“Do not build expectations in your head. They are bound to let you down – unless, of course, you are visiting the abode of a Goddess.” – Hemant Somasekharan, Teacher & Researcher, The Royal Academy.
“Our group comprising of students from the Eastern and Western parts of Bhutan along with their teacher, from the South of India set forth to ascend to the base camp of the sacred and revered Mount Jomolhari. We bid farewell and good luck to other groups who were going to various other parts of Bhutan and commenced our journey on the morning of October 26. We drove till Shana. At Shana, we met with our porter and his ponies. The time was just before 12 noon. Our porter told us that he would load the ponies and catch up with us. We entered the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Park and began our journey.
I must admit this – we were in the lap of nature and following a pony trail. None of us knew where these trails would lead us. Sometimes, one needs to intelligibly take a leap of faith and that is what we did. We strode on! We chanced upon a few tourists along the way, who were coming back from the Jomolhari mountain festival that had been held for the past two days. On our first day, we walked for nearly six hours before deciding to set up camp. The ponies caught up with us. We set up our tents and began preparing for dinner. We were famished and we ate rice and kewa datshi.
We woke up at dawn the next morning and the leader on duty (which rotated between the six of us on each of the six days) ensured that everyone was assigned roles and responsibilities. We decided that if we started early and walked at a brisk pace, we could reach base camp by evening. We packed our lunch and began our journey. By noon, we glimpsed our first sight of the majestic mountain towering in the near distance. We were overjoyed and really excited at the prospect of getting there. Our pace increased considerably. What we didn’t realise at that time was how the mountains can be deceptive to the uninitiated. When we first sighted Jomolhari it was around 11AM. From what we saw, we thought it was just around the corner. We had been walking for over four hours since then and at 3 PM, we were still nowhere near the base camp. The temperature was dropping fast and the mountain ranges were blocking the sun and casting enormous shadows. We realised that we would lose daylight soon and stepped up our pace. A little after 5 PM, when we were almost about to give up and call it a day, we came across a signboard that said “Jomolhari basecamp”. We were taken aback! We couldn’t see Jomolhari! It is hard to explain this and one should witness it for themselves. We continued walking for another ten minutes when all of a sudden, the black mountain range in front of us split into two in the form of a very wide opening and right in front of us was the snow clad Jomolhari – the sight truly befitted the abode of the Goddess. A yogi, who was residing at the basecamp, came over and we exchanged pleasantries. He was concerned whether it would be too cold for the kids to be camping outside. He said we could use the tourist kitchen that had a bukhari in it. We thanked him for his generosity but politely refused. We were awestruck at the magnificence of the scale and magnitude of the summit. We wanted to sleep outside in the presence of the extraordinary. We pitched our tents and soon began preparing dinner. By dusk, the temperature had plummeted. That night, we saw the clearest sky ever – thousands upon thousands of stars and other celestial bodies put up a spectacular extravaganza for us, rewarding our choice to remain under the sky!
We spent two nights at the basecamp. During our time there, we also visited the twin lakes. It was an incredibly amazing experience. It was a reminder to all of us that rigour and perseverance bears exhilarating fruits. There were few odd occasions when we struggled on our way to basecamp or to the twin lakes but we helped each other out and kept making progress. And it sure was worth every single drop of sweat, blood and tears!”
I would like to share my group’s heartfelt gratitude to everyone who helped make this venture possible and a success.