We woke up much before sunrise. Walking this far and not getting to see the sunrise would be such a waste and a foolish thing to do. The temperature in the altimeter showed – 5.7 deg celcius! Holy Cow!
As the first rays of the sun fell on the Himalayas; the Everest, Sleeping Buddha & Kanchendzonga all in a row looked majestic. What a sight it was!
Interestingly Sandakphu is the only place in the whole world from where you can see the five top peaks - the Everest, Kanchendzonga, Makalu, Lhotse and Nuptse. And more interestingly the Assam-Arunachal Himalayas can also been seen if you’re lucky like us to get an extremely clear weather.
As I started taking pictures, I had to open my gloves to get a better grip on the camera. The cold anesthetized my hands and fingers!
Post breakfast everyone was busy posing and taking pictures one after another. Amar was silent and I knew a lot of things were in his mind. I raised my eyebrows and he nodded his head.
“Tell me!” I exclaimed.
“Both you and Dipanjali have passed the fitness test!”
That was the second best thing we had heard in this adventure of ours. The first came from the Israeli guy we met in Tumblimg. He thought us to be twenty year olds! Said, “Indian women are ageless”!
Thank God for Vitamin E, I told myself!
Yes, we were fit. The pain relieving ointment & pills remained untouched.
And soon we got ready to descend. From 13000 feet to 7000 feet. It would take us eight hours to reach Rimbick; precisely 16 kms we had to walk.
As we descended, I stopped in the middle of nowhere and started taking off one thing after another. I had worn a tee, two warmers, one sweat shirt and a jacket. One tights, one woolen track and a wind proof track and two pairs of socks!
As I got down to my basic tee & tights I felt a whole lot lighter!
As we reached Bikeybhanjan again, we took a tea/coffee break.
And then the de-tour started. Tshering showed us the path we’d tread. It was uphill again and I felt like squeezing his neck intensely.
We were assured we had to again ascend 2000 feet and then it was down down and down!
As we ascended the 2000 feet, we were on the opposite ridge and again it was unbelievable the distance we had covered on foot.
And now the downhill walk begun.
Walking down is a serious business. All you have is your walking stick, your eyes and ears to keep you sane and balanced. It was tough for me, more so because I suffer from vertigo. I had told no one about it. But Amar, the pro- mountaineer that he is could make it out instantly and asked me, “Nandini do you have a fear of heights?”
“Bingo!” I replied.
I don’t know how long we walked. My watch stopped working a long back. On the train to be exact. Taking a break here and there, finally we reached a spot where there is a water source. We sat down for lunch, which was packed for us in Sandakphu itself.
Feasting on Tibetan breads, eggs and veggies, I put on my eye-pad and rested for a while. A much needed power nap. Dipanjali too did the same. However our nap was insolently broken by a herd of yaks, which came to quench their thirst.
And we walked again.
We were inside the Singalila forest and it was dense. The walk way was narrow. One wrong step and you could tumble down like a rolling stone gathering a whole lot of dirt and grime.
The flowers were beginning to bloom all around.
Amar casually told me, “Aren’t these white Rhododendrons beautiful?”
I looked up and said, “Yes they are”.
“Look to your left, look to your left, where are you looking, the direction your sight is there are no Rhododendron”, Amar said.
I looked into his eyes and asked him sheepishly, “Amar, which is the left hand side?”
It was not only me. Gradually all were getting disoriented. The walk was a long one and this descend took all the concentration to think about anything else.
No one was talking. One wrong word and that would lead to a fight we all knew. We just had to reach Rimbick. That was the only thing that mattered now.
Both Amar and Thsering assured us that within the next ten minutes we would be out of this jungle and reach human habitations i.e Rimbick. And yes we did it … we reached Rimbick at four in the evening. We all smiled after a long long time I suppose. We stood together yet one more time and took a photograph.
The first house we saw, Niru exclaimed, “Yay! This is our lodge!”
Amar replied, “From where did you get this idea?”
No one responded.
And we kept walking further downhill.
At one time I saw Dipanjali jogging and I was shocked! Did she pop some pills to boost herself I wondered?
Amar who was walking behind her and ahead of me maintained a fair distance. He knew sooner or later one of us would hit him with our walking sticks! There was no sign of our lodge!
And can you believe it… we had to walk for another two hours downhill to reach our lodge? Nothing could be as bad as that.