The hike to the summit of Koubru
For a man who live and thrive at the foothill of this majestic mountain range and having not ascent the summit for all its beauty, legacy and myths associated with it, is rather inexcusable. As a matter of fact I spent most of my idyllic days under the shadow of this colossal mountain smitten by its pristine beauty and awed by its loftiness.
There was always this burning desire to clamber up and unravel the legion of mystery shrouded with it but somehow I managed to evade this as it invariably collided with some rather far more important obligations that were impossible for me to dodge. Academic obligations like exam and internal test was one preponderant factor and the rest more of a pretext.
This edifice for all its munificence is the provider and benefactor for the people living under its wing. The verdure freshness and its lush vegetations provide us with crisp air and as such the swathes of land beneath it experiences salubrious and temperate climes all the year round. The water that emanates from its limbs tastes sublime. Besides it feeds our rivers and fields. For thousands the wide expanse of the fertile range is the ultimate source of livelihood. It provides us food, firewood and wild groceries.
Deifying this great mountain and ascending its summit every turn of the year to pay obeisance to this munificent provider only adds to the halo of greatness attributed to it.
But human lust and wantonness has no cure as we plunder this munificent provider of all its splendour and wealth. I have a premonition that this provider of ours will one day unleash its full wrath on us like the flash flood that was witnessed in the early part of the 2000, at Keithelmanbi village. And the portents are everywhere.
Weeks before, my Kwakeithel friends called up to inform me that an expedition to that summit was in the offing and enquired if I was interested. As always, I heartily accepted the invitation but they were filled with misgivings. For every year I used to agree to be a part of the team but somehow pulled out at the last moment. The date was fixed for the 8th of April.
By the quirk of fate the date again coincided with an important meeting where my presence was crucial. But I did not have the heart to tell them as I had always played the spoilsport.
Fortunately, the ascent was to begin at night so this enabled me to attend the meeting at Imphal and also take part in the expedition. The meeting procrastinated till late all for the filibustering of the speakers who blabbered on as if the microphone belongs to their fathers. It was almost dark as I arrived at Khoyathong bus parking, our rendezvous, only to be accosted by my miffed friends who had to wait for hours.
At Motbung bazaar we purchased the required provisions, not to forget the sacred water and then made haste to my home. They did the culinary jobs while I packed my appurtenances. It was decided to start the ascent by midnight. As we were carousing under the starry-lid night of April it was suddenly interrupted by the rumblings of thunderstorm accompanied by turbulent rains. It was around 10 pm as such we decided to move out by early morning.
It was still drizzling when the team set out for the ascent. It’s a taboo for Christians to work, embark a journey or adventure on Sunday and but the die was cast and there was no going back.
Since the blue-law was in force autos were scarce on Sundays. After waiting for almost an hour a heathen dropped us till the foothills. The clock had struck 30 past six. The team of four-Inao, I, Thembung and Rudra slowly and tediously clambered up the steep, narrow and slippery path with our cumbersome bag and baggage that was to consume ten back-breaking hours.
As we trudged up we were occasionally accosted by fellow climbers who had returned from their jaunt motivating and heart lifting every climber they came across. But these words of encouragement evaporated no sooner we soaked ourselves in the scorching sun and the steep path almost kissing your face.
As the journey lengthened the path became narrower, slippery and steeper sapping all our energy thereby forcing us to take rest after every ten or twenty minutes. It was also fraught with puddles and slush.
At times we hit cross-roads and deviated to wrong directions. Among the group Inao was the liability as such we had to procrastinate our journey so as to give him time to rest and rejuvenate.
What confounded me was the sight of many old persons and children undertaking this excruciating journey. The sight of beautiful damsels clambering upwards was both surprising as well as morale boosting. If not I would have abandoned the journey half way. It became more exciting as we moved on as one is welcome by the pristine vegetations and cool breeze prancing around your face. It was a joy to behold.
After six enervating hours we reached a small brook christened Emoinu brook but I am not sure what was it named in local parlance ? There we decided to stop over for lunch. The water tasted exquisite and was like an elixir. We gobbled up our meal laced with few sips, replenished our empty bottles and resumed the journey.
Candidly put, our team must be the feeblest group among all the trekkers as we had consumed an extraordinary amount of time in scaling the summit. Even children, women and the older folks were nimbler and beat us to the punch. But the good thing was I lost five pounds of my excess flab and all the remnants of smokes and fermented juice that were stashed inside my frame for many years.
As we inched closer to the summit one could feel the redolence of the immaculately fresh air and the fragrance of the pristine wild. It was surreal and the ambience was unearthly. Behold nature in its full glory ! The whole peak was covered by fog but it was not the tear jerking smog experience of the city. Rather they were fluffy clouds joyously frolicking around your face welcoming and soothing you.
It even beggars description in portraying the panoramic beauty of the summit and the tranquility associated with it. I was awed, smitten and in fulsome admiration of the hands that created this masterpiece-peerless and second to none.
The summit was sprawling with hundreds of tents of various sizes. We raised ours near a big pond and busied ourselves in collecting firewood and water. After the pre-prandial drinks we had a sumptuous meal inside our tent as the chilly wind was frantically slapping its sides. Jaded and befuddled I snored into peace only to be awoken by extreme pain in my legs. I must have attracted cramp. Fortunately we had taken along some analgesics and after shoving down two tablets down my gullets the pain dissipated.
Meanwhile, a PA system was faintly blaring at a distance chiming one of my favourite Manipuri songs from Ranbir Thouna’s- Lapna tanaraga helli nungshi… lulling me to a blissful slumber.