Trek to Triund Hill: Ecstasy and Agony

I woke up at 5 O’clock in the morning. A bit of hangover…thanks to the beer and whisky. But it’s a magical view of Triund Hill outside of the window. It’s cold but still I crawl out of the quilt. It’s worth it.

It’s the second day since I’ve arrived and it’s a day of reckoning. I gulp down the last left peg and now I am fresh.  I have an awesome view of Dauladhar and camera in my hand and I am impatient to say the least.

“Uth ja yaar bahut time ho gaya.” (Wake up Bro, it’s time) I said after I thought we should head out.

“Abe yaar time kya hua?” (What’s the time) he asked. And when I said it’s going to be 6, he grudgingly obliged and so we headed out to have a walk.

It’s a beautiful morning with cloud cover caressing the peaks of Dauladhar and the belligerent sun rays piercing them to shine upon the land. In the hurry and excitement I walk out of the hotel with just my slippers on and the camera in my hand.

It’s a wonderful sight outside. The sun has just has just risen over the towering Himalayas and the dew drops on the grass are sparkling with the first rays. It’s the time for a sumptuous breakfast for the livestock.

We strolled a bit and then headed to a small joint in the village down the road for a cup of tea and some magi. It was there that we got talking with the owner who told us about various stream and how important it was to hire a guide and porter before embarking on trek to Kareri Lake.

After some discussions and deliberations we were told that Triund is a relatively easy hike which takes just over 2 hours (one way). We were also told that it would prepare us for the tougher trek to Kareri Lake.

It was such a beautiful day that we decided to have an acclimatization hike to Triund – like the starter that I never have before the drink – a friendly and moderate hike before we undertook the more arduous trek to Kareri Lake and Lam Dal.

From the Maggi shop, there was a trail leading up to Gallu Devi Temple. Even as we took the trail we were lost before we could walk a 1000 meters. The water pipes that we were following led us to a dead end. So we decided to leave the trail and climb up the mountain.

So lucky we were this time but not so when we decided to do so again when we were returning. But that story is for later.

After some frenzied search for another trail we found the trail leading up to Gallu Devi Temple. It was a beautiful trail up and down the hill and along the curves. Sometimes we were lost in the darkness of the densely forested trail and then suddenly the vista would open up to the hamlets hemmed in by the Dauladhar Range.

After an hour or so we reached Gallu Devi Temple. Depending upon from where you start your trek, the road from Dharamkot, Naddi and Bhagsunag meet at Gallu Devi Temple and from here a single goat trail lead you to Triund Hill,  Illaqa and the renowned Indrahaar Pass.

The trek beginning from Gallu Devi temple gets a bit tough, with steep gradient and curves. It took us about four hours of leisurely trek to reach Triund Hill. In between we met with several hikers some of whom were planning to turn back.

On our way to Triund we arrived at 2 back to back refreshment shops first one named Magic View Caf?. It proclaims to be the oldest tea shop on the trail – established in 1984. Here we had some tea and cold drinks – yes cold drink – and chocolates for refreshment along the trail.

As often the hike to Triund was full of self reflection and dialectics between two of us. We talked about life, traveling, career and I even took some decisions on what I am gonna do once I return to my “normal” life.

The conversation that we have during these hikes and breaks, in setting such as these, are always liberating an enlightening. It is perhaps the one of the most compelling reasons why I always come back to seek the refuge of the Himalayas.

The thing I LOVE MOST about being footloose in Himalayas is the chance to experience the world directly and without a filter, and to rediscover the rhythms of the day and the seasons. Hiking is an unscripted experience where spontaneity is the rule.

To explore, to escape our daily lives, to relax, to step outside ourselves and shake things up. I travel because I am curious. I never feel more alive. Traveling gives me opportunities to stumble upon new and exciting things, escape from my comfort zones and to fall in love with every new experience

One of the reasons why I travel is to find myself by stepping outside of myself and getting away from the chores of urban life.  In familiarity, our thoughts are shackled by the routine. Travelling – especially trekking – lets me challenge everything that is common, routine and established.

And that is where by brother comes in. He is such an inspiration, one who have taught me the new meanings of what it is to travel. I love his company during these escapes as conversing with him lets me identify new meanings and expands the horizon of my petty existence.

In a way, getting away – especially with my brother – becomes an essential way of effective thinking. What I enjoy most is the conversation both with myself and my companion. It lets me think with a new and fresh perspective – may be something to do with new surrounding and fresh air.

Coming back to the trail, Triund is a popular camp site and picnic spot. Accommodation could also be taken up in government guest house. Accommodation is reasonably cheap and available from INR 500 per night.

Food and water are nowadays easily available but at a premium price (Packages mineral drinking water cost INR 40). The trek which takes around 2-4 hours (depending upon your stamina) could be done in 1 day or you could camp for the night to watch the stunning panoramas during sunset and sunrise.

After our arrival in Trund, we spent half an hour at the camping site – basically, entire Triund is a camp site with one government rest house and many privately run camps along with plenty of shacks selling tea, magi and other refreshments.

From Triund we decided to stretch the limit of our acclimatization trek. So after some rest and savoring in the panorama we headed towards  Illaqa and the Snow Line Café. The café was named so because once upon a time, this place demarcated the snow covered hill from the rest.

It was a moderate hike well defined by yellow arrow lines pointing the way forward. The trail to  Illaqa was more awesome than tiring. At some places it appeared as if the trail ended but then the yellow pointers always came to our rescue. All along we had a magnificent view of the mighty Himalayan peaks. The view was sometimes more than 180 degrees panorama.

But the disappointing thing was the visible layer of pollution on what otherwise would have pure white beauty of cotton wool peaks of Dauladhar Range. The snow – as the owner of Snow Line café later recounted – has receded over the year thanks to the rampant commercialization and deforestation.

The weather was a bit nippy near  Illaqa although it was nearing afternoon. Since we didn’t had anything substantial to eat along the way, to say that I was a bit hungry would be an overstatement. At the café, the menu wasn’t quite munificent when it came to lunch.

We had the option to have magi once again (60 bucks) or the rice and lentil (120 bucks) for our lunch. Without any second thoughts, I asked for rice. Our lunch was served hot straight from the stove inside the shack.

Isn’t it wonderful that even the normal food tastes lip smacking and leaves you asking for more when you undertake an arduous hike. Never in my life have I tasted a magi as delicious and rice and lentil as scrumptious as when I am footloose in Himalayas.

The most delectable part of our lunch was the achaar (pickle) which was table d’hôte. I believe I ate more pickle than vegetable that was served. But that was to be considering the cold clime outside the shack and the odd chime inside my stomach.

After a hearty lunch it was time to explore the surroundings. The Indrahaar Pass and the mighty peaks of Dauladhar were very close from where I was standing. During treks and hikes in Himalayas I have often met with or have seen some daring souls. One such sight during this hike was an uncle ji in his mid 60s (or may be even 70s) who was going to conquer Indrahaar Pass with his porter cum guide.

After spending some time at  Illaqa, it was time to turn back. We arrived back at Triund in no time. It was then that things begin to change. In the excitement of awe inspiring view in the morning, I had left home with just the slippers and the camera.

There was no plan for Triund let alone  Illaqa and Snow Line Café. So after so much uphill and downhill hike, it began to tell on my knees especially the right one. Till the time we arrived near Magic View Café, the pain was unbearable.

Looking at my condition, we decided to take a breather and we sat there and had some juice, snacks and smoke along with a long session of conversation on life, career, traveling and random stuff. Although a bit subdued, the pain was unrelenting. We decide to continue our descent at a slow rate as it was getting dark.

Somehow I managed to reach Gallu Devi Temple and we both took a sigh of relief. We took a breather and then again took the goat trail we had taken in the morning to reach Naddi Village.

Oh boy! Was that a mistake?

The darkness was soon descending all over and in some places the trail went eerily dark due to dense vegetation. After walking for what appeared like days for me, we were still in the middle of nowhere. That was when we thought we are very close and identified – to our horror – what appeared like the shortcut we had early in the morning.

It was a treacherous road to take with no visible trail in sight but we trudged along. As we descended down the short cut, it got more and more vicious without a trail in sight. After 20 minutes or so with no line of sight and my knees almost giving in to the hardship of having the firm foot on slopes strewn with leaves and all, we decided to go back.

That’s when the real pain started. Now as we looked around in the midst of the forest even uphill trail was out of sight. The day was fast receding and there was just a little light left and my knees were aching like hell. Even a single step appeared like a momentous ask. I was felling like “ab nahin…ab bas…” (Can’t take it anymore). Actually a helicopter lift would have helped.

The panic started to creep in and we frenzied to find our way back to the trail. After a millennium passed and I almost gave up we were back on the trail. It was then that I took a sigh of relief which was unprecedented.  But pain didn’t stop.

After tackling those treacherous trails in the nowhere, my knees were ready to give up. The only solace was that we were back on the trail. From their I kind of crawled my way back to Naddi Village. After 1 more hours of crawling we arrived at Naddi.

This was the most painful hike ever in my life. But how can I forget the ecstasy that the hike up to Triund and Illaqa offered me. When we trudged along to our hotel it was already dark and I could barely walk.

I didn’t had even a single bottle or beer…something which could act as anaesthetic to rid me of the pain. So with my knees all sore I kicked up the bike to head towards the rejuvenation shop. The catch was that we didn’t even had cash up our sleeves. All the ATMs in Naddi and even McLeod don’t dispense cash after 6-7 in the evening. I could have written an Ode to Dejection then and there.

We counted our cash in hand and it turned out that we still had 90 bucks in our pocket. Sufficient for a quarter. But that will do. So I bought one at the same trisection and came back to hotel. Now was the time for rumination.

What an adventurous day we had up the hills. It was promising, rewarding as well as punishing. We sat talking and reflecting as the dinner arrived. I am not fit my brother observed and I reluctantly agreed. In the distance the thundercloud roared.

Yes! It was overcast and soon it started raining cats and dogs with distant sound of thunders. With my knee situation and weather condition, embarking on yet another trek (to Kareri Lake) was ruled out then and there. “So what we’d do next?” I asked my brother. He calmly replied “Abhi Mcleod to bacha hua hai.” (We are yet to explore McLeodganj).

So with all planning going awry tomorrow was the day for local sightseeing. It would be McLeodganj, Bhagsunag and Dharamkot but on bike. But now is the time for well deserved break and sleep. For tomorrow will be another day.

I woke up at 5 O’clock in the morning. A bit of hangover…thanks to the beer and whisky. But it’s a magical view of Triund Hill outside of the window. It’s cold but still I crawl out of the quilt. It’s worth it.

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