Our second morning in the peaceful town and we were greeted with a shining sun. I have no words to explain the feeling of happiness and warmth I felt when I saw the clear sky and the shining sun. The weather was still icy and the air, cool but the sun being out made us forget the cold. And the mountains. Oh my God, the snow-capped mountains, standing in the sunshine spotlight. Magnificent.
A hearty breakfast and a brave shower later, Naveen and I were rushing out of the house to catch some sunshine on our face. We weren’t the only ones with the idea, the whole town was out sunbathing.
We decided it was a good day to go out for a trek.
Yuksom is the base point for one of the most famous treks – in the world, in fact. It’s a short high altitude five day trek and you reach an altitude of 13,778 feet, with breathtaking views.
As exciting as it sounded, we weren’t equipped for the trek and it wasn’t the season. The weather was unfavourable. The view wouldn’t be that great. But we could easily trek up to 2 kilometers, up to the first base and the trek uphill after that would start getting difficult. All of this, we were told by the local forest ranger, D. T Lepcha.
So, we packed the bare minimums for ourselves, a couple of water bottles, some candies and our equipment and off we went, on an adventure.
The entry to the forest is through a small community of settlers, nearly everyone we met on the path greeted us with a bright smile and a hearty, hello, good morning. Did the clear skies and warm sunshine put everyone in a good mood? Or was it just that the locals were just friendly and nice? Definitely the latter.
By fifteen minutes into the trek, we were away from people and it was just the forest, the open skies and us.
This was my first trek and Naveen’s 200th (or something!) So you can imagine the difference in stamina. While I was huffing and puffing, stopping every ten minutes to catch my breath and rest my legs, Naveen was almost weightless. Carrying a bag, a camera and a tripod like they were leaves and cotton and prancing up the hill.
Each time we paused (and we paused for quite a bit) we were hit with amazing views and why wouldn’t we be? We were surrounded by the hills and forests for as far as the eye could see. Long shoots of bamboos, bright coloured flowers, birds singing from everywhere – anywhere you looked, it was a picture worthy of framing and hanging. It was all worth the breath I was losing and the sweat I was breaking. It’s always worth it.
About an hour into the trek, we reached the first base point. A bridge over a waterfall. I think I was feeling sore all over but I don’t remember. All I can recall is the beautiful waterfall, gushing through the valley and making its way down. Have you ever noticed how wonderful mother nature’s color palate is? What a wonderful artist she is.
I sat by the waterfall and felt peace and also felt like the main character in a movie, going through a life changing moment. And the sound of the water gushing for miles was my background music. It was soothing and quiet and I must have sat there like a statue for nearly twenty minutes and I would have sat for longer if Naveen hadn’t asked to move on.
Like Mr D. T. Lepcha had warned us, the path started to get trickier and sometimes it was only wide enough to go in single file. The scary part is, if you lose your footing, there are chances of you slipping and falling straight down. One way fall to the end or some major, life threatening injuries – more realistically speaking. Which is worse because death is final but ending up as a vegetable is not. But mind the soil and the rocks under your foot, be aware of your footing, walk slowly and you’re good.
There is next to zero human litter through the trek path and you rarely meet anyone – and yet, somehow, we managed to run into some locals who were herding yaks through the damn path! As though they were taking a walk in a damn park.
A little more than a kilometer on the steep trek and I had to stop. Naveen, without doubt, could have gone further and I really wanted to go ahead, I wanted to push myself further, just to see the next view point. But you’ve got to know when to stop. It’s better to turn around than black out in the middle of nowhere.
The walk back was comparatively easy and faster, only because it was mostly downhill. We stopped at the waterfall again, felt the same kind of peace all over again. Even though my feet were throbbing in my shoes, I knew I could and would do this all over again.
As we reached civilization again, Naveen and I were tired, hungry and so happy. Our bodies were sore and craving for food and rest, but we couldn’t wipe the silly grins off our faces. I felt victorious, though it was a small trek. We walked for nearly five kilometers up and down and I was still standing. I felt proud of myself as I stood at the end of the trek, toes paining and full of life. I could and would definitely do this all over again.
I sincerely looked forward to taking a hot shower, change into a fresh pair of clothes, eating some good, filling food and sleeping the good slumber.
The next day, a whole another adventure was waiting for us.