It was the first week of June 2017 that I suddenly realized, I needed a break from everything that either I had gotten myself into or was thrust on me. The last time I took a vacation was back in December 2013 and the more I thought about this, the stronger the clamor in my head grew. So much so that I happened to discuss it with a friend of mine on Facebook who lives in Delhi (I live in Patiala) who then told me that she was planning a trip to Mcleodganj around 20th of June and if I wanted I could accompany her. It was unbelievable actually when I think of it now, because I said ‘yes’ immediately.
We decided to not contact any travel agencies so as to not take away the ‘spontaneity’ of our ‘planned’ escapade.
As 20th June drew closer, I packed all my stuff that I thought would be useful (in my Wildcraft trekking bag that lay forgotten in one corner of my room), only to realize later how unprepared I was. And I decided to carry my DSLR along which I had purchased just a couple of months ago and I had almost no experience of using it due to lack of time for practicing photography.
Finally, the day arrived... the one we had been waiting for so long. My friend and I had decided to board the same bus, she boarded it from Delhi while my pick up point was Ambala.
The bus journey was quite comfortable. It was a Volvo run by Northern Travels.
Day 1: The Day we reached!
We reached Mcleodganj in the early hours of 21st only to find that it was raining heavily. From Mcleodganj, we decided to take a taxi to Dharmkot as suggested by Neha who had meticulously researched about this trip contrary to me. It was a good decision as Mcleodganj is somewhat crowded, while Dharmkot just one and a half kilometers away is a much peaceful place away from the din of tourists who throng Mcleodganj especially during the summer months.
As we got down the taxi, and walked a few steps, the first place we laid our eyes on was ‘Trek n Dine’, a quaint little restaurant. The place looked magical at one glance, so different from the restaurants that we are used to frequenting back in the plains. And the food was heavenly or maybe we were just very hungry.
As we sat down to eat, it started to sink in that finally I was away from everything that I knew. Curiously enough, it was a happy feeling!
What was worrying though was the fact that the rains showed no signs of stopping.
“It’s raining cats and dogs”, I said.
“More like bears and wolves”, Neha replied.
What would become of the plans that we made if it continues raining?!’
‘Could I trek while it’s raining?!’
So many questions…
Also there are no ATM’s in Dharmkot and I had very little cash on me. Luckily for us, Neha had some. We decided we would go to Mcleodganj when it stopped raining and get some cash.
We sat there for a couple of hours and talked and planned and enjoyed watching the rain. Patiala was scorching in Sun the day before.
We got ourselves a room for 1500 bucks a night for the next 4 nights. It was a little small, but clean! And it had a balcony with a view. So no regrets there!
As we reached our room, we thought it was best to take a nap while it was raining and get up in the evening and walk to Mcleodganj to get some cash and see around.
When we got up in the evening, it had stopped raining and we ventured to Mcleodganj. We got some cash and purchased a few things from the local market. Neha got a scarf and I got a raincoat! (one of the things I did not care to carry). In case it rained!
We had some chicken from a street vendor and it was absolutely delicious. Somehow food tasted better in the hills.
Once we had everything, we decided to walk back to Dharmkot. Now, while it is easier to go from Dharmkot to Mcleodganj, it’s a rather arduous climb as you walk back. There is a café in between where we stopped for some snacks. It is the Common Ground Café. We both loved the café and decided we are gonna come back here again.
But by the time, we left Common Ground, it had become really dark. None of us wanted to go back to fetch a taxi, so we decided that we are going to walk on.
And that was scary!
It was absolutely dark with dense forest on both sides. But we just walked on. We were having thoughts about whether it was the right decision. What if some animal attacked! Also, there was absolutely no-one apart from us walking on the road at that hour. There was an occasional flash of headlights from some taxi ferrying tourists.
We were so relieved when the ordeal ended and surprisingly it did not take very long. The first question we asked a guy on reaching Dharmkot was whether it was safe to walk from Mcleod to Dharmkot after sunset. The answer was a nonchalant yes which made me feel a little stupid for being so scared. But I guess not knowing whether it was safe or not made it all the more adventurous.
“There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other.” (J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s stone)
This little adventure was one of those.
It was already 9 by the time we reached the hotel. We ate dinner and went to bed. The next day we were supposed to trek to Bhagsunath waterfall.
Day 2: The Trek to Bhagsunath waterfall
It was a relief to see that it was not raining when we got up. It had rained the entire night though.
We had planned a trek to Bhagsunath waterfalls on that day. Before that though, we visited the monastery in Mcleodganj and from there we walked towards Bhagsunath.
We stopped at a couple of tea stalls and clicked some photographs on the way.
It was a tiring trek up to the highest point of the waterfall but then you can feel the coolness of the water flowing alongside as you trek on. There are numerous small tea-stalls/cafes enroute. We stopped at the Shiva café which was at the highest point.
We spent some time there. We did not talk much once we were there. You feel so insignificant (in a good way!) when you are amid the forces of nature. For a while you can focus on something that’s not you!
The owner of the café told us about a shortcut to Dharmkot so that we did not have to go back to Mcleodganj. We were surprised to find that Dharmkot was not very far from Bhagsu.
On the way there were so many beautiful quaint hotels and guest houses. We stopped at one of those where a group of artists were playing classical music. We stayed there for half an hour watching them practice. It was so enchanting and magical- the journey from Bhagsu to Dharmkot- like you read in books!
The Bhagsu trek in a way had prepared us for the Triund trek.
Day 3: The Triund Trek
We started late on the third day. We got up late and everything was late. We packed our stomachs with a big lunch before the trek and started at around 3:30 p.m from Dharmkot.
We reached the Galu temple checkpoint a few minutes before 5. Just in time! Because they do not allow anyone to proceed after 5 or so it appeared. We were told it would take 3-4 hours to reach Triund from there.
The trek to Triund is an easy one for seasoned trekkers but we were NOT seasoned trekkers.
It’s a beautiful trek though. There are so many views as you climb higher and higher. You can shout and hear the echo when you reach high enough.
There are little cafes every five to six hundred meters. We stopped at one of those for some delicious Maggi. Everything is expensive as you go higher up but that is because of the cost of transportation of goods which is done via mules.
It took us three and a half hours from Gallu temple to Triund.
The soles of our feet were hurting because the rocks become more and more sharp as you go higher up the trek probably lesser people manage to go higher and so the rocks are less worn out making them sharper, but I am only guessing.
It was all worth it though!
Even though it was dark by the time we reached, it was absolutely beautiful. I swear to God, I had never seen as many stars in the sky as I saw that night. And they appeared so much brighter and shinier.. so close!
We ate rice and dal for dinner and spent the night in a tent. We were provided with two sleeping bags.
It was freezing cold. The temp. drops to 2-3 degrees Celsius at night and that is when I realized that I made a mistake by not packing warmer clothes.
Next morning we woke up at around seven and we could clearly see the snowline. We wanted to go but we realized we were not prepared enough. The trek from Triund to snowline takes approximately two hours.
The view during the day is so different because when we had reached Triund last evening, it was already dark and visibility was very low. But now we could see the mountains around and the beautiful meadow that Triund is, surrounded by these.
‘It’s like we had seen it in two dimensions and now the place has suddenly become three-dimensional’, remarked Neha.
I could not have agreed more!
So even though we wanted to stay there a little longer and Neha kept looking longingly at the snowline, so much so that it broke my heart a little bit at not being able to go, we had to leave. So we packed our stuff and climbed down guiding other tourists who were ascending. We were answering questions like how much longer it’s going to take them to reach the top and how is the trek higher up.
It took us four hours to reach Dharmkot and we were completely exhausted by the time we reached our room.
We spent the day just resting and eating at some other places that we had not been to. We had to leave the next day and none of us wanted to.
The 4 nights and 5 days that I spent in Mcleodganj were one of the best for me. They left us with aching calves but a healed heart!
It was my first trek. And the first time you do something, it always holds a very special place in your heart. The joy is incomparable because there’s nothing to compare it with, it’s not like you have done that before!
You look at everything with new eyes and that makes you feel so much younger.. this ability to see something and marvel that kids have and we as adults lose.
Even though we came back to our cities the next day, but it took me another week to feel at home again. It was not easy to let go of all that I had seen and felt. Funny as it may sound but for ten days I did not unpack my bag as I did not want to lose the memory of what it was being in Mcleodganj.
“Once in a while, right in the middle of ordinary life, a trek might give you a fairytale…”
A trek, just like life, is as much about meeting people who are walking on the same path as you are, forging friendships and enjoying the camaraderie as much as it is about marching to the top and enjoying the views!
It teaches that, “what you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”
I guess I will trek again, maybe a few months from now!!
Till then, we prepare!