Dzongri Top. Presently a blur of beautiful memories boosting the serotonin level in my head. But right then, at that moment, an ethereal experience of mountains, survival, and joy.
As we concluded a sumptuous photo-shoot at around 7 AM on 27th February, our guide, Girish dada, led us down another route to avoid skidding off and hurting our buttocks. A herd of yaks stood ready to apprehend our movement. But our furry friends chased them off, coming to our rescue yet again and charming us with their wagging tails.
We trod on prehistoric oceanic sand (an interesting topic to be dwelt upon in a later post) and frozen springs to reach the base. Storm clouds and mist had shrouded the atmosphere. We gulped down a quick breakfast of eggs and bread and cleaned up the hut. Plastic wrappers were squeezed into pockets, food scraps fed to the dogs, and group photographs clicked. Then we ventured down the snow trail back to Tshoka.
The way down brought out the inner marathon runner within us. Some tiptoed from rock to rock at a lightning pace whereas others, like me, trudged along at an average speed and observed the frost laden trees. The realm of snow was beset by a pall of mist. A drizzle washed us down, and dew drops clung to uncovered strands of hair.
Nuts and molasses sweetened tongues and supplied energy to muscles at Phedang. The rest of the journey was a story of sodden caps covering heads, occasional sneezes, and avoiding slippery ice and rocks. Discerning our way through the wet mist, we got a warm welcome back at Tshoka.
Wet jackets were hung up to dry, socks (with quite an aroma) changed, and mattresses rolled out on hay bunks. Some engaged in battles of intellect in card games, while musical notes floated from the kitchen as some danced to beat the cold. The hut grew stuffy with tension and chuckles as ghost stories were narrated. A delicious dinner followed. The rain picked up pace. Apart from yaks trying to surprise us while washing our plates, we slept soundly that night.
The pitter-patter of rain greeted us into the morning of 28th February. The gentle sound and enticing cold made us curl up inside our sleeping bags. But the slippery way down soon worried us into getting up.
Waterproof gear were strapped onto place before we hit the path. Half-chewed bread crumbs, egg yolk and the taste of coffee lingered in our mouths as the trail to Yuksom shook to life with our rapid footfall.
A few instances of slip and fall were mandatory. Yet overall, it was a cheerful journey. Every step had a hum and a smile with it. Brain cells concocted plans on how to treat our aching bodies. Some of us deliberately slowed down, trying to live the last hours of the trek to the fullest.
Water puddles, the gentle hush of rain, and chirping crickets made us fall in love with the environment. The trees seemed like magical lords of the forest, watching us, silently. We bade them a silent farewell before leaving their kingdom. Water droplets trickled down our cheeks, mixing with invisible teardrops of joy and gratitude.
Most of us were drenched from head to toe when we finally stepped on paved road at Yuksom. Chills ran up our wet backs as we headed to a homestay for refreshment. When rucksacks were unstrapped, unbuckled and dropped on the wooden floor in our rooms, our shoulders were relieved of a remarkable weight. It seemed like our body weight had suddenly dropped, so much so that we could float away like snowflakes.
We slipped into warm clothes and went into a celebratory mood in the evening that followed. Music, games, and bodies writhing with laughter filled the rooms. A mouth-watering dinner of chicken curry and rice, prepared by our wonderful homestay host, warmed up our appetite. We bid short goodbyes to our guide brothers, before they ventured out for their home villages.
The next morning we hopped into two cars bound for NJP station, and headed to face our hot, humid, and busy lives in Kolkata.
Some left behind little pieces of our hearts lying somewhere on the steep frozen trail and frost-laden trees.
Created by yours truly, Sumedha Mukherjee. I am grateful to all my trek companions for helping me, trekking with me, and most importantly surviving with me. Love you guys.