How does one start after a sabbatical of week…months…or rather years. I found it difficult and had to force myself to at least finish the chronicle of Sikkim trip. Manish encouraged, supported and kept pestering to complete and finally succeeded…….
Before venturing further let me revise the trip briefly. It was summer of 2007 and the plan was to visit West Sikkim- Pelling, Yuksom, and Bliss Resort at Biksthang. First two places were penned when Ghumakkar was taking its baby steps and then I got completely occupied with my new born-Tanmay.
I wrote this post two years ago.
I sat on this post for last two years as if it will amount to hatching……..and will bring out a new, fresh, unspoiled and lovely article on its own.
Now, when I read and re-read it and tried to edit here and there…its like I am patching up. So much has changed in and around me and it reflected in edited post. Either I could write from scratch or let it be as it was three years ago.
I decided to let it be as it was.
Sixth day in Sikkim and first morning at Bliss: In Sikkim it became a routine to sleep by nine pm and wake-up before five am and on sixth day as well, we got up at around five am and peeped out of the window. It was cloudy yet very serene.
We moved out in the verandah and settled ourselves on comfortable chairs. Eyes rolled on to small lawn followed by tall trees, and then to an endless vista of green mountains. Mount Kanchenjunga was behind the veil of clouds.
It was a perfect morning. We could hear different birds calling and were trying to spot them. Manish went to stroll around the resort and came after a while. He told me that he heard a bird making sound “upper dekh” “upper dekh” and challenging him to locate it. It was close but Manish failed to locate it and the bird raised the boisterous challenge.
After some time another couple came down and joined us. We exchanged greetings. It was a retired Bengali couple. We were soon to realize how suddenly things get a kick-start when supported and explained by an experienced person. Since last two or three years, both of us were seriously considering bird watching. Till then, whenever we saw birds, we asked somebody about that bird and if he knew he would tell us and that was it. We had an awfully wrong notion in our minds that we need to go to some special place to initiate ourselves into bird watching.
We were chatting casually and the gentleman asked us, “Are you interested in bird watching?”
“Yes we are, but don’t know how and where to start”.
“Well! You just need a good binocular and a good hand book”.
“I have a binocular with 10X zoom”
“That is pretty good. Now let us locate a bird and recognize it by taking a look into this book”
They were carrying“Handbook of birds of Indian subcontinent” by Grimmit, Innisprick et.al. They also told us about another equally good book – “A field Guide to the Birds of India” by Krys Kazmierczack. Soon we came to know that they were prominent members of Kolkata birding group.
Standing in the porch, right at that moment, they showed us – Himalayan Bulbul, Great Indian Barbet, Mynas, spotted doves and Munias. They also showed Manish the bird that was playing hide and seek with him. It was Blue Throated Barbet, sitting on the top of a barren tree still calling in its distinctive voice. We were thrilled.
In that auspicious hour we learnt many things and did a good deal of birding in and around Bliss for the next three days. We spotted a few more birds-“Verditor flycatcher, Minivet, Common tree magpie, Greater yellow napped woodpecker, Plumbus water redstart, Drongos.
Bliss resort is in-fact a bliss for the bird watchers.
That morning we started late for a trek to a Gompa (Lhentse monastery, 18th century), situated high up on a distant hill, about two and a half km from Bliss. First we went to Mangalbarey Bazaar and then climbed up to cross the small village. Each and every house of that village, including the smallest and even under-construction ones, was decorated with varieties of plants and flowers.
When we started to walk, it was partly cloudy and partly sunny but it soon started to become more and more cloudy. Rachit was not showing much enthusiasm. He was behaving differently from his usual self. I had a strong feeling that he is not well. Gompa was still far. We decided to return. At resort, we realized that Rachit had a temperature. We gave him paracetamol and put him up for a nap.
He woke-up in late afternoon and felt better. We spent that evening sitting in the verandah. Random clouds of noon, which were here and there, were now everywhere. Soon it became too crowded up in heavens and some of them started to descend on earth…lower and…lower…and…more and more.Rachit wondered “would they enter in houses on those hills!”
To which our birding guru replied-“there is a saying in Shillong (he grew up in Shillong) that even if you have a roof, clouds will enter through your window and rain.” “Can it so happen here as well?” marveled the little boy.
Buddhists write prayers, well wishes, and sacred chants, on the flags. They believe that winds carry them everywhere in the world. And this was Sikkim – the land of Guru Padmsambhav. Rachit’s wish rode on horses of wind. Clouds heard it. They came running, embracing the nearby hills, then the tall trees … onto the lawn of the compound.
The little boy wanted to go out in the lawn to dance with them. But he had a fever and a strict Mamma too. So he spread out his hands to make friends with them. He was happy and perhaps the clouds were too. They left a gift for him – the rain and went away.The boy enjoyed the gift. He shared it with all and discreetly carried a little bit of it, hidden in his little hands, to the play room, where he played carom and Table Tennis.
Another gift arrived for the boy and for us too while we were indulging ourselves with after dinner coffee and gup-shup. It made everyone hush ……..and rush.
It was a Moth. We never saw such a big and beautiful moth before. It was then Rachit’s turn to bombard us with questions which were all nicely explained by ‘the birding couple’.
“What is the difference between a moth and a butterfly?” –
Moth and butterfly do look alike and they belong to the same family, but there are a few differences and you can tell them apart.
Butterflies generally rest with their wings closed, while moths rest with their wings open.
Butterflies have long thin antenna, while moths have short feathery antenna.
Butterflies are seen more in daytime, while moths are nocturnal.
It was a good learning for us as well.
Second day in Bliss and seventh day in Sikkim: After a good night’s sleep, Rachit woke-up and looked all well. We decided to keep the activities low. So the day was spent chasing birds, playing carom, table tennis and chatting in verandah with a Maharashtrian family who were also staying with us in Bliss at that time. It had been eight days in Sikkim and Darjeeling for them, but they could not get a glimpse of Mount Kanchenjunga.
Soon the Bengali couple and Gyurmee (I wrote about him in my previous post) also joined us. We all made quite a nice group or may I say, I felt like spending time with an extended family.
It rained quite good, rendering next day’s trekking plan unsure. But Dorjee (hotel manager) said that tomorrow it would start clearing. He suggested us a trek that first climbs up through a bamboo forest, then climbs down through maize farms and then further down through a village,leading to Bodha caves(Rahu Ney)and then again climbing up to the resort.
As it rained, I was apprehensive of leeches, which for sure will come out from beneath dried leaves. More dangerous would be those which will follow Newton’s gravitational law, falling from those big trees and landing straight on us. They are really nasty. They just don’t get plucked out, you have to rub salt to get rid of them. And Rachit? If he got “Leeched” he will not move a single step even if I apply all of my “साम, दाम, दंड, भेद”. Dorjee and others assured us that there will not be any leeches falling from trees as it has rained just a day or two.
Third day in Bliss and eighth in Sikkim: I will call today’s trek of mine as the trek to Bodha caves. The first thing we did was to tuck our trousers in our socks. Manish was eyeing for long the nice hats of Gyurmee displayed behind the counter.
A young boy named Furdeen accompanied as our guide. Trek started right behind the hotel. We climbed some steep stairs and immediately found ourselves in a thick forest. Gyurmee had told us that if we kept on walking there would be less “leech” attack.
The path was carpeted with dried leaves. Leaches remain hidden beneath these leaves and when it rains they come out. And they were there, many of them! We did not stop much anywhere for photographs else leeches will get hold of us. We had to keep an eye continuously on Rachit’s feet for any leech attack. As soon as we spotted any on his shoes, we would stop, remove leech and move ahead. In this process, we got leeches on our shoes and sometimes up to our socks, but it could not reach to our skin as our thick cargos were inside the socks to protect us.Still two leeches somehow reached my feet. One time Manish and another time I myself, duly spotted it on time and simply pulled it out. That was enough to cause little oozing of blood and continuous itching.
Now and then either I was bending to itch or lifting my foot up to itch. If I was not doing that, I was bending down to remove Rachit’s leech or lifting him up so Manish could pull it out. In the mean time I was continuously doing left-right, left-right to save myself from another leech attack. This endless functionality of all my limbs must have made me look funny. Rachit was laughing and laughing. He said “Mamma you are doing it like Mr. Bean”. For a moment this comment broke my mind’s continuous engagement with leeches.
Good God! These beasts are attacking only from the ground. What would it be like when they start falling from trees as well? Even the thought of it made me shiver.Somehow we crossed that dense, leech-infected forests and were now walking on a flattened but narrow top of an elongated hill chain. So it was like a long pebbled, rocked road flanked on both sides by deep valleys.
Big mountains again flanked these valleys. On right ride of the mountains was Namchi- another small city of Sikkim that definitely we could easily locate. Then Furdeen pointed towards left side mountains trying to explain us that there behind that hill is Baichung Bhutias village. Once again we were standing there trying to figure out behind which mountain. After failing for second time in just six days we gave up and moved on. A little further we found a rock protruding out of the road into the valley. It would definitely be safe from Leech and so we settled down there.
What an enchanting place!
Soon we resumed trekking, climbing up for a while and then climbing down through step farms. The farming was mainly of ginger and maize.
Rachit and Furdeen were leading us.
Furdeen took us to a priest who was having his lunch. He finished his lunch quickly and took us to the Bodha cave where Guru Padmasambhav had meditated.
The view from outside the cave.
The priest invited Manish inside and after performing prayers asked Manish to give paisa (coin). My beloved husband took the request literally and looked for a coin in all his pockets, finally found a five Rs coin, handed it over to the priest and rushed outside. He heard priest speaking something loudly that he could not decipher, but for sure he was not blessing him. He asked Furdeen what the priest was speaking (cribbing)? Furdeen a shy boy said it was nothing.
Sometimes Manish is really very cute! Or ignorant! Or innocent! Or not-so-street-smart! Well! It depends on my mood at that time!!
From there, we further descended down, crossing terraced farms on hills and finally found ourselves on a tar-road. A Tar-road!
There is no way to keep Rachit going on a tar road. He can walk entire day but not more than few minutes on tar. It had been around four-five hours since we started to trek and then it was a climb up of some 3-4 kms. Luckily a bus arrived which was going to Mangalbarey. We boarded the bus and reached Bliss around two pm.
At the resort Manish congratulated me that among us only I had the unique experience of leech sting? I wished, GOD enrich his experience too!