Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day 361: Sandakphu, Zero degrees, Sleeping Bag!

15 November, 2010

Looks like the Gods were in no mood to listen to any good-weather prayers today. Even after a night of very heavy rainfall, it was a very foggy morning that we woke up to. The visibility was horrible. It left even Ashish, the guide, baffled. He said that never before in November has he seen so much rain and bad weather before. Even if there is heavy rain, the skies usually clears up fast after that. I left him scratching his head and proceeded to take some photographs anyway.

After a simple, hearty breakfast of cornflakes, pancakes and omelet, we set out for the what is supposed to be the toughest part of this trek. Our destination was Sandakphu, the highest point in West Bengal at 3636 meters. And to get there we had to pass a total of 6 kms, 2 on flat land and 4 on extremely steep land.

The weather kept swinging between good and bad. Sometimes it turned very foggy with poor visibility and sometimes the sun shined through bright and happy, clearing up some of the fog to give us a good view of the valleys below. I understand that if the weather was really good we would have started to see the mountain ranges as well but we weren't that lucky. But whatever we saw was beautiful enough to keep us going and we slowly made our way up in 3 hours. It was really quite a struggle with the steep climb and am really proud that I made it to the top without fainting!

At Sandakphu we checked into a small rest house called Sunrise lodge. Interestingly one half of Sandakphu lies in India while the other half lies in Nepal. By 'half' we are refering to about 3-4 buildings each. Sunrise Lodge is in the Nepali half. By the way, Sandakphu means the 'Land of poisonous plants'! These people surely have a unique creative sense when naming their villages!

After checking in and having the customary cup of tea, the first thing I did was to take a bath, something which I had skipped yesterday and felt really filthy post. Given that we reached by noon, it was the best opportunity to take a bath and I did just that in the hot water provided.

Then came lunch. Our options were noodles or rice and we opted for noodles. Once again we had the hot egg noodle soup and omelet. Yummy yum!

Feeling rejuvenated enough we stepped out and was greeted by much clearer skies! I almost cried with joy! We still couldn't see the mountain ranges but we could see all the surrounding hills and it was beautiful! My dad and I climbed up a small rock and waited there for the clouds to part for a glimpse of the mountain ranges. We waited for about 45 minutes, in 2 degree celsius, with a good breeze blowing, just looking out over and beyond the hills.

And we were rewarded by a very short view! For about a minute the clouds parted and we saw the mighty Himalayas before us! We were so awed by the sight that we just stared speechless! Then my dad came to his senses and urged me to take a picture. Just as I managed to take the camera out of the case, the clouds moved in and the show was over! But what a show it was!

Feeling rather encouraged and praying for a clearer weather, we returned to the lodge for another cup of hot drink (it was coffee this time) each. Rest of the evening was spent with listening to music and typing in some of the blogs.

After a dinner of rotis and different vegetable dishes, I curled in to a sleeping bag (yet another first time ever experience!) and piled on a few quilts and blankets on top while still wearing my sweater and down jacket! The temperature outside was estimated to be zero degrees. I had never been in that kinda cold before but thanks to the strenuous walk, I slept soundly.

Day three of the trek thus ended successfully.

639 more to go.

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