A Memorable Birthday
'I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills From whence cometh my help? My help cometh even from the Lord Who hath made heaven and earth'. Psalm 121.
Whilst studying Bengali at the Language School in Darjeeling, I joined a group of like-minded missionaries to spend our week's break going on trek. It was during this that I had the great joy of seeing Mount Everest.
The following is from the diary we kept.
Friday 7 May 1954 - Day's mileage 10, Darjeeling to Jhepi. We assembled at 6.20 a.m. with the coolies who were to accompany us for the next week. The road wound down through green Tea Estates with their flat-topped tea bushes, and under bamboo water conduits. We crossed the Neora Jhora river by a suspension bridge and then went up slightly over the end of a ridge and down to Pool Bazaar. There were some very beautiful coloured butterflies on the way. We resumed our upward climb reaching Kainjole (4,543 ft.), and soon after reached the Dak Bungalow at Jhepi (3,909 ft.).
Saturday 8 May - Day's mileage 10, Jhepi to Rimbik. After breakfast we set off for the school. The children sang songs including 'The Boundaries of Darjeeling' to the tune of 'Clementine'; 'The Body Song' ('This is the way we wash our face - etc.), and finished with 'I love Jesus'. It was a very hot day. We went down to Budhwari Bazaar on the Lodhoma Kholo river (3,572 ft.), then up an interminable flight of stone 'stairs', on to the village of Rimbik (7,217 ft.), and on to the Rimbik Dak Bungalow (7,500 ft.).
Sunday 9 May - Day's mileage 12, Rimbik to Ramam. The march led through forest, round the shoulder of a hill and down to the Shiri Khola river (6, 185 ft.). We followed a short cut up to Dandagaon (7,500 ft.), the village of Ramam (7,200 ft.), the river Mechi (7,150 ft.) and the Dak Bungalow (7,958 ft.).
Monday 10 May - Day's mileage 12, Ramam to Phalut. We set off down through forest towards the Sikkim border, round the shoulder of the hill and down through trees to a bridge over the Rathokhola river (7,487 ft.) There followed a stiff climb to Kingsa Danda. We stopped at the top for tiffin at 9,846 ft. at 11.30 a.m. We then had some fairly level walking passing a desolate landscape of dead trees -probably they had been struck by lightning - and at the end more climbing in the mist to the Phalut Dak Bungalow (11,811 ft.).
Tuesday 11 May - Day's mileage 13, Phalut to Sandakphu. Having given instructions to be wakened before dawn Alan, our trek leader, was duly wakened at 4.15 a.m. and went outside, but there was nothing to be seen. Then at 7 am we had a marvellous view of Mount Everest and from the west of Everest right round to Kanchenjunga, which seemed quite near at hand.
At 8.30 am. We set off downhill from Phalut. We could see Everest till after 10 a.m. as we made our way along the ridge, which forms the Nepal India border at that part. There were white boundary stones at intervals along the way. We finally reached Sandakphu at 11,911 ft.
Wednesday 12 May - Day's mileage 14, Sandakphu to Tonglu. At 4.30 a.m. we were wakened to see the view. We went up on to a slight rise. To the east the valleys were filled with creamy clouds while to the north Mount Kanchenjunga appeared a dull white. The rising of the sun was delayed by a bank of cloud on the horizon. Then some clouds above Kanchenjunga were tinged with pink, as were some of the points of Kanchenjunga. The mountains on each side of Everest were pink too, with rosy mist or snow blowing off them. We had a glimpse of Everest between them. The day ended with a birthday supper and games.
Thursday 13 May - Day's mileage 10, Tonglu to Jorepokhri. We set off downhill and came to Mekma. Here there was a new Buddhist monastery, which had only been in the process of being built the year before. It had a school attached. In the main room there was a huge upright Prayer Wheel. A Buddhist nun was sitting on the floor and turning it by means of a short rope attached to a crank on the spindle. There were the usual dishes of water - fourteen on the upper row and twenty on the lower row as well as the light burning, the wall decorations and the figure of Buddha. Out on the hillside were several prayer flags blowing in the wind.
On to Jorepokhri (7,539 ft.). The bedding situation in this Dak Bungalow left much to be desired. The men's room had a canvas apology for a camp-bed with a tear in the middle, but with a kind donation from the ladies in the party the nocturnal prospects brightened considerably. Winifred slept on two deck-chairs placed seat to seat.
Friday 14 May - Day's mileage 14, Jorepokhri to Sukhia Pokri - Darjeeling. We came down to Sukhia Pokri (7,118 ft.). Here the coolies with their loads boarded the bus to Darjeeling. They waved with great delight as they passed us on the way. Here some of the party visited a Buddhist monastery which had only been built for four months.
Leaving Ghoom we had tiffin before making our triumphal entry into Darjeeling, visiting the Tea Room, then Das Studio to hand in the film of our epic trek. On coming out we encountered the first rain to fall whilst we were on the march. Arriving back at Language School we said goodbye to the coolies who had accompanied us, cheerfully bearing our loads throughout this memorable week.
We had walked 95 miles, during which the difference in altitude between the lowest and highest points was 10,000 ft.
WINIFRED, MOTHER S.E.