Saturday, December 27, 2014

Ka Lawm me Mizoram!! Part -2

Day 3
Ailawng to Hawlhhah
The third day was perhaps the diverse walk that we experienced during the trek. We started from Ailawng, passing through the village one last time before we entered the forest again. An hour later we were walking through meadows of waist high grass with a soothing breeze accompanying us as we moved further uphill. We then entered a rocky terrain which finally led us to the Reiek peak, the highest peak of the area.

The view from there was a sight to behold. Saying that it was spectacular would be an understatement. One needs to be in places like these to truly appreciate the sheer magnitude and unparalleled beauty that nature beholds. Something that sadly man has gradually forgotten to value.
The breeze up on the peak was cool and light, freshening us up even more than what a hot shower would. Below the cliff we could see the river snaking across the land at a distance. We were told that during the days with lesser cloud cover, we would have been able to see the shimmer of a lake on the Bangladeshi side at the horizon. But frankly at that point I could not understand the concept of borders. Everything I saw before me was just nature and its bounty, no matter which country it belonged to.
We didn't feel like going away from that place. But we had to reach the next camp site and it was quite a distance away. The route downhill was quite treacherous, with a steep drop on one side of the path, and a steeper drop on the other. We went past amazing rock formations. We passed a tourism resort which had preserved an old Mizo village to depict the ways of life of the people, all of which had changed with the onset of urbanization.
The villages that we went past were so immaculately maintained that I felt embarrassed and to an extent ashamed of how filthy we make our cities. Post lunch, we then walked for another 3 hours, going past orchards and farms and moving into the jungle in the middle of which our third campsite was hidden.

Day 4
Hawlhhah to Nghalchawm
The night in the middle of the jungle was surprisingly comfortable. But the next day was anything but. Today was what I called in hindsight 'The leech day'. We started our trek with downhill walk for about an hour till we reached a stream of cool, refreshing water. 

Our tour guides warned us to be careful while stepping out but we being the naive trekkers that we were just went with the flow. The result? Half of us found ourselves bitten by leeches, resulting in bloodied clothes. Anyway we moved forward, moving uphill from there for a couple of hours till we reached another village. From there it a much more comfortable journey as the road was tarred and the slope quite comfortable to walk. It took us about two more hours from there to finally reach our final camp site of Nghalchawm. This was by far the most comfortable camp site we had had. A stream flowed nearby and we had a refreshing bath. And then, like every other nite, we tucked in quite early.

Day 5
Nghalchawm to base camp
So the final day had arrived. I didn't actually know what to feel. On one hand, my body was crying out for this ordeal of sorts to end. On the other, my mind was racing, wanting to go on. Confused with my thoughts, I set out with the group soon after breakfast to our destination.
Today's walk was supposed to be quite a short and easy one as per our tour guides Mama and Zika. It was short but as had been the norm during the trek, when they said easy, it only meant easy for them.
After a short walk through inhabited areas, we again entered the jungle. The path however was wider in these parts. After about an hour, we reached a suspension bridge over the river. It was scary to an extent, walking on the bridge as it swayed under the weight of our bodies, with a 200 feet drop into the gushing waters of the river below a very real prospect. It seemed a scene right out of an Indiana Jones movie, as we evaded loose planks of wood, hoping to just reach the other side somehow. Once we did we were greeted with a hour long vertical climb, which almost felt like torture.
However we all made it through. And once that climb was done, we were welcomed by the sight of the highway and a bus waited there to take us back to the base camp.

All of us slept like logs in the bus. Once we reached, we all were handed out certificates for completing the trek. And then slowly everyone said their goodbyes and went their different ways.

I can safely say that it was one of the most exhilarating trips I have ever made in my life. By the time I reached back home, my body was in a pretty bad shape. My muscles ached. My bones felt brittle. But my spirit was stronger than ever. I felt, perhaps for the first time a sense of liberation. I felt that at least for a week at least I had lived my life the way it should. Yes I was back in the concrete jungle. And soon the worries and stress of this life will again come back to haunt me. But now I know that there always is a way to give your body a release. Thanks to YHAI. Thanks to Mama and Zika. And thanks to the group that made me realise that.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Ka Lawm me Mizoram!!! Part - 1

They say that sometimes you need to just go out on your own. Its just the thing that shows what you are made of. And sometimes its just the thing that you need to find yourself, discover what you truly are beneath the layer of work pressure, stress and constant fight for survival in the concrete world.
I decided to take that plunge just when I thought it was getting a bit too much for me, when I thought that I needed a release very badly.
A friend told me about a perfect getaway, a trek in the unexplored hills of Mizoram. One week of nothing but pure natural beauty of the North East. And so I took the bait. And boy was it worth it.
Thanks to the my glorious friends at Air India, I almost missed out on this trek. Air India has this knack of making the simplest things look like the launch of a satellite and they stayed true to their legacy. I reached the capital city of Aizawl a day late,  a few hours more and I would have missed the trek.
Aizawl is a beautiful city. It is set up just like any other city that you would see in a hilly area, but the vibe that this city gives off is so unique. Everywhere you see smiling faces, faces that are eager to help, to please. And I dont think that I have seen that anywhere else.

The hostel of YHAI- the youth hostel association of India is about a half an hour drive from Aizawl. The guys at YHAI were really helpful at making me and all the other fellow participants of the trek feel at ease. The dormitories were pretty basic but well maintained. We had a short interaction with our two guides who were to accompany us. Mama and Zika, two of the most awesome guys I will ever meet in my life waved their hands at us as they were introduced. We were soon asking them our doubts about the trek and hoping that their repeated statements of the trek being not that tough were true.
Being so far east meant that daylight disappeared at 5 in the evening. Hence the body clock went haywire and by the time it was 9 we were all tucking into our beds, under the warm blankets, hoping for the start of something special the next day.

Day 1
Aizawl to Vaipuanpho
I woke up quite early the next day, the sun was in our eyes by 5 am, another side effect of being in the east. As we looked down the hillside we were greeted with an absolutely pristine view of the hills, covered by a thin white sheet of cloud, as if it was a blanket over the hills to keep them warm. 
The trek started as the president of YHAI flagged us off. What happened after that is mostly a blur, as all of us got our asses kicked during the walk. The initial route was steep, we walked to rough cut steps in the soil and moved downhill, trying to keep ourselves from slipping on the moist dew soaked grass. We then reached a small stream of water after which it was entirely the opposite, a steep uphill climb towards the tarred road. The climb was almost vertical at places and by the time we reached the road, most of us were out of breath. 
From there it was a gradual downhill slope to a small dam, where we stopped to have our packed lunches. And then another couple of hours of uphill walk later, we were there, at our first campsite, Vaipuanpho, nestled in a small pocket of clearing by the side of the road.
Bonfire at night, songs and games and we capped off a hugely tiring but hugely enjoyable day.

Day 2 
Vaipuanpho to Ailawng
Today was the shortest of our walks. Yesterday we had walked almost 15 kms but today it was only 7. It was planned as we needed to reach Ailawng early. There was a caving activity planned there for which we needed to reach by lunch. We were all happy thinking that it was a short journey but our relief only lasted till we saw the evil smile on Mama's face.
Those 7 kms I will never forget in my life. We were walking at almost an angle of 60° uphill coupled with the fact that we needed to be sure footed because of the dew. By the time we were an hour into the walk, our water supply had shrunk to half.

We rested at a huge rock. I slipped on a moss covered stone and I could only stop my fall with my chin. So with a swollen chin I moved forward, uphill again through the jungle as we moved to the tiny but beautiful village of Ailawng.
We reached there by 2 in the afternoon, panting for breath and positively winded. But caving was to follow. So we couldn't crash just yet. Mama led us to this cave through which we were to pass. The only thing I would say here is that this is not meant for claustrophobics.

It was an adrenaline pumping experience, crawling, sliding, ducking through the crevices of the cave. Their were points when you would see nothing below but just hear the trickle of water and one had to make a chimney slide supporting our weights on the rocks on either side. There was also a point where I actually got stuck, the whole huge body if mine refusing to go through jeopardizing not just my trip but that of all others who were behind me. But some how I managed to sneak through, and come out of the rabbit hole at the other end, feeling that finally I had done something quite unique for a change. 
The night at Ailawng was pretty cold, we were pretty high up and we had to go even higher the next day. It was a bunch of pretty much drained bodies that said good night to each other and crashed into their tents.

(to be contd..)