Amarasimha Giri Maidan and Acclimatization exercises:
|Amarasimha Giri Maidan|
We had to walk in the narrow streets of Darjelling which descends next to DHR railway station . It was a path which takes to a car parking and Maidan which has a statue of Gorkha Kavi Amarasimha Giri. Camp Leader and his assistant asked us to remove our Topi, Sweater , Jerkins or whatever and stand in 2 arm distance as if we are standing in normal weather ! I was wondering what is going on ! Who would ask you to remove your sweater in a temperature around 10 degrees ? But slowly, i realized that it is one of their acclimatization steps to make our body get used to that temperature. Various acclimatization exercises have been instructed by Camp leader Ramphal and his assistant. He was asking us to run for 3 rounds and few enthusiastic people like me used to run for 4 or 5 rounds. Darjelling altitude or its weather was not new to us. But, definitely was . You never know how the weather would change over there. I wanted to be in a fitness level of running 5K atleast if not 10K so that i would not fall sick during the trek and loose all the fun. As it was my first Himalayan trek, wanted to keep it as fit as possible as i only read the stories of himalayas, had never been there. Finally our Supriyo Ghosh bhai who is an Ex-Navy officer and currently working in Punjab national bank joined in as an instructor and made us to push ups and run few more rounds as well :-) It was a good exercise of about 30 minutes and almost everyone was sweating and there was no need for any sweaters or camps :-)
We had to take the elevated path of the same streets to reach our base camp. Taking the steepy path, exercising with shoes on etc were a good choice to test our shoes and excercise our body as there were many like me who had never done trekking for a week or so and first time into Himalayas as well. So, were not used to wearing the Ankle support shoes especially made for mountain treks or walking with Rucksacks. After enjoying the views of Kanchanaganga near the railway station, we came back to camp around 7:40. SG05 people were ready in the same place where the filing was done in the morning and were ready to move into the Next camp . As our breakfast was to be ready by 08:00, we did not hurry to have breakfast or to the rooms for some other things. We were mainly there to seaoff our previous batchmates. We wished them all the best as the green flag was weaved and they headed into the jeeps to move into the next camp. Our next plan in schedule was breakfast.
After breakfast, we had to start for Acclimatization walk. It was around 09:15 when all people assembled and we moved on. One more visit into the Japanese temple was not boring as we had to take a different route this time and we were leading people after a point which we had seen the previous day. Could witness the buddhist worship when i visited the temple today and could participate in their prayer by playing the trumpets. The pink Cherry blossom tree on the premise and the MarryGold ones were posing for pics when i came out to visit Peace Pagoda. Peace pagoda is the place which has 4 buddha statues in 4 directions and carvings about the life of Budha. Multiple photo sessions were going on there as well until we had to head back to the entrance of Buddhist temple where we had to do the filing. There we had to introduce ourselves about where we are from and whether it is the first time we are trekking with YHAI. There was no hard and fast rule that we have to introduce ourselves like this only. But some strange facts came out during introductions which lead into the Group leader and Deputy (or you can call Depti) group leader for the whole trek.
Some of the highlights were as follows .
Yadnyesh (hope i am spelling his name correctly) had introuduced himself as from Mumbai and an employee of a Bank. Later came to know that he is working in Axis Bank. Because of the incidents of Axis bank in the recent past and the way he introduced himself created a layer of laughter. Got to know that Shampa Mam is the wife of our Supriyo Ghosh bhai during the intro . Got to know about Tushar Sharma from Gujarat who had done 7 treks so far and Shailesh, Harish , Sudhir Sir and Rajesh Sharma(can call them Sharmaji :-) doing more than 4 treks. There was Praveen as well covering 4 treks and expericienced people like Swarup, Ganesh , Don, Praful More (you can consider in whatever way you feel :-) )
There was Manjusha mam who is a Doctor and had been to treks before and Archana mam who had been to Siachen Before and Anusha from Karnataka who had been to Surpass already. So, I was like a small kid standing amidst a group of .. Ah, not getting exact words to describe that feeling. Probably can say it as a small kid standing amidst a group of giants. There was Somesh, Surya, Himanshu, Ramya, Priti, Priya , Chaitali, Monisha, Kavya from different sectors and Kannada guys Prashanth,Sunil,Yashaswini,Shweta who were first timers into himalayan trekking again. If i had to write about the intro of my room mate Girish or Faizan or Magendran or Doi bhai, Datta bhai, Avik, abro, Anupam, Anhita, Suresh , Kiran it would be a bigger chapter here itself. Let me reserve some of it for few group pics as well :-)
As there were many people from Karnataka Sharmaji was suggesting to have a representative from that side and we had unanimously shouted Shailesh's name. There were people from Andra, Tamilnadu, Maharashtra, Bengal, Himachal as well of course and there is nothing that one guy should represent one region. He/She should mingle with the whole team. Ramphal ji was saying that there would be 3 leaders in a group. Group Leader who would be following the group from the back and talking with the various camp leaders in getting the facilities for the group and make sure that group enjoys the trek without any issues. A Deputy group leader who would be helping the group leader by collecting the IDs of guys, doing file in and an energetic one who leads the group from the front. There would be an environmental leader as well who makes sure that nobody throws garbage on our way and trek route remains as clean as it was before our trek started. Our group members were so desciplined that Environmental leader did not have any duties throught the trek :-) As no one was coming forward to become the deputy, Sharmaji came forward to become the deputy and Shailesh has switched to become the deputy. Thus he become so famous with that name only apart from his name Shailesh or the fb name Zen walker . Archana mam was choosen as Environmental leader.
After the intro, we took a group pic and had the option to head back to base camp or roam around the city to get us more acclimatized ! During the walk we had to take our racksacks to make us used to the experience of walking with those . It was the second day that we were walking with our bags (previous day being we had to wait till 5pm to keep our bags and we were roaming in streets of Darjelling till then with all our bags). But we thouhgt to take them anyway and decided to go for one more round of the city.
We went to Chowrasta Market in Darjelling. It has a statue built in memory of Nepali Kavi Bhanubhakta Acharya who is well known as the writer or Ramayan in Nepali.Stage was being set there for a western music show for that evening. We visited Nathumalls Sunset Lounge which is very famous among the people who are interested in enjoying the beauty of sunrise or sunset among the hills of Darjelling. I am not sure if someone really visits there around 5:30 AM in the morning to have tea. But one can really enjoy the view from there around 4:30 PM in the eve. There i tasted the famous White tea and black tea variants from Darjelling. There were so many different varieties of teas there like Gudnapur tea etc that its very difficult for me to recall them. After packing few tea bags for home, we left from there and moved on towards Mahajal Mandir.
Mahakal Mandir and Market.
It is one of the must visit place of Darjelling. I liked it not because of the stories behind it or the cave near it. But mainly because of the Nepali styaled Shiva, Kali Mandirs where you can see the buddhists Mahes(Round like structures where some inscriptions would be written and you have the option to turn them around) infront of a Hindu temple ! Of course, you can see a Nepali Priest (who can be recognised by his Cap) along with the Buddhist monks with the Red coloured dresses in the temple ! Its a shiva temple for sure. But you can see the dragons in its outerwalls and can see so many Lungtas over there. (Would write more about different flags like Lungta,Geda, Dhwaja in the sikkemese chapters) . Although the temple would be open from morning 5:30 to night 8, localites advise to visit in the morning itself and not in the night. Not because of any supserstitions, but because of the practical facts like no proper lightings, less people visiting here and Monkeys causing menance to the visitors. Climbing Makal mandir steps with a Bagpack weighing around 5 to 6 kgs was a good experience. Don't forget to bargain at the shops in the Mahakal Market. The shawls and stawls which they initially ask for 250 would be sold around 125 :-) I brought few ladies stawls for my Granny and Mom. Others were busy in purchasing the shawls, stawls, sweaters for their loved ones as well. Can get multiple quality and colours as well in prices cheaper than the market which resides below.
By the time we came back from Mahakal Mandir it was around 1:45 and we had to head back to Base camp for Lunch and post lunch session by Mr Swamy. Shailesh and Harish were more interested to explore the Darjelling food as we would be eating the YHAI food for next few days anyway. So, went to the Park restaurant on the way to explore Thai food and reutrned to the Base camp . By the time we reached base camp, Mr Swamy was about to start his introductory session about the trekking days which were ahead of us. We did not have time to visit our room and take shower using the hot water which would be available from 12 to 1 or from 2to 4 as it was 2:30 already. We did not have chance to keep our bags also. So, sat in the same session as last row students :-) He explained about various symptoms of mountain sickness which we may face during the trek and how we can overcome them. He was telling about what to carry for the trek and what not to carry. He also told about his trekking experiences and how it would be in extreme himalayan places like ABC(Annapoorna Base Camp) and Everest Base camp(EBC). This was the first time i was hearing about these things and was actually overwhelmed to hear something like that. He was telling about how how people used to spoil Sanakphu earlier and howforest personal cleaned the whole trekking route this time. Hearing his words, we were actually deciding not to throw a single piece of plastic over the entire route. It may seem exhaggeration, but was true :-) He was telling about places where we can see snow in our trek and experiences from the previous batches.Hearing all his stories gave a moral booster for the days to come. His lecture went on and on and on till beyond the breaking point of 4 PM and we lost a golden oppurtunity to get hot water :-( It finally ended around 4:10 and Camp assistant clearly refused to give hot water as it was after 4 PM !!
Cold water challenge!:
2.5 days without taking shower and there were 5 more days ahead of us where temperatures would be even lesser. A thing which i could not imagine in my dreams also was supposed to happen. It was not hot, we were not sweating and there was no actual need to take bath. But the psychological feel of not having it is very strnage one to describe unless you feel it . Directly headed back to room after the lecture and made a bold decision to take bath in cold water only ! Shailesh was telling the story about them taking bath in the ice cold rivers on the way back from Surpass and he went first. Sound effects from Bath room were really not encouraging for the next goers. But somehow had to gather courage . Heard the sotry from Dad and mom about their days in Jalandhar and Kashmir where water would freeze in pipes and they had to hit or heat the pipes to get water.Had heard about the Shabarimala Ayyappa devotees taking bath on a deadly winter around 4 am and walking bare footedly. Had experienced the chilly waters of ManikyaDhara in Chikkamagalur. Had taken cold water baths during power failures and during summer also. But a cold water bath in a temperature around 10 degrees was beyond my imagination. But further i delay, water would become more colder. So, had to take a bold step or forget about it for next 5 to 6 days atleast, not repenting about the decision. So ,thought to go for the earlier option. My uncle who reads a lot about Ayurveda used to say that cold water should go to the head first and hot water to the bodies. Otherwise you may get cold or fewer. So, first bowl was on head. Freexe !! Felt as if my forehead froze for a second when the water descneded from head to the forehead ! Could not lift the second bowl of water from the bucket ! but it was for few seconds until it recovered and my body got used to the cold water. Chilling water was showing its effects on body parts as well. But It was a superb experience to have bath in that cold weather and seeing your body regenerate so much of heat as you come out. Girish, Harish had been for city rounds to shop some sweaters and they had their chance of taking bath in cold water as well.
Last night of December in Darjelling:
That evening we had to deposit our extra luggages in a room provided by YHAI and take the reciepts for it. We were warned that, if we loose our reciepts, we would not get the bags back. So, had to carefully take the reciepts and preserve it for rest of the days. After that we went out to explore Darjelling again. That night was cool as well as we had been to one more round around DHR station and to explore the unexplored route left to the Petrol pump. We had been to the Food street and market of Darjelling and could see the shops closing by 7 PM only(sun sets here at 4:30 pm). We found the local fruit called "Kavalo Fruit" and had to ask the guy multiple times to make out that he is actually asking us to pay 20 Rs for 3 by his words"Bees Rupya Teento"(Bees Rupaya Teenko). Me managed to convince him to pay 4 for 20 Rs. Those shopekeepers were curious about our curiosity as well and gave it. After the night food at Orchid, we were back to bed and were alseep in the curiosity and anxiety about the days to come
Coming up Next: Dhotrey and Tumling trek