22nd May 2017
Tumling, Darjeeling District
Today at morning, after a lot of hustle bustle, we were at last successful at getting out at 8:00 am (though the planned time was 7:00 am). This hustle-bustle included father forgetting his hand bag down on road and Dawa uncle forgetting to bring his polythene sheet.
We faced the steep road before us, released a heavy sigh and with a smile started ascending. The difficulty of the steep ascent was normalized by the beauty of trees beside us. Regaining strength occasionally by chewing eclairs, we made our way to Chitrey Goompha. Roaming inside it for a while, we again started our walk.
While getting out of the monastery, a little distance away there was a cluster of huts. On coming close we found out they were actually shops. Beside it were 2 jeeps parked. Some very fat men and women were gathered around the jeeps, each had two or three bottles of beer with them. One of them slurrily said, “No more bottles for today. We have to complete our work on only these few. After all I’m not a millionaire”. Few? For one day? Wonder they have those producting bellies jumping like an attention seeker on their torso. They could’ve done with some exercise.
By the way, we moved on to some quite place and sat down for a while to refresh ourselves with some coffee and chattu. We had a flux with us where we carried hot water. Mixing some coffee powder and sugar to that hot water, and there we have some delicious hot coffee in the biting cold which all of a sudden felt more cold as we settled down. Guess while walking, the body heat balanced the outside coldness but as soon as we settled down, no work made no heat and we were bared to the biting cold. Dawa uncle preferred tea so he went to a nearby shop which stood alone lonely in the mist surrounded layers of mountains.
All the way, I saw another group of trekkers, a woman and three men and their Nepali guide, walking before us. As I usually walked before my parents with more speed compared to my parents and at times even defeated Dawa uncle in speed, the group proved to be useful. In the sense that they showed me the way when I was left all alone trying to make out which path to go- the rocky one or bushy one. Well, Dawa uncle advised me to follow them as he saw my parents letting me go on my own.
Whenever Dawa Uncle and I used to meet, we talked about different topics, mostly about our lives in home. He said his career in guiding trekkers along this route lasted for 40 years. He had a son, who was a driver, and a daughter, who was about the same age as me.
Eventually I reached Lamadhuriya, a small village in Nepal, where I occupied myself seeing the exploits of a dog until my parents came. We again refreshed ourselves with hot coffee and chattu.
It was pretty, listening to the natural sounds of mountains and bird chirping, leaning against a chair after a long walk, and occasionally sipping in coffee. But alas! This tranquil moment did not last long, for soon a jeep came, farting dark grey smoke,and with loud music blazing and sallowing all the little beautiful bird chirping and distant waterfall sounds. Disgusted, we went inside a shop.
It was then that it started raining. Few drops to heavy raining, all completed in three minutes. By the time that bad jeep had also gone away. Seeing the path clear, we again started our walk towards Tumling, which was now only 5 kms away. This time we took the trekker’s route, which was more beautiful as it made its way through the shallow forests. The sweet smell of the forest mingled in the air, the rain made the forest look more fresh. The buzzing sound of the insects and the different shades of leaves gave equal pleasure to both my ears and eyes.
The road went up sometimes and down sometimes. Often we fell onto the jeep’s route. In one moment we were walking through a path surrounded by thick bushes and in the other moment we were walking on a pitch road. Light rain accompanied frequently. Soon mother, father, and Dawa Uncle were left behind and I was walking like a little curious girl in her dreamland.
When, after a long time, fell onto a certain jeep’s road, then suddenly it started raining. But this time heavily. I wore my raincoat, and it turned out to be of poor quality. All the raindrops fell on my clothes. There was no rock shelter beside. So remained only one option- to go on walking fast.
After some time of walking, I spotted a SSB camp.
Beside the camp stood a restaurant, from where a man was signaling me to go there. At first I felt confused, suddenly I remembered my state. Fully wet, I hurried there. The man helped me to dry up. After some time, when Dawa uncle and parents came and the rain ceased, we started making arrangements for going to Tumling, which was now only 2 kms away.
The scene before us was not really nice. All our shoes were wet, all our rucksacks were wet, the only ones not wet were father, Dawa uncle, and mother’s rucksack. Father had only covered himself with the polythene and left the bag to be the prey of the raindrops. Mother, in the battle to keep the bag dry, had ended up wetting herself. Dawa uncle had taken shelter under a rock shelter. As for me, nothing was left dry.
Well, we decided to dry all the wet things before fire in the kitchen of the lodge we were going to stay in Tumling.
The coffee in the flux was on its end, so we were entitled only 2 sips. Some three local men came in the restaurant and had Chang. A perfect setting, wasn’t it? Cold weather, with Chang to warm their body, making them able to enjoy the cold.
Moving out from the shelter, reluctantly we again started moving toward Tumling. Oh sorry! I forgot to say the name of the place- Meghma.
This particular walk was difficult for me. A wet rucksack on my back and wet shoes on my feet, I felt my blood freezing when a breeze passed by. The sweaters? They were all wet.
Fortunately, no more rain occurred. The rocky path glistened by the sunlight occasionally, when the clouds made way for the sun to show his face. But those moments were too short to enjoy fully. I couldn’t really enjoy it that nicely I wanted to. Later mother described her version of the walk, which was not sober like mine, but instead fascinating. Waterfalls, green and brown, what not did her narrative contained! I wish I had payed attention to the beauties.
By the way, when I sat on a bench in Tumling after overcoming 2kms, what a joy and relief I felt!
Practically, we were the last one to come there. One Bengali group, whom I had met earlier on the path, were the first one to greet me. Our lodge was just the opposite of their lodge. And then some friends of father turned out to occupy the room opposite to ours.
Straight from the room we went to the kitchen. Uncle had already arranged the situation in which our clothes and belongings had to dry. Baking ourselves to the fire’s warmth, we saw the other trekkers filling in the room to enjoy the fire like us.
One duo of two Bangladeshi didis, a whole group of south Indians, the previous Bengali family group, all came in and went out before my eyes. Parents too went out to explore the place. But being the lazy one, I stayed cuddled up beside the fire.
Soon all of the guides and porters came filling in the room. Some talked, some helped in the arrangement of the dinner, and a sweet harmony reigned the room. Feeling myself breaking the harmony, I too offered myself to help in the dinner arrangements. At first they said politely its ok, we don’t need it. But then one man, who was apparently the brother of the runner of the lodge, gave me some ginger and garlic with a smiling face. The work I did was too insignificant- just peeling the cover and grinding those, but their smiling faces made my day.
That night, I don’t know how many guide talked with me. In the dim light of the room, I couldn’t even see some of the faces. But then they were so nice, it was just overwhelming me. One guide even asked me to sing, and after some hesitation I did it, a duet with him. His voice was so melodious. The man, who asked me to cut the spices, we talked so much. I came to know that he was a driver and that his sister ran the lodge. He and some other guides talked about their life in the mountains, I related my life in Kolkata.