McLeodganj: Never take the same path twice

Other posts in this series of posts are on this link.

On day three I got out of hotel room and walked in market for a while before entering a cafe for breakfast.  Took the road to Dharmkot again and met the same man I had asked for directions in lower Dharmkot village previous day. He had come this far just to get some work done in a bank.    He gave some more tips regarding shortcuts and paths.

Easier part of the trek

Easier part of the trek

 

I found another trail and took it which led to a canine breeding compound full of menacing looking dogs. A pair which looked like Pitbull was in a steel wire enclosure. They didn’t seem very happy to see me and and I hurried on my way. Soon, I was back at the shop I had stopped the previous day and took the path on extreme left. There are only a few small resorts on the way and the place was fairly deserted and quiet except for a group of noisy college students. I picked up my pace to put some distance between us in order to avoid listening to their dumb talk.

On the way to Triund

On the way

Upon reaching Gallu ka Mandir, I stopped for a while to rest and buy som Gatorade and chocolate bars. It was almost 11:00 when I left for Triund from there.  I had a rough idea of visiting that Dharmkot fall on my way back, but I wasn’t very sure about it yet as according to locals trek to Triund took atleast 3 hours.  First 25-30 minutes were easy enough until I saw some ‘trail’ going straight up joining what looked like proper path after a vertical climb of around 100 meters.  In my infinite wisdom, I left the proper path ad started climbing that trail. After climbing for less than 5 minutes I realised my folly that it was nothing more than a dried seasonal waterfall. But there were signs of human activity including deliberate placing of rocks and sticks which confused me. But as I kept on climbing, my faith in it being a path kept depleting and I crawled back down without wasting much time.

View of Dharmshala

View of Dharmshala

Somewhat chastened by this experience, I resolutely resisted finding/imagining any further new paths or shortcuts for some time, until I saw  a bunch of Tibetan prayer flags on a  small hill. I left the proper path again ad climbed up the small trail going up to explore. There wasn’t much to see on the hill itself, but the view was breathtaking as you can see in the picture.  I rested for a while and took a few pictures before climbing down to the proper path.  By this time, sun was high up in the sky and it was getting hot even in the mountains. Although the slope wasn’t steep, the path was very uneven and difficult to walk at times. It wasn’t  tough, it wasn’t a stroll in park either.

Ladybug

Ladybug

Butterflies were even more numerous in this area and so were the flowering trees. Whole landscape was littered with trees covered by bunches of bright red flowers. Mixed with occasional patch of white snow at a distance, the view was mesmerising.  If the butterflies were trying to cover up the sky, small ladybugs were doing the same thing on ground. Although I had seen a lot of ladybugs in last 2 days, they were much more numerous there. Sadly a lot of them were getting crushed under the shoes of trekkers.

By this time I had finished everything I had to drink and one of only 3 shops on the way was still away. I had noticed lights of one of these shops previous day from distance and had wondered if that was a house and how did they get the necessary supplies up there. But as I got closer, the small building I had thought of as  a house, also served as a small shop.  Happily, these places are aware of recycling and non-littering and had separate dustbins for different kind of waste. A lot more people were resting there compared to what I had seen on the way.  Some people were eating Maggi noodles and drinking beer (of all the things). Hope the beer guzzlers felt a nice hard kick up their asses as they climbed higher and air got less dense.

Snowman !!!

Snowman !!!

 

Just after the 2nd shop, I found my first snow in years on a waterfall. It wasn’t fresh, but wasn’t hard either. I made  a small snowman to celebrate. Water was ice cold and delicious. But it turned out that I had celebrated a bit too soon.  There was one big snow deposit after that one which was right across the way and going hundreds of meters up as well as down. Someone slipping on it might have found him/her in some difficulty. By this time, a combination of exhaustion, heat and rarer air was taking it’s toll and I found it difficult to walk for more than 10-15 minutes without stopping to catch breath. It wasn’t too tough on comparatively plain path but got exponentially tough on inclines which were getting higher.  It got cloudy after a while but the relief wasn’t enough to compensate for lack of practise of trekking in such  terrain.

A little dirty snow, but fun nevertheless I asked one local guide/porter who was coming back  from Triund about the remaining trek. He answered in typical pahadi fashion, 10-15 minutes walk. By then I had realised at least one thing about asking directions from people living in mountains. Whenever someone says that your destination is a walk of 1 hour away, confirm it whether it’s through the main route that you know or via numerous shortcuts of which only the locals are aware of.  Even if you don’t consider shortcuts, add atleast 15 minutes of your own to every hour of the native. If you are a city dweller from plains, no matter what your physical condition is, you’ll take at least 25% more time to get anywhere.

View of snow covered mountains from Triund

View of snow covered mountains

So, I found one nice looking place to rest and stayed there for 5-10 minutes before resuming.   After that, it was a walk of another 10 minutes before I finally reached Triund. Contrary to what I had expected, there were quite a bit of people up there. I found one quiet spot and sat down to savour the view. Massive and beautiful mountains covered with snow dominated the landscape. Their peaks were mostly hidden behind dense clouds which constantly kept moving and changing shapes. I felt like kicking myself for not planning for the full 2-3 days trek up to the snow line on the mountains in front of me.

Ladybug on ice To my left in between a few rocks,  I noticed something like a cave decorated with Tibetan prayer flags. Curious, I got up and started walking towards it.  Instead of that cave, I found myself on the trail that led to snow line. Changing directions, I climbed straight up and found myself in between a maze of rocks that led to nowhere. Just then it started to drop hailstones. The clouds from those snow covered mountains had shifted fast. There was no place for shelter except caves formed by some big rocks and I took refuge inside one.  The ground was covered with white hail in a matter of minutes.  After a while, it stopped and tried to resume my search for a path to the cave. I met one young Australian couple who were trying to do the same thing without much success.  By then, it was almost 3:30 and I had very little time left before sunset. Walking on that track in dark was not a good idea by any stretch of imagination. Additionally, rain and ice had made the ground slippery making search for a way up considerable more difficult. So, I abandoned my plan of  visiting that cave and started to walk back.

Trek to Triund As soon as I had walked down the plateau of Triund, it started raining  again  and it kept raining in fits and starts for a long time. As I was dressed in just a tshirt and jeans, getting wet in such a place didn’t seem like a fun idea. A number of tourists were now on their way up which was surprising.  After walking down for almost an hour, I stopped in one of the shops for a cup of tea and honey sandwich. 2 porters along with their mules were also resting there after completing their supply run. Hard work ! By then, rain had stopped and I resumed my walk back.  Just then I realised that my knees were starting to hurt. Walking non-stop for three days was taking it’s toll. My first ever joint pains, getting old. :-s

After a while, I came across another trail going down the mountain. But this time, I waited for the porters to come and asked them. They told me that it led to Bhagsu. As visit to waterfall was out of question, I didn’t feel like going back the same way. Also, I wanted to see Bhagsu a bit better. So, I took the trail.  That walk down turned out to be one of the most difficult that I ever took.

This is a path connecting Bhagsu to Triund

This is a path

The path was nothing more than a very narrow trail hugging the mountain. Even that was full of loose rocks  and gravel which made walking doubly difficult.  Surprisingly, people lived in that area too. Came across a group of 3 huts made of stone. Of which only one was occupied by a Buddhist lama.  It seemed like a nice place to live though, if you are willing to sacrifice comfort of electricity and running water among other things. Plus points are complete peace and quiet, no pollution, amazing views and closeness to nature. But it must be a hard life, not everyone can do  it.

Abandoned stone hut

Abandoned stone hut

By then, I was completely exhausted but had no other choice except walking back. Soon, I reached Bhagsu and a easier path  but the so called small town seemed to stretch on and on. I found one eating joint with “German Bakery” written on board.Turned out there were two, but I entered the  one with less crowd. A friend had asked me to visit the place for sure. I had no idea about a German bakery and it’s specialty if any. It turned out to be a restaurant with a small bakery section. As usual, I ordered one dish (Mexican) which I knew nothing about except that it was rice based.  It was well past 7:30 pm by then.

After finishing, I walked back to my hotel room and soaked my legs in hot water before sleeping. It had been a long but amazing day.

Full moon on a cloudy night in mountains

Full moon on a cloudy night in mountains

Next post will be about the trek to the elusive waterfall in Dharmkot

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