Trekking Through the Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary in Sikkim

The trek is a chance to burn off years of accumulated fat.

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On clear days, the sight of the Kanchenjunga peak is a constant companion on the trek. Photo: Rishad Saam Mehta

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

“I am going to die here,” I thought, as I clung to a green sapling for dear life. We were trekking across the 4,150-metre-high Darwa Pass in the Garhwal Himalaya, when a sudden thunderstorm completely washed away our guide’s sense of direction. We were lost and struggling up a grassy incline. The slippery soles on my canvas shoes didn’t help. As I clutched the sapling, precariously close to the edge of the cliff, I found myself wishing that I’d eaten the super-stacked hamburger instead of the spindly chicken roll at Wimpy’s in Delhi, four days earlier.

That was in September 1997, on my first trek ever. The guide managed to throw down a rope and haul me up to safety, so I’ve had plenty of hamburgers since then. The trek changed my life. The article I wrote about it landed me a job with an automobile magazine, transforming me from a bored electronic engineer into a budding travel writer. The job brought lots of driving holidays but no treks.

But recently, as I stood on the scales, I wondered whether the the guide would have been able to haul me up if I was this heavy—both of us would most likely be sitting on a cloud somewhere playing harps. I bought a pair of fancy trekking boots off Amazon, deciding that this would be a year of walking trips rather than driving jaunts.

That very day, I bumped into my old friend Piran Elavia, looking sunburnt and slim. When I’d seen him last, he was rotund and edging sideways through open doors. It turned out that he’d been leading treks in the Northeast. I signed up for the next one, in Sikkim, a month later.

Buddhist Shrine Sikkim

Buddhist chortens and shrines are often found in the middle of the trail and trekkers must walk past respectfully keeping them on their right. Photo: Rishad Saam Mehta

Rhododendrons

Rhododendrons bloom alternately, bright red one year and white the next. Rarely, the whole lot blooms together transforming the canopy into a chequered masterpiece. Photo: Rishad Saam Mehta

 

The next time I saw Piran, he......

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A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T
  • Rishad Saam Mehta is a travel writer and photographer. He is the author of two books, the latest being "Fast Cars and Fidgety Feet" (Tranquebar, 2016).

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