Day 9 (Thangshing -Tshoka)
Today’s trek from Thangshing to Tshoka was a long and hurried one, as we had more distance to cover than originally planned. Our cook woke up earlier than usual that morning to prepare breakfast and packed lunches (Vegetable Calzone, boiled egg, boiled potatoes and apple) for us. To save time, the plan was for us to have packed lunch at Deorali. At Deorali, we saw the same group of elderly Japanese trekkers enjoying freshly cooked meals while sitting on foldable tables and chairs. I presumed they must have been the group who occupied Kokchurong the night before. Looks like in trekking too, the phrase – “the early bird catches the worm” runs true.
At Tshoka, we rested at the cafe while waiting for our pack animals to arrive. Outside the cafe, a group of men tried to fix a new set of horseshoes on a horse. It looked like a painful process, as it involved driving nails into the horse’s hooves. However, if done properly, it is not supposed to be painful at all. This is analogous to getting a manicure on a human fingernail, albeit on a larger scale.
Tonight, we enjoyed our last dinner out in the field. As a farewell dinner, the cook baked a cake with icing words that read “Happy Trek Ending” for us. Whoever said that you need an oven to bake a cake? Our guide also bought us a jar of home-made millet beer from the cafe. The beer called Tongba was consumed in a unique way. The fermented millet was put in a bamboo container (jug) and boiled water was then poured in it to the brim. It was to be left undisturbed for 5 mins after which the beer can be drank directly from a bamboo straw. As the beer was drank, more boiled water was poured into the jug till the alcohol was depleted. According to our guide, the remaining millet in the beer will eventually be fed to the horses. Unfortunately, I am a poor drinker who doesn’t know much about alcohol, but to me, the Tongba tasted more like red wine than beer. It did taste quite nice but we didn’t finish it for fear of a hangover the next day.
Our guide, porters and yaksman sang some Nepali folk songs, including the popular trekking song – Resham Firiri, for us. We turned dumbfounded when we were requested by our guide to sing some Singaporean folk songs. Singapore, being a young country, does not really have any catchy or original folk songs. We do have a genre of songs called “Xinyao” that is unique to Singapore, but sadly, none of us could remember any of the lyrics. To satisfy our audience, we ended up singing some Hong Kong pop songs instead. Our guide and his helpers must be puzzled why it took us so long to sing as singing is like a second nature to them. It was definitely an awkward moment for us then.
Day 10 (Tshoka – Yuksom – Darjeeling)
Today’s journey was a super long one – a 5 hrs trek to Yuksom followed by another 4 hrs jeep ride to Darjeeling. Like yesterday, our cook woke up earlier to prepare breakfast and packed lunches for us. After breakfast, we thanked the guide and his helpers personally and also gave them tips for their hard work. As for the horses, we had nothing to give except our apples which they munched away happily. We forgot about the dzos though… Anyway, they did not look very approachable.
We had a quick lunch beside a waterfall. The first sign of civilization that we saw was the village huts at the edge of Yuksom. For once, our guide seemed to be happier than us, for he uttered a happy loud cheer when he saw the village fences. He, his wife and children lived and operated a small business – a trekkers’ cafe in Yuksom. It was Home Sweet Home for him. For us, we were looking forward to our hotel in Darjeeling to finally enjoy a proper hot shower and comfortable bed.
The jeep was already loaded with our luggage and waiting for us by the road when we reached the pick-up point in Yuksom. The pack animals with our baggage had reached Yuksom well ahead of us. We boarded the jeep and embarked on a super winding journey to Darjeeling. It was already nightfall when we reached our hotel – Kasturi Palace. The hotel was rather disappointing. The shower tap had loosen and i had to use my Swiss Army Knife to fix it. Furthermore, the water heater capacity was small, resulting in our hot shower turning cold after a short while. The hotel cafe was closed by the time we got there. We were too tired and lazy to look for food outside the hotel and settled for cup noodles and canned food which we brought from home.