On the 16th of December we from The Heritage School, Kolkata set forth on a trekking trip, as a part of the International Award for Young People Programme, to a small hamlet in the Himalayas. We were two teachers- Ms. Priyanka Ghosh and Mr. D.N. Dubey, twenty-five students and our trekking instructor Mr. Joydeep Ghosal and two more trekkers comprised the group of thirty. All of us at The Heritage School were thrilled and energized and looking forward with anticipation to this expedition. For some of us it was our first step in trekking which was at the same time interesting and something new. We were all eager to see what was awaiting us.
On 16th we boarded the Darjeeling Mail and reached New Jalpaiguri Station on 17th at around 9.00 am. From there we set forth for our destination to Manebhanjang, which was a four hours drive from Siliguri. At Siliguri we got a feel of the chill and I was a bit apprehensive about the weather farther north. The bus journey was enjoyable and pleasant and we were thoroughly excited about the whole experience. On our way we stopped at Mirik, which was a beautiful, quiet picturesque place. The foggy weather made it more appealing. The short break there made me want more of this exquisitely beautiful place. I was getting used to the chill and the sleepy foggy weather and loved it every moment. On our way was Pashupati in Nepal; from now on started our journey which would criss-cross the terrains of India and Nepal.
We reached Manebhanjang and were greeted to a wonderful place and delicious lunch. Here I got the feel of the cold and the peaceful style of life. We then went for a short acclimatization trek which was just a forerunner to the trek the next day. Food glorious food didn't leave our path. The people were wonderful. The roads were rocky, a few shops, everybody inside their homes by 6.30pm. What a wonderful experience and a different way of looking at life. The silent evening, the dark streets, the buzzing of an isolated television but feeling comfortably at home, this was indeed a realization.
After an appetizing breakfast we set forth for our trek from Manebhanjang to Tumling which was of 10.5kms. This was the start of many new experiences which would be a treasure for the rest of our lives. The rocky and steep road made us gasping for breath and the short-cut roads which saved on time consumed a lot more energy. On this trek we went on walking and we were happy to reach Chitre our stop for some energizing tea and biscuits. Next on we went to a place called Lamey Dhura. The place had a secret beauty of its own, with the rhododendrons, the pine trees and deep valley and the high mountains beckoning us. Trekking was indeed adventurous and fun, once you start enjoying it you would hate to give it a miss. We trekked some fast, some not so fast and some slow, but we reached the land covered with clouds, Meghma. We could see the clouds covering the entire mountain and the tiny huts. We had biscuits to energize us and warm water to heat within, and we left for our final destination Tumling.
The trek was fun, sporty and breath- taking. The thought that we were so near to Tumling was helping us to walk. With little stops on the Himalayan foot-hills and no sign of habitation the sight of a single white-washed bench brought a twinkle to my eye. I dragged my leg and I reached Shikher Lodge at Tumling in Nepal. We had indeed completed the first phase of the trek. Again great lunch was served and we gorged on it. The evening was great in front of the fire, with a lot of quizzing and brain storming, then an early dinner and then off to sleep.
Next day we were treated to Tibetan bread for breakfast and with that lingering taste in the mouth we set forth for our view of the majestic Kanchenjunga. I had seen the Kanchenjunga in photos, screen savers and in other people's thought. Now I was elated to see it with my own eyes and experience it. Inhale the moment with every breath I took and preserve the view with my eyes in the memory card of my heart and mind. The Sleeping Buddha posture of the Kanchenjunga was exquisite and elevated the mind to a surreal level. Another thing which excited us was that we could get connectivity from here and we felt great sharing and boasting about our unique experiences. This day our trek was to Tonglu and back. In between we learnt the art of tent-pitching. We had breakfast at Nepal, tea in India and again lunch at Nepal, political barriers meant nothing to geography and people Going back to our lodge waiting for some lip-smacking lunch we basked under the rays of the sun. The sun doesn't elude any corner and here it was warm, cozy and bright too. More surprise was awaiting us, and that was the self-cooking session. Here the children cooked a wonder meal which smelt and tasted good.
Next day our trek was to Jowbari on the way we caught a glimpse of Mt. Everest which was indeed breathtaking. We made our way through the Singalila forest reserve and saw various plant species. Trekking to all these places was enjoyable and learning experience. We were enriched with the experience of trekking, coming so close to the Himalayas and having the scope of our own interpretations. It was indeed a superb experience to imbibe this wonderful dream. Waiting for us back at the lodge was steaming hot chicken momos and soup. Oh how fascinating, having momos in the Himalayas, a perfect blending. The winter nights were restless but the morning sunrise in the Kanchenjunga and the first flush of snow made us forget the tiny hardships. The students spent the afternoon learning survival tactics. In the evening surrounding the bonfire we sand, danced and amused ourselves and vouched to come back on another memorable trek.
This fascinating experience came to a close with the trek back to Maneybhanjang. The memories were indelible in our minds. On the way as we crossed Ghum, Sonada, Darjeeling and Kurseong old memories of family trip crossed my mind. My mind pointing out how lucky I was to experience the tourist and the holiday makers side with my family and the expedition and the adventurous side with my students.
It was a marvelous and an everlasting experience. The student’s learnt to stay in harmony and enjoy themselves away from the luxuries of city life. They showed their stamina and strength. It was an experience were students with different level of motivation, stamina and mindset came together and were successful in their endeavour. Staying and living together for many days brought all of us very close and the various sessions made us better, confident and useful human beings. That evening we boarded the Darjeeling Mail, the night was sleepy and Kolkata city of joy was welcoming us. A new experience came my way and I grasped it with both my hands.
I would like to sincerely thank the Board of Trustees and Mrs. Seema Sapru, the Principal of The Heritage School for this wonderful opportunity, Ms.Bishakha Banerjee for her support, The East Zone Award Authority and the International Award For Young People for their everlasting endeavor and Juniper Travels for organizing a pleasant trek.
Ms. Priyanka Ghosh, Award Leader- The Heritage School, Kolkata