Wednesday, October 25, 2006

for now, let the subject field remain empty for want of a good subject, of course. haven't written in a while and am unsure where this is gonna lead to: whether i'm gonna talk abt the trip or abt something else, so forget the subject for the time being.

i was thinking of sikkim. i've been there once in 94, as part of the 186 basic course from the himalayan mountaineering institute in darj. we had trekked from yoksum (5,000 ft) up to chaurikiang in three days, carrying at least 18-20 kgs of luggage on our backs. in chaurikiang (15,000 ft) we were taught ice climbing and some rescue techniques. i loved the self arrest exercises where you had to slide down a slope for a certain distance and then suddenly turn around and arrest your fall by digging your axe into the ice. that was thrilling because the instructor at the edge of the cliff wouldn't have been able to hold a snowball hurtling down at such speeds. on the penultimate day we were made to climb a small peak for beginners, called the BC Roy peak, named after Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy. It was at a height of 18,000 ft. The view from there was awesome as we could see all the fourteen peaks (E - K - Ka - Lho - Ma -Dhou -Ma - Cho -Na - A -Ga -Ba -Ga -Sa). I remember some of the names even today: Everest, K 2, Kahnchendjunga, Lhotse, Manalsu, Dhoulagiri . . .

But when I think back after 12 years, the only peaks I can clearly remember are Frey and Amadablam. George Frey died on Frey peak on a day Tenzing had sensed danger. Tenzing was his sherpa then and not a well-known figure. He asked George not to attempt the climb on that day but of course a sherpa's knowledge of the weather is not to be trusted on the mountains, right? My point is, this peak, named after poor Frey, is absolutely conical in shape. As in, much like how a child would draw a mountain in 2-d, and very unreal. I remember it because we were taken to the place where one starts the climb for Frey peak. And we could see it from our base camp every night, a dark shape in a starlit sky.

The other peak was Amadablam, a phallus by all means. Dunno why the Hindus don't call it Shiva's phallus yet. Maybe it skipped their minds, or maybe when the ancient Hindu scriptures were written, people hadn't seen the Amadablam. It goes straight up and is rounded at the tip.

The nights were scary because every time we had to pee, it meant wearing your snow boots and walking 50 meters in the snow to the nearest loo. And as we all know, you get the urge at least three to four times in such cold weather. We were 43 guys in the log hut and the door must've been opened at least 129 times each night. Maybe more. For many days after that I could hear heavy boots in my sleep, trudging up and down like half-asleep zombies on the wooden floor.

But once you were outside the hut (-15 C), you could see the dark mountains standing all around like huge godzillas, almost reaching up to the stars. Numerous stars. I bet you haven't seen so many stars together. The entire spectacle had a very humbling effect on an otherwise arrogant me. So what if you can trek all day with 20 kgs on your back? You are frigging nothing standing like a microbe in front of the mountains, at the mercy of the gods who have humored you and kept you alive. Let this microbe brag around about his stamina. It will be a comic relief, they must've said to themselves.

The postman came with our mail every second day. And one day there were two letters that are still unopened. Dunno how much strength I'll have to borrow from the mountains to choose one.

Am going to Calcutta this December and something inside me is egging me on to make a trip to Sikkim, alone. I will be absolutely quiet about it and drive up to Sikkim in two days. I can park anywhere and sleep in my jeep, but the very thought of going near the highest mountains in the world is keeping me awake every night. I may not get a glimpse of Amadablam and Frey, but to be able to stand there in the snow, looking up...

It would also mean sacrificing a lot of other things. I may not get to spend time with some dear frnds. I may not get to spend much time with my dad, who is 69 already and is busy reading, even this moment, am sure.

The time has come to choose from the two letters. And this time I will open one, once I'm in Sikkim again.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


i was off this blog for a long time and didn't really miss it. am planning a trip from Bangalore to Calcutta in my jeep in Dec-Jan, and was busy getting ready for it. my jeep too got a lot of work done and still needs some more attention.


fan belts (3)
coolant pipe and some other weird-looking pipes
ball joints in the front suspension
some broken indicators

now i gottu get the bull bar fixed and a couple of Neolite lights on that. that should scare the shit out of the truckers during the early morning drives. Now for the route that I'm planning to take: my wife busies herself every weekend poring over the Eicher Atlas, calculating distances and planning the pitstops. After almost three weeks she came up with a detailed route (with many bypasses) with even little tea breaks nicely planned. And she also has a couple of Plan Bs just in case we cannot stick to Plan A. Plan A is roughly like this:

Day 1, Dec 21, 2006: Bangalore to Vijayawada (600 odd kms)
Day 2, Dec 22, 2006: Vijayawada to Gopalpur on Sea (another 600 odd kms)
Day 3, Dec 23, 2006: Gopalpur on Sea to Calcutta (500 + kms)

Here's a rough map downloaded from (the official web site of the national highways authority of india). in this you cannot see the first day's route to Vijayawada because we are skipping Chennai and going via Kolar-Chittoor-Tirupati-Nayadpet-Ongole-Vijayawada.

Hoping to get average speeds of about 70 kms per hour because my vehicle is not fast. it is sluggish, comfortable, and more an offroader than anything else.