Kangchendzonga Peak (8586m)
One such route lies in western Sikkim, which promises the traveler to provide with an eternal experience. Starting from the peaceful wee town of Yuksom, it moves through the endless rain forests of the Kangchendzonga National Park (KNP) and takes you to the feet of the mighty mountain, a fine 8586 m; making it the tallest peak in India. The spectacular trail brings you amidst ancient giants of the Himalayas, with peaks rising over 7000 m above sea level, covered in snow and ice since the beginning of times. These mountain ranges are the lifeline for a major part of the Indian sub-continent, for the million rivers and streams that run down these slopes; make the soil fertile and provide enough water supplies for irrigation. Water is available in all its physical forms, where it vaporizes only to freeze back again. Plenty glaciers, snowfall, rain and slanting rock walls make Sikkim ‘the land of a thousand waterfalls’.
The state is divided into four districts, named after four directions, out of which west Sikkim is the heaven for mountaineers’, as most of the major treks are done to, or from Yuksom, making it a major base camp for the journey into the mountains. One can buy the last minute essentials from here, although nothing more than the basics is available. Mostly visited by western tourists, till a few years back, KNP trek is now gaining popularity among many Indian travelers.
Marked as the first capital of Sikkim in 16th century, then a separate country, Yuksom still lies as primitive as it would have been hundred years back. Locals have maintained the peace and green of the place, which makes it one of the greenest zones on this planet, as declared by UNESCO. Moreover, the place enjoys eco-system which is healthy, self healing and abundant. Plentiful water and other natural resources, help build the cities which are self-sufficient in an organic way. Adding to the beauty of the surrounding, every household maintains a kitchen garden and some farming land, decorated by millions of flowers all around the habitat.
Continuing on the journey, across the gate of the national park, is the trail that leads into dense misty forests as it narrows down to a good 5 ft wide course. Traversing along the dense greens all the attention is captured by lights and the colors, with a back ground score of a thousand Himalayan birds. Everything is a piece of art and unusual in some way or the other, the ferns of the kinds that are rarely seen are found here in plenty, thick moss that has taken over the forest; a tree growing from inside a fallen tree, and sitting on its branch; is a beautiful bird, singing and celebrating life, how magical is that! The whole eco-system has maintained itself in harmony as no single tree stands unaccompanied! -the giant pine tree supports ferns growing out of the moss that has blanketed the trunk and the branches, coiled by uncanny creepers, on which an army of ants can be seen working really hard, along with various insects and birds forming their nests and colonies and territories distributed all over one single tree, imagine a forest with a million such trees. It’s pure joy to see how these big and small figures live in harmony following the divine plan of nature sending strong message, “life takes time to happen… but happen to be beautiful if given time.” It is a retreat for the mind and soul, a rehab from the poisonous lifestyle of the cities.
Moving on to the campsites on this venture, they are pretty convenient as one can opt for staying in the forest huts. These are basic wooden shelters, cosy enough if you get a proper sleeping bag and mattress. The first campsite at Tshoka (3040m), is an abandoned Tibetan village that seem to be forgotten by time, only recently turned into a campsite by the national park authorities. It lies on the ledge of a huge mountain, has a small pond, a monastery and a snack bar that serves alcohol. Another major campsite is at Dzongri (3930m), which gives magnificent views of Kangchendzonga along with the whole range stretching 180 degrees. Apart from these two, other camp sites are at Khokchurung, Thansing and Lamuney, which are maintained in a similar fashion.
Just sit on the edge of a cliff and peek into the deep surrounding valleys, like a bird who took a long flight now rests on a tree singing peacefully and witnessing the drama that nature has set to play. Everything is free and dancing along with the surroundings.
The early mornings of the days to follow are the best time for this kind of meditation as it provides sufficient energy to get through the arduous walk of the day. Walking in the wild surrounded by the giants of the greater Himalayas, induce a sense of connection, like the self is not separate from what’s outside.
The spectator is now part of play and playing along is the only thing that it does, all that breathlessness and pain does not exist anymore but peace, and euphoria. There is an elated control over randomness of the mind, it’s beautiful, it’s here and now!!