Sandakphu-Phalut Trek - Day 02

CONTINUED FROM: Sandakphu-Phalut Trek - Day 01

Date: 17-Oct-2023

Day02: Samanden (2300m/7545ft) to Phalut (3596m/11800ft)ft) 

Distance/Time: 15km / 8H

The Cold


I was the first one to wake up at around 5AM. I took a walk around the village. The rising sun, tinted the landscape with a golden glow. Samanden indeed looked like a golden plate. 

There is a primary school in the village. For secondary school, the children have to go to Rimbhik. Back at the homestay, I shot a few timelapse videos. The little daughter of the owners, Nayonika, wanted to check how the videos I had shot. She helped me frame myself in the video better. When I showed her the outcome, she laughed with joy. 

Hot tea was served at around 6am. I got ready and packed my bags by 7:30am. Aloo Parathas were served for breakfast. By 8:30am, we were all ready to leave. After a few warm-up exercises, we continued our trek. 

The dogs from the villages often follow the trekkers and their owners come running behind us to take them back. It happened the previous day at Rammam and it happened again at Samanden. A boy had to come running and hold the dog’s collar and pull him back to the village. 

We crossed a river at Gorkhey village and entered a forest filled with pine trees and bamboo plants. On our way, we stopped by a natural spring to fill up the water bottles. This climb upto Alubari camp was really hard. There were a few steep climbs. 

At Alubari campsite, we relaxed for almost an hour. We also had hot lunch prepared by our crew. It began to drizzle here a bit, so we had to put on our ponchos and cover our bags. Thankfully it wasn’t raining heavily. Our trek lead told us that there was a possibility of spotting red pandas on the trail between Alubari and Phalut. However, we weren’t lucky to spot any. 

We had to stop at SSB – Sashastra Seema Bal, a border guarding force India deployed along the borders of Nepal. Two army men checked our Aadhaar cards. They also collected a copy of the same. In case you are not carrying a copy, you can show the original.

Not far from this checkpoint, is the Phalut campsite. The place was completely covered in mist. At Phalut, our tents were already pitched. It was extremely windy and the temperature had dropped drastically. We quickly changed to warm clothes - Thermals, down jackets, woollen socks, gloves and head caps. Abhishek was completely exhausted by the trek. In the tent, he told me that he felt nauseated and had a bad headache. He wondered if he should vomit. Since I am no expert on this subject, I immediately informed our trek lead Usha. 

It is important that such things are taken care of as early as possible. In these heights, people suffer from High-altitude sickness. The symptoms include headache, nausea, difficulty in breathing etc. Usha did not feel that this was a severe condition. It is common to have some breathing issues at higher altitude and headache due to dehydration. And everything cannot be considered as altitude sickness. After vomiting, he felt better.

It was terribly cold outside. So we decided to stay in the shelters. At Phalut, there are a few shelters where the kitchen and dining areas are. There are also rooms that can be booked. We all assembled at the dining area and played UNO. We stayed there for evening snacks, soup and dinner. Kheer was served for dinner. It was very tasty. And there was brinjal/aubergine instead of potato sabji with this meal. I like potato, but having it too often, in every meal, can cause gastritis. So, that was a welcome change. We also struck a deal (Rs 50 per perosn) with the kitchen staff to use the toilets that were inside the shelters instead of the tents. 

Outside, the night sky had some surprises for us. We could see the Milky Way. 

After dinner, I went straight to bed. I woke twice in the night to use the restroom and was delighted to see the cluster of stars above me. Around 1AM, Abhishek who was sharing the tent with me, woke me up. He was shivering.  I asked him to take off his down jacket and check if it felt any better. He slept fine for some time after that.

A little while later, we heard a sound outside the tents. Initially, I thought it was the flapping of the tent due to heavy wind. But then, we heard footsteps of an animal. I wondered if it was a red panda. Meanwhile, Rushikesh woke up and found out that they were mules. Relieved but also slightly disappointed, I went back to sleep. 

At around 4am, I woke up again. I thought I heard someone call my name. In fact, it was Abhishek saying "Aai" (Mother in Marathi). This time he was shivering terribly, with chattering teeth. I panicked!

CONTINUED HERE: Sandakphu-Phalut Trek - Day 03