Friday, 10 October 2008



In March 2001 an article appeared in the TGO (The Great Outdoors) magazine advertising its 'Reader's Trek', which this year was to the Indian Territory of Sikkim, a route through the foothills of Kangchenjunga. The trek was organised by KE Adventure Travel in Keswick, Cumbria.

I had never been on such an expedition before so I was rather apprehensive when I booked up, but the staff at KE were very helpful and reassuring.

As well as getting the cash together to pay for the trip, I also had to apply for a Visa and get various innoculations. However all my flights were booked and arranged by KE so that was at least one less concern.

To view details of all the photos taken on this trip link here.

Saturday 3 November 2001

I arrived at Aberdeen Airport prior to 0700 hours to check-in for the BA 1303 flight to London Heathrow, which was due to take off at 0825 hours. I was advised at check-in, that the flight would be delayed due to fog at Heathrow and boarding would probably be around 0830 hours, which it was. Once on board the flight we were notified that there was still a delay and that the flight would now take off at 1005 hours. I spoke with an air stewardess regarding being unable to connect with my flight to Delhi, which was due to leave London at 1100 hours and was advised that I would be put on another flight, probably via Amsterdam or somewhere similar.

At 1010 hours we were advised that the take off time had been changed again and that the cabin crew were now over their working hours and therefore the flight was cancelled. We were told to vacate the aircraft, retrieve our luggage and go to the BA Ticket Sales. This I did joining the queue around 1045 hours.

About 1330 hours I reached the front of the queue, and after a dispute with a BA representative regarding flights, I was booked on the 1600 hours flight to Heathrow and the BA143 flight from London Heathrow to Delhi at 1130 hours the following day. (4 November.) I was advised this flight was over-subscribed by fifty, so I would need to be at Heathrow early to ensure a seat.

At 1720 hours, 80 minutes late, the flight out of Aberdeen took off arriving in London at 1830 hours. At a hotel check-in desk I booked into the Comfort Inn, Shepiston Lane, Hayes, Middlesex. The cost for bed only was £85 with a £5 booking fee. I had to wait for about forty minutes for a bus to transfer me to the hotel arriving there around 2000 hours. Once I had checked in I had a snack and then retired for evening.

Sunday 4 November 2001

At 0650 hours I left hotel by bus for Terminal 3, Heathrow and transferred by train to Terminal 4, arriving there an hour later. Flight details instructed passengers to wait in the lounge but after waiting till 0840 hours I spoke to a BA representative and explained my cancelled and delayed flights with him. I was immediately shown to a check-in queue where I was attended to within a few minutes and had a seat on the Delhi flight. The only time that BA staff in my opinion were efficient.

On boarding the aircraft I became aware that the previous day’s flight to Delhi, which I was supposed to be on, was delayed and had still not taken off. I later learned that this was due to a bomb threat and mechanical problems. At 1230 hours, one hour late, my flight took off, with my original flight to Delhi still grounded.

Monday 5 November 2001

At 0200 hours, (2030 hours GMT) my flight arrived at Delhi and once I had cleared Immigration and retrieved my baggage I was met by a representative of Rimo Expeditions, KE’s agents in India. This was one of my concerns as I had phoned KE from Aberdeen to advise them that my flight had been cancelled. They assured me that I would be met in Delhi so I was pleased to see the representative and that KE had been very efficient in traking my movements. The Rimo Represntative showed me to an old Westminster taxi, with silk curtains and took me to the Imperial Hotel in Delhi. At the Hotel the receptionist had been instructioned that on my arrival to wake the trek leader, Rex Munro, an Australian.

Rex arrived a few minutes later and after introductions he explained that the majority of the party was delayed and that only two others, Drew Lambie and Gill Griffin who had travelled by Gulf Air, were at the Hotel. He advised me that breakfast was at 0700 hours and he would see me then. I changed money at the reception and was shown to my room where after a while I managed to grab a couple of hours sleep.

At 0700 hours I met Rex in the Hotel garden for breakfast where we were joined by Drew and Gill. Drew originated from Edinburgh but was now staying down south. A discussion took place as to what I wanted to do as I had missed the day’s tour of Delhi which Drew and Gill had done the previous day. I decided just to go with them on our next part of the expedition, which was to Darjeeling.

After breakfast we were taken to the airport where Rex and the Rimo representative booked us onto the flight to Bagdogra. They then left to go to the International arrivals to meet the rest of the group on the delayed London flight in the hope that they could be transferred in time to catch the Bogdogra flight, which only went once a day. However the flight to Bagdogra took off on time without the rest of the group.

The flight to Bagdogra went via Guwahati where some passengers left and others joined. We arrived in Bagdogra at 1340 hours and were transferred to a jeep, which took us to Darjeeling, which lies at 2307 metres up a long steep climb of several hours. En-route we stopped at a café for a bite to eat.

At Darjeeling we were taken to the Windamere Hotel arriving there around 1805 hours and shown to our rooms. It was a very old fashioned hotel with a coal fire in my room, which I didn't want lit. This was a mistake as a short time later it became a lot colder so I had to go and arrange for it to be lit. I declined the hot water bottle though. Dinner consisted of four courses with a pot of tea before retiring to my room to read and watch television. The bed was very hard but I had a reasonable sleep till about 0400 hours when I found the bed very uncomfortable.

Tuesday 6 November 2001

Hindu Temple

Breakfast was around 0900 hours and afterwards I went with Drew and Gill, to visit a Hindu Temple on Observatory Hill. We walked round the hill and down to the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park where we saw red pandas, a snow leopard, a Tibetan wolf and a Himalayan black bear. We met kids from Nepal who wanted photos but I managed to avoid this and but they got there photos with Gill, which delighted them.

We also visited the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, which was very interesting as Sherpa Tenson, who came from Darjeeling, was prominent in the exhibitions. We also visited his statue and where he was cremated.

After a four course lunch with tea I went shopping and bought a picture, some postcards and presents before returning to the Hotel where I had tea and cake and wrote my postcards.

About 1845 hours the remainder of the group arrived in Darjeeling and we heard the reasons for their delayed flight. One woman, Stephen’s wife, decided not to travel after the problems at take off, and had returned home. The trekking group now consisted of sixteen plus Rex, the trek leader.

Dinner was at 2000 hours and at 2300 hours we retired to bed. I placed my thermarest on top of the mattress which made the bed more comfortable.

This link will take you to other photos taken this day.

Wednesday 7 November 2001

Breakfast was at 0800 hours and at 0900 hours we left Darjeeling by jeep. My fellow occupants were Cameron and Gina McNeish and Ian Smith. We set off for Pelling via Legship stopping en route for lunch. However I didn’t bother with lunch and went for a short walk with Drew and Gill.

At 1530 we arrived at Phamrong Hotel, Pelling (1949 metres) where we booked in. I was sharing a room with Ian. I had a stroll round the small village before dinner and bed at 2115 hours.

Thursday 8 November 2001

An earlier breakfast this morning at 0730 hours, before we left the hotel by jeep at 0815 hours. We visited a Buddhist Monastery before heading for Uttarey (2685 metres) which was the end of the road and the start of the trek. Here we met up with the porters, kitchen staff, yak men and sherpas led by Tashi (Wangail Soth Tashi) who was to be the local leader.

Our bags were packed onto the yaks and we set off through the woods on the start of the hike. Originally we were to start elsewhere but due to problems between the Nepalese and Indians this wasn’t possible. The trek was led by a sherpa and around 1200 hours we stopped for lunch. Other sherpas were positioned throughout the group thus allowing us to walk at our own pace. I was normally up front, in the first four, with Rex and a sherpa taking up the rear.

After lunch we continued uphill, slightly steeper now but with no real problems, to a small grassy plateau at Chitre (2685 metres) where the tents had already been pitched. We had hot orange, a briefing, and allocated our sleeping quarters. I was very fortunate as I was allocated a two-man tent for my own use as Ian, whom I shared with in the hotels, had paid for single occupancy. The rest of the party were paired up. We had some hot chocolate and then sorted out our gear.

Dinner was in the mess tent at 1830 hours and was followed by another briefing before we retired at 2000 hours.

The weather that day was sunny periods then clouding over with some rain, thunder and lightning around 1800 hours.

Ascent for the day was 765 metres with a descent of 45 metres. Maximum altitude was 2680 metres.