What was Triund all about? Triund was a popular trekking spot and well known in Mcleodganj. One could camp there for the night under the stars or just do a day long trek like what I was about to do.
Last time, I crossed Shiva Cafe – the infamous one past the Bhagsu waterfalls and saw a route that would lead to Triund but I was scared to do it all alone and I was unprepared and it was already mid afternoon. But this time I hired a guide and I was prepared or so I thought.
The day I arrived I also messaged a friend of mine who lived in Dharamsala. A Colonel, we met at the airport when I was going back to Delhi from Dharamsala last year, a friendship was forged. When he visited Hyderabad, he came to the cafe and spent time with us.
A nice straight forward man, patriotic to the core and very logical in his thoughts. So this time when I messaged him, he was dismayed I surprised him like that as he was in Jammu on some training. He was lamenting that I should have given him advance notice. He messaged saying he would be back as soon as he could before I left.
It was time for the trek and I decided to eat very light with some chai and went to the reception. I was a greeted by a tiny young man who seemed Nepali. His name was Suraj. He would be my guide for the day and the hotel guys assured me I was in safe hands. He was popular among trekkers and most of them asked for him on their treks.
As we started walking, Suraj gave me two options. 1. We could take a taxi and stop at Gallu Devi Temple and from there would start the 6+ kilometres trek to Triund OR 2. Keep walking till Gallu Devi which was 4 kilometres. I opted for the latter as somehow taking the taxi sounded off to me. This was a trek!
We walked to the Chowk and started our ascent to Dharamkot. For all the trekking I did my huffing and panting started as we started walking up.
Dharamkot was way above Mcleodganj so the entire path to it was a steep ascent. I remembered the last time experience too. Recollecting the descent I would do later motivated me to go up faster.
The sun was hitting us and I was already sweating and panting.When did it become so hot here? As we reached Dharamkot, Suraj took a detour towards the trekking trails, the ascents were not that steep like the previous ones but the sun was harsh. It was already 8 am and with the sunlight hitting the eyes it was getting uncomfortable.
As we started ascending through the forest crossing Deodar and Oak trees, I started feeling dizzy, really dizzy and almost faint like. I couldn’t believe what was happening to me!
Then I wanted to kick myself in the ass. After all the trekking experience, I should have eaten well! I ate one roti last night and one plain roti early morning, how the hell was it going to help me?? Other than a water bottle, I carried no chocolates nor fruit juices.
I took a moment to sit and poured water on my face. The sun was unforgiving now.
Suraj was caring. He told me to sit down while he would rush to Gallu Devi temple which was still a good 2 kms away and get me something. We were in the forest and there was nothing around us. The first Dhaba was near the temple. I told him NO, just 5 minutes rest and we can start walking. I just needed to get my bearings right.
Chanting to myself, I will not faint I will not faint we started walking. It was rocky and slippery a bit. Slowly with some fresh breeze hitting me, I started feeling better, I just had to hold on until we reached the Dhaba.
There was a dog that followed us from Dharamkot and I was glad he was with us. Suraj didn’t shoo him away either. He was a friendly guy who sat next to me while I sat down to get some rest. When we kept going, he would go ahead and wait for us.
Finally we reached the temple and I was so glad when I saw the Dhaba, the first thing I did was take Gatorade and that revived me completely. I had breakfast and told Suraj to have some and he was very shy refusing initially. I prodded him to join me. The dog had two eggs omelette and the dhaba owner was considerate enough to not add chillies when I told it was for him.
I was talking to a Tibetan guy who was here with his whole family that would join him later. He told me he was looking for rooms here and it was so expensive. It dawned on me that the whole thing had become commercial, including Triund. I saw 5-6 cars parked outside the temple and tourists starting their trek from here. And this was still the off peak season.
Totally rejuvenated I bid goodbye to the dog who was sitting satisfied and resting at the Dhaba.
Treks like these means you get to spend a lot of time with people, especially if you are alone. Slowly Suraj started opening up. He was a Nepali but for him Dharamsala was the only home he knew as his grandfather migrated here long back.
They lived in a joint family and his father was retired from the Army and still did some odd jobs to keep himself occupied. His cousin whom he was close to worked in a restaurant in Goa and he was pretty happy, he did get offers from Goa but he could never imagine moving away from Dharamsala. One knows so much about other people and their lives…
Now the ascent started becoming tough, we crossed the post where cops were stationed. I came to know this was because of trekkers/tourists walking with alcohol bottles, trashing them, causing accidents so there was a registry to check in.
It was rocky, very sunny, hot weather and no relief. Frankly the weather was getting to me, not the ascent. This was totally doable but getting the Himalayan perfect weather was a bonus, this was heat and sweat.
We met all kinds of people on our way up. The usual loud noisy tourists mostly from Punjab, young couples from Delhi, college student couples, lots of Israelis bouncing like mountain goats on the trekking trails and other foreigners dressing up like they were at a beach in Goa 🙂
I told Suraj about Roopkund and the first thing he asked is did you do it with Indiahikes?? The travel company he worked with collaborated with Indiahikes on certain treks! This was news! From guides to porters, mules to kitchen teams, Yup it was a small world out there.
Just on cue Suraj said a big Hi to a guy walking back, he was a trek lead with Suraj’s travel company and recently he led a group to Roopkund! We briefly exchanged a few stories and we were on our way.
We stopped at this Dhaba that had this notice that proudly declared ‘Magic View Point’ and stating it’s the oldest cafe here! and How old was it?? 1984! Anything to get the business going 🙂
I saw a stunning young Himachali woman carrying her baby up and as she rested there I asked if I can hold her baby, without any hesitance she smiled and gave her baby girl to me. We had some chai together and off she went, faster upwards before I could blink.
After some time, 3 kms away from Triund, the ascent became really steep and very rocky. Most of the rocks were loose so one had to tread carefully, I was glad I got my trekking pole with me.
The mist enveloping the green mountains was something else though. This was a different scenery altogether!
We saw mountain goats and cows nicely perched on the edge and grazing away. Himachali women cutting grass and taking wood on the other side of the mountain, it was fantastic. There was also a slight drizzle but still not that cold.
Now I could see even the Israelis huffing and panting as the last 1.5 kilometres was near vertical steep ascent. Suraj on his part goaded, motivated me on and the conversations helped big time.
At one point I was thinking who does this?What kind of a kook am I that after a strenuous long trek to Roopkund, I actually sign up for this? What’s wrong with me?? 🙂
Finally we reached Triund and it was beautiful. Misty, drizzling and beautiful weather finally. We trekked 9.5 + kilometres one way and I was happy! But I saw so many tents, so many camping companies I was disappointed a bit.
This was a proper commercial place and it was still off peak season. Suraj mentioned there would be hundreds and hundreds of them from October to January, you wouldn’t have space to move.
As Suraj went to have lunch with his company group – they had a permanent camping site here, I wandered around.
There were mostly Israelis and lots of Marijuana floating around openly. And right nearby was the forest guard office. They didn’t touch the foreigners, their target was mostly Indians who would get pissed drunk, create a scene and generally think white women were easy, the usual shit.
The thing that hit me hard was seeing trash, yes so much trash around camping sites. Bottles, plastics, everything damn it. I truly appreciated and admired what Indiahikes was doing.They made it a point to pick up the trash while trekking and always tried their best to instill that in all the trekkers. Not one piece of trash was seen around Indiahikes camp sites.
I ascended towards this big rock and sat for an hour and half in silence. This was good, this was different. One had to open up their mind to different experiences. It was inevitable to compare it to what I experienced before, but one had to let go to experience something new right?
Time stood still as I looked at a solitary cow sitting comfortably on a huge rock, some sheep grazing, the mist clouding the mountains with zero visibility around Triund. There was beauty here too.. I was away from the camp sites, the noise, the foreigners and their stuff, just solitude.
Suraj softly called out to me, it was time to head back. He apologized for holding me up for an extra 30 minutes. He was helping his camp guys and he lost track of time. I told him I didn’t mind at all, it gave me a lot of peace.
They were preparing for a student group tomorrow, 86 people to be precise from Kerala! I was glad I came today. I shuddered thinking how it would be in Summer or during New Years.
When I told him about how commercial this place was, he told me about Lahesh Caves, Indrahar Pass trek.
This was beyond Triund and one could actually camp in those caves. The villagers residing in the caves also offered accommodation and the Indrahar Pass from there was an experience.
In the heart of Dauladhar ranges it gave an outstanding view of Greater Himalayan Ranges! I mentally made a note of it already. It will go in my Must do list for sure!
We started descending our way back and we could still see people ascending up at 2.30 pm. The weather was beautiful now. No sun, no hot weather, a little bit of drizzle and the whole scenery looked like we were in a Fantasy land. There were no noises coming from the tourists either, most of them had already camped up there.
Suraj started speaking about his boss who was a local and was married to a Russian doctor. She met him while she was trekking here and he was his guide. He would spend 3-4 months in Russia while she would stay 5-6 months here. It’s only after their marriage he started his company and now they organized tours not just in Himachal, but also Bike trips to Ladakh.
He had a collection of Enfields that one could hire as a group and go to Ladakh, he was an avid biker himself and led these bike tours. And with his wife’s network he had rich Russian clients for these tours. It was fascinating to hear all this. I could see how loyal Suraj was, he loved his Boss and it showed how well he took care of all his staff.
As we started descending, I saw a white guy just in shorts and running barefoot up the trail!
I waved at him gingerly and he came up to me with a big smile hugged me suddenly and said Isn’t it a beautiful day? and started running up again! I grinned big, we needed more people like these in today’s suspicion filled pessimistic world, don’t you think? 🙂
I looked back and saw the mist now completely covering Triund, one had a visibility of only 5 feet ahead now.
Slowly we made our way down as Suraj regaled me with Nepali stories, the local drink his father makes and a festival they have for it, his misadventures with other trekkers, accidents that happened frequently because of drinking and selfies (again!)and so many more.
Once we came to the forest I saw the beautiful Deodars, tall magnificent ones blocking the sunlight and you felt protected, you felt safe. I wanted to sit for a while and gaze at them and Suraj was kind enough to sit with me in silence.
As we started walking again I felt joy inside, just bursting out of me. It was an incredible feeling.. We were slowly moving towards civilization and on cue Suraj asked me Do you want to have Chai? this time I will pay! How could I refuse?
We stopped at Dharamkot and sipped on hot Chai. Suraj told his village was right below my hotel. One had to take a short cut through the trails and it was out and away from the noise and buzz.
The moment we reached the Chowk I bid him a warm goodbye and he gave me his phone number saying anytime you need anything, any help am there and am not saying this as a guide and do call me whenever you are here. I was touched.
I felt energized and the 19+ kms in one day didn’t bog me down at all, I went directly to the Samosa shop and met Vishal.
He was all smiles seeing me and the first thing he did was give me hot samosas with channa saying Aap bahut chale ho na? Ab khaalo! (you walked a lot right? Now Eat) After telling him about the trek, I made my way to the temple.
I sat there in silence, in contentment and I heard soft chants of the monks reverberating in the evening. The Tibetan devotees were lighting candles and it was peaceful and warm.
Coming out of the altar, I saw the evening debate sessions of the monks, I sat there for god knows how long and finally made my way to the hotel. There was bliss written all over my face.
The Kashmiri boys who took care of the hotel smiled warmly and asked Aap ka trek kaisa raha? (how was your trek?) What could I say? I thanked Azhar for giving me an awesome guide.
Just as I entered into my room, I saw a message from Geshe Lobsang, another senior Buddhist monk whom I met on my last trip to Mcleodganj. I had already messaged him about my trip here.
He invited me to the monastery he was currently staying at, Karmapa monastery, popularly known as Gyuto Tantra Monastery in Dharamsala.
Another day, another tomorrow and the journey continues..