We all have fears, many reasonable and so many unreasonable. We all want to face our fears too but it is easier said than done. Never in my life had I to face three of my biggest fears in a span of 24 hours. At the end of it, I am still scared of those. Old habits die hard is all I can say!
For all the traveling that I do, it’d be easier to travel solo. It is terribly impossible to put together a team at the whims of a dreamy wanderer. But the only reason I never dared to go solo was because of these fears.
It can come as a surprise to you that these are my fears considering all the crazy adventures I had so far and yet the truth remains that I never had to actually face these situations on my own. But the universe decided it was time for me to face my fears when I was in Sikkim this July. I felt the quest was incomplete at the end of a week spent in North and South Sikkim which is why I decided to explore West Sikkim as well. But the catch was I had to do it alone.
I was just as much anxious as I was excited about the journey ahead. While everything else about traveling solo had me excited, the fact that I might exactly be in one of these situations was worrying me. But with great passion comes great courage. ;)
The first two days spent in RavangLa were brilliant. I enjoyed freaking people out when they learned I came all alone during off season. There wasn’t another traveler in the town and most of the hotels were closed down while a few stayed open because the owners had little else to do. I stayed at a hotel run by an old man who assured me there was nothing to be scared of and his assurance worked well also because the top floor was actually a family residence. I was dreading the night but I managed just fine and was still alive the next day morning. Phew, I was glad to have survived the first day and night as a solo traveler.
Two days later I was on my way to Pelling and I was expecting something similar there as well. But the fact that Pelling was much more famous than RavangLa meant there were lot more hotels and lodgings in this place. Pelling is situated at a height of 2150m in West Sikkim and offers a splendid view of Mt. Kanchenjunga. It also forms a base for many who proceed towards Yuksom for treks further up. It was so popular with the tourists that the village wasn’t any quaint settlement but the exact opposite. The entire mountain side was Pelling – Lower Pelling, Middle Pelling and Upper Pelling!
Knowing I would be traveling to Pelling the next day, the elderly gentleman at RavangLa offered to arrange accommodation with his friend in Pelling and I obliged. As it turns out it was a good hotel located in Upper Pelling high up the mountain right next to the forest. I took a morning taxi from Ravangla to Geyzing village and from there took another shared taxi to reach Pelling by afternoon. The entire village had worn a deserted look with the roads empty and the tall hotels closed. There weren't any tourists as well, except for four foreigners I came across.
I still had the whole afternoon to myself, so I thought let’s walk to the nearby places, meaning Pemayangste Monastery and Rabdentse ruins, both 4 and 5 kms respectively from Pelling. It was a lovely afternoon to walk around and so I set out to Pemayangste first. The subtropical forests of Sikkim are very dense with thick undergrowth as well. In monsoons, you can only imagine the plushness of the foliage. This forest also supports a variety of fauna. The road to the monastery goes along such forest and I had to deal with inch sized some sort flying beetles or some insects but I carefully managed to reach the monastery. Had a good time exploring and talking to the monks there. My first excursion as a solo traveler went well I thought, with a good feeling I was walking down the road when my heart skipped a beat! I saw a dog sitting in the middle of the road. Good thing was it was a friendly dog. The sad thing was it was a friendly dog. As soon as I came near it, it started wagging its tail and was all over me. I couldn’t shout and couldn’t move either. I tried talking to the dog, asking it to sit down and calm down. Before you think I am a freak, you should know I never liked pets and have never had any animals around me. With great difficulty I managed to calm the dog and walked away. It felt like forever and my heart was pounding for few minutes after that. Can’t imagine the situation if the dog would’ve chased me, heart attack? ;)
|Pemayangtse Monastery is one of the oldest monasteries of the State. It was originally established by Lhatsun Chempo, one of the revered Lamas to have performed the consecration ceremony of the first Chogyal (Monarch) of Sikkim. This ancient monastery belonging to the Nyingma Sect has been considered as one of the premier monasteries in the State.|
Okay, so that was the dog scare, I thought I felt half more brave than earlier and ventured into the broken entrance that led to Rabdentse ruins. The visitors block at the entrance was deserted and there was broken glass everywhere, the furniture broken and the building abandoned. There was just vehicle standing at the entrance and no one knows I came here in case something happens. The ruins are at a distance of a kilometer or so from the gate and there is paved trail leading to it. The ruins are supposedly spread all across inside the dense foliage and on top of the hill are the ruins maintained by the Govt. As I started walking along the forest trail, I was kind of dreading the eerie feeling that was creeping into my mind. For someone who has spent so much time in forests, you must be wondering why I was so scared. Well all the times I was in forest, I was never alone. Always in a group! Being alone in a forest is really scary, I tell you. Sound of forest is like the creepy background score of a movie if you are all alone. There was absolutely no one along the trail and the forest was really dense with very little light entering, not to mention the looming dark clouds which were about to burst any moment. After the scary walk, there was light all of a sudden. I had reached the ruins and it was in a clearing on the hill top. As much I was relieved I was still dreading the fact that there could be an unfriendly dog around or maybe thieves. Luckily there was the caretaker family cleaning the lawn. While returning I took another hiking trail through forest which was a bit open, I reached the road head and breathed a sigh of relief. Barely escaped another heart attack!
|Rabdentse was the second capital of the erstwhile Kingdom after Yuksom and till the year 1814 A.D., the King of Sikkim ruled from this place. Today, the ruins lie hidden from the main road at a walking distance from the Pemayangtse Monastery.|
I thought I was done with the scares for the day but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The biggest and worst scare was yet to happen. Like I said earlier, I was put up in a hotel in the far corner. The hotel was a huge five storey building and I was on second floor and the only occupant of the hotel apart from few hotel staff put up in the basement. The hotels next to this were closed and there was no other tourist staying in Upper Pelling. Safe to say, there were not more than half a dozen travelers in Pelling. By evening it was raining heavily and by nightfall, it was still pouring outside. Initially I had planned on keeping the television and lights on the whole night while I tried catching a wink. Unfortunately by midnight, there was a short power cut and after that the cable network conked. There was this eerie silence of the night with the rain still lashing outside, the insects screeching and the occasional creaking of wood. I was freaked out beyond measures, remembering scenes from all horror movies I had seen and imagination played a major part! I was painfully aware of the deafening silence inside the room. The phones were out of order and even if I screamed the voice wouldn’t reach the basement. I was up all night playing the same four songs on my mobile and was so so so glad to see the first rays enter the room. This has to be the scariest night ever! Next night, it was still raining, the phone was still not working, I was still alone but the tv was working. Got past somehow and live to tell the story! ;)
|And this was the view from my Hotel room. Staying in Upper Pelling, the views were superb till the light lasted. Then after dark, the horror story begins! ;)|