed off Modi ji that we missed our cab. The cab driver being a greedy man left off without taking us. And to our resentment we were not informed properly about the cab arriving because everyone were almost ready. So due to some communication gap we missed the cab. I was anyways not worried because I knew that the day would anyways get wasted. Ideally YHAI should have planned to end the trek in Darjeeling because to get a cab from Rimbick was such a hassle.

We had to get a cab for a higher cost after that. I couldn't sleep in the cab as much as I wanted. It took us a good four hours to reach Darjeeling. He didn't drop us near the hotel even though it was a private cab. So we again had to walk to the hotel. I was happy that Amar immediately was game for walking to the hotel. If I had been alone I would have done it without a second thought but as the others were there I was skeptical. Thanks to the assurance, we walked to the hotel. Unfortunately the gradients don't show in map, plus, we took the wrong route so it was a tough walk with all the luggage.

Surprisingly Darjeeling felt colder than Rimbick and I had to be in down jacket always. Our hotel, Pradhan Niwas was a decent bet even though it took forever for the water to heat up and it got cold within minutes. So we couldn't have a satisfactory bath. Still we had to, before going for lunch. As suggested by our home stay owner we chose Deckling hotel's restaurant calling Dekevas. Food was lovely except for the Maggi Ramen, you may checkout my reviews of all the restaurants in the hyperlink attached to the hotel name.

Amar looked moody for some reason, may be because of the food. Anju was adamant on having fresh juice in such a weather so we visited Frank Ross Café for it. Then we fooled around the local market, which always energized me. I did my duty by purchasing few necessary items. En route to dinner we had Momo's, which was just as amazing as anywhere you get in Darjeeling. Glenary's didn't really excite me. Except for the cut tree incident, it was a bore. But the cut tree incident was a nice moment, probably even the moment of the trek because it was so honest. With loud music and delayed service, it was a bummer. Plus I was not hungry as I had lunch at 4 PM. I only ended up missing my drink buddies Arun and Lokesh, because the mood starts like this always with me complaining about a lot of things in the bar but end up being completely sloshed. Duh! Those days!

Photo of MALL ROAD Darjeeling, Mall Road, Chauk Bazaar, Darjeeling, West Bengal, India by Vikram Mn

It was biting cold at night. We packed up an Egg Chow Mein, came back home and watched Survivor and went to sleep. As Amar was consoling Anju in her room, Sindhu and I were arresting our sleep with some conversation. Once he was back, she went back to her room and we slept off.

Day 9 - Darjeeling local sightseeing

We started off around 9.30 AM for local sightseeing. Visited the HMI campus first which was fairly interesting, Tea Garden post that was such a waste. Tenzing and Gompu Rock was just for namesake. At least Amar tried to rock climb in the latter so it would have been an experience. Post that we spent a lot of time standing in queue for the Ropeway, where we ate Momo, Bread Omelet, Wai Wai etc and to be honest it was such a boring experience after seeing all the views. We were too hungry but couldn't have lunch. Again it was around 4 PM. We cut off the Batasia Loop and Ghoom Monastery which we had already seen during the train travel to Darjeeling. So we were left only with Japanese Temple and Peace Pagoda. The driver insisted on completing that before lunch so that he could leave for the day. We were left with no choice but to complete the circuit.

We were dropped at Mahakal Restaurant for lunch. Food took a really long time to arrive but I loved it as I could devour on fish. On the way back to room we carried a Kiq beer and a couple of Rio wine bottled. Anju went to sleep as she was tired. We three sat, drank, had good conversation and great food from the home stay for the night. Again I got tipsy. To get tipsy with good flavor is a boon so I was happy. We had to get up at 5 AM the next day but it didn't deter us from celebrating the final night.

Day 10 - Home Bound

We boarded the cab at 5.30 AM biding adieu to the Queen of Hills. The cab was giving some trouble because of battery but as we started pretty early I was relaxed. I even slept well. The driver fixed it at Chai point where we had the sandwich which the owner packed us and I had chai too. He dropped us well in advance. Unfortunately the flight to Bangalore was delayed by an hour. I used that time to finish 'Pirivom Santhipom'. I was happy though that we could catch Bangalore flight in time but unfortunately that flight was delayed as it was waiting for few connecting passengers. Anyways we came back during day time. As it was a weekday and not at night the airport was empty and there wasn't much hassle in getting an auto, which I got after coming out of the airport. Surprisingly Chennai weather was colder than I expected and the autowallah too didn't piss me off by charging extra. So in all a satisfying year end trek.

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