Five people, Five ponds and Five days– Panchpokhari
By Stuti Sharma
Have you ever had Waiwai and chiura soup? Well, I have. (Don’t try it at home!)
My trek to Panchpokhari started with a disappointment as my cousin (the only person I knew from the group of 5 people going) backed out from the trip because of flu. Talking about me, I am one of those who lock themselves in a room when the family has guests visiting, to avoid any sort of human interaction. If you happen to be a wallflower just like me, you know how it feels right? *fist bump* But The journey that started with “what am I going to do?” and “how am I going to fit in?” ended with “helluva good time!” We trekked through the Melamchi trail through the landslide and slippery steps which was like a roller coaster. One slip and you’re gone!
The 13 hours walk from Bhotang to Norsyangpati was intense. The descending part was short lived as more and more ascends awaited us. While some of our trekking partners steadily gained speed, three of us, “The late comers” were often welcomed by some coconut biscuits and lovey-dovey notes on the way. As the day was coming to an end, I found out that all of us had separated so I decided to wait for ‘J’, who was behind me and the last one walking. After waiting for almost an hour, she finally appeared in the scene and it looked like she had been crying because the path was very difficult, the air was getting thinner and she was exhausted as we climbed hills after hills. The two of us walked through a spooky forest and stony steps and it was already getting dark. The house that seemed visible a little while ago was shrouded in hazy fog and there was no sign of human settlement. At one point, J gave up and declared that she could walk no more. But there was no turning back as we had walked 13 hours straight to find a place to spend the night at, and also because I had been walking in a sleeveless t-shirt while my only jacket was resting in our guide Arjun dai’s bag. We screamed for help hoping that someone would hear us, but no avail. We also tried the SOS flashlight to call for help, and moved the torch light all around calling for attention, but no one came. The only sound we could hear was the wind blowing and a faint sound of a bell, like the one that’s usually put around the neck of cattle.
Eureka! Maybe we could spend the night at a shed, which we would have to search for in the dense forest, in that chilly night (I hope J isn’t reading this because at that point, instead of feeling sad, I was rather feeling excited. Blame it on Man Vs Wild okhayy? Nepali Bear Grylls here.) FINALLY, we heard a human singing, and a movement of light. It was no one else but Arjun dai, who had come to the rescue along with hot coffee for both of us. That particular cup of coffee was without any doubt, the best coffee I have ever had. On reaching Norsyangpati, we drowsily hung by the fire covered with blankets playing Rock-paper-scissors and Password.
We walked in hail storm and rain for 3 days in a row and had leeches the size of a pinky finger sticking to our bare skin. Arjun dai carried all the food in his backpack and treated us with WaiWai in the day and Dalbhat and mushrooms for lunch and dinner. We could see that he had a passion of cooking as he made garlic fried rice and fried dal for us every day, with a smile.
After 5 hours of walk from Norsyangpati, at 4300m above the sea level, Panchpokhari welcomed us with a foggy weather and more rain. We had the whole place for ourselves. Arjun dai has a small house at Panchpokhari, and it became our home for the day. The high hills all around made me feel very tiny and took me back to my childhood, when I used to dream about having a small cottage on the top of a hill when I grew up. We walked around ponds, had a stone skipping competition, screamed on top of our lungs to hear our voice echo and stacked stones. At the end of the day, I sat by the fire watching Arjun dai make dinner, saw magic tricks and slept under a layer of five blankets.
Like they say, traveling is like a magic trick, you don’t know what happened but you do know that it was the craziest thing you’ve ever seen. That’s what the trip was like. Sometimes, the stinging pain of my lungs used to take over as I tried to oxygenate my body from the thin air, while the sharp pain of knee shocked by the sudden surge of activity never went away. People say that being on a trekking route is more about challenges and tears, but this one was more of laughter and smiles. Along with an uninformed, upset and angry father back home, having the beautiful nature placed right in front of my eyes, witnessing colorful sunset, mountains, and silver linings, meeting some amazing people, making some amazing friends, and all those tiny achievements like taking a picture with a Yak, the risk taken was worth it. Here’s waiting for another trip of mistakes and miracles, rock-paper-scissors and passwords, laughter, travel and conversations, and switched off cell-phones.