“We’re not going to hike to Tumling?” I asked while standing at the busy rent-a-rover counter at Maanebhanjang.
“This is your first trek. Let’s not push it,” said Rahul.
I’d be miffed at the condescension, had it not come from someone far fitter & more experienced at trekking than I was. So I nodded and wrapped my stole tighter around my body, shivering. Being a Kolkatan, the very luxury of shivering in April gave me the extra chills.
We were a group of 3 – Rahul, Aishani and me; 2 of us amateurs. We had set off for New Jalpaiguri the previous night and had reached quite early in the morning. We rode to Manebhanjang via Mirik with a nice and extremely chatty gentleman and reached by late morning.
Our Rover was ready, and Rahul insisted that Aishani and I sit on the front seat.
“But there’s so much space in the back!”I exclaimed.
“Trust me. Your spine will thank me for this.”
And thus began our uphill ride. There are a couple of things you must know about these Rovers. One – they are bare. Really BARE. Just the frame, hard-on-the-ass seats and a metal thingy on the door beside the front seat that pokes into your hip, uninvited (it could be unique to our rover, though). And two – thanks to the roads, these Rovers soon start to resemble those empty tin cans they show in the movies, tied to and hurtling behind the car with a “Just Married” written on it. Only here, you’re in that can.
The ordeal began after a couple of smooth turns. I looked at the rocky path in front of me with a slight sense of foreboding. Once we were on it, it turned to pure alarm.
“What’s happening? Why? WHY??” whimpered Aishani once we were briefly on a smooth road after the first 10 minutes of the assault on our spines.
“Something’s poking into my…” was all I managed to say before the ordeal began again.
I do not have the words to describe the way we were shaken, stirred and tossed about – that too on the front seat! I chose not to look back at Rahul to check what state he was in. The “wild ride” lasted longer than anyone would want it to. There was nice scenery around, but I was more concerned about my organs shifting to new spots within my body to take any pictures of them. Hence, here’s a Google searched image:
By the time we reached Tumling, it was foggy on the outside and we were pretty shaken on the inside.
The road to Tumling from Maanebhanjang is about 13 kms long, and at places, it’s quite steep. Trekking on it WILL save your vital body parts from the unwholesome experience we went through. But it will wear you out as well, especially if your fitness level is not that stellar. You’ll find yourself panting unattractively on the side of the road, and will take considerably more time to reach Tumling. In fact, on our way to Tumling, a couple of trekkers got into our Rover because they couldn’t walk anymore. Rovers usually take around 2 hours to reach Tumling. Yes, 2 hours of all THAT. So, yeah. It’s up to you to decide on the lesser of the two evils.
Tumling is a beautiful place – a tiny village located at an altitude of 9600ft. It is actually a part of Nepal, though there’s no way of telling when you crossed the border. Getting a phone signal here is difficult. Usually, Airtel and Vodaphone works here but you have to be in certain spots and go all Lion King there with your phone for that.
There are a few Nepali families living in Tumling, along with a few lodges that cater to tourists. We stayed at the Siddhartha Lodge. The evening we reached there, it was foggy & cloudy, and was soon followed by a rainy & stormy night. Thanks to the rains, the next morning we woke up to pristine blue skies and a cheerful sun.
We walked around a bit, taking in the views of the mountains, trees, and occasional birds. Rahul is a birder [bird photographer], and he told us the names of the various birds around [none of which I remember now], just by listening to their calls. And then he disappeared for lengths of time, trying to capture them, and cursing at them for acting like birds and staying well out of his reach.
Meanwhile, Aishani and I were loitering around, ravenous and impatient, waiting for Rahul to come back from his bird chase so that we could have breakfast. Which he finally did, after an hour or so. Hallelujah.
So that wraps up our stay in Tumling. Our plan for the day was a short and easy hike to Gairibas – which turned out to be anything but that. More on that in my next post!