Saturday, November 20, 2010

Day 360: Kanchenjunga & Kaalpokhri

14 November, 2010

So looks like God did answer my prayers! He ensured that the morning weather is reasonably clear and I got my first glimpse of Kanchenjunga, the mighty, unconquered beauty!

And 'glimpse' it was. For the weather cleared up just enough for us to see the peak but not the entire range! The peak hovered above lofty clouds that covered everything else up. But I wasn't complaining! With the peak above and the clouds below, it was really like I was on top of the world!

Glimpse of Kanchenjunga

After taking in the magnificent view for a while, we had yet another awesome meal (this is turning out to be as much of a culinary expedition as a trekking expedition)! This time it was Tibetan bread with jam, porridge and omelet. The bread was fried and brown and had a very nice flavour to it. I think I can easily be in Tibet forever and will never need to complain of food!

Then we set out for today's destination - Kaalpokhri, 13 kms away, at 3186 mts. The first part of the trek was actually downhill, which was more than a welcome change after yesterday's ordeal! It was a pleasant enough walk until Garibhas (which had another Indian army base camp) with a stopover in between at the Nepali village Jaubari for tea. Both these villages were also very quaint and pretty, like the ones we have been seeing throughout the route! With small houses, lots of hens and roosters roaming about, numerous cows and goats grazing on the pastures around, cute red-cheeked kids, friendly dogs and puppies (my favourite is the Himalayan mastif which is dark and really huge with lots of fur but is the most peaceloving dog I have ever come across!), occasional temples, several Buddhist stupas, that odd Nepali police station (protecting the 8 families in the village?!) and the shy, lovely people, every village has been fascinating!

Then came the climb (groan!). We trudged along another uphill route for 3.5 kms until we reached Kayakatta, where we stopped for lunch.

Lunch was again a bowl of egg noodle soup even better than the one yesterday, if that was ever possible! After lunch the path became relatively easy. Ashish, our guide, kept calling it 'flat' and kept cheering us on. Soon I discovered that 'flat' to him means on an average it is flat but it came with a fair bit of ups and downs! But still it was better than before and the only problem was the rising fog and threat of rain. The visibility was very poor once again and I understand that we missed out on a lot of good views of the valleys below including even Darjeeling!

But still there was enough to see with the changing vegetation back from pastures to very thick forests! There were a lot of rhododendron trees which usually bloom in spring and are set to give a spectacular sight then! We didn't come across any more villages until we reached our destination Kaalpokhri.

According to the internet, Kaalpokhri is actually Kalapokhri which means "Dark lake" or "Black lake". But according to Ashish, Kaalpokhri literally means 'Kaal lake' and Kaal is the Hindu god of death. Am not sure how I feel about staying in a place named after the God of Death but true to the name, it is indeed a lake that greets you as you reach the village. With the mist hovering above it and with some lotus leaves and birds making a few ripples in the otherwise deathly still waters, the lake was quite a sight. Ashish told us that no one really knows how deep is the lake. Apparently no one has entered the water before because the lake was very sacred to the people there. OK then.

The Kaalpokhri Lake

Without further ado we moved away from the lake and reached our place of stay for the night, Chewang's lodge. We got a lovely wooden room there and were immediately served one round of tea which was soon followed by another round of hot chocolate.

With nothing much to do until dinner time I started to type in the blogs on to my phone to be published later while my dad listened to music.

Then came dinner which was simply terrific! With the combined efforts of Ashish and the folks at Chewang lodge, they served us vegetable soup, rice, daal, two types of veg side dishes, french fries, another type of thinly grated potato fries, omelet, apple custard and a cup of hot chocolate! It was such a wide spread and all so very yummy!

Over dinner we also met a very interesting lady, Tenzin. Chewang's Lodge belongs to Tenzin's family. Tenzin is a trained mountaineer and is a part time instructor at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. According to Ashish, she has given up what could have been a very bright career in mountaineering to help her parents out at the lodge. She has also taken up the education responsibility of a little girl from the nearby village who stays with her and goes to a school next door. A very strong and inspiring lady!

And the little girl under Tenzin's care, Pima, was quite an interesting little lady herself! She is always running one errand or the other, completely on her own accord! She is either clearing cups and plates or carrying food for the goats or bringing water to the basins or transporting grains in baskets etc. etc. etc. Such a bundle of energy! I totally loved her!

Pima (without the hat) with her friend

With some great sights and meeting some very nice people, today was a good day!

640 more to go.

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