It was almost midnight when I hit the pillow .. needed a good night’s sleep before the trek. The temperature had dipped while we were on our way to Okhrey, and now it had become so cold that I felt like emptying my rucksack and wearing every piece of clothing in it 😀
Deep sleep – and probably a bit of snoring (my roommates would know 😉 ).
Sometime around dawn (or was it?) I opened my eyes, and pushed the curtains aside .. looked outside and it’s bright and sunny. Damn! Damn! Damn! I’m late for the trek. First day of the trip, and I’m making my friends wait. Looked around the room, and see 2 people sleeping – peacefully. Huh? Picked up my phone and see it’s just 5:10 am. WHAT! Oh, right. This is the north eastern side of the country. Sunrise is very early – around 4:30 am. Phew! No one has to wait.
Instead of going back to sleep, which was impossible, I decide to step out. Take a walk. Maybe click a few pictures. Freezing cold outside. Still I manage to get over my laziness, and head out and I wasn’t disappointed.
I didn’t have to walk far to witness gorgeous views like the one in this picture. I just had to step out of the door .. and BOOM! It’s so beautiful.
Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary is a short drive away from the homestay where we stayed. Then it’s a short 2-3 hours trek.
Had a hearty breakfast before heading out .. energy for the trek. The highlight of the meal was the sheera – yummy sheera full of dryfruits.
Okhrey (alt. 7200 ft) is a small village near the Sanctuary – majority of the people living here belong to the Sherpa community.
About the trek – It’s a short drive away from the homestay at Okhrey. You need to buy tickets at the entrance to the Sanctuary. No hassle ticket buying process… the polite (there’s that P word again) security guy at the ticket window asked minimum questions, and handed our tickets – no hassles.
It’s a gentle climb (a bit steep for non trekkers in some places)… but overall a pleasant walk in the forest. You are surrounded by rhododendron trees which were in full bloom.
(Sadly no good pictures on my mobile, just one blurry shot – y’all have to wait for the camera pics). There’s also bamboo, and sal trees. Depending on your fitness level, and walking pace it takes around 3-4 hours. This is just the trek within the sanctuary – just for the rhododendrons. There are other treks too – but you need a couple of days more for those.
So the 8 of us set out to explore the rhododendron forest – took plenty of breaks along the way. Snack break, photography breaks, to catch our breath, or just to stop and admire the nature around us. One of the most awaited moments of this trip was the mighty Kanchenjunga. I did manage to get a glimpse of the mighty mountain at one point during the trek. There’s a trekkers hut within the sanctuary – probably a base for some other treks in the region (e.g Singalila Ridge trek). We stopped here for a while – sipped tea while admiring the beautiful mountain in front of us. Sadly that was the only time during the 9 day trip that we saw this beautiful mountain and it’s snow capped peaks. On other days the views were obstructed by clouds 😦
Lunch was under the shade of a tree – we had carried packed lunch as it wasn’t possible to return to the base before late afternoon.
Lunch, and then start the trek back to Okhrey. This time too I took plenty of breaks – to click pictures, eat something (I’m always hungry), or just wait – look at the mountain – hoping to get another glimpse of Kanchenjunga.
Reached Okhrey just in time for tea, and delicious snacks – food is always delicious 😀 There was a cultural program later that evening but we had plenty of time to spare.. so we set out to explore the family’s farm – where they grow brocolli, corn (probably – saw corn hung out to dry – for popcorn!). So that’s where they get the fresh produce for their meals.
Later that evening we had the first “remote village” experience – power cut. There was no power that evening and we had to sit for a long time in the darkness. Didn’t mind that one bit. It’s always good to sit out in the dark, in the cool breeze, talking, watching people, clicking pictures, playing with the dogs… Watching the prayer flags blowing in the breeze – so peaceful, so calm.
The cultural program was a lovely experience – the power was still out when it started. Folk dances of the Sherpa community – all performed by school kids. It was so wonderful to watch. The enthusiasm of those kids – too good! I do not have any pictures of that event. I was carrying my camera bag with me – but then I realised my battery is so low that it won’t last for more than a couple of shots. I didn’t click any pics – because that’d be rude – click a few pics, and then just sit with the camera without clicking because your battery is all drained out. The funniest part is I was carrying my mobile in my pocket but totally forgot about it. (Signs of old age, eh?)
No pictures – but it was an experience I’ll never forget. Such wonderful performances by little kids. Great memories.
Post a wonderful dinner it was time to dump everything back into the rucksack cos tomorrow we’d be traveling to Pelling. Had to set out early, so all the packing (or stuffing clothes in the rucksack – in my case) had to be done ASAP.
Thus ended Day 2 – a trek to see the lovely Rhododendrons, a special appearance by Kanchenjunga, the farm and the fresh veggies, a power cut, the friendly dogs, and the cultural event to cap it off. Eventful day – spent with great company.