And when you step into Triund, there is no option but to pause. Partly to catch your breath, and mostly to absorb what is clearly a breathtaking sight. If there is a seventh heaven, you can be sure you have left even that behind. The feeling is one of being on top of the world, surrounded by a ranges even higher than where you stand.
The only way to reach Triund is after a 9-kilometer, 4-hour trek from Mcleodganj (home to the Dalai Lama, situated in the north Indian Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh) or a 7-km one from Galu Devi Temple in Dharamkot (which you can reach by road and save yourself an hour of trekking). There is an option of going on horseback, but I did not see anyone exercising this option while I was there. A plan to connect Triund by cable car was launched with the usual political fanfare a few years ago, but that was the last one heard of it. Locals are only too glad for it; you would not want to go to Triund for reasons mentioned here once the picknickers take over.
What do you once you are in Triund? Some, like an American woman named Megan I met, come up to Triund, have a chai, and head back. Most stay over for at least one or more nights. The more hardy venture beyond, weather and snow levels permitting. Triund is a gateway to a much longer trek beyond the Indrahar pass on the Dhauladhar range.
This is an ideal place to be with nature, to come closer to yourself and to seek Shanti like a girl from Switzerland I got to talk to, discovered. Those who come to these parts of the world to be high on charas seem to be getting a different kind of a pleasure too. If you are one of those who can live without a shower for a long time, this is the where you can plan to lose yourself at. The only reminder of the world left below are some branded foods and supplies being sold at the three shacks set up by enterprising locals, and the music and advertisments playing on the Radio Mirchi FM channel humming constantly from a radio set in the biggest of the shacks owned by Sunil Kumar. Apparently, these are the only signals to reach here; mobiles don’t work.
No need for an agenda here. Enjoy the warm sun in the day, and sit around a bonfire in the evening. Read a book, or write one – it is an ideal setting too feel inspired. There are enough fellow travellers from all over the world – US, Argentina, Israel, Bulgaria and Italy to name just some I met people from – to make friends with, share stories and having low decibel fun. Meditate, do yoga, practice your music – Triund is the place where man and nature can form a bond often not possible in most parts of the world.
Some tips when at Triund
- Accommodation: There are four rooms in a bricks and mortar forest rest house, as well as some in a private guest house. Very basic, with unclean bedding (what do they wash it with?) and no running water. The forest rest house needs to be booked at Mcleodganj itself, and may or may not be available to non government employees. If no one checks in till evening, the caretaker can give you the room for Rs. 80. ($ 2) Lighting is through a CFL bulb powered by a solar panel. Alternately, you can huddle up in one of the shacks (Sunil Kumar’s assistant says they charge Rs. 100 per person), or caves naturally created in the surrounding mountains. (No, you will not be intruding into any house of the three bears, so you can feel safe. This is the testimony of many who go for this temporary housing.) You can pitch a tent too or just put on the layers and sleep in the open in your sleeping bag.
- Clothing: I went late April 2008, and there was no need for any warm clothing during the day. But a hat can help for protection against the sun. But the moment the sun goes down, it is a different proposition altogether. Depending on your constitution, you will need some serious woolens.
- Food and Beverages: Before reaching Mcleodganj, we were made to believe there would be no food and water at Triund. It was suggested we carry ample volumes of mineral water, as well as raw food which the forest guest house caretaker could cook. But no need. The three shacks will sell you hot food on order, biscuits, chocolates, packaged snacks, water, aerated drinks and even beer. But these come at a premium of 50-100 percent on the marked price. Why? Supplies come up on horseback, who take Rs. 300-350 ($7-9) for each trip up and cannot carry too much anyway. But it still does not work out very expensive, with a healthy portion of rice costing about Rs. 40 and chai Rs. 15, as some examples.
- Water: Drink mineral water, or go down to a spring (an hour going and coming back) to get some clean water. The forest rest house caretaker provided us with a jug of water for washing up, but that is just about all the water you can get in Triund.
- Washrooms: When nature calls, no keys to a washroom will be sent. You know what this means.
- Supplies: Get your soaps, toilet rolls, cigarettes and even books from the shacks. Carry your own dope though if you need the high.