Friday, November 21, 2008

The Start of it All - Gaurav's Sikkim Trip : Part 1

Should I start with January ? My life took a turn towards greener pastures on Jan 16th 2008, when I got admitted to HBS. All worries at work about transfers, promotions and eventual future took an immediate backseat. Work didn’t stop then and there; I was actually starting to perform even better (or maybe the team just got better motivated) and was happier than ever before.

Anyways, as a result of constant poking by M, and spending a few restive days at Karaikal, I decided to take a month off from work. I had accumulated a huge kitty of vacations – I had 90 surplus vacations pending. In other words, ideally, I could sit at home for three months, and eat, doing nothing. It’s a nice feeling.

Meanwhile, M visited her Bombay office on work and the visit paid rich dividends. An idea for a week long vacation was mooted and I simply piggybacked on her plans. Eventually, M had to drop out of the trip for the usual reasons but I was too deep into it to call it quits. I knew none amongst those going on this trip, but I thought to myself, how bad could it be (It turned out to be quite alright actually). After some net research, long discussions and many email exchanges, a trek in Sikkim was decided upon.

Sikkim is an extremely tourist-centric, environment-friendly state. Usage of plastic/polythene is strictly prohibited and people seem to be surprisingly law-abiding and well off in general. The entry point for all treks into the hills and forests is manned by the Forest and Tourism Department. Entry and exit into the forest is logged and the number of polythenes being carried has to be declared, so that the count on return can be matched to ensure no polythenes are discarded on the way. A registered guide is mandatory for the treks. The state shares its border with Tibet in the north and is home to a lot of Tibetan population, as also, a few of the oldest Buddhist monasteries.

Take my word on it; inspite of having worked out in the sun for long hours, having done literal physical labor at work and being generally fit, I found this to be one of the more physically grueling experiences. Cold and altitude can be merciless killers, especially for one who smokes cigarettes. 14,000 ft cannot be as easily trekked as can be thought of or written, definitely not by a first timer like me.

Gaurav Jain

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