The pictures in this entry are a few selected highlights; the full set is up on Picasa.
Tuesday 27/3 – Thursday 29/3
Erin and I set off on our hike to Triund late Tuesday morning after taking care of a bunch of mundane things. We’d been told it was only a 5 hour hike, and people who are really keen leave early and do it as a day trip. Our pace was pretty leisurely, including a very long stop for lunch and conversation over several cups of tea.
As we hiked further up the hill, the forest thinned out and we started to catch sight of occasional patches of snow or ice. Then came the snow-covered stretches of the path For me, having never climbed mountains with this kind of altitude or in this climate before, it was an incredibly exciting experience. I think I was periodically stopping and staring at the scenery in the distance and exclaiming how amazed I was to be up in the Himalayas like this. Fortunately, Erin was almost as dizzily excited as I was. As we got near Triund – altitude around 2900m, or 900m higher than our starting point in McLeod Ganj – I started to feel distinctly short of breath. I’m putting this down to the altitude rather than my lack of fitness…
We finally arrived at our destination about an hour before sunset. Triund isn’t really much of a town. In fact, it’s barely a settlement at all. There are a couple of guest houses and a few huts selling chai, food and other necessities. We’d been told that it was possible to camp overnight in a nearby cave, and that we could rent sleeping bags and blankets from Sunil’s hut. This sounded like a great idea to me, and Erin was easily talked into it as well – or perhaps even really wanted to do it herself.
As it turned out, two of the three huts were run by (different) Sunils, but the first one we tried was the right one for hiring camping supplies. Erin carried the sleeping bags and mattresses up to the cave – which was further away than I’d initially guessed, probably about 20 minutes walk uphill – while I waited for some food to carry up there along with the blankets. When I got up to the cave, I was in a foul mood and our aloo paratha had some bonus dirt from when I dropped it. Because it was almost dark by the time I set off, I didn’t notice the more obvious trail up to the cave, and ended up taking a route that involved some scrambling up the the side of the hill using all four limbs.
Meanwhile, Erin had been being absolutely amazing, collecting firewood and kindling so that we could keep warm. Unfortunately, efforts to get the fire going were unsuccessful – the kindling burnt out before it lit properly. But we almost had a camp fire.
Neither of us slept very well that night. We woke up in the morning to a fantastic view. Unfortunately, Erin also woke up with a cold. She suggested staying another night in Triund – it was beautiful and, compared to everywhere else I’d been to in India, peaceful, quiet and isolated. But not in the cave. We headed down the hill from the cave to the huts, returned all of the gear to Sunil and got ourselves a room in a guest house.
Just as we were having our post-breakfast cuppa, it started snowing. There’s something really wonderful about drinking tea, looking out on the snow falling outside and the view to mountains and villages surrounding us.
Further up from Triund, it was supposedly possible to trek to further up the hill, past the cave, and over a ridge to the snow line. Feeling surprisingly good after the 9km trek the previous day, and being excited about all things snow, I was pretty keen to try this. Erin, feeling unwell, was not so much. So I decided to go up there on my own. I only got about 15 minutes beyond the cave, though. Eventually I reached a narrow snow-covered path with a steep drop on one side and steep slope upwards on the other. I was a bit nervous about crossing it but there were footprints through the snow so I followed it further. After a short while, the footprints in the snow turned left and started going directly up the slope. This seemed a little bit too precarious for my liking, so I turned back. The way down was a bit hair-raising and I felt a bit like I’d escaped a horrible death.
We spent the rest of the day chilling out, talking to other travellers who were on the mountain and eating food at Sunil’s. Sunil was a really impressive cook – the food he prepared was all very simple, but very tasty. Considering he was a one-man operation with a very limited kitchen in an isolated area with no vehicle access, no electricity, not even running water, he did a really good job of turning out a lot of meals quite quickly.
The next morning, we had one final breakfast and a cup of tea, and then took the alternative route back down to McLeod Ganj, via Bhagsu waterfall. We checked back in to the same hotel we’d been staying at previously, grabbed our stuff from their storage room and had a very, very welcome hot shower for the first time in there days.