Mom always used to tell me that I’ll be traveling a lot, for I have a mole on my right leg – It’s a belief back home but she never told me anything about trekking somewhere in West Sikkim, India which eventually turned out the favorite part of the journey. Well for some reasons she was right, and here I am in India for my bachelor’s degree – Probably waiting for other opportunities too, somewhere out of Asia.
For almost two months we had been planning to go to Sikkim but every time it was to book the train tickets, some issues would poke and postpone the plan until all of us say yes to it. Some had financial issues, some had to go back home for a visit and some had other reasonable blahs. No matter how hard we all tried there always was a problem to cause the cancellation of our trip but gratitude to the idea that one had among us – No matter what happens the show must go on.
I had my own reasons not to go for this trip, for I had a plan to go Afghanistan and deal with a wedding responsibilities but a friend’s advice got me into thinking for a while and convinced me to say yes and hold back the wedding to a later time. He said with a smile on his kind of Chinese face, “Who knows if this opportunity will ever hit back? And perhaps you get the best time ever in your life”.
Oh didn’t I tell you that we were friends from Afghanistan – Azim Hazhir, Khairullah Maqsoodi, Zainullah Lashkary and Hayat Amiree, Bhutan – Manisha Subha aka Monu, Rwanda – Hugues Sean Vector and Sikkim – Karma Sherpa. We could have from Nepal – Manisha Singh and kashmir – Mehreen Samar aka Bakri khan with us too if they hadn’t been reasonable enough.
6th June, 2014
When you are at Bangalore’s train station or any of India’s, the culture of bargaining automatically gets into your blood. We were seven with around twenty above luggage – oh by the way, some of us had graduated so they needed to head back to their countries right after the trip – and it ain’t that easy to walk to platform number 3 – quite far if honestly speaking. The coolies demanded Rs. 2000 but we bargained for Rs. 300. Quite miser we are, but had to be, for we had a long trip to deal with. 11:45 pm, the train started to head towards Gwati – West Bengal.
The environment within the train is quite different; I recommend experiencing it if you have never traveled by train, at least for once in your life. Though we were in a compartment having AC but the feeling of being in a crowded market where the products are sold in a cheaper price – Perhaps i should name it as black market – was still there. The number of food sellers calling names in different accents, beggars and she-males who actually compel you to pay, can all be a great experience to learn. On the other hand you meet families who share healthy conversation and hygienic food – By the way I love eating and people worth talking to and learning via interactions. That’s all what I along my fellow mates did experience in the train.
It all comes shocking when I reveal my identity to the people out here. For a while I thought it is because I look like one from north India but the fact remains with the country that I belong. They have a picture of Afghanistan as the land of destruction, cruelty and a land where every possible human rights are violated. I guess they need to update their information a little bit or let’s have a discussion about how media sensationalize. Anyways never mind!
Around 10:00 pm, we are in West Bengal. It must have rained here minutes ago, and the weather is pretty much humid. We have to stay here for a night, Said Karma. And leave for Gangtok tomorrow – The capital city of Sikkim.
The accommodation was nicely arranged with the dinner already served in the kitchen but before anyone goes for the food, we had to freshen up, for we were so tired and probably stinking after traveling for around 42 hours.
Why are we stopping here? I asked.
Since we have a long way to reach Gangtok, I think we should have something for lunch, Said Monu – Manisha Suba.
I ordered chicken Biryani as usual. Well, I honestly had no idea about the names on the list and Zainullah followed the same. Khairullah and Azim had their Beef Biryani and Hugues ordered his all the time Butter Paneer with chicken fried rice and the two girls – Manisha and Karma had their all time vegetarian meal.
So to sum it up, We were a total of seven mates circling a table for food somewhere in West Bengal. It’s pretty much fine to call that restaurant a Dhaba, a road side stall because well, the hygiene level was quite obvious that can make anyone suffer from diarrhea – I kinda did feel the pain later. That hotel owns a big window from where customers enjoy the beautiful scene of hills covered with trees and uniquely built houses but if you stand on that window and look down to the left, you will find a bathroom attached to it and that without a roof on it where a man is taking bath – Trust me, nobody takes bath with his clothes on. Ooohhh Yeah… Your into it.
After some paper formalities while entering Sikkim, we finally reached the capital city – Gangtok around 7:30 pm. The real happiness comes when your friend has already arranged a nice hotel for accommodation. Karma and her family’s generosity astonished us all, for that’s not the kind of human behavior you can see everywhere.
10th and 11th June
Gangtok stands stunning on the Himalayan Mountains with amazingly constructed buildings, roads that follows some of the oldest monasteries and shopping malls with reasonable prices for brand products. The rich culture its people possess says enough of their unique cultural history. While heading to M.G MARG, we had to climb quite a long stairs which at some point reminded of The Great Wall of China, let’s just believe that I am kidding…
My favorite place for hangouts at Gangtok would be no place other than M.G MARG. It has everything that you desire – From romantic weather to beautiful girls, from malls to pubs though I am an alcohol free, from vegetarian to non-vegetarian hygienic food and from Momo to Tandoori Chicken, everything gets served perfect.
“One hell of a never ending beautiful snaky streets, Great food with some bunch of amazing people and finally back to hotel” – Khairullah Maqsoodi.
Traveling with your favorite lads is way awesome than anything you could desire on this earth, He added.
3: 45 am
The delightful and pleasant scene on top of the Himalayan Mountains during the night is tremendously fascinating. Gazing the stars from hotel Gajraj’s one of well furnished rooms’ windows and trying best to figure out if they are for real but after focusing on every details, it all apparently starts showing up as the colorful lights shining from the houses’ windows on top of the hills. I had never seen such a beautiful view, full of life, since the beginning of my existence.
Our visit to places such as Rumtek Monastery, Hanuman Tok, flower exhibition show and Gangtok’s wonderful waterfalls has been a tremendous journey. Most of us never wanted to return home, for I believe peace and harmony made sense for them.
As per the plan, we headed towards Karma’s place but we drove from South Sikkim to experience the delightful sights and visit some of the oldest residences of the Buddhist community, monasteries. For a while it all seemed as if we are traveling in an enormous painting painted by an artist who likes colorful strokes but love to prefer green for Sikkim.
And here is the beautiful place which came out of nowhere, Said Hugues while stopping for lunch. Some pretty failed attempts to talk to girls and the vegetarian Momo made the day.
We reached Karma’s place in the evening. Received a warm welcome served with hot tea and dinner. Their generosity and kindness were all overwhelming and taught us a lot based on humanity code of life. Karma’s dad – Mr. Tenzing Loday Namgyal, explained tomorrow’s trekking plan for us and asked to wake up 8:00 am in the morning.
Mr. Loday , not only a friendly person with whom it is pretty easy to start a great conversation and despite being Karma’s father also runs this small travel agency called Phoktay Tours and Treks, with services like organizing treks and providing tour packages in sikkim.
When we woke up, it was pretty late to start off with the adventure – Trekking. We got ready with our bags packed and went down stairs.
What are you doing with your bag? Asked, Mr. Loday
I looked at Zainullah curiously and asked while stretching my eyebrows upward. It is cancelled because we are late and it isn’t possible to reach border Nepal today, He answered.
Some of us were fine with it because there were other sightseeing plans too or perhaps they never liked or been for trekking. I insisted Karma’s dad if there is any other possible way we can go for trekking and luckily he agreed to it. He asked us to have the breakfast while he makes the copy of our passports and think of something.
“Shalla Humesh Pehroz Ast”, Stubborn is always the winner. We got ourselves back to the plan when Mr. Loday asked Monu, Manisha to jolt down the itinerary for trekking.
We headed towards Chiteray from Uttarey, West Sikkim at 1:00 pm along with a guide, a porter and two yaks.
Hey, wait! I didn’t tell you a funny story, did I?
Before we started our trekking, The SSB camp’s head wanted to meet us since we were the only afghans ever visited the place and we needed the permission too to trek. He had a total different impression on Afghans. When we entered his office which was made of a tent with some chairs and table in it, he checked our passports and looked at us as if he is really not sure except our rwandan friend who had a self explanatory identification. He then exclaimed, “I was really excited to meet Afghans who have this tall, almost 6.5 foot height with long beards wearing their tradition outfit. He then looked at Mr. Loday disappointedly and exclaimed, “Yaar yeh sub toh chinese lagrahe hai.
Impressed was he after hearing the fluent Hindi that I used, to explain the existence of Hazara tribe back home. We exchanged good words with a promise to connect via social networks and a final snap with the SSB camp’s head before leaving for border Nepal.
We made it to Chitrey, almost after 3 hours. It was too late to walk to border Nepal therefore we set our tents somewhere near to SSB camp –Seema Suraksha Bal. The officers at the camp were pretty friendly. We played a volley match with the officers in the evening while the ladies from the meeting involved in cooking for the night. Oooohh yeah! We won the match. Thanks to one from the camp who later joined our team. Right after the game we set our dome tent before it had rained.
The dinner got served with rice, and some veg curry. In a very ramshackle room made of steel and wood and other unknown materials, gathers a group of four Afghans, One Bhutani, five from Sikkim and a Rwandan, enjoying the dinner with tears in their eyes due to the flames producing from the fire lighted to cook. But the funny part is that everyone is communicating and cracking jokes in their own languages and there expresses our only Rwandan friend, “Hey, Welcome to restaurant – Wild Forest but it is only vegetarian”.
14th June at 7: 30 am
The porter with the yaks headed back to Utteray, for we no more required them since we had a plan to return before dawn. We continued the trek to reach the end point we had set which was border Nepal next to Chiwa Bhanjyang.
9: 00 am
I was the last one when we started the trek but was I the first to reach Chiwa Bhanjyang. After reaching there, I found this peaceful moment that is hard to draw in words. It had a completely calm environment as if they were all waiting for you to speak to them about your life and will they help to reach your story to the most possible living species on earth.
Out of great joy I shouted out loud to let my friends know about this immense happiness within me. Hey! Don’t make noise, said Monu. Why?
Because, well it is a belief, there is this sacred peace that is living in the air amidst the mountains and if we make noise, we might distract the peace, she explained to me.
It was 9:00 am, after reaching border Nepal had i this fascinating yet strange feeling about how a stone that weighs not more than 10 kg defines a country’s border. Little did i learn about how we, humans, make borders around our ideologies and make this world very conservative to live in.
15th June, 2014
Our journey ended up after saying good bye to this kind-hearted family that Karma has. From train’s annoying crowd to Gangtok’s beautiful monasteries, to trekking in one of Himalayan mountains to the hospitality of Sikkimese it has been a complete lifetime journey that’ll remain engraved in our hearts till eternity. Sikkim had become part of us and weren’t we ready to leave but said it very well;
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page”
I along with my friends, Hugues, Zainullah, Azim and Khairullah left for bangalore leaving Karma and Monu behind. We may not be able to stay together for ever but miles away we will stay connected within each others’ hearts.