“Happy Diwali”, a friend applauded, cheering me, while I was still panting. I rejoiced, “Happy Diwali to you too”, taking a deep breath. While doing so, my eyes were struck at the brightness of the snow-capped Kanchenjunga. The sun had just come out of its dome and its rays directly fell on the Kanchenjunga range which made it shine just as luminescent as the sun.
My hands were frigid. I could feel that my face, lips, eyes had swollen due to cold. My legs were exhausted, I just wanted to sit and rest. Now I was feeling a bit hungry. I took out the dry fruits from my light weight side bag and relaxed on a rock.
I was wonderstruck, not only by the charm of radiant Kanchenjunga range but also by the feeling that I had made it to 15100ft. I was apprehensive about the summit day throughout the 7 days of the trek. I had promised myself that I will try my best to reach till the Goechala lake famously known as the ViewPoint 2, which is at 15600ft. Now I was resting at ViewPoint 1. The hike through the ridge of the rugged path to ViewPoint1 was playing in my mind. This trek of 3 hours truly tested my patience and my physical as well as mental strength. When I was just enjoying and celebrating my small victory. Our trek leader announced, “It is 6.30 am, those who wish to move ahead, let us move to ViewPoint2. It is around 4.5 km walk, we must reach there by 8.30. Move on!!”.
My moment of celebration was interrupted. In life, you put your entire energy and just when you are ready to believe that you have reached your goal, you realize that the goal is just a step away. You never know how hard that single step would be. You have drained already with so many efforts. You are almost on the verge of giving up but the conviction to achieve your goal is so powerful that you become ready to try even harder. The thought that I made it to Viewpoint1 was so inspiring that, my tired body instantly got up to guide’s call and I started walking towards Viewpoint2. I was emphatic, if I could climb till here, I can surely climb to Viewpoint2.
At the start of the trail was a steep descent. Everybody was really enthusiastic that after such a long climb, we were finally descending. Sadly, the down path was steep, zigzag with loose soil and small rocks, making it difficult to hold the grip of the foot. Also, the thought of scaling this back while returning did hurt at the same time.
After the descent making my way through big rocks, I landed up in a white sand desert. I was startled to witness the sand desert, Zemthang. It was just like a whole new WORLD on the mountains.
I twirled in delight and started drawing in the sand with my trekking pole, while others were busy clicking pictures. Then our guide reminded that we must move and reach till 8.30. Nature was so revitalizing that my tiredness was eradicated. I was filled with energy. I just wanted to reach Viewpoint2 and come back to the desert.
The white landscape was now turning into buff terrain with a thin layer of ice on the flora. There was a frozen stream on the left of the trail, leaving us with the option of partly frozen water in our water bottles to quench our thirst. Drinking enough water at such low temperature is a remedy to make up for oxygen deficiency.
The black-grey stratified range was on both the sides, as though it was protecting us. After a level walk for about 3-3.5km, a route with huge boulders was welcoming us. It was fun making way around these boulders. It seemed as if we are playing hide and seek. My pleasure was again interrupted.
I raised my head to find out a long loose rock-strewn course. Without waiting for a second, I just began stepping ahead. As I was moving ahead, “small and one step at a time. I can do it. You will never know unless you try. Just one day and then life is all about resting.” these self-motivating words were playing in repetition in my mind. The oxygen deficiency thin air made the ascent more challenging. After each 6-7 steps, I used to take deep breaths and look around to infuse the vibrancy of the surrounding into my mind. It was getting sunny and warmer. With five layers and a thick jacket, I was sweating.
As I was rising above, the peak of Kanchenjunga was again becoming visible. Now my only target was to reach its feet. I followed my own slow pace to get closer to the peak.
Finally!!! there it was, the beautiful, perfect triangular peak of Kanchenjunga, just in front of me.
There was a bottle greenish Goechala lake to the left while the gray stratum continued to the right. Though the lake was not as clear as other lakes in the Himalayas, its presence made an awesome scenery.
I took a huge sigh of relief and turned back to analyze the endured climb to Viewpoint2. I was awestruck to see that I was above the clouds. There was an ocean of clouds and within the ocean lied the island of Kanchenjunga range. I could proudly see myself standing on that island.
I relaxed between two rocks. Laying my back on the one at the behind. My eyes were glaring at the magnificent Kanchenjunga. I closely observed the movement of the clouds coming from left then slowly covering the peak of Kanchenjunga and vanishing towards the right behind the mountains. I was engrossed in this serene beauty. I wanted to be there..till the world ends.
Just as the Kanchenjunga stood in pride I too felt the pride. Pride in achieving what I had desired for.
After a short break, the trek leader enquired whether I wished to go ahead to the GoechaLa pass at 16100ft. I was so satisfied at that moment, I instantly said ‘NO’. I was actually surprised by the reaction, maybe it was because I was tired. I have always been competitive in life about everything. I persistently try to achieve what I decide. If unfortunately, I don’t attain the desired, it leaves me in grief. I keep questioning myself if the other person could do it, why can’t I? That day I learned comparison with others is needless. Being satisfied should be the aim. The sense of satisfaction only comes after you shed blood, sweat, and tears. I was experiencing a true sense of satisfaction.
The summit is not only about reaching the top, you have to go back safely to the point where you started. So, while the other 6 guys went ahead, I decided to take a nap for 15-20 minutes to rejuvenate myself. It was like an unpredicted moment of my life to relax at 15600ft.
Others were back in 50 minutes. We had our packed lunch and decided to move back to Viewpoint 1. While returning I gave a last glimpse at Kanchenjunga. I was so inspired, I took an oath in the presence of the mighty mountains that this was just the beginning. I will certainly make it a habit to visit the Himalayas. On my way back, I was celebrating. My each step, each breath and entire sight around me were a celebration.
Now the clouds were making their way towards us. It is said that weather is unpredictable after 12 in the mountains and clouds make it difficult to trek in the mountains. My most awaited sand desert was back again waiting for me. But adding to my dismay, clouds were covering it, all ready to swallow us. That was a scary moment hence, we decided to reach the Viewpoint1 as early a possible.
Trapped in clouds
Climbing up the zig zag ascent was merely a challenge now, as I was all motivated. After Viewpoint1 we trudged down for about 2 hours. Here again, we were offered with a majestic treat to our eyes, the Samiti lake.
Again hiking down for 2 days, we finally reached the IndiaHikes base camp at Yuksom. The wonderful Goechala trek which begun here ended successfully. Saying, ‘Goodbye, for now, will be back soon..!!!’, to the mountains I returned back home.
My colleagues and especially my Mom always ask me how has this experience changed my life. Life has changed. The change might not be visible. The change is in within me. In fact, the process of change had commenced the moment I registered for this trek.
Instead of spending my Diwali vacation in the city, choosing to spend it in the mountains. Choices changed.
In the urge to get physically fit for the trek, exercising and running, lifestyle changed.
After reaching at Viewpoint 1, not giving up and moving ahead, physical and mental strength increased.
After scaling 15600ft witnessing inner peace, perspective towards life changed.
And after going through all this, still determined about trekking…
I would definitely say, the entire trek was LIFE CHANGING..!!!