As Sajek welcomed us with its hazy mountains and torrential rains, we forgot the worldliness we left behind in Dhaka.
We instantly forgot how challenging the last semester was, how gruesome work-life balance was, and how excruciating in general Dhaka life had been. All that mattered were the beautiful rains and the happy faces of our friends around us.
This writer went for a batch trip to Sajek Valley last week, along with her friends from the Economics Department of the University of Dhaka. What was anticipated as a regular trip turned out to be a plethora of lifelong memories.
The trip started on the night of June 12 with a long bus journey. Our reactions were prominent as soon as the bus left Dhaka. We seemed to ward off the hassle that Dhaka life brought.
This, however, peaked as soon as hills were spotted in Chittagong. Our trapped souls found bliss in nature, wondering how marvellous it’d be to live right there.
We landed on Khagrachhari early in the morning, the nightly haze still kissing our cheeks. We joked and laughed, knowing each other in a capacity we’d never known before.
We boarded three Chaander Gaaris, the local vehicles made by recycling pick-up vans used for tourist transportation. And as the tradition there, we ditched the seats to board on the roof of the cars.
The zigzagging roads swayed us, making us scream at the top of our lungs. The local children, however, found this supremely amusing, never forgetting to wave at us as we crossed them.
Sajek itself had been marvellous in its welcome. No sooner had we checked in, it started raining. We were immensely grateful to our organisers for the brilliant choice of resort.
The view from our balconies had mountains hugging chunks of clouds, each of them telling us to forget our worries and embrace the moment. Friends laughed and poured their hearts out in conversations.
We decided to go out at the night for some local food. We found an amazing local restaurant, Chhimbal, to have a barbeque party. The live music there attracted tourists of all ages. We, being right on our youths, were perhaps the loudest, but definitely not the most synchronised participants in the chorus.
The night passed on and we craved some tea. We found a cosy tea place run by a Mizo woman, Teli Lusai. We had conversations with her as she walked on the streets carrying her baby, Moimoi on her back.
It was inspiring, indeed, to see an indigenous single mother running her business. This reflects the generally progressive social setup of Sajek, where we girls could safely roam around.
The next morning began with us exploring the local helipad. The walk to the helipad is extremely beautiful, with clouds sleeping on the roads and mountains from faraway Mizoram smiling at us. The walk through clouds while checking out eccentric flowers and trees on both sides of the road led us to the helipad, from where we could observe the whole area from above.
In the afternoon, we trekked to the peak of Konglak. The roads have been slippery and most of us were novices in trekking, but we held on to each other and ascended, perhaps a metaphor for the bond we share.
It was nothing like anything we’ve experienced before, with the supreme height and clouds distancing us from every pettiness, alleviating us to a destination we never knew existed.
On our way back, we decided to check out the famous Bamboo Biriyani of Peda Ting Ting. We were amazed at the distinct cooking process of Biriyani in bamboo sticks.
The local population apt at the service also never fails to be extremely kind and hospitable in their behaviour, with genuine care for their customers. Each time the conversations with them reminded us of the innocence and brilliance of the people of Chittagong Hill Tracts.
The next morning we headed off to Khagrachhari. We had our lunch in System, a famous local restaurant and tasted local cuisine like Bashkorol, Baasher Daal etc. The simplicity and freshness of the food here seemed unparalleled.
Soon after lunch, we went to Risang Falls. After quite a trail, we came to the site. The stone structure was quite slippery and had some risks for novices.
But here, too, we held on to each other. Some of our friends volunteered to ensure that everyone could shower safely. Most of us, especially the girls, had never been to such waterfalls.
We got drenched, having the moist rocks beneath us and the deep jungles all around. We felt harmony with nature, reclaiming our connection with the mother earth. The cold water, the shenanigans of our friends, and the liberation all of it brought, made us feel truly alive.
We went to Alutila cave in the evening. The arduous walk provided an adventure for the energetic ones among us. However, the pollution presents even in the cave unsettled us immensely.
The neighbouring site provided a brilliant view itself, with the Khagrachhari town visible in the distance. As the lights went on with the darkness of the mountains acting as a velvety veil, we unlearned every malice and embraced the simplicity it whispered.
The journey back home was due on the night of June 15. We numbed out as melancholy fell upon us. We knew it was time to end this day of sheer joy and wonder and embrace the practicalities life has in store for us.
But we didn’t come as the same person who went. We got to know each other a lot more, for better or for worse.
We learned to be there for one another just as we learned that we will always have our friends by our side, ensuring we never slip. We learned that the best way to ascend is to ascend with everyone.
The writer is an Economics sophomore at the University of Dhaka.