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Archive for December, 2008

 

Local legend has it that any wish you make will be granted by the lake, hence the pseudo name ‘ The Wishing Lake’. Though my only wish is that the tranquil lake along with it’ surroundings remain as is, despite the onslaught of hoards of tourists. The very first time I visited Khecheopalri  in 2007, fell in love with that place. Due to paucity of time we stayed there only for a day, though I wished it would have been longer. I now saw the perfect opportunity to be back, as Khecheopalri seemed the most ideal place to recuperate for my trek.

 

Within fifteen minutes of reaching Darap I managed to get a seat in a tourist jeep heading to Khecheopalri. I found myself in the company of a regiment of Bong tourists hob knobbing their way to various tourists points. One of them started making conversation with me during which he was pretty surprised to discover that I had actually walked for six days in the mountains. Our first halt was at the fabled Kangchendzonga water falls where the entire regiment was ready to shoot with their cameras. Within no time there was an entire convoy of jeeps spilling out with Bong tourists, posing in front of the falls to get their pictures clicked. The next halt came twenty minutes later , this time though it was the river bank with some views. As the tourists flocked out of their jeeps I found it really amusing to see most of them wearing thick jackets despite it being bright and sunny.  From here the driver directed the jeep to Khecheopalri lake over the last stretch of winding roads. Unloaded my rucksack and off I was marching to the Trekkers Hut. Took the same room in which I had stayed the last year, as the place was completely empty. Now that I was settled there were only two things on my mind, bath and breakfast. Treated myself to a delicious cheese omelet, while two buckets of hot water were getting ready for my bath. The hot water felt heavenly as I scrubbed six days of grime and sweat off my pores.  Completely refreshed went for a walk to the lake which was buzzing with tourists at this hour. To escape from the cacophony walked further down the lake to sit in the lap of the forest. Soon I was back in my room to take a nap and complete my log.

 

Khecheopalri lake

Khecheopalri lake

In the late evening went back to the lake to enjoy the solitude of the place. The bird calls reverberated vibrantly, indicating it was time for them to go home. The lake has a very magical effect on me, something which I cannot express in words. It is an amphitheatre of peacefulness and tranquility surrounded by thick verdant forests.  I continued towards the bank of the lake, watching the golden orange fishes occasionally come up to the surface to nibble for food. The entire setting completely stilled my mind awakening the soul, making me one with nature. Sat there for a long time marveling at the fishes, listening to the birds and absorbing the environment around me.  I had company when I reached back to the trekkers hut. An Italian named Vladimiro had reached in the evening from Pelling. During the course of our conversation found out that he was doing his research on sustainable development , helping out on an olive project in the impoverished district of Dolpa in Nepal. Our interesting conversation continued well over dinner as both of us exchanged our experiences and ideas.

 

Early next morning went for a walk to the Khecheopalri village which was a half hour climb from the taxi stand. Got breath taking views of the lake as I wound my way nearer to the top.       

Khecheopalri village

Khecheopalri village

      The village bore a very silent and peaceful look in the tender light of the morning sun. The old wooden houses lent a completely different charm to the place, as though I had walked back in time. Post breakfast Vladimiro and myself exchanged some notes after which we set out for a walk on another ridge overlooking the lake. Did not get much view of the lake due to the forest cover but the other side gave us great views of Thingling and the valley below. From here Vladimiro continued his circuit to Yuksom while I strolled to the jungles on the south side of the lake.  Once in I was completely cut out from the world outside, it was only me with the birds, butterflies and insects. The pristine virginal forests with the filtering white light from the canopy held an astute beauty about them , like a silver haired woman beaming from her years of wisdom. On my next step saw another beauty, crawling slowly over a fallen leaf. It was a bright orange colored beetle which held my fascination, not just because of it’ color, but also because of it’ relentless effort to climb on the leaf. Spent the entire afternoon wandering in the forest, taking pleasure in the complex world of nature. Late in the evening found myself back on the lake enjoying it’ ever pervasive divinity. This evening I had the company of three Israeli women, who had come to relax at Khecheopalri after completing the Dzongri trek. Our conversation was mostly revolved around our travel experiences with some tips by me for their first train journey to Varanasi.   

 

The last day I spent in tune with the drab grey sky, just lazing around. Relived my trek as I sat down completing the log for some time. To shake the body out of lethargy went for a stroll near the lake. For the first time the monkeys were making a huge racket, their loud shrieks penetrating the silence. They seemed to be having quite a fight within their clan. The red, green, blue of the prayer flags reflected clearly in the stillness of the lake , only to be broken by the surfacing of the fish. Took in one last breath of the tranquil surroundings before bidding the lake a final goodbye.

Check out the lake in all its magnificence.

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Wild Beauties II

The Singalila range which borders West Bengal, Sikkim and Nepal is a biodiversity hotspot for flora and fauna alike. On my recent trek came across many of these beauties , mainly above Lower Yambong (3200 M). Whether it was the mauve colored slopes mingled with green and yellow, or the lilac aster or the freaky looking Saussurea, their vividness never stopped amazing me.

 

Aster himalaicus

Aster himalaicus

 

Saussurea gossypiphora

Saussurea gossypiphora

 

Senecio chrysanthemoides

Senecio chrysanthemoides

Check out more of these beauties

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‘Permit Blues’ is what I was suffering from after three wasteful days in Gantok. Getting my KNP permit from the Forest Department was proving to be more frustrating that I had anticipated , aggravated further by a bandh and the half yearly bank closing. Like a pawn on the chess board I was shuffled from DFO office to Chief Wildlife Warden, to the Conservation officer who again pushed me back to the DFO. The last move to the Wildlife Officer saw me in the right hands, but not before shoving me to the bank for making a payment for the permit. Actually I was enjoying this bureaucratic game of chess, getting a first hand experience as though I was the poor common man in the popular TV serial of yesteryears, ‘Wakgle ki Duniya’. As the bureaucracy to protect our forests was thickening, our forests were thinning away into oblivion. On the third day, by when I was completely frustrated in the grip of ‘Permit Blues’ a miracle happened. At around eleven in the morning I was awaiting for the Wildlife Officer, who should have been in office half hour ago but did not arrive till half hour past. Recognizing my face he proclaimed in a matter of fact way that my permit was ready, I banged my head against the wall just to make sure I had heard correctly.   For the first time since the last two days there was a smile on my face as I walked out with the yellow sheaf of paper stating Khangchendzonga National Park Permission. Within an hours time all my stuff was loaded atop the jeep, ready for the long drive to Darap.

 

The Yambong Singalila trek spans a duration of twelve days but my plan was only to walk upto Daphey Bheer, the view point from where one could see the two highest ranges in the world. This trek spans across the Sikkim side of the Singalila range offering stupendous views of not only the  Kangchendzonga range but also of the Everest range. The idea was to get a first hand feel of the trek while bolstering my relations with the locals, before I started taking people to this area. The jeep was literally dragging along at a snails pace making me more impatient than ever. At eight in the evening the jeep finally deposited me to Darap, where Lakhu was waiting for me with the jeep to Nambu. Both of us exchanged polite greetings, transferred my bags, to be on our way to Nambu. The growling stomach needed to be attended before we could discuss anything, but the sumptuous dinner put the issue to rest very soon. We spoke for quite a while also discussing the plan for tomorrow, which was to walk till Chongri where I would stay over at Nima’ place.

 

Trek map

Trek map

I awoke to a bright sunny day with clear blue skies, promising excellent weather ahead. Both of us sorted and packed the rations for the trek before we could have our breakfast. The sun seemed pretty strong for eight in the morning, but the speckles sky lent an exquisite beauty to our walk. Could very distinctly see Daphey Bheer, my final destination, from Nambu.  This time around the descent towards the river seemed less steep or maybe I was just more engrossed listening to the call of the warblers and bulbuls. Once we started walking along the bank of the Rimbi, the broad leaf trees provided us with the much needed shade. The woods were teaming with bird calls but it was very difficult to spot them without binoculars. To compliment the feathered orchestra, the fluttering butterflies were providing me with a visual treat. The bright stained glass pattern of the Hill Jizabel seemed really mesmerizing.    

Hill Jezebel

Hill Jezebel

   All my senses were overwhelmed, me lost in a world of my own. Within two and a half hours we reached Sangkhola where we took a really long lunch break. In no time I was off to the river bed to rest within its cool shady boughs, enjoying the occasional bird which came for a quick sip. After lunch Lakhu bid me farewell as he had some plantation related work with the forest officials. He made arrangements for the porter to take me to Chongri, though I remembered the route from my walk two months back. With a heavy stomach and sleepy eyes I commenced the walk to Chongri but the steep climb soon got me back to my senses.  For an hour and a half we continuously marched up to be rewarded by stupendous views of the valley below. Towards the end of our climb bumped into Pemba who was going to be my guide for the next few days. He was on his way to Sangkhola but promised to be with me in Chongri by dinner time. On reaching Nima’ place had a hot cup of tea, changed to a dry set of clothes and set out to explore the village making best use of the remaining day light.

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