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A tale of the trekking

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This was the year 1965 when he was eighteen, this was when he got his first job in a small pharmaceutical company and luckily he was posted near Darjeeling. Darjeeling was his first love, staying in a Bengali mess he was exploring within and experiencing life. Thirty-five people in four messes used to live happily. Kanchenjunga was not visible from the long veranda of the mess, but Sandakphu was always in front from that part. He later on got to know that Sandakphu is very high around 3636 m which is one of the highest point in West Bengal! This is when he learned what trekking is. He has seen many Foreigners and Bengalis go there. In spite of having many Nepali friends, he could only find out that Sandakphu is visible once you reach there, and if you go a little further then Phalut can also be seen, from there Kanchenjunga seems so close that you can reach your hands and touch the tip of it. This is when Barun got his first lust for trekking and this is when he decided to go to Sandakphu. Since Barun was the youngest in the mess hence everyone liked him but no one was taking him seriously when he asked the mess people to go with him on the trekking. However Barun had decided that he would go no matter what so he went to the youth hostel to seek advice from Mr. Kalishankar Sanyal, the warden. Mr. Sanyal explained everything very caringly and gave him a green framed ruck sack and a big sleeping bag. Mr. Sanyal also asked him to take 2 meter plastic seat. Barun bought a Hunter shoe and walked for few days to make sure it is comfortable. But as the day of departure approached and Barun had only started his journey towards Manevanjang by car from where he was supposed to start the trekking, he got into an accident where he would lose one of his arm because his car fell down from the hill due to break fail. This was the first time when he felt life was slipping away from him and he would never be able to trek. It took him 3 months before he could get back to the new normal and get back to work from his home in Kolkata. The first thing that Barun did after returning was to return the gears once he borrowed from Mr. Sanyanal. Mr. Sanyal could look through his eyes and see the pain that Barun was feeling while returning the gears however Mr. Sanyal decided not to say anything. Few days later Mr. Sanyal asked for Barun where he would introduce Barun to Robert from England who came there to trek to Sandakphu, once Robert left Mr. Sanyal would then tell about Robert, how he has trekked in all over the world. Barun could not understand that after going through that accident how can Mr. Sanyal be so confident in him and would encourage him to go for the trekking again however he could feel more adventure this time. Mr. Sanyal advised him to always remember and keep Darjeeling to the right of him all the time, so they would never get lost.

On his way back, Barun bought all the dry foods and necessary goods that he would need for this trek as advised by Mr. Sanyal and when he returned to the mess with the sack and the sleeping bag, everyone started shouting and reasoning why he should not go and take the risk, he had already lost one of his hand and this is unlucky for him but this time nothing could stop him, not even the missing one hand. The last week of March, at 5 in the morning, Barun took a cab again from Darjeeling towards Manevanjang when he was thinking about the accident. He would reach to Manevanjang and have his breakfast and tea.

It may be 7:05 am when he started his first trek.  There were no permits, no guides then.  At the beginning of the climb, a rough boulder road. Three kilometres away Barun saw a very large hut, two black yaks.  Dung all around.  That’s the picture. There was a lot of grass land. He lowered the sack and stood for a while, drank some water. While he was resting he checked his stock of food, the new knife that he would later to cut the freezing yak milk. He then started his trekking again and on his way he would witness forests of the Rhododendron, Pine, Fir, Birch & Bamboo Glades and of course the world of the silent hill. He had no idea where he was and when or how he is going to reach to the destination and internet was not yet discovered. The surroundings were so hypnotizing. He was walking alone, very slowly, watching, no one was there anything to say, no rush. Few hours later Barun found a village, Tumling, a few huts, lots of dung, lots of narrow canals to get water, few children came running while doing Namaste.  Everyone’s cheeks are red and lightly cracked, cold moustaches made from their running nose. Sunset is almost here, Barun does not know how much he has left before the light goes out. Barun found an empty space, a small place full of grass surrounded by small bushes all around, he would then spread the plastic seat and took out the food.  The sweet breads of the Glinaris have hardened a little in the cold, the cakes are fairly fine. He would then eat bread with sweet and cake. Sitting there, the gold locket of Darjeeling with the gap of the bushes looked great. He took all the bars from the sack, he would put his foot in the sleeping bag and put it inside the sack and think how lucky he was to come out alive from that accident and to be able to experience this serenity. He would then fall into sleep in no time due to the tiredness of carrying the big sack and walking the hill.

Barun had the best sleep of his life and the sun would come up in no time. He would then woke up, pack his bag and start toward the new keeping Darjeeling on the right. Tonglu seems to be the highest place in the distance. He would now have to go down. After descending a little further, he noticed a house with a green roof where he would reach within fifteen minutes. Barun found out that it was Garibas. He was offered tea and mild where Barun would choose a glass of hot milk. Sweet bread has become a little stiffer, well Barun had the new knife so he cut it and ate it. He would then get up and start his journey again. Kayakata crosses a couple of ups and downs, and a little later a small black pond (Kalapokhari), a large tin-shaded house beyond. Barun found one local guy and heard that many people used that as a shelter to stay at night there were couple of more small houses. Barun would seat there and ate the food he had brought with him in his ruck sack just like the night before.

Barun would later reach Bikhevanjang, a broken hut, with no one. From the right side, the rough road made of boulder seen in that Gairibas came and went towards Sandakphu. Barun took that road. With high altitude and very steep road Barun was out of breath. Barun would think that it would have been better if he could have dropped the ruck sack but there is no way, he could. There is no end to the road.  It is clear that the milestones are not right.  However, the wonderful scenery on both sides was enough reason to forget the pain Barun was feeling. Barun was panting but keeping up even if he was very slow and then he would find a broken board at the end of the steep road, written – Sandakafu.

When Barun reached there, he could feel his first success, he saw a few houses on the left side, clouds were coming all around, and it was foggy. The first house was Trekkers Hat.  Many of the glass doors and windows were broken. A caretaker came forward and opened the door. Online booking was not an option back then and rating is something else. The inside was broken. Three-story bunk bed, with hundreds of crack, dirty mattresses. The roof also had leaks in many places. Barun was alone, no one else. A nice looking house in the distance, which was a PWD bungalow. A couple of more houses scattered.

Shortly after, the fierce blizzard began. Barun was freezing cold. It went on like this for hours. Six to seven inches of snow filled the place right in front of our eyes. Kanchenjunga was not visible due to clouds and fog all around. However Barun noticed a foreign trekker was coming to that place. It’s still snowing, someone came forward, and introduced himself as Manuel and he came from Spain. Barun was a little surprised to see him alone and at the same time he was also enjoying this new experience of meeting someone so diverse yet they were united by the same interest in trekking. Manuel said that he had never seen an Indian guy trek alone before.

After a while it started snowing again and slowly that place was full of blizzard. It got dark, Blizzard never stopped. This time Brun and Manuel would to talk about food, the accident when they realised the caretaker was nowhere to be found, however they could see a small house nearby. Barun ran towards the small house with a torch in hand. He knocked on the door and went inside where he found the caretaker was lying on the bed and then would inform Barun that he will prepare the food and get to them in 30 minutes and gave Barun a candle. The food arrived on time – hot chow.  And with a fried egg. Barun felt so lucky to get the hot food. Later he found that a group came two days ago and they brought the eggs, after dinner they would go to bed to get some sleep.

Barun woke up after a good night sleep and when he got out through the door, he saw something so divine, the whole place is filled with snow, the sun was just setting up and the yellowish light and the slow morning was sight for his sore eyes. Kanchenjunga was bright white. Everest, Lotse and Makalu were standing quietly on the left!  And three sisters in the middle of them. Imagine standing in one place and able to see so many peaks together! It is only possible from Sandakphu. Barun would then eat breakfast where he found that the breads, cakes were hardened as bricks. It’s time to return. Destination Rimbick from Bikhevanjang, Barun will have to go to the left through the jungle the caretaker showed the way. How much more? Barun asked, with no correct answer. Some said fifteen kilometres, some said twenty kilometres. Barun left the place and started walking with the experience that would change his life forever and since then Barun have trekked more than 20 different parts of India.

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