I wake up to the silent afternoon breeze and lead myself out of the hut as quietly as I can. Stopping at the porch, I start to wear my shoes rather absentmindedly – they’re almost a part of my body now, what with 12 hours of continuous accompaniment. The silence is only broken by the distant clattering of vessels in the kitchen and the heavy breathing of the weary trekkers slumbering inside the hut. It is a warm and sunny afternoon – A stark difference from our encounters of the last five days. Sunlight is good, I tell myself, stretching my numb limbs and making my way towards a big rock across the hut. I am basking in this glorious sunshine and looking over the huts that lay ahead of me, amidst the vast expanse of snowy terrain that is outlined by towering mountains. The mules are busy grazing whatever little vegetation they can find below the snow, and I find myself slipping into a recollection of the events of the last twelve hours…

PC: Raylene Monteiro

As we stood gazing into the velvety sky, our campsite was bustling with activity – Trekkers busy with last minute prepping,  micro-spikes clinking, kitchen staff hustling with packed food, the guides instructing each other in Nepali and the mules whinnying away. I remember thinking to myself how odd it was that while I was here, waiting to kick-start this adventure at 1 in the morning, all my family and friends were probably already asleep, oblivious to all the adrenalin rushing through my veins!
We collectively prayed to the mountain gods to support our endeavor with clear weather, and started off towards Lamuney which was another 4 km of pretty much flat walk. We walked silently, pausing frequently to sip some water but largely following our guides who had now reduced to mere torch-lights in the far. ‘This is the thing about trekking in the night’, I thought to myself, ‘It is probably nature’s way of showing us that we will always find light at the end of the tunnel’. We soon reached Lamuney (well in time), eager to continue to View Point 1 (VP1) to catch the sun rise over the glorious Kanchenjunga range.

Ita Sing in his element
PC: Jude Rayen

My pleasant reminiscing is interrupted by the sound of Sancha bhaiya and Ita Sing (our guides) giggling their way out of the kitchen tent. I smile to them and they smirk shyly and giggle away towards the mules. I dawdle my way around the flat land facing Pandim and realise that the melting snow has rendered the terrain mucky as soon as my foot slips into one of those mucky patches. I lift my foot, only to find the shoe dripping in different shades of brown. Hopping over to a drier spot, I take the shoe off and slip into a recollection of the events of the morning, together with cleaning the shoe…

Snow plume

The hike from Lamuney to VP1 was arduous. Under normal circumstances, we would have started for VP1 from the Lamuney campsite – but we had to cover this distance on the summit day itself, having had missed a day’s time on account of bad weather at Dzongri. What sounded like a measly 3.5kms was turning out to be the most hardcore thing any of us had done and rightly so – 15,200 ft was no mean feat! Sancha bhaiya had told us that 5.45 am was the perfect time to witness sunrise from VP1 and honestly, that was our only motivation to keep going. It was a test of endurance and patience, for the gradients were extremely steep and every time I felt like I was there, Sancha bhaiya would shout to say “thoda aur aage hai (it is a bit further away)”. At 5.30 am, I realised that I was still far away from VP1. Andi was marching ahead, breaking trail for the rest of us while Raylene and Jude were catching up to Sancha bhaiya and me. I kept asking Sancha bhaiya if I’d be able to make it in time for sunrise and he responded each time with an “araam se (easily)” and an impish smirk. We were 15 minutes away from being the first batch to summit Goecha La that season and of course our 19 year old guide was as excited as us!

The last leg was legitimately formidable, and we were ascending through knee-deep snow. Each step took herculean effort, and it was only then that Sancha shouted “Jaldi aajao abhi speed badhao..sunrise hone waala hai! (Come quick, speed up.. the sun is going to rise!)”. I pulled in all effort to move ahead as quickly as I could, walking along the treacherous trail – one mis-step in the deep snowy track, and a big fall down the valley eagerly awaited me. I had barely reached the end of the trail when Sancha bhaiya shouted, “Yehi hai View Point 1… welcome! (This is View Point 1… welcome!)”. I looked up to witness the first rays of sun falling on the illustrious Mt. Kabru and then slowly reflecting on the whole of the Kanchenjunga range. It felt like magic – to be standing there, barely 2kms from the world’s third highest peak, and watch this phenomenon. It felt like nature had placed those glimmering rays on the range, just like a veil over a bride’s head. If there was a quantifiable way to express gratitude, then it had to be this… and here.

Crowning glory

I am swiftly pulled out of my dream world by the animated conversation between Raylene and Andi. They are walking around deep in discussion about what sounds like college… or music. I begin to wear my now not-so-wet shoe and see Jude walking towards us. Even from a distance, it is easy to tell that he is playing some of his favourite Trishna Gurung Nepali folk songs. I start to hum Asaar in my head as I walk towards the group. I think for now and forever, Asaar is only going to remind me of the summit and the tears…

जिन्दगी कहिले घाम कहिले पानी, लै बरी लै
Life is sometimes like the sun and sometimes rain

माया नै सबै भन्दा ठुलो कुरो रैछ नि है
Love is the greatest thing in the world

चारैतिर निला निला आकाश नै छायो है
Big Blue clouds surround us   

वरिपरि लागेको यो कुहिरो हरायो है
The fog surrounding us gets dispersed

मनलाई साँचो राखी हिँडिरहेछु
I keep my heart pure and walking

म तिम्रो साहारामै बाँचिरहेछु, मायालु
I am living for you, Darling….

Asaar… and tears.
PC: Raylene Monteiro

All of us soon re-group and mull over the happenings of the day with renewed vigour. The fatigue from our noteworthy 14.5km long hike seems to have faded away like the green on autumn leaves. We are happily gupshupping about the day that was and how lucky we are to have been able to get out of Dzongri and finally made it to the summit.

Enroute Kokchurang
PC: Jude Rayen

We hiked from Dzongri to Thansing via Kokchurang, which is usually a preferred campsite among trekkers (not to mention the number of ghost stories about this place). But we decided to give it a miss and camp at Thansing instead, thanks to the snow. The route from Dzongri to Kokchurang was carpeted with snow and needless to say, we were breaking the trail through most of the route. It was a beautiful day and the sky was slowly clearing to reveal its perfect blue shade. We marched along the route, having received ample warning from Jude that the descent to Kokchurang was going to be steeper than we imagined, and our knees were going to take quite a beating. 

Panoramic views
PC: Jude Rayen

When we finally descended to Kokchurang – after a lot of puffing and panting, knee-jerking and micro-spiking – we were greeted by the utterly gorgeous Prek Chu river that flowed in all its force and glory. We quickly ran towards the river to touch its ice cold waters that were gushing through snow-laden boulders. The exuberant Prek Chu along with the pine and oak trees sprinkled with snow along its bed made for an unforgettable sight! The place was so scenic and calm, but we had to start towards Thansing, albeit reluctantly…

The gorgeous Prek Chu
PC: Raylene Monteiro

Our reminiscing is interrupted by Ita Sing and the big bowl of popcorn in his hand. Amidst all our dialogue, we had forgotten how hungry we were, and the popcorn only makes us aware of this reality. Just as we begin to grab the popcorn, Sancha bhaiya waltzes in with hot chai for us. We are gorging on the hot chai and popcorn, and of course fully intend to continue our walk down our recently walked memory lane. We realise that none of this conversation is complete with an elaborate discussion on our 3 day long stay at Dzongri…

Popping away
PC: Andi Duttagupta

We ended up spending a good 3 days in Dzongri, as against the initial two day plan – snow played truant to our plans. We were positively confined to the four walls of our trek hut for most of the time (except the mandatory pee-breaks) as it snowed away to glory. The visual outside our hut changed from barren brown to whirly white in no time. And even though the outdoors looked mesmerizing and a few of us experienced our first snow-fall, the enthusiastic trekkers were exasperated with staying indoors in this newly christened ‘hell-hole’.

When Dzongri was covered in snow..
PC: Raylene Monteiro

We kept stepping outside to play some games and do the ‘thermal dance’ to keep ourselves active, but the snow fall kept pushing us back indoors. The weather on all three days was pretty dull and the skies were filled with the darkest clouds, making us feel like we had caused some major upset up in the heavens. Our visit up Dzongri top was also mired in thunder and rain, and we rushed back down with no views of the gorgeous Kanchenjunga range.

Dzongri Top – All and nothing 🙂

Even though Andi merrily networked with the other trekkers who were stuck with us in Dzongri, we were collectively worried about our prospects for the summit and started to make alternate plans. The next day was going to be our make or break day. We were going to move out of Dzongri anyway – either back to base or towards Thansing. We were pretty much blank about what lay ahead of us.

A loud knock on the door awoke us on the next morning at 5 – One of guides walked in and declared that the sky had cleared! We rushed to pack ourselves and head to Thansing! I’d like to call it providence… 

Overlooking the gorgeous Pandim
PC: Jude Rayen

Our engaging discussion is abruptly paused with the realisation of sunset that is heavenly unfolding before us. We are gazing at the palette of colours as it dissolves into the endless sky, blissfully aware that time has no meaning in this moment. Just as the sun sets behind the Pandim, into the Kanchenjunga range, a bunch of clouds lumber in and cover themselves over the beautiful mountains… just like curtains closing over the stage after the final encore.

We silently walk back towards the hut, content and deeply grateful – knowing in our hearts that this was nature’s gift to us and us only 🙂

The “A” team!
PC: Sancha Bhaiya

PS: Thankyou Jude and Tour de Outdoors, for giving us the experience of a lifetime. Forever grateful 🙂

Rain and Ravangla

It is 7.20 in the morning and I quickly gulp down my coffee and start trotting towards the taxi stand which is right outside MG Marg. Glancing back, I bid adieu to New Modern Central Lodge – the lovely place that housed me during the first two days of my travel. Even as I walk across the near empty MG Marg, trying to grasp as much of its beauty as I can for the last time, I cannot help but wonder what my next destination Ravangla is going to be like. I hurriedly buy my shared jeep ticket to Ravangla upon reaching the taxi stand (= share jeep tickets to Ravangla could be booked in advance on the previous day as well) and head to the cab.

The gorgeous mountains as they play with the Sun!

The gorgeous mountains as they play with the Sun!

The cab starts off at 7.45 am sharp and the drive to Ravangla is magnificent, to say the least – Winding roads across the gigantic Himalayas, the cold breeze, tallest trees, unending farmlands, the most exquisite birds and wonderful co-passengers. It feels like a dream. There is a visible change in climate and environment as we move away from the commercial hub of Gangtok. (= My co-passengers Simmi, Bishey and her mother are the most enthusiastic company I could have asked for. Even as they intently listen to all my stories of Bombay, they animatedly point out to the mountains outside the window and keep me updated with our geographical location. They share details of their life in Sikkim, and constantly keep checking if I am comfortable. All this in a shared-cab! These lovely ladies already make me look forward to Ravangla and I can’t wait to get there!)(= One more thing that I could not help but notice, was the availability of clean and hygienic public toilets on the route. I instantly drew comparisons with my visit to Himachal Pradesh a couple of years back, where availability of public toilets was one of the bigger challenges we faced during our road trip. Thumbs up, Sikkim!)

We reach Ravangla by 10.30 am, and even as Simmi continues her homeward journey to Kewzing (which is approximately 10 kms away), Bishey and her mother continue with me, till I manage to locate my hotel – Hotel Melody. They bid adieu with the warmest smile and wish me the best of luck for my journey ahead. I am welcomed into the cottage-like hotel by the owner / manager, Bobbit Das, and my room offers me a brilliant view of the town. It is such a pleasant day and the sun rays beaming through the window make me wonder why everyone kept telling me about how cold Ravangla is! After getting some rest, I head to a restaurant called ‘Kookay’ for lunch (Bobbit sir’s recommendation). (=Now I need to mention that at this moment, a million thoughts are bouncing all over my head! Firstly, during my conversation with Bobbit sir, I learnt that I was the only guest at the hotel during my stay in Ravangla. I don’t know how to say it, but I am scared. This is probably the first time I am experiencing the true meaning of solo travel, but I just cannot put my apprehensions to rest. My solo-traveller instincts have obviously taken over, and I have got my guard up… but I don’t know if it’s a good idea to stay here – all alone. Sigh. Maybe I should just move to some other place that is not as deserted as this one? But the reviews on tripadvisor were very positive. What other option do I even have? From what I gather, there isn’t much to do in Ravangla anyway. Maybe I should just leave tomorrow? Sigh. Maybe I should just go and have lunch first? A whirlwind of thoughts).

At Kookay!

At Kookay!

Veg thali. Slurrrp!

Veg thali. Slurrrp!

I walk to Kookay which is barely 5 minutes away from the hotel, where I meet Norzang, who is meticulously redecorating a wall with post-it notes left by the many visitors at the restaurant. The restaurant is beautiful and exudes a lovely vibe. I request Norzang to suggest a local delicacy for lunch and he gladly recommends the thali. ‘It is not a local dish, but it is cooked in the local way. Maybe you can try it’, he says. So thali, it is! Given that I am the only guest at the restaurant (again!), we end up making small talk on why I am travelling alone and what my folks think of all the photos that I keep sending across to them. Soon, my meal arrives and my appetite takes me by a big surprise as I gobble the food down. To call it delicious, would be gross injustice to the food! After my meal, I randomly ask Norzang to help me with off-beat places to visit at Ravangla. What happens next, is something I will always remember. He tears off a couple of pages from his diary, and begins to draw miniature maps to help me with directions to what he suggests are the places worth visiting. Another brush with the affectionate Sikkimese hospitality!

Kookay maps

My favourite souvenirs from Sikkim 🙂

I thank Norzang, collect my bag from the hotel and merrily start walking to Tathagata Tsal (=more famously known as Buddha Park – Yes, that is the first destination!). It is easily a 15 minute walk, to say the least. As I stride away from the dreamy town, I am left walking alone along the empty road (again!), even as a number of tourist vehicles zoom past me. However, as I near Buddha Park, the Buddha emerges through the mountains and its sheer size leaves me captivated. I purchase my entry ticket (=which costs Rs. 50) and make my way through security. The guard collects my ticket and asks me if I am alone (=First emotion: fear. Is he a creep? Why should he ask me this? What has it got to do with him? Should I tell him the truth or lie? Why am I stuck in Ravangla? So many thoughts in a fraction of a second. Funny how the human mind is so quick). I reply in the affirmative, and he politely shows me directions to the Buddha, the souvenir stores and the washrooms before welcoming me with a smile. I am completely taken aback. (=Next thought: this place is beginning to shatter all my opinions on sixth sense and intuition). 

Tathagata Tsal

Tathagata Tsal

As I set foot into the park, the view of it leaves me enthralled – the strong wind, manicured lawns, the prayer flags and the enchanting Buddha statue with the mountains acting as a perfect background. I climb down the stairs and walk along the path only to be left mesmerized by the ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ prayer playing in the park. Wow! (=I can’t stop thinking about the powerful vibes that Buddha Park exudes. It is undoubtedly one of the most serene places I have visited). In all my excitement, I make a mental note to stick around the place for at least a couple of hours more, and explore every corner that I possibly can. However, the bright sun-rays are slowly beginning to vanish, and a cloud-army is marching towards us in the sky. I am quite enjoying my walk along the elaborate path-way, but silently praying for it to not rain. As I reach the foot of the statue, I can hear loud thunders from some place far away in the mountains. I quickly take my shoes off, and enter inside the statue. I am welcomed to the sight of a magnificent stupa at the centre of the hall! To the left is a museum with 1,000 Buddha statues and straight up is the route to walk what feels like 3 floors up inside the statue. This circular-walkway runs through various wall-paintings of the story of Buddhism – its origin, how it got to India, the story of Buddha, etc. Just when I am about to exit from the statue after completing my tour of the inside, a group of approximately 50 South-Asian tourists walks in with 5 monks and they start chanting prayers and do a parikrama of the shrine. Almost as a reflex action, I step back inside the statue and sit down in a corner to watch them pray. (=It feels so powerful, almost hypnotic). Having lost track of the amount of time I have spent here, I slowly move out of the statue after a while.

Prayer Flags

Prayer Flags

My worst fears come true as I step outside – It had been pouring. The strong winds are making whistling sounds and causing the prayer flags fly – which is a vista I want to remember forever. The bright sunny day that had welcomed me into the town has now disappeared and all that is visible now, is the grey sky. The thundering has gotten louder and closer and even more vicious. (=Honestly, I love rain. A part of me was actually even wanting to get drenched. But I had my phone, camera, diary, story book, map, wallet and tickets with me in the bag… with no plastic to cover these things up. Hence, the caution). I quickly trot along the path-way, on my way back to the gate. I am contemplating hitch-hiking my way down to the town, but then decide to just make a run for it instead. As luck would have it, only a minute into my exit from the park, it starts to drizzle. I am too far away from the parking lot to ask for a lift, so going back is not an option. I then notice the other gate to the park (which has a roof) and run to seek refuge. All this while, I can feel small pebbles hitting my back. I look around to see who is throwing these at me, but not a soul in sight. It is now pouring heavily, and I am safely under the shade of the roof at the gate. It is only then that I realise that nobody was throwing pebbles at me – it was raining hailstones!! HAILSTONES! I am just standing there, at the gate, with no other human being in sight – awestruck – as the rain lashes the ground and as the hailstones fall with a force like never before, as if it was never going to stop. (=Even though I am alone and stranded, in this moment I feel happy like never before. I think I am the happiest I have been. It feels like every cell in my body is feeling the joy of experiencing a hailstone shower. It feels so wonderful to feel so vulnerable to nature. I want to absorb every bit of the beauty that I am witnessing – the falling hailstones, the clouded mountains, the roaring thunder and my feeling of infinite happiness. In this moment, I am the happiest I can be 🙂 )

In a short while, it stops raining, and I dash back to the hotel. I get to my room and the anxiety of being the only guest at the hotel floods my head again. I call a friend to pour out my concerns… and after immense pacification, I finally decide to go ahead with my stay and enjoy the beauty of Ravangla. Just as I finish my call, it starts thundering and raining hailstones again – almost as if the rain gods want me to stay 🙂



Solo-tripping across Sikkim!


Earlier this year, I decided to embark upon a new adventure – a solo trip to Sikkim!
My 15 day journey involved hopping in and out of shared jeeps, switching multiple trains, living in home-stays and budget accommodations, experiencing nature in all its glory, meeting the most amazing people and gorging on the most delicious food! To call the experience exhilarating would be an understatement.

I would be lying if I said that I was not apprehensive about travelling alone. But having successfully managed to complete the trip all by myself, I am filled with a sense of liberty and independence! Travelling alone has filled me with a sense of empowerment and also helped me connect with myself in so many ways. I took so many decisions that I never thought I could take, and discovered the courage that I never thought I could possess. Most importantly, travelling alone helped me truly appreciate the significance and culture of the place.

Needless to say, I will be writing extensively about my experiences in Sikkim. However, to begin with, I would like to share with you a brief interview that Breakfree Journeys conducted with me to know more about my experience as a female solo-traveller. It gave me a great platform to share (a part of) my experience, apprehensions, preparation and thoughts at the time of travel; And I would love to share it with you!
So here’s the link:

Will soon update this space with more stories from visit to Sikkim 🙂



Having just returned from a fulfilling trip across the eastern regions of Himachal Pradesh, I am filled with memories, awestruck by it’s beauty and gripped with nostalgia even as I write.
A detailed post outlining our adventures in the mighty Himalayas is very much in order. However, there is something that I would like to share with you before that. Something that was symbolic of the entire trip, to me.
Most of us have our best and worst moments after every journey. But there is more to that. We also have this one thing- an experience or an object or a person- that becomes symbolic of the trip for us.
For me, that was river Satluj (Sutlej) and her tributaries.
The river managed to capture my heart as flawlessly as she changed her form – first as the mighty Satluj, then in the form of the beautiful Baspa, then as the serene Spiti and ultimately in the form of Pin. The virtuous river had so many roles to play and yet, she played each of them with unrealistic ease!
For me, the Satluj was the epitome of determination. Delicate, yet strong. She had made a place for herself in the mighty Himalayas..or rather through the mighty Himalayas, hadn’t she?
So even as I flip through the pages of a magnificent Himalayan experience, I cannot help but pen down the awe I feel for Satluj.



She appeared, almost out of nowhere
Chaste and clear, Blue and bare
She saw, she observed
She looked like she had her doubts
But faith was all we had.

She swerved, and we followed
She curved, and we wallowed
She turned, and we blundered
She danced along, and we only wondered.

She changed her form with celerity
She tiptoed away, with grace unparalleled
She returned when she felt like, with a mystic air
She touched us, almost
and then she left again with a teasing stare.

She ran at first, but then slowed down
She was fierce at first, but then she wore a mellow brown
She wavered at first, but then she never left our side
She was aloof at first, but then she also kissed goodnight.

She called us, with one flirtatious stare
She made us follow her, with a promise unsaid
She advanced slowly at first, and then all at once
She had befriended the mountains and the clouds
and also the glistening rays of the sun.

She kept her word and our hand she held
She stayed with us, right until the end
At the end of our sojourn, she stopped in her track
And then she took the final turn and never looked back.

spiti river

The glorious river!


PS: Detailed post coming soon!