I sat in yogic position as I watched with closed eyes the vast expanse of mountainous desert in front of me. I felt a bliss arise from my Mooladhara as the calmness shrouded my body slowly.
The alarm on my phone rang waking me to the reality, next thing I knew I was standing in the taxi station arguing with the driver. “But you said, we would be going to Gurudongmar lake today!”
He smirked and replied, “It’s not really worth going through all the trouble.” His argument was that the road wasn’t good, but the truth was he didn’t have enough passengers wanting to go Gurudongmar.
We were going to Yumthang (supposedly is a valley of flowers just as Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand). I was really frustrated! I almost fist bumped the wall. He left me no choice, I couldn’t sit idle for another day, so I decided to go with the trip. We started around half an hour or so late (since people were fashionably late) which wasn’t as bad as the fact that there were ten of us crammed in a cab meant for eight people. Now, add to it a hilly road in a bad shape and you have a perfect recipe for the disaster.
In-fact it came quite close to it, one of the bump was so bad that whole cab shook and almost went tumbling down the valley. To say our hearts came to our mouth would be an understatement of enormous magnitude.
But I had to admit, the driver was quite an expert and steered us clear from the most dangerous of the situations. I gripped tightly the handle of the door, I hadn’t locked it and was ready to jump from where I was sitting if worst came to worst. I could only thank God it didn’t come to it. Do we have a designated God for traveling or the road?
The cab driver was kind of a cool guy with a devil may care attitude; he was short, thin, wore a no sleeves tee shirt that had the picture of Che Guevara. True gem of a driver, who introduced himself as Vivek, but was called by the name ‘Chota Don’ by people on the road. I didn’t know why he was called so and had no intention either to learn.
By the time we reached Lachung it was already dark and we were completely crushed by the terrible journey. Predictably Lachung at 2900 meters from sea level had quite the chill, for something my thin sweat shirt which I had bought from a flea market in Gangtok was barely enough. But I had to get by with what I had anyway. My mind went back to that freezing -15 degree night in Sweden, when the only thing that saved my bare hands from turning into stone were the warm socks that I had to take off from my feet. You had to do what you had to do, if you want to make it to the next day.
It was quite cold and the blankets that were given to us didn’t really seem enough. But the Kolkata boys had just the right thing in their mind. I won’t spill the beans, but let’s just say it helped everyone have a very peaceful sleep. Our stay in Lachung was a rustic cabin, with bare Jane facilities.
We ate stomachful of dal rice, we were so hungry that even the ration like quality of rice tasted like basmati. We got up quite early next morning as we had to return to Gangtok the same day. Chota Don readied the cab in no time and off we went riding through the lunar like landscape.
Of-course not everything goes smooth when you are traveling in a group with strangers, there will be people who will always come late, while some others would be in such a hurry to just go back. We too had our own share of such annoying people. Thankfully, the scenery was so maddeningly gorgeous that I gave it hardly any thought.
Yumtang was a beautiful valley alright, a lush green expanse kissing a meandering river. Not to mention the water in the river was super chill, but the most fun part were the furry animals grazing lazily on the meadow.
“Baba, baba black animal, have you any wool?” I tried to be bit playful with the creatures, but they seemed as stoic as the master philosopher Zeno himself.
We went further from Yumtang to be really close with the majestic mountains, Zero Point (4600 meters) was off the itinerary but with bit of negotiation chota don was ready to take us there (of-course it’s almost always about money!).
In Zero Point we were up close with the snowy peaks and yet it seemed away from our grasps. The mountains were desolate devoid of any vegetation, a river curled around them seemingly coming from the horizon.
I started walking up one of the hills hoping to reach the peak and catch the great beyond. But the hill seemed to have no summit, further I climbed, even further the top seemed to be. My lungs grasped for the air, and after climbing for a while I had to stop every 5 minutes to catch my breath. Hats-off to our jawans who serve the country at the most inhospitable of the climate.
I knew I was running out of time, I could see the people waving at me from distance. While they ate and drank at the makeshift shops near the parking, I walked and explored. This was what we were there for, wasn’t it? At-least it was true for me.
With a heavy heart I walked back, with a promise to return to these mountains someday.
… it wasn’t the mountain calling me, it was my heart calling for the mountains.
So Long… Until next time…
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