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Updated: May 9

“Climb mountains not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world.”

What if I say that I have been granted seven days of access to those ‘sonar kathi’ and ‘rupor kathi’ of Thakumar Jhuli, as Annapurna and Machapucchare? Excited beyond belief! Is’nt it so?Almost everyone has probably dreamt of floating on a cloud sea. Quite unexpectedly, my fantasy has materialized. Of course, with Himalayan Passion(HP) like 3 prior episodes. Let's ride the staircase to MARDI HIMAL BASE CAMP through this blog.

'Arrival in Raxaul Station, Indo-Nepal Border'

We reached Pokhara a day before the trek. Instead of introducing each other of the team by Dr. Sourav Ray (Trek Leader) like always, we introduced ourselves to him. Actually the tragic Mithila Express and the cinematic Raxaul to Pokhara journey kindle the magic of fellowship between us. We were 9.5 members in the team.

'The Wonder Boy - Judhijeet'

Believe it or not, an 8yrs old boy JUDHIJEET joined our team. Judhi was the team's motivation and rival for my room. He was also my banter partner throughout the trail.

'The Macchapuchare and Annapurna Group of Peaks from Pokhara City'

   What makes a mountain trek so beautiful is that the mountain itself comes to us to pull out of the bed. Interestingly we looked around from the terrace to view the sunrise with a cup of warm love served as tea by the landlady. I was smitten by Annapurna South, triangular knife-edged Mt. Machapucchare , Pokhara put on its charm.

The team was completed after the entry of Tara ji and his son Prajwal, as our local guide at Pokhara. All the dilemmas regarding my fitness level to commit myself for the MBC had came to an end on 24th December 2023, when we started our trek from the village Kande. We were dropped by a traveler there arranged by Himalayan Passion at 10.00 am.

'Kande village - Trek starting point'

'The initial uphill climb'

The path mainly involved a steady climb. From a distance, Pokhara was spying behind the bush. The toppings was broken rocks. To be honest, I felt completely out of shape when climbing the fairly large number of steps to begin the walk. My breath became labored every couple of hundred feet due to the hike's initial steepness. Once you are struggling hard to keep up, having at least one good friend right beside will help a lot. Sayantan was exactly that.

Exhausted! we headed towards Pitam Deurali(2125m). The path ran through farms. After a while, we reached Australian camp.

"The Entrance of Australian Camp"

Interestingly, the Australian Camp was named so due to the mispronunciation by the local people. The camp was, in fact, supposed to be an Austrian Camp. After a turn from Australian Camp we found the change in the view.

"A Group Picture in Australian Camp"

The panoramic view of the Annapurna Mountain range including Annapurna South (7219m), Annapurna III(7575m), Annapurna IV(7535m) as well as Hiunchuli (6441m), and so on allowed Mt. Macchapucchare (6,993 m) for the first time to appear in the trail.

After an hour-long hike realizing the seriousness of the situation, our TL took an exciting tea break in the woods. Beside a football ground, in Pothana. A classic Man versus Wild.

Ardently waiting for our destination we were moving ahead. Suddenly at a resting point at around 2.30 p.m. our Trek Leader pretended to be a restaurant waiter and took our lunch order. That is Himalayan Passion. Kuch v kahi v! and if it is combined with Nepal, surely one would experience the blast!

"Our Tea House in Deurali"

Surprised we were also glad to know that this was our tea house for the day. The canopy, the landscape, the accommodation, the food, the view from the lawn was awesome. I was unable to figure out if I was travelling as part of a package or on a camp treks.

Spending our leisure time after the tea break I dwell myself into the night sky. Far from the intrusive lights of the city, the diamonds in the sky were twinkling. Watching Ursa Major is always a fun, the mighty hunter Orion, the Cassiopeia, the Polaris shifted with the course of evening. On the other hand the Jupiter, the Saturn, the Venus were shining in the sky. Spending time with them in a crisp weather in never boring.

A dinner in never complete without a after dinner 'Lyad' and gossip

The dinner time interrupted this beautiful moment and we followed our strict Trek Leader’s strict instruction “early to bed and early to move” bid everyone a good night.

"A beautiful sunrise from Deurali"

For early birds and dawn patrol surfers, there's really nothing more magical than dawn. That sunrise was something exceptional. Dhaulagiri (8167m) waked up unveiling the night with the golden touch of sun and made its peer group to be awaken. I was waiting when the sun burst into the vibrant pink and orange colors melting into the cool blue hues of the Himalayas.

'Start of the 2nd day from Deurali'

2ND DAY was a long day for us. A 15kms trek. Destination Low camp (3150m). The trail turns through a lush, transient forest starting at Pitam Deurali. The golden sun beam was frequently betrayed by the clouds. To gain elevation, the route frequently ascend to steep stones. In an effort to hasten our steps, Mr. Trek Leader planned a foolproof scheme to exhaust us. However, thanks to the whimsical creation of a few nature lovers, that endeavor was in vain. Cut to the chase, it was a place to relax that had a distinct swing.

The Swing was special because it offered breathtaking outside views along with heart-pounding thrills that nothing else could match. Hanging above a steep incline. Death was almost inevitable if one fell from that swing. At the same time our team was not lacking in daring individuals. We dare to swing. The swing was thrilling, but much more so were the 360-degree vistas of the surrounding landscape and mountains, which made it a memorable experience.

'Forest Camp, a view from Trail'

After a walk of 4-5hrs we reached forest camp. The Forest Camp (2500m) served us hot meals. It is in a beautiful setting, as the name implies, in the middle of a forest. The meal was quite delightful after walking for 6 kms. The monotonous staircase till Forest Camp was twisted here by the nature. We were watching the trail not in front but straight upright.

'The Scary Staircase'

It was an exhibition of staircase. Intact stair! Broken stair! ½ stair, ¼ th broken stair! Varieties of stair! Even the colour beneath the feet might change from rusty orange leaves to mossy green; the fog might turn into soft dripping rain but, the only constant companion was those eternal STAIRS. Full “MOYEE MOYEE!!” situation.

The mist was ghost gray. It moved on and unclasped the shrubs. The grassy meadows, the slight chill in the air was enough to give a gentle shiver and a hypnotizing environment. With trees looming overhead like regal sentinels, the forest seemed like a sea of green. However, a further look uncovered a thriving environment brimming with life. From the massive giants to the little ferns that covered the forest floor, a wide variety of species can be found in every nook and crack. The constant vibrancy of the forest was emphasized by the symphony of sounds that fills the atmosphere, including the rustling of leaves and the chirping of birds. It was a dynamic, breathing, throbbing source of energy that was constantly changing. That was delightfully mysterious to me.

'Low Camp'

Low Camp (3150m) was situated behind some never-ending staircase. On the path, we were really enjoying little breaks while we waited for the slowest participant. That proved to be a gods-end in those strenuous staircase.

On reaching the tea house we found ourselves embraced in the fog and somehow disappointed for the mighty sky view. It was too cold to withstand. Local anesthesia was provided in the tea house in the name of regular tap water. Upset we were about the night sky. We took our position on our allotted “morgue” bed (read as chilled bed).

   Late night when I felt of having a look outside. My mind was just got blown. I managed to call Sharmi di somehow. She was also dumbstruck at the door. “What is this?”, she screamed.

"SaptarshiMandal" enlightening above the Macchapucchare.

Macchapucchare was inviting to dream under starry Himalayas. A silent sentinel- that grew closer and denser. A big question mark (?) above the Macchapucchare! Sounds freaky, right? We jumped in excitement. That was our very known "SaptarshiMandal"(Constellation named after seven sacred sages of Hindu Mythology) enlightening above the Macchapucchare. The view put us into a slice of heaven. Mt. Macchapucchare was looking like a diamond in the rough. On the other hand Rano had set himself on time lapse with his DSLR.

Anybody could hardly afford to miss such a heavenly view. The lonely Low camp, midnight glittering sky, grandeur Macchapucchare, in sub zero temperature- all these were enough to experience an exceptionally wonderful moment. After a spooky afternoon such a night was not only unexpected but also beyond imagination. Herein lies the Himalaya's twist. Something at all! Everywhere!

'Start of the Day 3'

The very next day(DAY 3) we were fully refreshed and eager to unlock the days new horizon. The route were between the tangle roots. The trail was steeper throughout. The trek route of Annapurna Base Camp was beckoning from the west behind the forest.

'The initial forest section on the way to Badaldanda'

The scenery changed dramatically as we climbed higher - just a short steep climb and we were catapulted out of the forest -a ridge grassy path, a thrilling panoramic view i.e. Badal Danda. It is also a wi-fi point between the trail.

'Badal Danda'

Himalaya has a timeless fashion statement. It was well seen from Badaldanda. The higher we go, the more beautiful the vistas became. Mt. Macchapucchare holded the court over proceedings. The peak was blanketed in a dazzling white mist of snow.

'The Magnificent Macchapuchare in the Backdrop'

Hiunchuli and Annapurna South beckoned near, as Macchapucchare dominated the horizon. On a nice, sunny day, it was an amazing hike. There was beauty around every bend. After few hours we reached High Camp. Entering into the tea house the gloominess of the weather embraced us.

'The sea of Clouds'

  After a delicious lunch we went out for a casual acclimatization walk. I was completely unaware of the surprise waiting for me. I was amazed as the cloud broke away under the sun. Beneath its heavy veil, the cloud had concealed the valley. Mountain peaks appeared to float like islands amidst the vast expanse of white clouds. Yes! It's CLOUD SEA.

    The sight was shifting minute by moment as the moist air circulated. It was an endless horizon of the sun, clouds, Hiunchuli, and Annapurna. An opera was playing! The conductor was Macchapucchare. I was in a fog, cloud and snow-covered wonderland. My eyes were brimming with joy. Mardi gave me a highly symbolic present.

      Unlike my Phokteydara-Phalut trek, a white piece of artpaper for a landscape, a view obscured, yet clouds and mountains can work this attraction too!Lovely clouds! Spectacular Himalaya.  It would be best to assign the assignment of taking the pictures to the excellent and motivated photographer Ranojeet. Because Ranojeet sees the world differently than everyone else. Absent-minded I was, suddenly found the horizon was calling the sun adieu the mountain bye by changing the hues from golden to orange, pink to red, purple to dark red. It’s a theatrical orchestra! A scene one could die for.

      With the dopamine boost, we returned to the tea house. Who knew, though, that it was only a drop scene. There was a new character in the play. What a spectacular entrance by one of the universe's finest showman- THE MOON.  My expectations were exceeded by the sight of the full moon rising over the peaks and behind the mountain. Watching a full moon during its quick appearance was as easy, silent and magnificent as it sounds. But it's something that needs to be encountered. After the play, we entered into our charming tea house to receive our summit march briefing. We went to bed after a cheesy pizza night. Yes! you have heard right. Pizza at 3700m altitude. Even Pasta, Mixed Fried Rice, Mixed Chowmein, Nepali dal-vat, along with Fish tail also. Oops! This Fish Tail was not to eat but a complementary view from Nepal and Himalayan Passion named as Mt. Macchapucchare.

Thanks to the acclimatization problem for which my interrupted sleep allowed me to visualize the vast and glowing Fishtail peeping from the sky at the window beside my bed.

'Our Journey starts at 4:00 am'

Dressed up with extra amount of layers for the dating with Macchapucchare, it was also ready to welcome us with its friends and families namely Annapurna . it was freshen up with snow, well dressed with stars and moonlight focus. Having breakfast with soupy ‘SOUP’ at 4.00 a.m. we belted up for SUMMIT MARCH at 4.30 am on DAY 4.

'The giant Macchapuchare and the Full Moon'

Stars in the sky and glitters of head torch on the trail- a great combination for summit march-one must experience. Eternal halogen of the night sky was the FULL MOON. It was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful nights I have ever seen. Incidentally the moon was acting like a giant optical mirror of the sun. Gradually my steps were getting heavier. The uphill battle started. The summit demands the fitness. It is something which allows to enjoy and explore the trail more than to struggle against them. Hyper mind individuals like me tire out easily. To keep myself inspired and driven, I require stimulation. For this reason, in the woods, my incredibly chatty personality and my imagination would go wild. It may sound weird. But I am unique in my own way. A strong team is always a blessing at such moment. It was the team that inspired me to keep going and engaged in such crazy fantasy.

A toe-to-toe was initiated between the sun and us to reach the view point(6 kms.). Ultimately we defeated the sun but defeated by the dawn. As the sun kissed the Annapurna South the reflection enlighten the whole view point with a golden hue. Few tea stalls were scattered at the top immersed in the crisp thin air of Himalaya and stunning landscape to see. A 360 degree view.

'Lower view point of Mardi Himal'

The Macchapucchare was looking huge. How wonderful they were! And far away from the crowd, the forests isolated from the whole world. Spending their lives in their own rules with its neighbors Annapurna group of peaks and Hiunchulli secretly behind the close door of the materialistic world. Perhaps they enjoy their lonesome. Aha! The clouds, the sun, the stars, the galaxies are all-the mountains need only. Only few TRAGIC individuals namely TREKKERS are to admire this eternal peace they are enjoying years after years.

'On the way to Mardi Himal Base Camp'

My fantasy world was shattered when our Trek Leader called, "Let's go!" Subsequently, the most hypnotic path of the journey was discovered. Sourav was determined to be qualified for the lying category's Best Trek Leader Award.

“That’s the upper view point. We are able to see. Let's get moving," he exclaimed.

"So what did we just cross?" we enquired.

“Well, That's just the lower view point”, TL said.

Therefore, we began to march and arrived there as well. However, rather than extending a warm welcome to that Base camp with HP's well-known "Congratulation!” he said, "Only a few more steps to the Base camp..!"

We yelled, "What is this if the Base camp is over there?".

“Uff! Come quickly to the Base camp; this is simply the Upper view point.” Trek Leader remarked.

"Absurd torture," we shouted.

Now, we were struggling hard.

We became encased by the cold, hunger, and chilly air. After sipping on some water, we set our sights on the goal and got going. By the time the trail's last ascent reached its peak, excitement was at it's height. Finally, when we succeeded our guide Taraji's weak voice blurted out,

"Ruko...! Sabar karo Zara..."

'Last few steps to MBC'

and informed us that original base camp was few feet forward not that on what we were standing.

    Engorged in the excitement we ran those last few steps. And finally we got to see that  milestone encrypted “MBC 4500M”. But…. Our commander stood corrected not only us but Google also that it was only 4250m not 4500m. Whatever! We ultimately made the so called MARDI HIMAL BASE CAMP SUMMIT at 9.30 am. A 5hrs march! A 6 kms walk. Yes! we did it. Just imagine!

'Mardi Himal Base Camp'

The summit point encompassed by magnificent Annapurna South… its only and only Annapurna top to bottom standing like a wall. The colour from bottom to top were yellowish brown to brown, dark brown, gray and lastly the white trendy snow cap. They were looking so grandeur against the sky. The chill breeze, the helicopter, the sun all witnessed our success to summit at that secret top of MBC behind the door of the world.

Simultaneously we witnessed our Trek Leader, Dr. Sourav Ray embarked on his 25th trek. An occasion to rejoice and a trek to cherish.

'A rainbow spotted during our descent'

I wish I could stay there long. I wish I could see those mountains in their every moods or at least for a day watching their beauty with the passing daylight. I wish….!! I wish…!! Suddenly a call to get down and we lined up again. The stunning scenery had a left a lasting impression in my mind.

'Macchapuchare, about to disappear into clouds'

The moment we turned around, Macchapucchare became upset. The peak was completely engulfed in clouds. We quicken our decline, anticipating the calamity. We had a lunch break at the High Camp Tea House after a continuous drop of 10km. After a delicious meal that had replenished our energy, we said goodbye to High Camp and headed for Badaldanda. The further we got away from Macchapuchare, the more it submerged itself in the sea of despair, thickening the clouds. The day's performance came to a conclusion with a foggy evening.

'Descent to Shiding through forest'

Next day (DAY 5) I woke up when the sun unfolded Mt. Annapurna and the treasure of Badaldanda with its first ray. That day was destined for Siding village. A 7 kms descent. The view was hidden but the forest was enchanting with vivid colour of lichen, mosses. After a small tea break we reached our tea house. It was like a fairy tale house. The beautiful rooms with all basic amenities and more beautiful was the lawn and the most beautiful part was the tea house lady owner. The day ended with usual feedback session of Himalayan Passion.

'The Graduation Ceremony of Himalayan Passion'

Next morning (DAY 6) was our Graduation ceremony certified of being 4250m altitude gainer at Mardi Himal Base camp. We took our final step of the trek for descending to Lumre. Descending is always painful then ascending. Its all about knees. 7 kms walk. Took 5 hrs. And neverending descent. Finally we found the car waiting for us at 1.00 p.m.

'The Roadhead in Lumre, where our Car picked us up'

That’s how we ended our trek but not the trip. Sounds fascinating! Correct? Again! That’s the beauty of the Himalayan Passion that establishes the familial ties amongst the teammates. Though we were shattered following such a descent but our eagerness for trying biryani was peaking. We trekked once more in search of a good biriyani centre at Pokhra, reaching our destination at about 3 p.m. We discovered that a BIRIYANI can turn a dinner table into a battlefield in seconds. Our honourable Trek Leader took the charge and put his knowledge of ABACUS to share and declare a cease fire. Oh!

'View from Pokhra City'

'Pokhara Street Carnival'

The Annapurna, Macchaapucchare, Hiunchuli were speaking the epilogue in this trek story at Pokhara with the sunset. We all thanks them for making our event of trekking memorable and grand success. And now the evening show began. A fantabulous show. Winter street carnival. Phewa lake set the stage for the carnival. Lake side restaurant cafes. Vehicles were forbidden on the main streets, which were crowded with celebrants and partygoers decked up in lights. As the masses sang carols, an elegant and thrilling carnival was revealed. We experienced the enchantment of the Pokhara street festival.

The day(DAY 7) of the gradual separation came early the following morning. We drove to Raxaul after bidding our Trek Leader and Taraji a farewell. Every one of us was under a shroud of sadness. The team gifted by HP was unwrapped in Raxaul station retiring room. It was a hilarious experience. More I say about that night is less. Be it the dormitory or the double bed room or the IRCTC canteen- we were the rebel. “Our team our rules”. We were unable to leave Rakesh da in his solitary double bed retiring room for the night because of the kinship that the Himalaya had sparked among us. Thus, we converted it into a dorm and settled in for the evening. To end all these sufferings, IRCTC had to leave the Mithila Express without any delays. And just on time, at 10:00 am, we left Raxaul for our respective destination.

I spent a great New Year's Eve rejoicing in the train while grieving the loss of parting ways with these mountain climbers.

In just one trek, the MARDI HIMAL, we encountered the Shivalik, Himachal and Himadri all 3 ranges of the Himalaya, transitioning from a lush oak woodland to rhododendron and finishing at the alpine base camp. In contrast to past encounters with mountain hazards, this journey proved to be successful in every way, including the successful summit touch and the crystal clear view.

The quest isn't always fueled by the trail or the top. However, on occasion, the walking partner benefits for the same. I had chosen this trek specifically to enjoy the company of my affectionate Sarmi Di along the trail. I am grateful to Himalayan Passion for setting up this chance. The priceless present by Himalayan Passion is a stronger mental health, a boost in my confidence and a circle of friends. Its not the sense of achievement that I crave, but the opportunity to witness something grand in front of my eyes and the hope to cross paths with them in future somehow, somewhere in any unknown mountain curve.

The Team (From Left to Right) Ranojit, Sarmistha, Sriparna, Sudip, Sayantan, Sumitra, Aparna (me), Judhijit, Rakesh, Sourav (Trek Leader)

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