To the bosom of the Kanchanganga : Part One.
Although I have traveled in many directions to the east, west, south and north of India, the Himalayas have never once been included in my travels. Then the year is 2022. Almost thirty years old. Then that old desire sprouted in my mind. “Go to the Himalayas and see the snow”. I felt that I should complete that wish before my thirtieth birthday.
“Kulu-Manali” or “Leh-Ladakh” is not enough if you want to see snow, just go anywhere? But there is no thrill in it. There is no difference. If you want to see the snow, you have to do something different. Fried idea. So the last idea that came to mind is “Himalayan Trekking”.
“Himalaya” is a big event isn’t it..? A “Himalayan” phenomenon that extends from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir southeast to India, Nepal, Tibet (China), and Bhutan. Himalayan trekking is an important adventure tourism activity in India and all the above countries. In India itself, this is mostly happening in states like Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. There are various trekking routes in these places. “Beginner”, “Intermediate” “Expert” level treks, and many other possibilities of mountaineering.
Then the idea is where to do the trekking. Spread across the Internet. The last place that caught my eye was “Goyacha La”. It is not in any of the states mentioned earlier. Rather in Sikkim. Read more about this later. It was then that Manissi came to know that Goyacha Laum is a very famous and very old trekking route in India. This is a trek up to the base camp of the Kanchen Junga peak in the Himalayas (the Kanchen junga is the third highest peak in the world).
This trek starts from Yuksom, a small village in West Sikkim district of Sikkim. 8 days trek starting from Yuksom and ending at Yuksom itself. The trek is organized in such a way that we reach Goyacha La (up to 16000 feet) in the morning on the 6th day and return in the next two days. This trek has some other special features. It is entirely within the Kanchanjunga National Park. As you go up, nature has prepared many kinds of views. Dense evergreen forests, low-growing forests, grasslands, sparsely vegetated rock formations, snow-covered mountains, and so on. Not to mention the distinct culture, language and cuisine of the state of Sikkim. When he understood all this, he made up his mind that he might go to Goyacha La.
Trekking in Goyacha Lai is allowed only during four to five months of the year. Trekking here is not possible without the permission of the forest department. Trekking is allowed only in spring (second half of March to end of May) and in the interval after rains before the onset of winter (months of August and September). Spring is characterized by blooming rhododendrons. Rhododendron is the state flower of Sikkim. There are rhododendron plants that produce multi-colored flowers. They grow only at a certain altitude. Seeing these plants blooming in white, red, pink, yellow and many other colors is a wonderful experience. Moreover, this is the time when many birds come to drink the nectar of these flowers and so on.
Kanchenjunga National Park in spring is also a gathering place for over 70 species of birds found only in the Himalayas. So I started dreaming of a Goyacha La Trekking in spring. I first presented this to Divya at home. She has been my companion in all my travels for the past two and a half years. But now she is pregnant, so she cannot do such a trek now. When I told her my wish, she agreed. But one condition. “You can’t go alone. You have to have someone with you”. I agreed. Then it became a quest to get a companion. I asked my friends who are cyclists and runners because of the physical activity. Even though many people want to come, the difficulty of getting leave from work, the difficulty of staying away from home for a few days, the difficulty of finding money for this, etc.
It was then that I remembered Divya’s cousin Christy. He is also a travel enthusiast and is free after college. So he was asked. He is ready to ask. So he agreed to go. Now a time has to be fixed and a trek operator has to be decided. The workload in the office decreases only at the end of April. So with a rough understanding that we can go by the end of April.
Next is ticket booking. There are two options. Either reach Bagdogra by air and from there reach Yuksom by road. Alternatively, after reaching Calcutta, he can travel by overnight train to New Jalpaiguri and travel by road to Yuksom. Both Bagdogra and New Jalpaiguri are located in the Siliguri Corridor, which connects mainland India with the northeastern states. Strategically located between China, Nepal and Bangladesh for India.
As Bagdogra airport was closed for maintenance for a few days and we didn’t have the cash to afford the direct flight fare, we decided to take the second option. So I booked a flight ticket to Calcutta on 23rd April and a train ticket to New Jalpaiguri from there that evening. The same type of tickets were booked for the return journey.
Now we have to find a trek operator. Searched the internet again. That’s when I came to know about a company called Indiahikes. A pan-Indian trek operator based in Bangalore. An organization that operates treks very professionally. Then I called them on the phone to see them. But we did not get the answer we expected. They told us no as it was the first Himalayan trek for both of us and we wanted to climb up to 16000 feet. They said that at least two or three Himalayan treks, that too at various altitudes like 10,000ft, 12000ft, 14000ft and so on, should come this way. We are all Vallandi!.
But it doesn’t matter what they say. As the altitude increases, the availability of oxygen in the atmosphere decreases and due to this AMS or Altitude mountain sickness can occur. If AMS becomes severe, it can lead to problems such as severe shortness of breath, headaches, and diarrhea. AMS is also a condition that can lead to death if severe. Who can get AMS? There is no particular standard for it. The only way to know if someone has AMS is to look up. Then Indiahikes cannot be blamed if we think from their side. Why should they take unnecessary risks with these inexperienced trekkers?
Again a quest for a trek operator. That’s when he came to know about a local agent working in Yuksome through a YouTube video. “Glacier Trek and Adventures”. Called their number as soon as I got it. Proprietor Kiran picked up the phone. We presented the matter. Our experience or fitness doesn’t matter to the elder. He told me to go boldly. But after watching many experience sharing videos, we had an idea about the minimum preparation required for this trek. Must have stamina to run at least 5km in 30-35 minutes and shoulder strength is also important. Climbing and walking this distance with a large backpack requires heavy lifting skills. Anyway we decided to trek with this agency. They asked Rs 15500 for 8 days.
They said that there are two people and when they bargained, they agreed to take it to Rs. 15,000 by reducing Rs. 500. So advance was also given. Next is buying gear and clothes for trekking. A fleece jacket, padded jacket, neck warmer, headcap, rain coat, trekking pole, trekking pants, waterproof trekking shoes, hand gloves, essential medicines, first aid kit and a long list to fight the cold. Having Decathlon lined up all this made the purchase all in one go. Now waiting for the day to start the trek.