It’s definitely been a minute.
In August, life spiralled into a tornado of exams, competitions, performances and worse: deadlines. Since then, I’ve deserted this space, but don’t worry – I’ve got no intention of leaving.
Two weeks ago, my exams finally ended (time. won’t. fly.) and the next day, we left on vacation. Of course, my parents were vaccinated and my sister and I needed to test negative to leave the state, but up in the mountains, there are little to no coronavirus cases.
It’s the best time I’ve had since, well, last year. This March will mark the second anniversary of the virus and I’m glad to say things are looking up. Even simply being in the airport was such a novel feeling – the lines, the security checks. Today’s post is a travel diary and chronicles the entirety of my trip – so enjoy!
The plane ride – always longer than it seems – was when I read and finished the last book in The Princess Diaries. I finished the main ten back in May, and I’ve been putting off finishing the rest for nearly five months now. Royal Wedding was a masterpiece (in chick lit of course) and I zoomed through it. Definitely a 5-star-read.
In India, there are a few UNESCO World Heritage Sites that are actually railways, and we chanced upon the Darjeeling ‘Toy Train’ which we rode. It’s a regular train, except ancient – rickety tracks, loud horns, the whole enchilada – and goes through downtown Darjeeling (pronounced daar-jee-ling) so we got an inside look into the lives of the shopkeepers and the workers by the street. Moreover, the experience was like a substandard Disneyland ride what with all the noise, but I loved it.
Our trek began the very next day – a 96-kilometre hike through the Indo-Nepal border. We’d stay in homestays along the way and from the peak, we could see three of the highest five peaks in the world. The Himalayas, for those (clueless) few of you who don’t know, are a mountain range in Asia with the tallest peaks in the world.
The mountains were (quite literally) a breath of fresh air because oh, my gosh city life is downright terrible compared to what the kids up in the hills have. The first day we got up to this beautiful monastery with these flags that read “Om mani padme hum” which is a Buddhist prayer, I was told. It was really interesting to get to know the culture of the locals – the prayer is roughly transliterated to “praise to the jewel in the lotus” which has a double meaning concerning ancient scriptures, I believe.
Regardless of the beauty of the hills, hiking ain’t an easy feat. Give it two hours, and we’re all dead tired, begging for water, but hey, we made it. The first day is always the worse because of the sudden altitude increase – it takes time to acclimatize to the climate. Down with headaches, we called it a day after some indigenous food.
All our meals were sourced locally up in the mountains and what I found especially fascinating was how food in one country is so diverse. Down south, we’ve got rice-based meals, in central India the spice level is up there, and then here, in the northeast, the food is wheat-based, and their chicken is cooked to absolute perfection. Perfection, I tell you.
Right after that were the hardest days – a steep ascent. We finally reached the summit – the place where you could see Everest (the highest mountain) and Kanchenjunga (the third highest mountain) in a breath-taking panorama. We reached rather early in the evening so we had time to take a little detour and sneak a peek at the sunset – if only the clouds would let us. As luck had it, it was inexplicably misty that evening, but towards the end, it did clear up a little so I got some wonderful pictures.
The next four days were when we’d merely walk along these peaks down – all the way back to where we came from. As we walked, the landscape morphed from beautiful bamboo forests to plains – even to barren hinterlands – and that just made me marvel at how much wonder the mountains beheld.
Once we were done with the majority of coming down, we stayed in this “house” that was in the middle of nowhere. There was no electricity and by nightfall, it was almost as though we’d all gone blind – it gets incredibly dark really soon in the mountains. We sat by a little fire in the kitchen until we couldn’t keep our eyes open and I swear I’ve never slept better than I did that night. I could have been mistaken for a literal log for all you know.
A few hours the next morning and we were back where we started – aaand our last day on vacation before it’s back to, well, life. Once again, we wandered down the quaint streets of downtown Darjeeling in the hopes of finding clothes shops (we were in desperate need of a wardrobe update, you see.) We found a bakery on a crowded cobblestone street and ate the most delicious blueberry cheesecake ever. I also picked out this lovely over-the-shoulders navy blue dress that I adore.
The next morning we were on the flight home – and that’s a wrap! One of my favourite treks I’ve done – that’s for sure. I’ll be adding a little photo diary at the end of this post excluding the ones I’ve already added in along with a little reading update so enjoy!
hiking through the himalayas – photo diary 💖
literary update 📚
I read more in these seven days than I read in the last two months combined, in all honesty. The first thing I finished was a magical realism standalone called The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender – now one of my all-time favourites. It’s a must-read for lovers of magic, history, and also the most heartbreaking romance. It tells the tale of Ava Lavender’s family – her grandparents, her mother’s calamitous love, and down to hers. It’s not entirely magic, not entirely real, but the purple prose really brought out the essence of the tale. (If you’re planning on reading this, watch this video first!)
Another book out of the five I read that I want to mention is The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi. I’m sure most of you teens out there would have at least heard of the incredibly famous Six of Crows. It’s arguably the most hyped-up book in Young Adult literature, and yes, it was good, but not great. I honestly felt it was missing a certain something. The Gilded Wolves took Six of Crows and raised it to its full potential and took my breath away. I absolutely adored the characters, the historical setting and well, everything about this book.
The last thing on here, I promise, is the playlist of my current favourite songs I have been listening to nonstop. (No, I’m still not over Wildest Dreams (Taylor’s Version) and neither should you be. I also found the very talented Gracie Abrams last week and her voice is so beautiful.
How has life been treating you, friend? Here’s to a wonderful November – and a lovely NaNoWriMo for all of us taking up the challenge. I hope you enjoyed the post & tell me in the comments if you did! I’ve missed this space 💕 Until next time xx
p.p.s. Red. Taylor’s Version. 9 DAYS.