First things are always special in any human's life. It is the only time that a human being feels like a baby again , when the whole world is new to the eyes , with no prior conception in its mind. What ever is pure and eloquent, is painted in the back of mind. Such was, my adventure when for the first time I saw Kanchenjunga , the third highest peak in the world and arguably the most stunning and easily identified mastiff and peak range. Kanchenjunga stands tallest at 8590 m , with its companions such as Kabru , Pandim , Kokthang , Rathong , Sinolchu , Simvo and others forming the sleeping Buddha range as it is called lovingly.
It has been 5 years since the first time , it took my breath away........
In the fall of autumn , and end of October in 2010 , I decided to pay a visit to the hill hamlet of Lolegaon in the northern regions of my native West Bengal. Being just 18 at the time , I was forced to be accompanied by my cousins , who , shared my curiosity or wanderlust for the mountains. We had only heard of the tales of the beautiful hamlet from our neighbors , who had visited lolegaon in March the same year. Like most places in West Bengal , Lolegaon was also much unexplored or lesser known in the tourist circuit. Thankfully that helped in its beauty and less crowd.
Some 120 kms from the Siliguri , in the laps of Himalayan foothills , lies the beautiful village of Lolegaon. Only a 20 houses or so , built around and atop a ridge, constitutes the village. Lolegaon like other himalayan hamlet is filled with colorful houses , predicting the vibrant way of life, and joyful hearts of the residents and natives. Most houses are turned into home-stays to earn the extra income through tourism , run quiet well during the peak seasons of summer and other holidays.
By the time we reached lolegaon , it was something late afternoon , if not evening. The cool breeze and chirping of birds welcomed us and gave us a relief from the cacophony of city we were running away from. Lolegaon has a lot of greenary and woods around. A delight for any nature lover. But be aware of leeches and other insects which run rampant in the areas. In monsoon , the place is hostile due to the breeding period of leeches , which can be termed as dracula , for its function and expertise of sucking out our blood quite easily. Apart from this small monsters , Lolegaon is perfect for anybody's relaxing and rejuvenating vacation. The icing on the cake is the clear view of KANCHENJUNGA MASTIFF that is visible from lolegaon as it is situated on a ridge line atop a hill. The dull plains below is veiled by the huge prominence of the massive mountains in the background.
Being it afternoon , it was all cloudy and misty around , hence, the famed mountain range was nowhere to be seen. We didn't even knew in which direction to look for , as I had no idea where did it, exist at all. We concentrated on the rest of the job, which was finding ourselves a suitable home-stay. At the end of a road , by the edge of the hill , we found our perfect home away. The place had a beautiful couple owning and taking care of it , who had a lot of love for nature , quiet proven by the amount of flowers all around. The flowers were like the smiling greeting children of the mountains , too happy by our visit. The rest evening went into chatting with the cousins , going around the village and knowing about the hamlet from our hearty owners. After a early dinner , our tired body pushed us into bed. I guess it knew of the gift that was waiting the next day.
I am very late riser in the cities , but thankfully , the mountains make me rise early always. Still a mystery!! When I got up, it was 5 AM in the morning. The distant clouds were reflecting a orange hue , welcoming the morning and stating that sun rise was on the verge. I saw this game of colors, through one window and then walked to another. This window was the surprise package. The last evening , the window gave us a dull view of a light blue sky with loads of clouds jammed upon one another like passengers in rush hour of public transport. While now , the whole background had changed. The mist of the night, blurred the glass panes , still , evident it was , something of shining white was seen behind it. I took a step forward of opening the window , which helped my cousins to wake up , courtesy , the chilly bone shaking winds!!!
There it was , the only thing , that mattered in the universe , for that moment which felt like , been waited for eternity , by my soul. The Kanchejunga mastiff. It took no more than a blink of an eye to know which one was the kanchenjunga , for it is the most easily identified mountain peak in the world , with its prominent figure and height. Truly standing like a king . As heard off by my ears , from the many eyes , before me, who have behold this magnificent.
The first rays of the rising sun fell on its body , turning it into a orange canvas , as if painted by lord itself. The ice capped peaks basked in the glory of the morning sun. My eyes didn't blink , I did not know when my cousins were standing by my side , what time it was , what age or place. Moments captured by heart are inexplicable by words and unfathomable by the mind. I never tried to understand also. Even now , if I recall , kanchenjunga stands clear in my vision as I think of it .
Kanchenjunga is accompanied by its friends which too are beautiful in its way. And if seen in a constant panoramic vision , culminates a picture of the lord Buddha lying down in slumber , hence , together the range is also called sleeping Buddha.
Mt pandim , one of the peak in the range , is believed to be the wife of kanchenjunga , which stands like the king.
With its sharp features and significant ridge lines , the king stood with all its raw glamour. The patches of heavy snow , the curves and cuts on its body all shined like its muscular petite body. The peak like a golden crown deserving of a king towered over all others. In my days to come , I have seen Everest and K2 along with other giants , but , to me , none seemed such royalty as the kanchenjunga itself , even now honestly.
I had heard stories of men and women lost and perished , trying to climb this mountain. I have wondered like all others , what madness drives them. Sometimes have judged them as fools and sometimes as daring souls , but , not until that day , I found a convincing answer. Death is such a small price to pay in order to stand on that mountain. Seldom our life is fortunate and worthy of being thrown away in a venture to walk upon the beauty of such majestic Kanchenjunga.
The mastiff like its beauty is also huge in its presence. It towers over the entire region. Its bottom so low , from its top, seems does not exist at all. In my all days , I have never seen the bottom of kanchenjunga. It is as if it does not exist at all. Tiny houses with the background of the giant, seeks my attention in a wish , someday to call it one of my homes. The mastiff so huge looks as if is the pillars of heaven. If someday the sky falls , it might just hold up and save this region. Lolegaon is one such lucky hamlet , where every resident wakes up to the view of the immense and eternal giant of the sleeping Buddha.
It has been five years since then , yet the memory of it is as clear as a drop of water from the running mountain streams. I have seen kanchenjunga in many other forms later , as my profession made my journey towards it more frequent. It calls me now and then, I guess. It is as beautiful as , it was the first time, but that moment has failed to return. For that first time was a moment where eternity summed up , the joy of beholding it the first time, blew with the sorrow that I had never seen it before in my life , the feeling of fortune of the grand view went hand in hand with the regret that what I missed till then. The moment was a mixture of emotions , time , mind and soul. These are the moments that define my life , of how much I have LIVED & not just survived.
All photos are copyrighted to the author , ask permission before use of it. This tour of lolegaon or such place where kanchenjunga is seen so wide can be embarked upon at a cost of 6000 INR from NJP ( SILIGURI ). Consult or join Deep for such moments.
Note from the Author,
" Travel made me rich and free. Magic and miracles are true , once you wander on the roads to places different and divine. I have collected so many thoughts and stories while being a Tour & Trek guide for last seven years. Sharing with you all, those memories and stories , and wishing you all , that someday you guys travel far and wide too. I am not a great writer , so ignore my grammar and spellings, read it with feelings, and you might just be affected with the wanderlust to hit the road"