18 November, 2010
Today was the last day of the trek and probably the most eventful one. An early morning climb up and down the Phalut hill didn't prove to be too fruitful because of the heavy fog and there was no view whatsoever. So without much ado, we packed up, had a quick breakfast of pancakes, bread and porridge, and got ourselves ready for the last stretch. The plan was to get to Rimbick via Gorkhey and Rammam, a distance of about 35 kms.
The ponies had been arranged and were waiting for us. I got a brown female pony called Dully and my dad took a white male pony called Myla. But we decided to walk the first km at least to warm up a bit before we climbed atop the ponies.
Just as we were about to start riding, I looked up at the horizon and saw the clouds parting to show at the Kanchenjunga! I screamed with excitement! In the most dramatic way, I declared that the mountains are coming out to say goodbye to us!
We gazed at the mountains for a while in awe and then was ready to move forward. Just as I was taking a last look at the ranges, I heard a commotion in front of me. I turned around to see that my dad had slid down the horse and was clinging onto its side for dear life. Ashish and the Amal, the pony-man, were rushing towards him and trying to prevent his fall! Apparently dad, in all his excitement at seeing the mountains, was not ready for the pony which moved forward a bit too fast, resulting in him being thrown off its back!
After that incident, dad decided that he is gonna walk instead of riding the pony, without heeding to my reassurances that the ponies would be perfectly safe provided you cling on to them properly.
So Ashish, Vikas and dad walked while I rode the pony ahead together with Amal. We covered about 10 kms this way. We passed through beautiful dense forests and bamboo thickets on our way. Throughout Dully was well behaved while Myla, who no longer had a passenger on him, kept grabbing and chewing every passing plant. It was quite a fun ride and I thoroughly enjoyed the forests around, the view of the valleys below and also Myla's antics.
After about an hour, Amal suggested that we take a break and wait for the other guys to join us. So we stopped at a beautiful clearing abundant with yellow flowers and let the horses graze while we both sat back and enjoyed the views. When there was no sign of the other guys after 20 minutes, I suggested to Amal that we will go down to Gorkhey and wait there because the others might have taken a short cut or some other path. So we proceeded to Gorkhey. This time I walked because I was already pretty stiff from riding the pony.
Gorkhey is a quaint, beautiful little village in the valley and I fell in love with it immediately! It had about 15 houses, each with its land of cultivation, mainly terrace farming and vegetables such as radish and corn being dried on its roof.
The village of Gorkhey & Dully, my pony
I sat down to enjoy the beauty when I noticed my dad, Ashish and Vikas coming down the slope to Gorkhey in a very awkward manner. My dad had one hand bandaged and with the other hand he was holding Ashish for support. While I was trying to figure out what could have happened, the two British trekkers from yesterday who were a bit ahead, reached the valley first and told me that my dad had fallen down and dislocated a ligament in his arm!
Needless to say, I started panicking! With no range for the mobile and with no mode of transportation available other than ponies, I was not sure how to get any help for my dad! I was trying to figure out what to do when dad, Vikas and Ashish finally made it to the valley and dad told me that he knows how to fix this with a bit of help.
He got the boys to put a mattress out in the open, lied down on it and instructed Ashish to help him move his arms this way and that. I watched the painful process for a while without much hope that anything was gonna come out of it. But then all of a sudden, my dad was up, completely fit and fine! He said that the ligament is back in its rightful position and all was well! OK then.
I was hugely relieved and couldn't thank God enough! My dad was by now already joking about the whole incident, once even mentioning that all that drama happened just so that I would get material to write about on the blog! I told him that no matter what he would ride the pony now. I wanted to get out of that place to somewhere with some infrastructure, as soon as possible!
After the miraculous recovery, we proceeded to take some pictures of Gorkhey, had a lunch of Aloo Parathas (Ashish's final recipe since this would be the last meal cooked by him!) and started on our journey to Rimbick.
This time both dad and I rode the pony for about 2 hours until we reached Rammam. The journey continued to be through very dense rainforests with the occasional streams and waterfalls. It was a lovely experience and the only downside was that the pony ride was beginning to get extremely uncomfortable! I was suffering from very stiff knees, thighs and ankles and couldn't wait to get off the ponies and walk a bit!
About 3 hours later, we reached Rammam. Here, we had to let go off the ponies and Amal, and cover the remaining distance until Rimbick on foot. Since it is a steep downhill, the pony ride would be risky. Also it was already 5 pm and it was getting very dark. So we said goodbye to Amal, Myla and Dully.
The next couple of hours were yet another highlight of the trek! We walked through the dense forest in pitch darkness, with the help of just a torch for about 10 kilometers! We walked through muddy paths, swampy ditches, rocky paths and sometimes even through streams, splashing water all over. The only things we could hear were the sound of our own footfalls, the tapping of our walking sticks, the constant gush of water from nearby streams and the frequent hoots of owls. It was such an amazing experience!
Finally after what seemed like a lifetime, we reached Rimbick where our car was waiting. All of us were terribly exhausted and plonked ourselves in the car right away. The car made its way with great difficulty on the bumpy roads. Only land rovers are suitable for that terrain but the car had come a bit further to pick us up because of my dad's injury and also the fact that it was already the middle of the night. So we rocked and bumped as the car inched forward!
Ten minutes into the ride, the car got a wheel stuck in a ditch! Seriously, it was like the excitement for the day was not yet over! We were in the middle of nowhere, in pitch darkness with a car that can't seem to get its wheel out of damn ditch! But once again God didn't play too tricky a game. When all else failed, four guys appeared out of nowhere and helped Ashish and Vikas to actually lift up the car and move it out of the ditch! From then on things went on smoothly for the rest of the 4 hour ride to Darjeeling.
We dropped Vikas in his village Maneybhanjang on the way and I gave him all my vitamin C tablet supplies. The poor guy must have been so exhausted after walking 35kms with that luggage! He was seriously a very sweet chap and both my dad and I are surely gonna miss him!
We finally got to Darjeeling at 11:30pm in freezing cold. We were received by Wangchuck, the tour operator. The night's stay was arranged at his home, which he runs as a home stay. We got a really nice warm room and a good warm dinner of chowmein and soup cooked by Wangchuck himself. After dinner, it was time to say goodbye to Ashish as well! I am so grateful to that man for taking such good care of us throughout the trip! It would definitely have been a lot harder without him!
After a quick hot bath, I hit the bed. Exhausted but very, very satisfied.
My first ever trek thus came to an end.
636 more to go.