Monday, September 26, 2011

Trek to Triund

Having stayed in Dharamkot, Dharamashala for a day though was not enough to acclimatize me with 1800 meters of altitude (having arrived from zero MSL) but that was the most I could have afforded in the short vacation that I was able to squeeze out from my routine job.

Triund is about 2875 meters above MSL and 9 kms from Bagsu. This is the site from where the Dhauladhar Range of the Himalayas is visible –provided the weather allows. This is an important piece of advice I’d have for anyone who has plans of visiting Triund –please do not visit during the monsoon, you would be just wasting your efforts, time and money. The best time is October when the trek is comfortable and you find no fogs or clouds to block the sight. I’ve heard from people that the sight of the range is so majestic and so huge from Triund that you would sometimes feel that it’s so close you can almost touch it.

From this site, rock rather; I could see the whole of Bagsu and Dharamkot. My guide promised me better sight from a much higher altitude. The windcheater went in and my water bottle came out. I realized that for the entire trek up, I would need the later more than the former. Three more such halts in less than an hour and my 500 ml water bottle was empty. Another piece of advice –have a light breakfast before starting (I had one Aloo Parotha) and drink as little water, rather keep a little water in your mouth –do not drink or spit that.Our trail started at 8:00 AM instead of 7:00 AM from Dharamkot due to some unavoidable circumstances with my guide. Another piece of advice: do not venture out on your own, hire a guide. My guide charged me Rs500 for the whole day. Haridas having been a resident of Dharamkot for more than 20 years knew not only the people but also the way, weather and waterfalls very well. So to make up for the late start, we took a short cut. Short cuts on the plains and short cuts in the mountains are poles apart. Apparently this [short] cut was steep through rocks and narrow passages. At the beginning as I was warming up, I felt nice with the long strides and rhythmic breathing… it was comforting as well. After sometime at this pace –I walk a bit faster- my lungs which were already pumping fresh air into the body wanted a break. Such was our rise and the pace that our first break came just after 30 minutes into the trek.

My guide –God bless his soul- was a great company. All along the way he kept talking about how the State Government can do a better job of promoting tourism by improving the trail on which we were so that even 2 and 4 wheelers can make it up-to Triund. Having someone to do the talking [I had no intension of spending energy talking all along the way] kept my mind off of thinking how difficult the trail was… especially the short cut.

All along the way we met many people –friends of Haridas. We crossed a herdsman who was taking his cows up the mountains to graze on fresh grass. Later while we were resting an old man came by with a huge bundle of dried sticks on his back which would be used as firewood for cooking. Haridas and the old dude spoke is some Pahadi language which was very close to Hindi and I could make out bits and pieces of their conversation. They spoke about general day to day stuff of crops, livestock and weather. By this time we had caught the original trail [no more short cuts] and the inclination were not as steep. The trail was comfortable for the most part except for a few bends where we scaled up more than 7 feet. Very steep stuff! Earlier in the day while we were resting there was a tall lanky guy who had crossed us. Haridas told me that the fellow had a tea shop high up in the mountains along the way to Triund. Now to be honest, I saw very less people on the trail and I was wondering who would want to open a tea shop high up there? An hour later I got my answer.
After a dozen bends and breaks and sight points along the trail we came upon Magic View –a halt on the way to Triund. This is where the tea shop was. This point is along the trail facing a valley from where we could see Bagsu, McLeodgunj and Dharamashala through the clouds and absolute greenery that was surrounding us. Having arrived at Magic View with an empty water bottle and lower energy levels, the sight of fresh water bottles and juices was very soothing. We finally settled down there while the owner [same tall guy] prepared hot lemon juice for the two of us. Except for the ringing of the bells tied around the cattle’s throat grazing in the mountains there was absolute silence. I savored the silence as I sipped the warm lemon juice. After having trekked for almost a couple of hours [or more], sitting there watching the clouds sail past the valley and hearing the light mellowed down bells I felt as if I could sit there forever. There was nothingness in my mind and I was at peace with myself. Its hard on my part to explain what I went through there.

Later when we were leaving Magic View the owner of the shop told me the money due for the goodies that I had bought from him. I realized that I would have paid even more if he had asked for –having experienced the pain of carrying whatever little I was carrying from Dharamkot. And well, more than him, it’s the travelers like us who need a place to rest and a nice warm juice to drink after having come this far.
By the way, I forgot to mention, we crossed a few waterfall also along the way… not the big ones but we had to tiptoe on a few rocks to cross them. The water was cold and fresh and every time I crossed one, I splashed water on my face… it kind of freshened me up for little while. Except for one, all were unsafe to drink –thanks to Haridas for this piece of info.

Just after crossing Magic View we had to take a bend along the mountain and for a short few seconds Haridas showed me through the clouds what is known as Moon Peak. Now I saw the peak only for a few seconds maybe but I was awed. What was so surprising was that there were two mountains just in front of me across the valley whose tops were covered with clouds and somewhere much much higher was the place where the clouds had opened up from where I got the view of Moon Peak. The peak was so clear it seemed that it was oh-so-close-by, but where did it rise from? I could see two much smaller mountains in front of me… then higher up you have the clouds and then… much higher was the Moon Peak. Amazing!

However the clouds came in and the sight was gone. The rest of the trail was through the forest as we climbed higher and higher. In the earlier part of the trail the forest was not dense and we could see grassland, however as we came closer to the top, the forest got denser and darker and the ascent was steep at a few places… moisture levels were also pretty high. With the sun out of the way, we took lesser breaks. Haridas kept telling me all along the way how much more time was left which kind of encouraged me to make it… and finally I could see open grassland. We were at Triund! I made it…. Probably it took me 4 hours or so. We were greeted with light drizzle which then turned into strong downpour. We took shelter at a tea shop there and settled down to lunch on the remaining parathas.
While we were at the top a lot of people came up and crossed us -all trekkers with huge backpacks moving towards Laka and beyond. There was no point waiting for the clouds to open up… the day was gradually ending. But I decided that I would come back one day and see the Dhauladhars from there. God willing I’d also want to go upto Laka, the Snow-line and Moon Peak. Someday. While I was there, every now and then a cloud would sail across us. These would rise up from the valleys or come down from the mountains. There is a Guest House also available at the top for those who’d want to stay overnight while on their way further.
Our journey down had hardly any halts, except for a time off at Magic View. However I had to be careful least should I fall off the bends being unable to turn. My guide always kept warning me –going down may seem easy but is equally dangerous; respect the mountains. About an hour and a half later we were at Bagsu. My legs felt like lead. After coming down, having freshened up and before I retired to bed I thought about the day. How it felt to be scaling a mountain… one step at a time each breathes priceless, each drop of water precious… the glimpse of Moon Peak, and the coveted Triund. I am confident that I would go there again… and go beyond Triund.

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