HMI Darjeeling Basic Mountaineering Course – Part-2

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Read about HMI Basic Mountaineering Course — Darjeeling — Part-01

New Jalpaiguri to HMI Darjeeling

At 04:45 AM of 12.09.2015, I came out of the station. There were lot of taxis standing waiting for passengers to Darjeeling, Gangtok and Kalimpong. A taxi driver called me to his Tata Sumo going to leave for Darjeeling as soon as there were ten numbers of passengers. There were already six passengers in the taxi and I was left with the side facing back seat. I did not mind and took my place. The driver asked for Two Hundred Rupees for the eighty kilometers journey. We started from NJP at 05:45 AM. We reached Chowk Bazar (Motor Stand) at 08:30 AM. The place is the center of the town, crowded throughout the day full of taxis and people. The place contains hotels, bus stand, taxi stand, market, hospitals and everything. One can reach Mall Road, if one goes up on one of the branches of the main road. Two of the passengers Manjeet and Harvinder from Haryana also going for the same course I was going to, but we did not realize the same till we reached Darjeeling.A co-passenger informed us of shared taxis running on presetroutes in Darjeeling which take Ten Rupees per passenger to drop at the destination.

HMI Darjeeling

HMI is about two kilometers from Chowk Bazaar. Once dropped at the main road we walk into the campus of Himalayan Zoological Park hiking up to road beside the Barking Dear, Wild Yak, Leopard and other animals. Our lungs are filled up of fresh air in the beautiful cool weather with mist hanging around in the sweet morning. We go a little higher when we enter the gate of HMI. A little up further and you see the administrative buildings along with Principal Office and lecture halls. Opposite HMI is the HMI Museum and the hostel is behind the offices.

Since, we reached earlier at about 09:00 AM we will have to wait for the office to open at 10:00 AM. Till then we meet other students of both Basic and Advance courses. Some students had reached HMI last night itself and they were allotted rooms to stay at night easily. Even those who came in the morning could keep their bags in the unlocked rooms of the hostel and get ready. I like the flexibility that HMI offered to such students. I put my luggage in the Room No 2 and came back to the Quadrangle which is the open area in front of the offices and waited for my turn for registration and room allocation. There was a queue of students waiting for their turn. By this time, Manpreet (another student who had contacted me earlier on Gmail after reading this blog) had also arrived. He is a nice guy likes to meet and talk to people. I also made acquaintance with Nischit and two Bengali boys.

Basic Formalities

Some people before me were asked to get their Medical Certificate again because either it became obsolete (more than 3-6 months old) or because HMI had lost it from their records. Since, I had applied in June 2013 and once transferred my vacancy from March 2014 to Sept 2014, my certificate had also become obsolete and I was asked to get a new one. They gave us the printouts of the Medical Certificate format and told us that at Kalyan Medicals in Chowk Bazar there is an MBBS doctor who will sign our certificates.

I went there along with a group of Marathi students who came for the Advanced Course. We took a taxi from the main road in front of HMI and went to Chowk Bazar. At Kalyan medical shop, the attendant took us down in some street at another medical shop where in a back cabin a doctor was seeing patients. We waited for some time in that street in the sun amidst the vegetable vendors selling hens and cocks. When our turn came, the doctor filled up our forms after asking us our health details and checking pulse and blood pressure. Surprisingly he did not take any prescription charges for the same. From the other students I came to know they had to pay even Rs 200 for getting the certificate signed by the same doctor, strange! We came back to the main bazaar took some snacks and walked back to HMI by the afternoon. After submitting our forms we were given a slip which we had to show to warden to get a room. The warden asked us to fill entries in his register including vegetarian and non-vegetarian option. The rooms are allotted randomly. He asked me about my luggage to which I replied that it is in Room No 2 and allotted the same to me.

Exploring HMI Campus with Friends

The afternoon was spent roaming around the campus and meeting students from different places. Me and the two Bengali boys, who were serving in the Civil Police of West Bengal, went to HMI Cafeteria and had Momos for lunch.  By the time, I took my room, I found Pemba sitting on the lower wall side bed. He is from Sikkim and works as a guide for trekking agencies and has been to many treks including Stok Kangri. He has come here to complete the course as this would help him in his professional life. I seeing that the Lower Window Side bed is already occupied by someone else I made my bed on the Upper Window Side. I also chose an empty almirah, put my luggage in it and locked it. By the evening, already our room was occupied with seven roommates leaving one bed empty.

Sagar and Buddhadeb Vajpayee came together, both are from West Bengal, Sagar from Asansol and Buddhabed from Burdwan, both were around twenty years of age and were also serving in the Civil Police of West Bengal. Civil Police as I came to know are recruited on temporary basis to serve as police constables because of insufficient number of police personnel. Later I would know that all of them had quite different experiences depending on their place of posting and the work they were allotted. Both were well built sportspersons and had already been in adventure sports due to their job requirements. While Buddhadeb was impulsive and quick in his actions, Sagar was cool-minded and takes some time ti think before action.

Rituraj Sameer is a studying in the final year of Engineering in Electronics and Communication branch in Vishveshwarya Institute of Technology, Karnataka. He is also an NCC Cadet and is devoted to the organization by his heart and body. Later I would know that his self-respect lies in his unlimited love for NCC. He had come along with another NCC official whom he called ‘Sir’. Sir helped him do the necessary purchasing and showed him around Darjeeling. He had carried the maximum luggage possible. Other than NCC uniform including shoes, belt, hat etc he also carried a lot of personal stuff including a heater, a bottle of mustard oil and what not. He won’t be able to carry much part of his luggage to the trek but it made our days in hostel quite comfortable.

Pranav is a nineteen year boy. He is from Maharashtra and studying Bachelor in Computer Science (BCS). He is super-energetic and knows no limits. He is interested in almost everything and never gets tired. He is also an adventure sports enthusiast.

Rasheed Pathan twenty-three years has completed engineering and looking for a job. He is a thoughtful and pleasant person to talk with. He looks innocent but has experienced and done lot of travelling in unconventional ways. I liked talking to him and enjoyed his company. I was surprised to find out that of all my roommates, I was the oldest. The warden came to my room in the afternoon and asked to become Room Senior (as I was the oldest). I was given a form in which material allotted to the roommates. It listed bed sheets, quilt cover, pillow cover, steel tumbler, spoon, bucket, mug etc. It was the responsibility of Room Senior to see that the materials are returned at the time of leaving hostel. I signed it. In the afternoon we were briefed about the next day program and a time table was put upon for the whole course with a list of instructors signed by the Course Director. Advance Mountaineering Course would also start along with ours.

After the long train journey and the whole tiring day, I took bath in cold water, washed clothes and let the clothes dry in the room itself. So, I felt fresh and fine.

We chatted for some time while Pranav and Rituraj Sameer were out with their newly made friends in other rooms when it was the time for Dinner. The mess is a large hall with dining tables on one side overlooking the mountain ranges outside the large windows and the kitchen on the other side. The dinner consisted of dahl, boiled rice, chapatti and sabzi. The food was tasty and healthy. I really liked to sit outside the hostel on stairs and enjoyed the cool peaceful evening in Darjeeling.

Lying on the bed, while writing the diary entry for last three days I was nicknamed ‘Writer’ which will last till the end and will prove to be correct by my habit of taking out pen and paper every couple of hours and jot down things in detail. I tried to sleep early as we had to wake up at 04:00 AM to get ready by 05:00 AM for tea. Other roommates were having Aaloo Parantha which Rituraj Sameer had brought thinking there will be no dinner tonight which I politely declined as I was more than full.

The approximate map of the hostel room is given below:

Hostel Room
HMI Darjeeling Hostel Room

Read more my experience at:

HMI Basic Mountaineering Course– Darjeeling– Part-03

 

HMI Darjeeling Basic Mountaineering Course – Part-1

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Read about how I transferred Vacancy (Changed allotted schedule) for Basic Mountaineering Course at HMI Darjeeling

The Beginning

After one and a half year of applying for a dream, I was now setting forth for Himalayan Mountaineering Institute HMI Darjeeling Basic Mountaineering Course. I was feeling really great with a mix of anxiety, nervousness, excitement, happiness and fear. I did not have any idea what to expect, except for what I have read from other bloggers who have earlier gone for this course.

All credit for making the dream come true goes to my parents and my General Manager who allowed me to leave for the course. Also, to Shanky who shared my work load in my absence. I understand there will be worries at my home till I come back and a lot of my work at office will have to be done by others or will be waiting to be done when I come back.

HMI BMC The Preparation

I had been preparing for this course since the day I applied, i.e. one and a half years ago. But for last two months, I have been continuously doing physical exercises without any longer break. I improved my running from 5KM to 10km in this period and regularly exercised from US Army PT Guide. This has proved to be beneficial and increased my confidence to complete this course with flying colors (just like the Doctor I met in Har Ki Doon wished me too.)

From Har Ki Doon, now our Indiahikes HKD batch has been in regular contact through WhatsApp and we have been sharing a lot of things there. The learning from my first HKD trek has been useful to know what to pack and what not. Still, a lot remains to learn. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.

The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.
— Albert Einstein

HMI BMC The adventure starts here…

Even before the trip, adventure had set in my life…The night before leaving for the course, I went for a preventive medical checkup which included blood pressure check, blood sugar (RBS) check and getting tetanus injection. The hospital I went was quite reckless to allow an uneducated compounder to take my blood pressure reading and give me tetanus injection. He did not even know how to hold a stethoscope, me and Shanky had to literally run away from that hospital to save our lives. Anyway, I went to another doctor who had earlier signed my Har Ki Doon Medical Certificate and most of things he checked confirmed that I was normal except for a bit higher reading on Blood Pressure front about which I need not worry. He gave me tetanus injection in my arm and it wasn’t painful.

On the day of leaving for the trip, me and a colleague left office in company car till Mundi. From Mundi, we took lift on a truck which was going to Khandwa. The ride was fun. I messaged Shanky, “Adventure starts here… Going from Mundi to Khandwa in a truck! Hurray!” He wished me good luck.

I came back from office in afternoon to catch 1730 hours Guwahati Express train from Khandwa to New Jalpaiguri. I reached my room and got ready to leave. All things were packed with supplies necessary to complete the tour. If everything goes right, I will reach NJP at 0130 hours next night.

In the meantime, I was listening to Eddie Vedder’s — Into the Wild and the song playing was ‘Long Nights‘:

“Long Nights”

Have no fear
For when I’m alone
I’ll be better off
Than I was before

I’ve got this light
I’ll be around to grow
Who I was before
I cannot recall

Long nights allow
Me to feel I’m falling
I am falling

The lights go out
Let me feel I’m falling
I am falling
safely to the ground

I’ll take this soul
That’s inside me now
Like a brand new friend
I’ll forever know

I’ve got this life
And the will to show
I will always be
Better than before

Long nights allow
Me to feel I’m falling
I am falling

The lights go out
Let me feel I’m falling
I am falling
safely to the ground.

Train Journey From Khandwa to New Jalpaigudi

A highly mixed set of emotions were overflowing in me at the time of leaving. I gave the keys of my room to the caretaker of the Guest House located just opposite to my house as my room-mate had lost his keys. I wear my rucksack full with all the requirements and a handbag containing a DSLR Camera by which I intend to click excellent landscape pictures of the Himalayas. I did not take any auto-rickshaw and crazily walked three kilometers from my room to the Railway Station with the load of approximately 15 Kilograms on my back.
I was a bit concerned about travelling alone through Bihar (it would be my second crossing from the state, the first time was while going from Jaipur to IIT KGP in college times with friends), but the stereotype soon waived off and I made myself comfortable observing co-passengers in the third AC coach. I had thought I will spend most of my day time sitting instead of sleeping, thus I did not use my side upper berth till night. I consider this berth when I want no disturbance whether day or night.
There were two men sitting on the lower Side Berth quite loud in their actions. One of them was playing diverse popular music on his mobile phone throughout the journey (except for the night) and another one quite interested in almost everything going in and outside the train. Anyway, nobody seemed to mind them. They were talking in a language I had never heard. Since they travelled beyond New Jalpaiguri (NJP), I guess they belonged to Assam. They must have become friends on the course of their journey between Mumbai and Khandwa. In the night I came to know that they were travelling in RAC and that would not get clear till next night so they shared the Side Lower berth.
Another passenger was a typical Bengali old man on the lower berth. He was quite methodical and meticulous in his actions. He talked in very sweet Bengali language over phone. He carried fruits, puffed rice, medicines, books etc in his bag kept below the seat. Since, everything had its designated place in the bag, it was not difficult for him to take out whatever he wanted in one go. He had kept a dozen bananas, a couple of newspapers, his spectacles and water bottle neatly on the table. His bedding including a blanket was neatly spread on the seat. He also carried a small handbag in which all his valuable stuff was kept and whenever he went out of the train on any station he carried the small bag along with him. He was generously sharing bananas with a little girl of another family travelling with us. He looked calm throughout the long boring journey and never changed his ways.
A family consisting of husband, wife, a three year old daughter, a toddler and wife’s brother joined us at Jabalpur in the mid-night. We came to know that the husband was transferred to West Bengal from Jabalpur. They carried a lot of luggage with them and some part of the luggage had to be shifted to luggage room of the coach. Though the brother was there to help them as he would be coming back to Jabalpur alone, he did not seem to be of much help except for occasionally taking care of the children. I always feel good (and safe) when a family is present in the compartment, it feels less boring too.
There was also an old woman who got separated from other relatives travelling in the same train because of uneven allocation of berth while booking. She would not sleep on the seat that night as she successfully swapped her seat with a solo traveler.
The journey was long, difficult, with runny nose (due to AC) and boring except for the time I spent reading ‘Into the Wild’ by Jon Krakauer. An insightful book especially after I have watched the movie many times since college when Jai introduced me to it. Outside the book, everyone was surprised how the train running on and occasionally before time.

The train reached NJP ten minutes earlier at about 01:00 AM on 12.09.2015. The man who had RAC finally got a seat and was sleeping peacefully. I don’t know what made him wake up in late night that he came out on the platform and suddenly dropped his mobile phone below the train on tracks. As he got down to catch the phone, he lost consciousness and fell down with his head in the space between the coach and the platform. Luckily, the train was not moving and the other passengers quickly pulled him out. They sprinkled some water on his face, he came back to his senses. No idea if he found his mobile phone again or not.

I moved on to the Platform No 1 and asked at the RPF counter about the means to go to Darjeeling at the night time. To no significant help, the person at the counter asked me to go out of station and enquire. I was already aware of the shared taxis running between NJP to Darjeeling (thanks to IndiaMike.com), but was doubtful if they run at this time of the night too. I went out and enquired the same and got to know that they start running in the early morning. I later during the course came to know from some HMI friends that they run throughout the night too. Anyway, I came back to the station and waited for the early morning. The time was spent charging my mobile phone and tablet, exploring the railway station, washing my face, changing t-shirt and doing nothing.

Read my experience of HMI Darjeeling Basic Mountaineering Course at:

HMI Darjeeling Basic Mountaineering Course – Part-2