Trekking The Triund Mountain, Dhauladhars Mountain Range, McLeod Ganj, India
At exactly eight in the morning, we locked our cottage door and left to meet our trekking guide, who was waiting for us at the front lawn of our guest house.
We were dressed for trekking, with hiking poles, good hiking boots, warm hiking shirts over our t-shirts, hats, suntan lotion, and sunglasses, and I brought my rain gear as well, which proved to be a wise premonition.
Ravi, our trekking guide, was a local mountain boy, 24 years young, who has lived in these mountains all of his life.
He said he used to trek up and down these mountains daily, to go to school and back home, as his childhood home was up in the mountains.
Ravi has six sisters and his father is a local builder, helping locals to build modest and inexpensive homes from concrete and local slate, which is the most popular building material around, as the mountains are all made of slate.
The hike started steep and uphill, and we really never stopped climbing.
We started the trek at 6000 feet (1800 meters) and climbed up to 9500 feet (2900 meters) in about five hours. (a vertical climb of 3500 feet)
The path was lined with stones and broken boulders, but it was quite passable and maintained by the locals, who transport many supplies to the top of Triund Mountain daily.
There are three small guest houses at the top, and a few shacks which operated as tea shops, serving drinks and cooked food.
Those shacks also rent tents, sleeping bags and mats, to hikers who made it to the top near sunset, and did not come prepared to spend the night on the cold mountain.
The path was absolutely breathtaking.
My heart was soaring with joy, as I walked in the clean air.
Finally I was seeing how gorgeous this place is and what healing vibes this high mountainous place has.
There was no rubbish on the mountains, and at one tea shop, I even saw a few recycling bins.
I commented to Ravi that it was wonderful that the locals recycle and keep the mountains so clean….
Ravi told me that it was an English woman who started teaching the locals how to recycle and how to keep the place clean.
He said that she sponsored the recycle bins and that every week she organized a trekking expedition with donkeys and other volunteers who hike the mountains with large trash bags and clean every piece of wrapper and every plastic bottle thrown.
Once per month she organized a multi day trek deeper into the highest peaks, to clean rubbish there too.
Ravi said this English woman has been living here for many years, but that now she was having a problem with her Indian Visa and that she now must leave India.
I hope this place will stay clean in her absence… Or that somebody else will take on her good volunteer work.
There are so many people around this region who do such valuable volunteer work.
They do not belong to any NGO or non profit organization, they have self initiatives and they just act wherever they see a need.
It is truly inspiring to be here in this amazing place in which so many people from all over the world, come to make a huge difference by offering their own help and by extending themselves to others in need…
But I will write more about this later, now, I will return to the mountains.
In the last week, we experienced four earthquakes while being here.
One was stronger than the rest, which were little tremors.
In the Mountains, an earthquake can dislodge big boulders and can create an avalanche of rocks, but the one earthquake that we experienced while trekking, was just a tremor and did not dislodge any boulders.
Halfway up the mountain we stopped at a tea shop and had some snacks and tea.
In he past while traveling in remote places in India, we could only get Indian Chai.
Nowadays you can get herbal teas and my favorite, a hot drink made from real lemon juice, a lot of sliced ginger root and real honey.
Ravi pointed to an impossibly high ridge running along the horizon and he said that this was where we were going to.
It looked so steep with no visible trail, that it seemed impossible…
These mountains are teeming with black bears and leopards.
The black bears come down at night to the villages, and under the cover of darkness, they eat the corn that is planted in the fields.
At the beginning of the hike two black dogs started walking with us.
One walked with Jules and the other walked beside me.
They stopped and waited for us when we stopped to take photos or to catch our breath.
They almost seemed like spirit guardians, helping us to adjust to the hardship of the climb.
Ravi told me that at times, when ten or more hikers go on the trail, ten or more dogs join them, and each dog adopts a hiker.
At about the middle of the way, when we already had gotten adjusted to the constant climb and regulated our breath, the dogs left us and joined two other hikers who veered off on another trail to some waterfalls.
I noticed the beautiful purple, yellow, white and red flowers of the mountains.
Most of the slopes were thick with Rhododendron trees.
When they bloom, the mountains are ablaze in red colors.
The locals use the flowers to make jams and for sauces.
We saw a fair amount of people trekking.
It was a strenuous trek and many people were carrying sleeping bags, intending to sleep at the top and make the return trip the next day.
As we walked up a steep side of the mountain, rain started to fall.
I put on my rain jacket and within minutes the rain intensified and became a hail storm.
It felt as if small stones were being thrown at us, as the hail hit our faces and arms.
Ravi came prepared with a rain coat, but I felt sorry for Jules who did not pack his rain gear and was getting soaked and hit harder by the hail.
I must admit that I prayed for the hail to stop…
After about thirty minutes of trekking in the storm, with low clouds descending all around us and making the path all misty, the hail stopped and the sun was out, quickly drying our clothes.
We climbed up and up on a narrow path surrounded by huge boulders made of slate and lush flowering forests.
From the stony path I could see isolated monks’ huts built by hand.
It is an old tradition in the Himalayas which has gone on for thousands of years.
Monks have come to the mountains to meditate in caves or in simple huts.
The monks who seek Enlightenment by meditating in remote places, come here and build humble stone dwellings by hand, with no building materials, only with what they can find around the mountains.
They might have a cow for butter, milk or cheese, and they cook local edible plants that are fit to be consumed or made into tea.
There are huge edible mushrooms in the mountains, as well as leafy greens and wild onions.
They have to buy a small supply of flour, rice, sugar and Tsampa (roasted barely flour), or they get it donated by a monastery.
Right now while it is still warm, their setting looks very pastoral and quiet.
The air is crispy clean and the beauty is unparalleled.
It is so quiet and serene in the mountains.
The only sounds beside the songs of birds and insects you might hear, is the sound of a flute or the voice of a Shepard calling his goats or horned sheep who had wandered far away.
Later when winter sets in and the mountains are mostly covered in snow, I am sure that their drafty huts are not so pastoral….
For some people, living in isolation is a very good way for enlightenment.
Other people may require more company and may need to rely on the guidance and love of others.
When we neared the top, the path got very steep and I needed to resort to all the inner spiritual strength I could muster.
I reminded myself that I was NOT a body, nor was I limited by the perceived limitations of my body….
At times, I gently asked myself to walk fifty more steps before I stopped to catch my breath and rest.
It also started to rain and hail again, but we made it to the top of Triund and took shelter in a makeshift tea hut covered in a blue tarpaulin.
Inside the dark tea shop were two narrow places to sit, and on a narrow wooden board the cook cut vegetables for our lunch.
He had a tiny camping stove on the floor with one burner and a small wok.
In it he stirred the vegetables and spices and made a delicious rice, dhal and vegetable lunch.
Ravi told me that at times when they were very busy, he cooks on this tiny stove from the corner of this tiny hut, tasty meals for fifty people.
It was indeed a tasty lunch and we ate it and waited for the rain to ease up, so we could enjoy the surroundings.
When the clouds dispersed a little, we got a fantastic view of the towering mountain behind us, called “Moon Peak.”
It was covered in snow and very majestic.
We befriended two Indian guys who traveled there and planned to spend the night in tents on the mountain.
They have traveled in Europe but said that they have not gotten to see the USA yet, as it is very difficult to get a visa to the US nowadays.
They gave us great tips about places to visit when we visit Southern India.
I wrote it all down, as information like names of places, tends to evaporate from my mind.
Our way down was strenuous on my knees.
Even Ravi seemed tired as we walked and walked without stopping down the narrow stony path for four hours.
In total, we spent about nine hours trekking that day.
My legs felt stiff the next day, and we called to delay our next hike by one more day, to allow our legs to recover before heading out again, to trek in this beautiful mountain range.