Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mcleodganj diaries – Episode 2 : The Triund trek

After an awesome first day, day 2 began pretty early. A little back story here - I had planned to go on the Triundh trek on day 2 all by myself. I informed Tashi about this the previous day and anticipated that he will say that he would like to come along. He didn’t. However, when Natalia expressed that she wants to do the trek too, Tashi came on-board faster than the speed of light! So, we told Nati that we’ll meet her outside her hotel at 8 am. Her hotel was a good 20-minute walk from ours so Tashi and me were to wake up by 7. We woke up at 7.30, got ready by 8.30 and met Nati at around 8.55! Thankfully for us, Nati was not the kinds who would sulk when people show up late :P 
We caught some breakfast on the way (delicious omlette and ginger lemon tea) and took off on our trek. It was supposed to be a 3-hour trek as Tashi told us and we trusted him as he claimed to have been at the top several times.
 It was pretty easy at the beginning with flat, red-soiled paths for some time.  We took a little break in between where we met an Australian friend who clicked a couple of snaps with us. 

After a little drinks break here, we took off thinking we will not stop for a long duration now. But then came the rocks.. .the long-long stretches of rocks!! And trekking through these rocks is a lot more taxing on the legs than the sandy trails. We climbed and we climbed and we climbed and after about half an hour, we were tired again! So we stopped for a bit. We made it a point to click a lot of pictures on the way so that we can look back and smile at all these fond moments. And during all this, we saw a huge group of 40-year olds being led by 2 instructors on this trek. They had a system where the instructor at the front was communicating with the group and the instructor at the back end through sound signals. I joked that we should try and kick this group’s ass by reaching the top ahead of them. Little did I know that I would later realize that there was no competition with them whatsoever! 
Anyway, so we moved on with little breaks here and there and that's when we reached our first view point - the Magic view point!

We moved on and at about 12ish, we stopped for lunch. There was no lunch really… just some sandwich that Nati had packed and some snacks we packed at the little restaurant where we had our breakfast. When we were eating, I thought of us as Frodo and Samwise from LOTR tired of trekking and just having a few pieces of bread left. Of course, our situation was worse because we are REAL PEOPLE! 

We moved on from there and on our final stretch, we met a lovely old Tibetan man on his way back down from the top. He was with a group of tourists but stopped to greet us, told us how fabulous it is at the top there and that we are going to have a lot of fun. He also told us very briefly about his life and things he had been through and how India has been great to Tibet and welcomed Tibetans with open arms. He said all this in the middle of the trek which made me feel so awesome. I thought – back home in Mumbai, people are so busy that they hardly have time to catch up with even their loved ones while here – a stranger just stops without a second thought and speaks so openly about his life! How cool is that?!? 

He brought a huge smile to all three faces that were sinking due to the never-ending trek! We bid him goodbye and carried on..  This time to finally reach the top!
It was 1.15 pm when we reached the Triundh spot. It was cool and the view before us was nice. But with time, the nice became lovely. The lovely became awesome. The awesome became breath-taking. And the breath-taking became completely-out-of-the-world! I don’t know how I can put this in words.. but in just about an hour.. the view before my eyes was the BEST VIEW I had seen in my life! I was amongst the clouds! I could see a blanket of clouds across the mountain in front of us. Standing there, it felt I could reach out and touch the mountain. I felt I can wear the clouds like a jacket! 

And that reminded me that it was getting very very cold! And that’s when a funny thing happened!
When we took off on the trek, we had planned that we will get back in the evening. However, after the tiring way up, and more importantly – the unbelievable ambiance at the top, we decided that we will stay back for the night. There were tents to be rented for 600 bucks a night. And there was a little set-up (like a dhaba) for food like Maggi noodles, Chinese rice, omelets, etc. 

So, staying back was not such a bad idea except that – it was getting really really cold… and we were not carrying any warm clothes with us! :P However, the place was too great for us to have second thoughts about staying back. So we decided to stay back no matter what! :P
We ordered food – chicken fried rice, omlette, veg thali,  and something that Tashi ordered which I do not remember! While we were waiting for the food – I realized that there was another little problem for me. We were surrounded by 8-10 furry creatures called dogs that I am really scared of! They were all over the place and while Tashi and Nati were playing with them, I was getting nervous thinking how I will step out to pee in the night with these dogs around me! Anyway, I held on to that thought and continued to enjoy the fact that I was in heaven!

Some more time passed by as we ate, lied down and relaxed, clicked pictures, took a little nap. During all this while, the weather and view kept changing every 5 minutes. One moment, it was clear and we could see the mountain and the next moment, it was all covered with clouds all all we could see was white, foggy space ahead of us!
And this is when we happen to run into my friend from the bus - Jose (my first friend on the trip.. remember??) We chatted about what he had been doing and how he is having a good time at Mcleodganj. I introduced him to Tashi and I guess jose must be cursing me till date for that! Within 2 minutes of knowing him, Tashi gave him a huge dose on philosophy, life, and some other things which I have no clue about as I ran as far away from them as I could!

Finally, Jose left to re-join the guys he had come with. The density of clouds had now increased but there was enough sunlight to make way for a pleasant sight of the mountain. It was getting cooler and cooler. And then around 4 pm, the group (that we had completely forgotten about) reached the top. And after an hour or so, we saw that the last member of that group – a 55-year old lady – came trekking along with the support of a stick and her manager from work! It was unbelievable! She was extremely tired to walk the last 200 metres or so. I saw her coming and thought I will accompany her in this last lap! So along with her manager, I began to motivate her, spoke with her about random stuff, made jokes about her age, and started walking with her. Finally, we got her to her base camp where the others had reached a while ago! Tashi and Nati followed me and we were offered tea at the camp where we chatted with some lovely people. 

This is also where we met Mr. Pyar Singh (yes, that’s his real name). He came over to chat with us and insisted on giving Nati some health tips. What he said is just for Tashi, Nati and me to laugh about for the rest of our lives :D To give you guys a brief – he said something on the lines of putting something inside our body from somewhere and getting it out from somewhere else :P
Mr. Pyar Singh’s health tips were enough for us to alarmingly bid goodbye to our old Aunty and move away from that camp! By then, the colour of the sky had changed and it was another variation of magical! Nati wanted some pics in different yoga poses.
After a while, we had clicked enough pics and were running out of sunlight. It was also getting very cold and we were hungry again. So, we headed back to the eating place, ordered some more food, and booked a tent for us to sleep. We also rented a sleeping bag for Nati and there were a couple of blankets which we thought would suffice for Tashi and me. We were wrong though. It was getting so cold that our hands were freezing. We lit a bonfire and started warming up our hands while the food was getting prepared. Smartass Tashi had an easy way out to get rid of the cold – RUM! 
Nati and me were on a non-drinking resolution so we had to just manage with the fire! Such was the cold weather at this hour that it made the food even more delicious. We hogged noodles, thalis, omlettes again and when we were full, we decided to call it a day. And this is when my cell phone started dying! :( I realized that I can only click a couple of pics more so I clicked my last one for the day and saved some for the morning.
We got into our tent and started chatting about stuff. We clicked a lot of crazy-face pictures (on Nati's camera) imagining ourselves in different situations like being a Rockstar, seeing a tiger before us, etc. Nati clearly sucked at this!

By then, the alcohol had already made its impact on Tashi and he was getting even more philosophical than he usually is. On that night, he must have said “This is life man” at least a 1000 times!! He made us say how we are grateful for that lovely day and how we were feeling at that point. He started a discussion on spirituality and about 15 minutes later, when Nati and me were completely, passionately, whole-heartedly immersed in the discussion, we realized Tashi hadn’t been saying anything. That’s when we noticed that the guy had fallen asleep and we had no idea when! So Nati and me continued chatting and after some time, she said the sky would be awesome at this hour and we should go check it out. I wanted to but it was too cold I did not want to get out of the tent so I told her we’ll go out later. After a while, Tashi went out to pee and told us the stars look amazing. Nati stepped out too and after resisting for about 5 minutes, I gave in to the temptation of watching the stars. And when I stepped out – boy Oh boy – it was the most magnificent night view I had ever seen. I had seen a lot of stars at Gokarna and Tarkarli on my trip last year but this was something else. There was hardly any space between the stars – there were millions and millions of them! The quiet night, the freezing weather, the beautiful stars – it was a scene right out of a romantic movie! Tashi and Nati wrapped themselves in a blanket and kept staring at the stars. I went to pee accompanied by around 7 dogs who were following us whenever any of us went to pee. They were like our personal bodyguards who marched with us, waited for us to pee, and then came back with us! When I came back, Nati told me she saw a shooting star. After some time, Tashi saw one too. And by then Nati had seen 5. And I wondered how I had never seen a shooting star in my life. It was cold and we wanted to get back into the tent but we decided that we will stay till DILIP SEES HIS FIRST SHOOTING STAR! :D I was surprised at the number of shooting stars Nati was spotting. It made me confident that I was indeed going to see a shooting star that day! And after about 5 minutes, when Nati had seen 13 and Tashi had seen 7 – I saw my first shooting star! I shouted out but by the time these two looked, it was gone. We then waited to spot a shooting star together and when we did, each one of us made a wish. I made the same wish I make every time I get an opportunity –be it in temples, or while blowing away eyelashes or birthday candles! We then got back into the tent and after some more chatting, went off to sleep.
We were up by 6.30 the next morning because we did not want to miss the sunrise. Nati told us she never went to sleep and was awake the whole time. We got out of the tent and were welcomed by a pleasant morning. The clouds had cleared and we could see the mountain before us clearly. We even spotted some snow at a distance. I told Tashi and Nati how I heard horses running around the tent at  night but later realized that it was the dogs! We clicked some more awesome pictures of the sunrise with Tashi and me looking like locals! 

And then after some Parathas for breakfast, we took off on our way back. We met our friend Pete on the way. He was on his way up and he too had a dog that was accompanying him right from the time he started the trek. It was great to see how the dog stopped with him when he was chatting with him and then carried on with him when he left. It reminded me of my pee dogs. We saw both of them marching their way up for a while and then carried on to get back to our respective hotels! I think we were all home by 11.30 and then went off to sleep for a while. And that was the end of the best trek of my life and an awesome day 2 at Mcleodganj! :)