Day 2 dawned as a relatively clear day, and I woke up with the background music of dogs barking. The sound kept on increasing and later I came to know the reason for it. The dogs had had a ritualistic welcome for each new dog that entered the campus. They would bark and run upto the front gate to greet the new dog that comes, and by the end the number of dogs had gone upto 6.

We woke up and had black tea. Then me, Nishanth and EB decided to go on a walk. We went upto this hill peak which apparently served as a watch out point with traditional flags mounted. From here, we could see most of the village and surrounding mountains for a few seconds after which the mist took over. But the picturesque view was worth the extra uphill climb. We walked back to the lodge chatting about  random school stories and missed the cut that goes to our lodge. When we had started a construction site came in view a minute later (I remember commenting how they actually transported the materials to build). But on our way back, we missed the construction site and walked straight ahead. It took us a couple of minutes to collect our thoughts and trace our way back to the small lane that led to our cottage.

Back to the room, we did the repacking routine, had a breakfast and then started on a 11 km trek from the Shikker Lodge. The first lap was surprisingly downhill and me and Lavi started singing “situation songs” as we walked. We sang from “pudhiya vanam”… to “pulveli pulveli”… “oho megam vandhadho”… and the likes, you can imagine the rest.

the fallen Magnolia tree

By midday, I realized you cant have an altogether pleasant day at the mountains. We started with a slightly uphill slope which constantly steepened as the guys chose the jungle path. We had been offered 3 choices earlier that day – the Indian route, the Nepal route or the jungle route, the last one being steeper, but you could sight red pandas if you were lucky.

The jungle route it was. I started pretty bad, the rain gear was not comfortable and the terrain was not good enough to wait and change. So I ploughed on with some help from Nishanth and Norbu. We had a steady lookout for the red panda as well.

To top it all, our usual trouble maker paid visit – yes, it started raining again, more heavily this time. About half hour up the jungle route, we saw Rohan and a couple of others waiting for Norbu who had their raincoats in his bag. We all moved on, me keeping the tail and in few minutes they had all gone past.

Then it was strenuous 1 hour plus walk with just Norbu and the rain for company. I used to ask him “How much longer?” and his constant answer would be “30 minutes more”… I lost track of how many times I asked the same question and got the same old answer back. And then I learnt the trick. Never ask “how long”. Instead ask “how many kms more” 😀

On the way, we met a group of school kids trekking, covering themselves in pink plastic covers for rain. We spoke to the fellow trekkers, and came to know that they were from National Public School, Guwahati. I remember the teacher telling me, “Madam, you are not supposed to drink water like that here. Have it in your mouth, raise the temperature and then drink… Else you might get tonsilitis”. Actually, I did not know whether to laugh or take it seriously!

And thus we reached the “Black Pond”, which is the meaning of our next destination, Kalapokhari. We did see the black pond, it seems it does not freeze even in winter. Pemba called out from ahead and told us that we could come back and offer prayers next day morning. But it was a holy pond, after all. How could we leave just like that! So our group (Rohan, Swapna aunty, Sandhya aunty, Tejasvi, Jyoti aunty..) started singing holy songs, starting with “Aigiri nandhini….” 😀 😀

As I walked further, Norbu sent me ahead saying, “walk 2 minutes ahead, you reach Chawang Lodge”, and he waited for our choir. And I obediantly walked on for a couple of minutes. Just mist. Then I saw the first lodge, tried to read the name through the mist, and realized, I had forgotten the name of our lodge; it started with a “Ch”… then went on to the next and then next…. What was to be a 2 min walk to the lodge turned out to be 2 min stop every building on the road in the village. I can vividly remember them – Himachul Lodge, Kanchenjunga Lodge, a hut with kitchen, an unnamed lodge… and finally Chewang Lodge! Lavanya, our saviour came out to show us the way. (Nishanth and Snigdha had also got lost and walked till the end of the village)

We got settled in our rooms – 3 in a room split. The previous day, we had been warned that facilities will not be good in this place, and there is only common toilet. With very little expectations, I found Kalapokhari very neat and comfortable. As usual after rearranging, we went to have food. I purchased a woolen cap for Rs. 150 and when I got money from the room and gave this lady, she bowed low and got the cash from me in 2 hands like how we used to get “prasad” in temples here. I was totally surprised at her humility! And that is when I realized, I had not bowed when I got the cap from her!!!! 😛

Our guides proved their excellence again – Norbu distributed plastic covers – 2 for each – to be worn between the socks and shoes. Something to protect from the rain in future, because we had wet shoes again that day, and nowhere to dry them!

After dinner, we had the briefing by Pemba. He warned us that next day was going to be constant uphill, no proper stops in between. All eyes turn to me – “Can you make it, Vidhya?” “I think Ill do it” (all the while, planning within myself, listing out problems that scared me and how to overcome them)

– Until next,

Vid 🙂