After a long 3hrs journey I reached Darjeeling and after boarding down I met Dipankar sir from howrah who coincidentally turned out to be my batchmate of BMC. I also met Sai Vamsheekar who was our course senior of AMC from Hyderabad. Both were travelling in the same sumo in which I was travelling. We had our tea there and left for Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park which we had to pass to get into HMI campus. After reporting to HMI campus, we all had our documentation and we were alloted our rooms for hostel.
Next day onwards hardcore training started but still ‘picture abhi baki tha’ dost!! In the 1st week we were turned into sugarcanes from human beings…..classes de de k!!! Daily how time passed from 5am to 5pm we never understood that. On the 2nd day of the course in evening we were called for ‘fall in’…and then the real challenge came actually. We all were ordered that everyday from 6pm for next 4 to 5 days we will have to go for BP and PR check up because suddenly if one goes to high altitude from land area, BP fluctuates abruptly and also affects your ‘acclimatization’ process. After hearing that bp check thing, I initially got terrified! Because I previously went through that unrest few days ago.
Oh God!! Again I had to go through that! Nothing to do!! I used to go for check up after 6pm along with many others and our humble and beloved nursing asst from army medical corps, hawaldar babloo kumar literally became ‘yamraj’ for us (we used to say ‘abhi nam katega bp badhne se’). But while we were very much tensed regarding this bp issue, none but babloo sir used to give us moral support like an elder brother. And, yet my bp also showed fluctuations and I too was very much disturbed regarding this issue. Feeling dejected, I forgetting everything, drank 6-7 litres of water daily and focused on improving my health and getting acclimatized asap!!
I even didn’t make phone calls to my parents. But I never lost my hope!! Because if I would loose it, I would loose to myself! And no way of quitting after coming so far!! By hook or crook I had to win! Atleast mentally!! But God blessed me at last. On the 1st day of bp check up, babloo sir told me that my bp was 144/104 which was terrifying!!! He added saying that if the bp does not go down below 135 in next 2-3 days I have to stay back in HMI for few more days because in high altitude like in chowrikhang base camp at 14600 ft having high bp is devastating. One may get hypothermia,chill blain,HAPO,HACO and many more mountain diseases!! Finally I won! On the last day of bp check, my bp showed 130/90. Sir said, “congrats soham!! u are going to base camp!!” It was overwhelming indeed but I was not that happy because one thing was still disturbing me that was my shoes issue.
Everyone were having running as well as hiking shoes but I had not!! Because initially I didn’t found it that important. I goofed off badly as I was not having a previous experience of trekking, I didn’t give it importance. Nothing to do. I had to manage with what I had then. Well in mountains u don’t get everything u want. U have to manage with what you have. So I stopped thinking about that what will happen to my foot. Moreover at that time it was not also affordable for me to buy a waterproof hiking shoe of quechua, worth 3000 Rs.(min.m) being a lower middle class family boy! So I left for yuksom from where our long trek from there to chowrikhang base camp was going to take place. After reaching to yuksom I was totally f***** up!! Literally leeches are cultivated there. Often I thought of setting up a salt factory there but I had nothing left except getting leech bites. Already nature started playing with us like juggling balls.
On 23rd September we reached yuksom around 1pm and after having lunch we left for an after lunch walk as well as side seeing. There we came to know that yuksom was the first capital of Sikkim. The main scene scene started while returning back to our camp site. While tent pitching around 5pm there were drizzle and u know after rainfall leeches come out from sub-soil layer because the pores gets filled with water. So while tent pitching, we suddenly heard girls screaming from the other camp site which was for them.
We rushed there to see what happened and then what I saw tensed me a bit because we had to spent that night in tents on that grassy patch and leeches were coming out continuously. Wheather was also getting worse. That day dinner was served too early!! We were served dinner around 6pm because the next day was going to be toughest of the whole 28days and Vice Principal(HMI) sir strictly ordered everyone to go to sleep by 7pm. After dinner while we were preparing our beds inside tents, storm broke followed by heavy rainfall and lightning. Due to storm the central pole of every tents fell, ropes torn apart leaving us totally confused what to do!! There was an ongoing building by our campsite and vice principal sir ordered us to rush there. We left the half wet tents there for whole night.
Adventure started from that night itself. Next day was really a hell day for us as we have to cover 18kms trek in a single day and it was the longest distance that we had to cover of the whole 36 kms trek. And according to people it is the 3rd toughest trek route of asia. So next day, after having our breakfast, we left for Tshoka at 6.50am which is 18km away from yuksom. On the way, the girls started reacting as expected. Even before the leeches started biting them, they started screaming like they have seen a ghost!!!! Really this route felt like hell to us. And the most challenging was that those who didn’t have hiking shoes faced more difficulties.
Our shoes got totally wet. Anyway we reached Tsachen where we had our lunch because it was the only last water point before Tshoka. After that we had to climb continuously for 4hrs in heavy terrain. Previously the courses used to stay in bakhim which is only 2.5 hrs(approx) from Tsachen but the place was destroyed due to Nepal earthquake in 2012. So we reached Tshoka at 4pm but before that I also had that ‘leech-round’ lol. When only half an hr(that I came to know after reaching Tshoka) was left to reach Tshoka I mentally, was very much exhausted and I had no water in my sipper. So I kept my rucksack on a rocky face thinking that leech would at least not survive at 11000 ft.
O baaba!! shayad kuch gehra hi rishta tha pichle janam se! After resting there for 10 minutes, I again picked up my rucksack and started walking. But who would knew that two leeches already got inside the rain cover and already travelled inside my shirt. After 10 minutes, while walking I suddenly felt some itching type on my hip.
After touching with my fingers, I felt something slippery got stuck on my my hip. I immediately, put down my rucksack and opened my shirt and what I saw just left me dumb! Two leeches were sucking blood so desperately as if those were all set to dig a pile foundation on my hip!! Uffff!! Leeches are not that bad as they only suck your impure blood but they are pip-squeaks!! After getting rid of them I vomited and then reached Tshoka around 4pm.
Again I got a leech bite there while I was having my dinner but that time it became friendly because the previous experience was worst. I took a spoon and and ripped off. In this way one copes up with nature, with reality. I myself was an example to me. I started realizing that MOUNTAINEERING IS NOT A JOURNEY ONLY, IT IS ABOUT KNOWING YOURSELF! We stayed there for 2 nights and also went for an ‘acclimatization walk’ to Pariruk. It has got a funny name, Gamcha(the Bengali word of towel). That Gamcha is a beautiful rest point for trekkers as well as there are varieties types of wild flowers! From Tshoka we went to Tzongri La, where the awe-awakening beauty didn’t fail to mesmerize us.
After staying there for a night next day we started our journey for chowrikhang base camp which is located at 14600ft(4356mt). ufff!! What a journey it was!!The rathong valley was looking damn! While travelling to base camp after crossing ‘Rathong-Chuu’(‘Chuu’ means water in that region) I lost my way and was detached from my ‘toli’ due to heavy fog which suddenly appeared due to bad weather. Thank God that I got Sheenas TS on my way….he asked “oyeee!! Kidder jaa raha hai tu?! Goom hona hai kya tere ko?!”…..Anyhow I reached base camp very late…since I was lagging behind.