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“We are pushing our comfort zone to another distinct adventure, do you know that?” After signing up for a 5-days Djongri-la trek, while we were at Yuksom, Alex asked me. Yes, we are! Djongri trek seems to be the most popular trek in Sikkim and its level of difficulty is very low. In fact, the amount of senior citizens we met on the mountains were compatible to the young ones, if not more. So, what did we stressed out about? You may ask.

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All travel agencies offer Djongri-la VIP trek package from US$35 onwards per head/day. Normally the package for 2 trekkers is: they get a guide, a cook and assistant cook, 4-5 porters to carry food, sleeping bags, chairs and tables, tants etc. plus your personal belongings. A package for more than 2 trekkers, they get yuks or horses in addition to the porters. You can imagine a team from 6-8 people serve 2 trekkers. 3 trekkers or more, they get a group of 6-8 people plus 3-4 yuks or horses. They get chairs and tables laid out nicely for their meals and constant attention from the crew. It looks quite impressive in term of the man power and resources they utilise on the mountains… That’s why it’s call ‘VIP’ trip.

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We can only afford a budget trip, US$20 per head/day and all we got was a porter/guide. We have to carry our own luggage, no sleeping bag and no tent. Although the fee includes food and accommodation, we would eat what our guide eats, and will sleep where he sleeps. Don’t think of taking shower, the water is even too cold for brushing teeth…

In order to avoid carrying heavy sleeping bag, we invested in a thin fleece sleeping bag and hoped our survivor blanket (donated by Martine and Fabienne) would trap our body heat within our bed to keep us warm. It should be sufficient down to 5 degree… we thought. However, it was a big mistake!

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Up there it was at least -5 degree and it was snowing at our last overnight destination – Djongri. The porter cum guide turned out to be not porter nor guide, he is actually a cook. We were his first customers as a guide!

Despite we were the smallest trekker group, we were also instantly famous on the mountains for the only trekkers cum jokers who didn’t bring any sleeping bag. Everyone was furious at the agency that sent us up there.

“It can be done with this budget package up to Djongri. Beyond Djongri is impossible!” Our travel agent Mr. Karan said. Yes, it could be done only with some luck… People were donating blankets and food for us. Otherwise we wouldn’t be standing here and laughing about our trip!

After all the stress and struggle, the trip was indeed incredibly rewarding. We had a chance to be close to the Tibetans who live on the mountains. We ate local food, and sat in restaurant’s kitchen where firewood was burning. Our food was simple but more than sufficient. Our accommodation… Well! I gained bites all over my body from the dirty mattress and perhaps blankets… They look like flee bites though…

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Jing

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