I am bored. Seriously seriously bored. So I copied an old Tag post from IV to pass time.
- Bought everyone in the bar a drink – No
- Swam in the actual sea – Tried as best I could
- Climbed a mountain – Several, also in Himachal and Kashmir
- Taken a Ferrari for a test drive – No
- Been inside the Great Pyramid – No
- Held a tarantula – No
- Taken a candlelit bath with someone – No
- Said “I love you” and meant it – Yes
- Hugged a tree – Yes, while climbing up and while falling off
- Water-skiied - No, but Water scootered yes
- Visited Paris – Yes, must write about that sometime
- Watched a lightning storm at sea – No
- Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise – Eh? How many times?
- Seen the Northern Lights – No
- Gone to a huge sports game – No
- Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa/Qutub Minar – Nope, not allowed to anymore
- Grown and eaten your own vegetables – Yes, we had a vegetable farm behind our house
- Touched an iceberg – No
- Slept under the stars – Yes, it used to be a regular thing during the summers
- Changed a baby’s diaper – Yes, oh gawd the stench
- Taken a trip in a hot air balloon – No
- Watched a meteor shower – No
- Gotten drunk on champagne – No
- Given more than you can afford to charity – No
- Looked up at the night sky through a telescope – Yes, but not a very powerful one. The moon is weird
- Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
- Had a food fight – Yes
- Bet on a winning horse – No
- Asked out a stranger – No
- Had a snowball fight – Yes, the dumbass rohtang pass was closed, what else was I to do?
- Screamed as loudly as you possibly can – Yes
- Held a lamb – No
- Seen a total eclipse – Yes, both solar and lunar. Sun kicks moons ASS at eclipsing
- Ridden a roller coaster – Yes
- Hit a sixer that won the game
- Danced like a fool and didn’t care who was looking – Yes
- The advantages of alcohol – ?
- Adopted an accent for an entire day – No
- Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment - Thankfully, I still do … once in a while
- Had two hard drives for your computer – I have 5 ( I agree with IV here, this is not made for Comp. Sci. people )
- Can name all 27 states – there are more now and I am sure there will be more sooner or later
- Taken care of someone who was drunk – Yes
- Had amazing friends – Yes
- Danced with a stranger in a foreign country – Yes, and I will never tell
- Watched whales – No
- Stolen a sign/damaged public property – Yes, that’s what gully cricket was about
- Backpacked in Europe – Sorta, but more trains, planes, buses and metros but with very little money
- Taken a road-trip – Aah, the memorable bickering
- Gone rock climbing – No
- Taken a midnight walk on the beach – I still don’t see the big deal in walking on the beach. ( Goa, Mangalore, others )
- Gone sky diving – No
- Visited Kashmir – Yes
- Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
- In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them – Yes and tried to recruit me in a marketing scam, so it wasn’t very pleasant
- Visited Japan – No
- Tried to make a buffalo move when it sat down in front of your car – Yes, but it wasn’t in front of the car
- Alphabetized your CDs – What’s a CD ?
- Pretended to be a superhero – what kid hasn’t?
- Played ‘Antakshari’ in a public place and sung really loudly without caring about the onlookers.
- Lounged around in bed all day - Aah, OBH 298 on a nice cool windy August day.
- Played gully cricket
- Gone scuba diving – almost
- Kissed in the rain
- Played in the mud
- Played in the rain
- Gone to a drive-in theatre
- Visited the Great Wall of China
- Started a business
- Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
- Toured ancient sites – I went to the house of Augustus Caesar. I was very impressed.
- Taken a martial arts class
- Played a video game for more than 6 hours straight – More like 28 ( damn you Dragon Age )
- Gotten married
- Been in a movie
- Crashed a party
- Gotten divorced
- Gone without food for 5 days
- Made chapatis from scratch - yes, but I did not eat them
- Won first prize in a costume contest
- Ridden a gondola in Venice
- Gotten a tattoo – do the free removable ones with bubble gums count?
- White water rafted
- Been on a television news program as an “expert”
- Gotten flowers for no reason
- Performed on stage – Bleh
- Been to all states in India – Most of them
- Recorded your own music
- Eaten shark and preferred roadside ‘bandi’ food
- Kissed on the first date
- Gone to Thailand
- Bought a house
- Been in a combat zone
- Buried one/both of your parents
- Been on a cruise ship
- Spoken more than one language fluently – English, Hindi, Punjabi ( can’t claim fluency )
- Performed in the National Day Parade in New Delhi/your city
- Raised children
- Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
- Passed out cold
- Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
- Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
- Walked the Howrah bridge – Yes (drive), and I didn’t see what the big deal was
- Sang loudly in the car – with the windows open – and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking – do that on my bike all the time
- Had plastic surgery
- Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
- Wrote articles for a large publication
- Lost over 10 kgs
- Held someone while they were having a flashback
- Piloted an airplane
- Touched a stingray
- Broken someone’s heart
- Helped an animal give birth
- Won money on a TV game show
- Broken a bone
- Gone on an African photo safari
- Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
- Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol – Yay! NCC
- Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
- Ridden a horse – not pleasant, rode it without the harness
- Had major surgery
- Had a snake as a pet
- Spent the night at a railway station – Railway stations, airports :(
- Slept for 30 hours in a 48 hour period – bleh
- Spent the better part of your life outside India
- Visited all 7 continents - 2 and counting
- Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
- Eaten kangaroo meat
- Eaten sushi
- Had your picture in the newspaper
- Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
- Gone back to school
- Parasailed - Yes and it was fun
- Touched a cockroach – Touched it, killed it, pulled its whiskers off and tried to throw it at IV
- Eaten fried ice cream
- Read ‘The Iliad’ and ‘The Odyssey’ – I have read abridged versions of them
- Selected one ‘important’ author who you missed in school, and read
- Killed and prepared an animal for eating
- Skipped all your school reunions – never been to one yet ( school != college )
- Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language – and bribed them ( another story from the europe trip )
- Been elected to public office
- Written your own computer language – it had loops, conditions and storage, so it was turning complete ( basically a python hack )
- Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
- Had to put someone you love into hospice care
- Built your own PC from parts – Uncountable times
- Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
- Had a booth at a street fair
- Dyed your hair
- Been a dj
- Shaved your head
- Caused a car accident
- Saved someone’s life
I wanted to get more organized with gaming so that I could enjoy all the new games, whilst not missing any new stuff. So I made a list of games I want to play in 2011.
- Dragon Age 2
- Crysis 2
- Mass Effect 2
- Diablo 3
- Infamous 2
- Fear 3
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution
- L.A. Noire
- Portal 2
- Resistance 3
- Uncharted 3
- Elder Scrolls 5
- Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
- Last Guardian
Now, as it is with list, it got me thinking. 17 Games * Rs. 2600 per game = Rs. 44200. WHAT! ok ok. what if I get them second-hand, that involves waiting for a couple of months :( 17*1600 = Rs. 27200
So it was time to get smart. What i noticed was that only Infamous, Resistance, Uncharted and Last Guardian are PS3 exclusives. Others can be obtained for lesser ( ahem! ) 13*600 = Rs. 7800 ( approx. cost of a new PC game ).
Savings >= 20K-25K. So I got myself a new graphics card. A Sapphire Radeon HD4670 for Rs. 3642.
Why this you may ask. Well let me tell you.
- Old PC is shitty. shitty motherboard, shitty CPU. shitty RAM etc.
- most importantly shitty PSU. This card has one of the lowest power consumptions, doesn’t even need an external power input from PSU
- Many Many outputs. DVI/HDMI/VGA. And since I have a decent display, this is a plus. And when I decide to upgrade, this can become the home theater card.
- It is cheap.
- Anything better won’t fit my motherboard and I don’t want to be investing that much right now.
I must say, I am extremely happy with the card. 7900 would over heat like a mother, anytime anything was happening. But 4670 is cool all the time, I understand it not fair to compare technologies that are 10 years apart.
It doesn’t run the games at stellar graphics, with every thing at MAX, but I don’t really care. Bulletstorm was choppy but that is because of the cpu and harddisk more than the card. Dragon Age 2 is running perfectly at 1600×1200 with everything at HIGH!
Many people have said that darksiders has copied shamelessly off other games, that it is a zelda-clone, blah blah. I think that what you get in darksiders, is not one but many games. There is a very decent platformer, a challenging puzzle game and a great action-adventure game. But what I like most about Darksiders is the lore.
I am sure everyone knows about the “Christian Apocalypse & the four horsemen“. The short version is that at the end of days Pestilence, War, Famine and Death ( personified as four horsemen ) would come; after a bunch of seals are broken and heaven and hell would be at war and the world would end. In Darksiders you start as War, the proud and vengeful horseman, who has been called to earth long before the appointed time. He finds that the battle between heaven and hell has already begun and he is getting blamed for war-mongering ( why, of course ). So War sets out to clear his name ( he is stripped of all of his power of course, otherwise there wouldn’t be much of game now, would it? ) and fuck everyone up. He finds help in odd places and discovers a deep treachery. I don’t want to put any spoilers but the ending so awesome I could’ve cried.
The artwork again is breathtaking and the environment is grim yet beautiful ( all the people are dead/ zombies, what else did you expect? ). Even the dungeons are not bland, filled with sculptures and cravings. War’s quest takes him from cities to deserts, from giant towers to Eden itself. So the graphics etc. are quite good. Even during the fast paced action, there is very little sluggishness ( it is there at times, but bearable ). The background music is ok, nothing exceptional but it is the voice acting that stands out. Brilliant work by Vigil Games, some of the best voice actors have provided their talent for Darksiders.
As the game progress, War regains some of his former powers and abilities. These abilities open up new avenues in previously visited areas and makes for a better experience while traversing the world looking for loot. But enough about the inane stuff. Let’s get to the gameplay and the shear awesomeness that will melt faces.
That right there is “Ruin”, the supernatural horse of War, which you ride around the wasteland, slashing faces and arms alike. I really like the weapons level system where the weapon becomes increasingly power as you continue to use it. More moves become available and damage increases as well. Most of the special moves are easy to pull off but you can’t get around by plain old button mashing. Dodging and dashing becomes important as enemies become powerful towards the end.
There are mainly 4 platforming elements
- The double jump and float, which is boosted by geysers. This what you start with. Gets annoying at times when you thing you have made the jump but you over did it, hit the roof and fall into lava.
- Slow time to run under/over/past fast moving object. I would have liked it to be included into combat as well.
- Swinging around with a chain. Fairly standard. I really like the part where some chests were hidden in the “Shadow Realm” portals to different areas.
- Portals. If you have played Portal, this is similar, except that portals can be created only in specific places. It makes for challenging puzzles, like throwing bombs through portals, shooting portals through portals and solving block moving puzzles.
The only thing I didn’t really like were the bosses, although they fit well with the story and all, there were very disproportionate in difficulty. Most of them required figuring out a simple move and spamming it hundreds of times, which gets boring. The bosses also didn’t do much, they had a fixed set of 4-5 moves and it all appeared very scripted, kills immersion.
The game runs well most of the times but I did find a couple of glitches, like jumping into walls and subsequently crashing the game, or getting stuck between objects. Enemies also get glitched and stuck at times.
Overall it was a very fun game and has a very good replay value.
Rumors are that Darksiders 2 would be about a different horsemen, I can’t wait :)
The first I heard about Ninja Gaiden Σ2 was because of all the wrong reasons and thought, eh, this can’t possibly be a good game. Then one lazy afternoon Shiben downloaded the demo of this, yet to be released game, and I played it once, just once. I was awe-struck, I just had to have it and this was the first game that I bought :)
I have played this game many times and at various difficulty levels and I have always enjoyed it, the good parts and the frustrating parts.
Σ2 is part of a very long franchise of Ninja Gaiden games. They are infamous for their difficulty but I feel that Σ2 is a well balanced game, if it were any easier it would be boring. Here are some funnies about the difficulty of other Ninja Gaiden games ( courtesy: IGN & Penny Arcade)
“Ninja Gaiden is back for another go around on your Xbox and this time it is going to make you weep like a newborn baby.” — Ninja Gaiden Black
“Have you experienced any of the following signs: extreme aggravation, excessive swearing, controller throwing, or immediate powering off of the PS3 after dying? If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms, you may have what’s known as “Ninja Gaidenitis” – a disorder that manifests itself after repeated voluntary exposure to Ninja Gaiden Sigma.” — Ninja Gaiden SigmaThis game is not without its flaws.
For example, there is hardly any story, you just go around stabbing people in the face, awesome as that maybe, I really like nice complex stories and lore that makes me care about the mission and the universe.
Then there is the goddamn PSN thing. If, for some reason, you get disconnected from PSN, game kicks you out to menu screen. It doesn’t care if you are playing single player or offline challenges, you have to start over. So here is a tip, unless you are playing online, sign-out of PSN before you start the game.
The camera is good most of the times but when it sucks, oh boy, does it ever suck. It will put you under the character or zoomed really in. Some monsters are huge, with wings, so when you are fighting them you can’t see anything, they will just twitch and bleed to the strokes of your awesome weapons and all this while you can’t see a thing.
Arrgh, the menu switch, come on people, each time I get a new scroll or open the Muramasa shop, why does it take the life-age of the universe? huh? Before the latest patch, it would sometimes even crash.
The voice acting is ok but the dialogues are crappy at best, there is a lot of grunting and moaning and it just makes the whole game look bad. If you end up playing the game, you would hear a lot of grunts from Ryu and a bunch of “Hmmph” from the ladies. Lame!
In spite of all this, I guarantee that you will fall in love with the game. There are so many good things that I have to say about this game, I had better get started.
The art work is amazing, the only other game with such good artwork that I know is Devil May Cry. It is unique and colorful. Basically you fight in 6 places. Tokyo, New York, Venice (plus Colosseum), Moscow, the South American Jungles and the Underworld. Each place is unique and beautifully designed. They have paid a lot of attention to the ambiance, it changes from day, to night, twilight and rain. New york is dark and there is lightning everywhere, Venice is bright and white, Moscow is snowy and cold. The Jungles are green with the undergrowth and tall trees and filled with ponds and rivers. The stages in the underworld and eerie, dark and the environment reflects the ominous situation. There is a place where a rain of blood starts and you can see that it not just “Red water”. It is thick and sticky and you can feel it in the environment.
There is a lot of attention to detail and it just makes for a very immersive gaming experience.
So you are a ninja and you fight other ninjas and monsters of various shapes and sizes and you have a bazillion moves and combos. So if you chop some guy’s arm off, he won’t be able to use his Bow and arrows. If you lop off his leg, he will start limping and so on. There is combo called the “Obliteration Technique”, if some poor suckers has lot his/its limbs you will slice his head off, if he has no head, you will obliterate him into teeny tiny pieces. Each of these combos work differently with different weapons and there are 9 weapons in the game and about 20 odd combos per weapon. So you can see that a lot of work has gone into perfecting the ninja moves of Ryu Hayabusa. The results are magnificent, you feel a part of the ninja world and there are few things that you can think off that Ryu can’t pull. One last thing, all this beheading and impaling leaves that pesky blood and goo of the enemies on the weapons, so if Ryu catches a breather, he will clean if off with a stunning move :)
The game moves so fast that literally 1-2 seconds will feel long. The Ultimate Technique, which just a fancy way of saying “You’re really fucked now!” takes 2-4 seconds to charge up and as you play the game you will realize why you can’t do this all the time. The speed and agility of the game doesn’t impede the graphics in any manner, you can be slashing away and getting 40-50 hits in under 2 secs, it is no big deal. I didn’t experience any choppiness or frames and even when there are 30-40 enemies or a really big area, the game handles quite well.
The maps are very well designed and although it is mostly straight forward, there is some platforming (ninja-style) and puzzles. Some parts can be frustrating, like climbing the inside of that clock and falling of off gears again and again but you get used to it.
The music is very good and changes wonderfully with the changing ambiance.
There are a lot of boss battles, and each of them is more jaw-dropping than the other. You will fight the same boss again and again and even though I don’t like repetitive games, here it makes sense. By the time you are reaching the end, regular enemies just get cut down left and right. So boss battles offer the challenge that a good ninja hungers for. The arenas for these fights are breathtakingly beautiful, I just wish I the time to pause and admire them but by then dragon or flaming armadillo would have finished me off.
You play the campaign with Ryu Hayabusa, ninja-master, monster-eviscerator and fiend-ball-crusher. But you also play with Rachel, Momiji and Ayane and those mini-missions are fun as well.
I think anyone who enjoys hack and slash games, should try this game, I am pretty sure you will play this over and over. I wish PS3 had the ability to take screenshots, I wanted to post so many more images.
It is a story about a ‘MacGuffin‘ “Remains of the Bodi” and how a bunch of assassin’s are after it. The visuals are amazing. And action is awesome but not over the top, which is usually the case in such movies. There is a lot of bending swords and really really high jumps but it is all good :)
Story has some weird twists and holes but overall it is engaging. There is some standard destiny and fate stuff but it is done quite tastefully. Me likey.
Happy Diwali everyone!
Usually, festivals are like Sundays, but this time I thought I’d move off my ass and do something.
It is freakin’ windy here so my candle-lighting attempts had to be innovative.
Again, wishing you all a safe Diwali, I am going to get back to watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer :)
One fine evening whilst playing TT, Vikas suggested that a plan was in the making to go trekking to Goecha-la, Sikkim. Off we went, our merry little band, but before that there were preparations to be made and procedures to be followed. It started with a lot of lazing around and postponing the booking of tickets but eventually, tickets from Bangalore to Kolkata were booked. From there we were to embark on a train journey to New Jalpaiguri and then a 6 hour taxi ride to Yuksom, followed by a whole lot of walking, climbing and falling to Goecha-La.
Stuff had to be bought and lists had to be made, which as Mr. Murphy would have it were useless, so I will try to highlight certain things that I fondly missed on my trek. We made several trips to this awesome Mecca of everything sports related called Decathlon, which is inconveniently located on the farthest edge of Bangalore. It had everything that you could ever want and we ‘managed’ to get a membership discount, which is huge.
First of all, Sleeping Bag. Vikas promptly ( read 2 trips and several weeks of pining ) bought a cool sleeping bag, with an equally cool name S10, while yours truly had won a similar sleeping bag in a hacking competition and decided “eh, why spend money on critical stuff, let’s just go with whatever crap has been sitting on the desk for 2 years without ever trying it on”. Turns out the bag was not sufficient warm and didn’t fit at the shoulders, many a nights were spent shivering and coming up with innovative solutions to that stupidity.
Next we bought this tent and it turns out that this was actually very good. IV lent me his awesome hiking shoes so I didn’t have to buy those, but if you are thinking about them, may I suggest these. The properties of good hiking shoes are that they should have solid toe protection from when you stub them, it should have an inflexible sole so that your feet don’t tire from walking on stones and rocks, have ankle protection to prevent twisting them, a good grip and if possible they should be water proof. You should break into the shoes before you take them hiking, new shoes are painful. These were the main things, now let’s get on with the trip.
Day -1 ( Bangalore to Kolkata ) : The dumb day happened to be the one after the ‘verdict’ and stupid airport buses were running late and taxi-walas were hovering around like mosquitoes. Anyhoo, Vikas and I got a taxi and reached the airport well in time to have a subway sandwitch (yum!) and chillax to some music while waiting for the flight. After an uneventful flight, we reached Kolkata and got another taxi to ‘New Town’ where Vikas’s college-mate, Saurav resides. I must say, I quite liked that part of Kolkata, it was nice, with cheap autos, fountains, nice building and decent food. So we killed sometime sitting around the fountain and then we left for the railway station, Sealdah. Boy, it was infested with people, we were standing on a platform and a whole wavefront of humans swept us when a local arrived, they just kept coming and coming and coming. Soon, we boarded our train, Darjeeling Mail and we were off to New Jalpaiguri (NJP). The train was very fast indeed and I slept well.
Day 0 ( NJP to Yuksom ) : We reached NJP early in the morning and had breakfast at some random disgusting dhabha. Then we took a rickety auto to SNT ( Sikkim Nationalized Transport, I found out later ) where we were supposed to take a cab to Yuksom. Here is where we found a couple (Aditi and Sandeepan) who were looking to share a cab to Yuksom and ended up tagging along for the whole trip and cutting our expense to half of the projected budget, so thanks! The cab ride was wonderful as the roads wound up the hills and crisscrossing Teesta River. We had lunch at a rotund old lady’s home at Jorethang and continued on to Yuksom. We reached Yuksom at 4 and finished with the Police formalities and went into our rooms in a hotel with an odd name and no hot water. This was followed by a weird mid-night at 5:30 PM and pitch darkness by 6:00 PM. We fumbled around to find our flashlights.
So people, flashlights. In towns/villages/areas with < 10 people, it is highly likely that there won’t be a stable power supply, if at all and in the hills it tends to get dark very early. You should buy a nice flashlight, preferably one with LEDs and a couple of batteries. You should remove the batteries each night and keep them in your pocket. This should be done for two reasons, firstly, batteries loose power in the cold, secondly, prevent accidentally leaving the flashlight on through the night.
After having a quick dinner and a minor scuffle with the guide that we had engaged over the phone, who was trying to rip us off by charging us twice as much as the normal rate and switching to a new guide, we went to bed ( see how I carefully navigated past the ugliness ). Anyways, whoever you talk to, be it guide I will suggest or others you might come to know off, talk to multiple people and confirm. There is a lot of fear mongering and mud-sledging that you can avoid.
Day 1 ( Yuksom to Tshoka via Sachen, Bakhim ) : We got some shiny bamboo walking sticks and we were off. This is the longest stretch of the trek, approx. 18 KM. We started early in the morning at 7 A.M. and barely reached at 5:15 PM. On the way we had tea at Sachen, which is a fancy name for a small concrete hut. And lunch at Bakim, which used to be the first tent ground before trekker huts were built at Tshoka. Bakhim had a small tea and odds-n-ends shop, where you can buy soupy maggie for 20 bucks.Onwards we marched, for we had mountains to cross and it was here, after stepping to some mulch, while looking at some awesome waterfalls ( you get tired of those ) that I slipped and hurt my knee :(
So here is the thing people, you should buy copious amounts of ‘Volini‘ and a scrape bandage or two, if not a knee guard like this one. This is what kept me walking for the next few days.
The road to Tshoka is beautiful and mostly level. You will see valleys, landslides, waterfalls, rivulets, streams and a lot of trees and mountains. There would be 4 bridges on Ratong Chu River, and a steep climb to reach Bakim. The terrain is less steep from then onwards but there is still more climbing to be done. We had a sumptuous dinner at Tshoka and there were beds (sorta) which we wouldn’t see for the next 8 or so days. It was cold, I slept well.
Day 2 ( Tshoka to Dzongri via Phedang ) : We woke up early, had a heavy breakfast and went off to Dzongri. The road till Phedang was made easy by the wooden planks that had been put so that Yaks don’t slip in the slush. They made the climbing easy and the walking fun. We made good time until lunch. Phedang again is just a grazing ground for yaks and mules, and you can sit and eat. After this the trek was tougher and we climbed on and on to Dzongri. There is no water available via streams after Phedang till Dzongri, so I suggest carrying some along.
Dzongri is again a wooden shack next to a stream of freezing cold water. Since there was a group that had gotten delayed ( some guy got sick ) and stayed an extra day, we didn’t get a room in the trekker’s hut. The couple quickly made arrangements to bunk with fellow bongs, while the three of us had to sleep in the Dinning Hall. We huddled up in a corner, on top of some tents and I had to get inventive. I layered my stupid sleeping bag on the inside with a shawl on the bottom and a thick sheet on top. Under it I put my waterproof Jacket ( as advertised in the adjacent picture ), but I still kept shivering. It was cause my feet were cold. So I got out a giant garbage bag that we had taken along and wore it over the sleeping bag.
So, Garbage Bags. They can act as layers when it is cold, rain-coats if it starts to rain, bags to stuff stinky clothes in, water proof covering for your baggage and of-course garbage bags.
The subsequent morning was allotted for a trip to ‘Dzongri Top’. From here you can see Mt. Kabru, Mt. Kanchenjunga, Mt. Pandim, Mt. Narsing and some others. The view, I am told is majestic. But since I had hurt my knee and didn’t really want to climb in the dark ( you had to leave at 3:30 AM to reach before sunrise ), I skipped this leg of the trip. Instead I slept and recovered my strength.
Day 3 ( Dzongri to Thangsing via Kokchrung ) : After the tired folk returned from Dzongri Top, I was ready to roll after a massive dump and idiotically washing my face in water that was so cold it gave me a headache ( Never did that again ). It got easy from here. The road was wonderfully level and I was awestruck with natural beauty every ten steps. Alas! I didn’t have a camera and snotty photographers with me wouldn’t take any pictures (except for those of mules). Anyways, here is a hi-res image of the valley. This valley ended with a very very steep descent, the path was mostly gravel and loose rock and at time it just wouldn’t seem to end. Here I slipped again, after stepping on some Yak poo and then stepping on a stone with moss (dammint!). I staggered on until I reached Kokchrung, were we had lunch and moved on into the forest onwards to Thangsing. This forest was very pretty, filled with streams and trees with red leaves but I didn’t give a shit cause my legs hurt, my shoulders hurt and it was getting cold. Finally, at Thangsing we found out that there was only one trekker’s hut and all ten ( 5 in our group and 5 from the previously described group ) had to share. We thought, “eh, nothing would be worse than a tent, let’s just get this over with”, we were wrong! Dinner was had, cold water was drunk, boisterous bong chatter ignored and I fell asleep. The hut was sorta warm, but I discovered that my garbage bag was wet, while others were woken up to gentle drops of dews falling on their faces ( freezing cold dew ), apparently a cloud had decided to come on in and say hi to all of us ( Thank god for garbage bags ).
Day 4 ( Thangsing to Lamunay ) : This was by far the easiest leg of the trek, the terrain was flat and we just had to go approx 5-6 KM. We hopped and skipped to Lamunay. I had an edge here, my shoes were waterproof so I just went splashing in the water, while other had to carefully maneuver >:) At Lamunay, lunch was had, it snowed for a couple of minutes and we decided that we ought to goto Sungmoteng Lake ( aka, Samiti Lake ) the same day. After a lot of fear-mongering by arbitrary people and quick thinking on Saurav’s part we decided to go anyways. My reasoning was different from his but the idea was the same. I didn’t feel like doing the early morning trek to Goecha-La in the dark the next day and he is just full of energy. Thankfully vikas was just as lazy as I was and more interested in rivers than mountains so a consensus was reached. Contrary to the nay-sayers we reached Samiti Lake in a surprising 40 mins. It was steep, but short. Samiti Lake was wonderful, the water was crystal clear and cold. We came back after spending an hour and an unsuccessful attempt to go around the lake. We reached back and we were greeted with warm tea. After that, we retired to our awesome!! tent. It was warm and cosy and had a special hook to hang the flashlight in the night.
I slept well.
Day 5 ( Lamunay to Goecha-La and back to Kokchrung) : People woke up early in the morning at 2:30 or 3:00 AM, while I slept in, and went off to Goecha-La. It is mountain pass beyond Samiti Lake and you can get a real good look at all the Mountain ranges from there. There are lot of pictures of that place in Saurav’s and Vikas’s photo-stream (links below). The tired people came back by 7 am and we had a lazy breakfast and left only by 10:30 AM. This wasn’t such a good idea, since our road was long and there was surprise waiting for us. We reached Thangsing by 1 PM and all of sudden it mist all around us. The guide thought it might start raining and that is not a good thing. Luckily it only drizzled and we reached Kokchrung by 5 PM. Kokchrung is also just a hut next to a river, and this also had just one long hall which was shared by everyone. Surprisingly, my knee hurt less and all my tricks for keeping me warm helped me get a good sleep.
Day 6 ( Kokchrung to Bakim ) : The guide came up with the brilliant idea of getting us a place in the nice guesthouse at Bakim for Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. The way is long but the steep decent from Dzongri to Kokchrung that I had described earlier is completely avoided. Off we went. It had rained heavily the night before, the path was full of mulch and slush and I had an advantage again ( awesome shoes! ). It was hot and humid as we forced our way through thick woods and often finding the path was difficult. Our cook had packed us a bunch of boiled eggs and pototoes along with thick half-baked bread for lunch, which we ate at Phedang and kept on moving. But as fate would have it, a company of ITBP ( Indo-Tibetan Border Police ) girls had come for training and they just zoomed on past us to the HMI rest house. We made camp at Bakhim. Since it was effectively the last day in the mountains, the guide and cook had planned a feast for us. It consisted to a helping of soup, followed by a course of Chinese chopsuey, followed by jeera rice, followed by Cake. Yes, they actually managed to bake a cake where boiling water on the stove is monumental task. After our stomachs were full, we sang and the guides and cooks sangs and the yakmen sang and the porters sang and we had jolly good time. We retired late to our beds ( by mountain standards, IMHO it was a pesky 8:30 or 9 PM ). I didn’t sleep well at all. The tent sucked ass. And I was woken up by a Yak-tick biting my foot, not pleasant.
Day 7 ( Bakim to Pelling via Yuksom etc. ): We started early and the journey was mostly down-hill. Fueled by my will to get-this-over-with with a side of i-wanna-go-home-now, I walked quickly. The journey was unremarkable, other than a leach that bit men on my ankle. We reached Yuksom, had lunch and took a bunch of pictures. Post that we decided we should leave for Pelling, which is much bigger town with nice hotels, warm water and swords. Saurav suggested that we should visit Khecheopalri Lake and Kanchenjunga falls on our way back. We hired a cab and since the guide was super happy with warm gratitude and our generous tips, he got us a discount on the taxi fare.
Khecheopalri Lake is an amazing place, it is so serene and calm, it almost unnerving. The lake is a good 2-3KM from the village and we walked the whole distance wondering why there wasn’t any sound. The lake has red fish which is also awesome. Kanchenjunga falls is the highest waterfalls in sikkim, they are really high (heh). We drove right under the waterfall, but since it was too dark, there are no pictures. We reached Pelling at night, booked a hotel, bathed with hot water, stuffed our faces with food and promptly fell asleep. Oddly enough, Vikas was up at an ungodly hour.
Day 8 ( Pelling to Kolkata via NJP ) : We roamed around the beautiful city and had an amazing breakfast and devised devious plans of splitting the entire ‘kharcha’. Post that, we got cabs and left for NJP. Stopped at Jorethang again for some lunch, but didn’t feel like it and reached NJP by evening. We said our goodbyes and crashed at the same disgusting dhabba for a good 2 hours. After that we killed another hour and then took the Darjeeling Mail back to Kolkata. There was a very interesting family that were traveling along and I struck up conversation with the father who happened to be a professor of English at Siliguri. We talked about a variety of things to while away the time. I slept and we reached Kolkata a little later than expected.
Day 9 ( Kolkata to Ranchi ) : We took a cab to Saurav’s place, and placed ourselves comfortably all over his mattress while he got dressed to go to office. We had gotten some chips and fruits cause the thought of going to get lunch seemed like the most hellish thing ever. We munched on that, checked mail, saw some cricket and soon it was time for the train to Ranchi. I said goodbye to the new friend I had made and off we went to Howrah Station. On the way, I saw the famous Victoria Memorial Hall ( from far away ) and Howrah Bridge. We walked all across the railway station, barely keeping ourselves awake as the weariness of the trip settled in.
Thus ended the trip. I had a lot of fun at Ranchi as well, but it was mostly lying around, eating and sleeping.
There are a lot of things that I have left out that were common which I will mention now.
- These trips are not for hypochondriacs, you have to sit next to Yak poo and have lunch and drink water from streams and ‘go’ in the open or where ever you can find cover.
- Take along medicines, esp. for burns, punctures, splinters, and blisters, allergic reactions, Anti-Dysentery Pills, Band aids, Gauze roll & antiseptic lotion
- If you sweat a lot like me, it makes sense to keep a set of clothes to be worn at night, dry yourself with a towel and leave your clothes to dry.
- Don’t go under-prepared, we thought that it would not be cold but it would rain. So all our prep. was wrong.
- Duct-Tape. We taped windows shut, taped my walking stick when it split etc.
- Toilet Paper. Don’t skimp on it. I used to cushion the soles of my shoes and pad blisters
- Neosporin powder. Since you are not going to be bathing, this is useful.
I was impressed by the tenacity of the good, hardworking folk of Yuksom, who bore all these hardships for a meager sum of money. It was a good experience and one that I cherish to have had.
All pictures are courtesy of Vikas and Saurav. http://www.flickr.com/photos/vikask/sets/72157625023641319/ and http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=293249&id=632771534
I will update this when I get the details of the guide etc. here is a picture of all of them.