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

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