It would be long but interesting. I assure you.
Before sharing you my lost memories of 2006. Let me tell you how it all started the first solo BackPacking Trip.
I was a pathetic student during my whole academic career. So after I completed my High School…. which was a damn surprise for my parents. They planned a family trip to Sikkim (India) as a gift for my little academic success.
We book a flight to Bagdogra Airport and from there took a cab to Gangtok. It was a leisure trip at its extreme, where my only work was to have north-eastern delicacies, sleep & travel.
I was feeling like Barrack Obama on a Sikkim trip 😛
We visited every place which was mentioned in the itinerary/plan. I didn’t even bothered about hotels, money, food and all. As my dad was the financer.
Yes, you might be thinking if everything was good or I would say a great family trip then why I have mentioned it as my first solo backpacking trip???
Haha… Yes, this was my first family trip which ultimately leads to my first solo backpacking trip.
First Solo BackPacking Trip – How I Planned
The trip was over and I reached home with a good break and with some amazing moments. But this trip made me realize that my geographical knowledge about India is worse.
Yes, I have heard about Sikkim but I never knew that it was so beautiful.
So I sat in front of my system and started Googling about this place as I had no idea about Sikkim apart from the places I visited with my parents. And guess what I found??? Yumthang valley!
A beautiful valley surrounded by snow capped mountains, flowers and Buddhist prayer flags.
It seems like a heaven on earth. Colorful, peaceful and with a serene beauty.
I got excited again to go there. But with some passing marks, it would be a bad idea to convince my dad for a trip again.
In India, there is an awesome ritual where family seniors like your aunts and uncles gift you sweets, chocolates, gifts to the junior ones.. if they achieve something in their life. And yes, for me passing an exam was like getting a Gold medal in Olympics. But this time, with god’s grace instead of presenting me with sweets/chocolates they gifted me money. Not dollars or euros but Indian Rupees.
In India that works too….
The total money which I received was around Rs. 3,500 or $59 or around 40pounds. And that was it.
And here came my light-bulb moment… First Solo BackPacking trip to Gangtok in 3,500bucks.
So I staged a story that I am going for a trip with my school buddies to Sikkim again. Now to make my story more real, I have to convince my friends. I was not sure about them but just within an hour, they were ready to bluff my parents for a beer pint.
And that’s how cheap everything is here in India.
So It Started: My First Solo Trip
And the day came when I left for my first solo backpacking trip to Sikkim. I had no idea how to plan out my travel, how to book a taxi and how am I going to complete this whole trip. I was scared and the adrenaline was pumping like nothing else. I just boarded the train as planned and after an overnight journey finally reached New Jalpaiguri Railway Station.
Had breakfast at a small tea stall and took a cab to Gangtok. I was following the same route which my father did as I was really not in a mood to experiment and look out for other options.
Reached Gangtok and booked a small lodge. I was scared and excited too… but was determined to complete this one. As per the plan, I was going to take a cab for Yumthang valley next morning but the best part was yet to come. Next morning, I woke up early and reached the Taxi stand where the hotel manager told me to go for taxis. And as soon as I asked them, the surprise came knocking my door.
You must be thinking, what was the surprise.
or taxis don’t freight between Gangtok and Yumthang valley?
Or my dad came to know about this plan?
No nothing like that, being a solo traveler it was hard to book a taxi as the rates were just too high. As far I can recall, it was something around 6,000 – 7000INR for the whole trip. So either, you have to book a taxi for yourself or else you have to have a group who can share with you.
And both of these options were not feasible being a solo traveler. And also a newbie, I was also not that smart too, who would look out for other options.
But sometimes, it’s luck or opportunities which come knocking your door and pull you out from that grave.
And this time, it was an Indian family who was just passing by and over-heard my conversation with that driver and asked me if they can help me out. They were also going to the same location and they have a buffer seat to offer. And that’s how I was on the way to Yumthang Valley.
We started around at 10 am had some homemade food, cookies, road-side tea, lunch and reached Lachung also known as the gateway to Yumthang Valley by evening.
At Lachung, we disbursed as they were staying at a good hotel which was pre-booked and I didn’t have that kind of budget to book a room there. So I preferred searching a small guest house within my budget and got it too, within some time.
Lachung has a lot of budgeted lodges and hotels if you are ok with shared bathrooms.
Meanwhile, next morning was planned to go for Yumthang Valley with that same family. But I never had an idea what’s there in the Pandora ’s Box for me.
As per the plan, post breakfast we left for Yumthang Valley. It was beautiful at its core. Trust me, till date, I haven’t seen such a beautiful place in India. A pristine location with snow-capped mountains, barren lands, icy river running beside you, Buddhist prayer flags flowing with chilly and fresh air and a bunch of rhododendrons flowers just to put a small icing on the cake.
Finally, I did it. I came and seen this untouched beautiful land and that too by myself.
After an hour or two, we returned to Lachung. My trip was kind of over, So I planned to return back to Gangtok. And my other tour mates i.e. that family was planning to visit Lachen and not going to Gangtok. So I left them at Lachung bus stop for my next bus to Gangtok. Here the buses are not that frequent. So just to pass time, I went for a tea and snacks. As soon as I went for my wallet to pay, I faced another surprise which was in store for me. I have lost my wallet somewhere in Yumthang and now left with only 10bucks to reach Kolkata.
Shit… How am I going to reach Kolkata?
My dad is going to kill me now.
I guess you might have an idea about the situation I would be going through. Question were running through my head at the rate of knots.
So I paid my bill and started wandering about the best idea to go forward. With no STD booths in 2006, it was hard for me to even connect with my family. So the only plan left with me was to reach Gangtok and connect with my dad. But that was a distant dream with 150kms away from my destination and with no money in hand. So I asked that tea seller to help me out and this decision worked well. Being a small town most of these villagers know each other and coincidentally these tea shop owner knew that bus driver very well. And with the help of this great friendship, the bus driver smilingly told me
“bus mein baith jao…free mein chalna”
Board the bus…and I am not going to charge you.
The only issue was that the bus driver used to talk a lot. And being in this situation, I was acting like an introvert. My only focus was to reach Gangtok. That’s it.
Finally after a long conversation and journey and some cups of tea & ‘bidis’. I reached Gangtok at night. With no money, it was again a herculean task to get a hotel.
Trust me, I tried all my PR skills which I had to get a bed to sleep. But all was in vain.
And around at 11 pm or so, I came in front of the hotel where I lodged when I was with my family.
Oh yes, this guy knew me very well and my dad too.
As soon as I entered, I shared him the whole story and come up with an idea to share bank account no. So that my dad can transfer the amount he needed.
I got my room and called up my dad around at 12 am.
Haha…he was shocked and nevertheless, I knew I am dead as soon as I reach my hometown.
Next morning, my dad transferred all the money I needed to return back and booked all my tickets.
And after 5nights I was back to home, with some scary and some amazing moments.
So this was how my travel journey started. Yes, my first solo backpacking trip was a mix of adventurous and exciting memories… but I never suggest anyone, to do something like this.
Till date whenever this story hovers down my mind… I still laugh on the decisions I took during that whole trip.
But the truth is that… It made me understand a lot of things about life and me.
And one of them was “You can do anything..if you want to do. You just need intent”
Fears will be there…but you have to overcome it. And that’s how you shape your life.