By George Thengummoottil
Mr Thapa gets up from his bed made of layers of sheep skin at 4 AM. Its pitch dark around, other than that little butter lamp at the corner of his house and the faint remains of yesterday’s fire wood. The nearest human settlement is at least two days away: which means, one has to trek for at least two days to reach the nearest town.
As I get out of his house, I see two of the highest mountains on our planet earth. Mount Everest and Mount Kanchenjunga: glowing in golden red reflecting the early morning sun rays.
This is The Singalila Ridge, the border between India and Nepal. As I face Mount Kanchenjunga, my left is Nepal and my right is India. The boundary stones installed on the ridge with India and Nepal engraved on either side marks the international Border.
Singalila which means ‘Mountains of the wild alder tree’ is a high ridge running north to south across the Himalayas and it marks the eastern boundary of Nepal with India. Due to its relatively high altitude, the climate of the regions on either side of the ridge is also different.
Mr Thapa who is about 50 years old lives alone in his bamboo stem crafted house. This elderly energetic man starts his daily life with a short prayer to Mount Khangchenjunga: which is followed by milking his yaks and leaving them to grace in the vast pastures around. With more than a dozen of yaks, he gets a lot more than what he needs for him selves, which is stored and converted to cheese.
Visitors like us are the rare chance for him to talk and meet people from the outside world. Once in six months, he trek down the mountain to Kalikhola, a little town in Nepal to meet his family and sell his yak cheese collected over time.
When I think of him, he is one of the richest man on our planet, enjoying the fresh mountain ear and drinking fresh water from the mountains: and he gets to see the one of the most beautiful views from his bedroom window: all evident from his health and happiness even at this age.
This is the 13th day of our 200 kilometer long trek, which started at Yuksam, a little town in West Sikkim. We are a team of three travelers assisted by ten porters, two guides and a cook. We head load all the food, tents and sleeping bags with us during the trek. Solar panels were used to charge our camera and laptop to make this film.
I found that these beautiful scenes are the best medicine for my eyes, which suffered major vision loss, when I was affected by a disease called Keratoconus. I think I found tranquility in my life. I wish I could stay here forever.