One of the items on Sonali’s bucket list was to test her potential and go for a long vigorous, that too solo. And so she did. She undertook a long solo Sandakphu trek. Sonali always had complaints about weak back muscles and for that, had suffered quite a lot before this. Hence, opting for a high altitude trek and to witness the Mighty Sleeping Buddha or the Sleeping Shiva range, was right on top of her bucket list. The range resembles the figure of a huge man sleeping with legs spaced.
“What inspired me, was the urge to be stronger and healthier, so as to be able to sustain the strenuous solo Sandakphu trek that I had in mind. And hence, I also learned to be disciplined with my health, in order to go for the trek.” – Sonali
A long standing wishes to visit the holy grail of the trekker’s paradise, Sandakphu was due. And, she has been thinking, planning, speculating, urging friends to make this trip happen for the past 2-3 years but was just not taking shape until this year.
She finally decided to set on a solo journey to fulfill one of her bucket lists wishes to trek to the highest point in West Bengal, Sandakphu especially during spring time, as it was a perfect time to witness the lovely Rhododendron flowers that blooms in the whole Singalila Range.
She enrolled herself for the Sandakphu trek but realized that she was left with only 20 days to prepare herself for the same. And hence, she started focusing on her stamina and endurance to be able to strengthen her weak muscles. She started off with regular inclined walks and a couple of another exercises to develop her potential. By doing so, it not only gave her confidence and strength but also helped her develop a stronger self both in body and mind.
Because, she had made up her mind that no matter what she would be taking the trek solo, nothing deterred her.
“In fact, to be honest, and as luck would have it, I developed severe ear infection in both my ears just two days prior to my trip. The doctor said that it was highly critical and painful to bear the thin air and cold waves, once in such high altitude.”
The situation was enough to put her into a dilemma. To go or not to go. But the urge to witness the mighty Kanchenjunga from the highest point in West Bengal with the mesmerizing sight of the Rhododendron flowers was more than enough to surpass all her doubts and just go for it.
“Hence, the determination played a part here as I took my chances and headed for the trip. Each day once I began my trek, was a literally an enriching experience for me, so much so that it led me to forget my tiredness, ear infection and weak and achy muscles.”
She was rewarded with the lovely sight of Kanchenjunga and other Himalayan peaks. In fact, she feels lucky to have witnessed Mount Everest clearly from one of the viewpoints. The friendly trekkers and her guides were super helpful.
“Freezing nights with hot local beer and a cheerful bonfire under a starry night was something that etched my mind forever.”
It’s been a journey which was all about learning, realization and testing her potential. She came out of her comfort zone and lived her days out of her backpack, made friends, talked to locals, to understand the hardship, to appreciate each smaller little things which may seem very little but has a deeper meaning.
“I felt extremely contented to have been able to tick off one more wish out of my bucket list. Now when I look at it, I realize that the journeys are actually way more important than the destination itself.”
This is not because of the fact that she could not witness any stunning view at the top. But it is because she had undertaken the Sandakphu trek and trekked for 5 days covering about 45 km chasing something which she could not get the view of from the highest point to say the least. She felt, to have achieved the inner joy of finding a new love for mountains. Hooked onto this, she plans to take up many more treks.
“Having to realize the fact, that in order to be able to trek successfully, one needs to be very fit and agile. It was also necessary to let go off all the luxury habits, which I had developed over the course of time and to be able to sustain on the bare minimum.”
To complete the treacherous trail, a steady pace and calmness were essential. While descending, the paths were so steep that she ended up injuring her knees and as a result had to descend with her 10 kg backpack on just one knee. The pain was excruciating all along and she had literally no one to walk along the entire descent as all the others had already bypassed her well ahead.
“It was quite challenging, but all thanks to the super friendly Sandakphu trek guide who came back and kept me motivated while I limped all the way down. Also, the safety trekking poles were like a life saviour for me.”
She confesses to being a travelling nomad and an adventure geek. And there are plenty of adventure trips and activities on her bucket list she’d like to try. These are some serious vacation ideas.
- Trek on frozen lakes (Chadar trek, Annapurna circuit or the base camp, great Kashmir Lakes). She also wants to trek to Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa.
- Scuba Diving in Maldives/ Philippines to swim alongside giant Whale Sharks.
- Camping and hiking along the rivers and forest in and around Indonesia.
- Wild life trips to Africa and to witness Masai Mara tribal life.
- Astro-photography in Spiti and Ladakh.
For aspiring solo trekkers out there Sonali has a message for you.
“I invariably emphasize on the fact that how necessary it is to be fit and healthy. This means to have a comparatively active lifestyle so that once decided for such adventure they can avoid any form of injury and can happily accomplish their goal. One must start with their daily fitness regime (could be as simple as 45 mins walking and light exercise) well ahead of the trek.”
WoovlyFunFact: Did you know that Sandakphu is a point which gives you the best view of the Kanchenjunga along with three others of the five highest peaks in the world?