Monday, March 10, 2008

Day 1: Trip to Mcleod

Day 1: Mcleodgangj (7th March 2008)

1) Trip up the Triund mountain.
2) Shopping in Dharamshala
3) Breakfast and Tea in Palsong Cafe.
4) Dinner in Shangrila (Special mention to Thukpa)

We reached at around 9:30 AM at Mcleod and started searching for a hotel, to our shock all hotels were booked and we were very lucky to get a decent accomodation in HOTEL SHIVALIK. The rooms in the hotel were decent enough had a nice view of the neighbouring hill town.

We booked 3 rooms and immediately got ready for our trek up the TRIUND peak at around 12:00 PM. We had our breakfast at Palsong cafe in the first street at Mcleod, it was a decent hotel run by a tibetan family, we had some Aloo parathas, bread, omlettes and Vijayan took a sneak peek into a tibetan breakfast containing of tibetan bread, tibetan porridge and tibetan butter tea. After having our breakfast we straightaway jumped in the vehicle for the trek, after having a struggle finding our way to the peak, we took our vehicle and our driver for an ultimate test, a test which none of us will ever forget. The road was filled with rubbles, loose sand and broken rocks all-over and was not very inviting for a vehicle.

We climbed up the hill with the vehicle, the entire path was around 5 - 6 feet wide and in some places lesser than that, in every hairpin bend, we saw the deep valley down and the very sight of it was scary enough for our guys to start thinking of avoiding the trip downhill in the vehicle.

We now came to the treacherous bend, where the path was just exactly enough for the vehicle to pass through, a slip here would mean, we were going down rapidly to take a faster upward journey. Me, Vijayan, Rajesh and Srinu did the scouting job to ensure safety of the road beyond the tiny hair-pin bend, we did a fair bit of scouting and found a good clearance, where we could turn-around or park our vehicle. Me and Rajesh went back to get the vehicle till that point, whereas Vijayan and Srinu went till the top to Gallu temple after receiving instructions from a fellow trekker and ensured the safety of the road beyond the clearance point.

Somehow Kaalu managed to get past this hair-pin bend, but it took a seperate monumental effort to convince him to take the plunge. This devilish driver took the opportunity to blow the bill by an extra Rs.500/- just for his not so daredevil stunt, his bargain was silently turned down, but he still kept bargaining till the top, I learnt from him that, bargain could have been a combination of 2 english words bark + gain :).

We reached the Gallu temple and then we took the goat path to reach TRIUND peak. The goat path wasn't so steep and challenging, it was easy to climb up, but rubble and uneven rocks just made the journey a little more risky. The trip up the top got better and better, the views were splendid and we were very lucky to find some snow, that was the first time I saw snow in my life and the same goes to many of us in our gang. We threw the snow all over everyone and had some brief fun and photo session, all the way up the hill we found more and more small islets of snow.

I have to particularly say about a relatively large islet of snow we found near the half-way point, the islet was wonderful, it almost covered a 15 x 25 x 0.5 cu.metre in volume and was also melting slowly, for the first time I saw a small stream being formed, the sight itself was wonderful and admirable of the ways of the nature, everyone had a brief photo session there and climbed up till the half-way point, Vijayan and Gang left swiftly, whereas Swami, Srikanth, Srinu and I climbed slowly. By the time we reached the half-way point, Vijayan and Gang had already ordered Maggi for all of us in one of the oldest run shops in that mountain, the shop was just on the tip of the mountain, the view was splenid from there and the breeze was very soothing too. Maggi was salty up there, but everyone just yummed through it because of the hunger.

OK, I have to tell something about my slow climb with Srinu, Swami and Srikanth, I had a ligament injury and just got treated for it a month ago, but my only restriction was that I should not bend my knee beyond a particular degree, that's it, I am free to go anywhere if I kept to this restriction strictly. Srinu, Swami and Srikanth gave me good company and it was also fun to know that they had leisure photo and video sessions because of this, I am very thankful to them for not making me feel like a show stopper, instead still having a great attitude to make use of the other nice ways to spend their time while climbing TRIUND. The other group was fast and Saumya always tried to run faster than the others, closely followed by Vijayan and Rajesh.

Half-way up the mark, I decided to stop as it was already 2 PM and it will take 2 hours for even fast climbers to reach the top. Our guys had to comeback before dusk, so I stopped, took some rest and started my relaxing climb down half-an-hour later. The climb made me mesmerize in the breathtaking and beautiful views from the top.

When I was climbing down, I heard the shouts of our guys and to my surprise they abandoned the climb up because Soumya's bull run trailed up a wrong route to the peak. The route they initially took became steeper and steeper and our guys found the right route while coming back.

We took a leisure stroll down the hill and went back to Gallu temple and boarded our car to take the ride further down hill.

We took a video of the scary ride down the hill. Srikanth, Swami and Kapil preferred to walk, we caught up with them after we crossed that narrow path which I mentioned earlier, they were relieved and joined us in our ride down the hill.

All this had set the hunger on us, we went back to Palsong cafe, had Tibetan Butter Tea, Ginger Tea and some bread omlettes. The Tibetan Butter tea was thick and salty, but it tasted very good when it got cold, the Ginger Tea was very good, it was strong and biting a piece of Ginger sent a shock till the top of the head, it was good enough to keep a person awake for 2 days. We ran back to the hotel room to have a quick refresh and headed straight back to shopping.

The Tibetans seem to have a closely knit community thriving there, we saw the same people around the town in different shops doing different things. The night life was calming and gave a communal feel. Vijayan and me left for shopping together and the rest of the team split up to do their own bit and we decided to meet at 8:30 PM back at the place we started.

We had a brief session of shopping, we started of from the second street at Mcleod and roamed the whole place. We found lot of interesting things like hats made of rabbit, fox, antelope and Yak fur, they were really cool, but the vendors quoted a huge price of Rs. 450/- to Rs. 500/- and we were not sure of buying it. Tibetans seem to have a flair for antiques, they seem to have a lot of incense holders, statues of Gods, old face masks and lot of items made of Yak horn etc.

I never felt like buying anything that day, Vijayan was searching something for his daughter and shop vendors taking on to cheating led him to buying nothing till the end. I saw Swami and Srinu buying some T-shirts, I was happy that at least they were able to find something to buy.

Then we all met at the point we started at around 8:40 PM and headed to find a restaurant for dinner, we all went to Hotel Shangrila, it was a restaurant run by the Gyudmed Monastery and all the profits of this hotel was used up towards the education of the monks.

Me and Vijayan had Thukpa (Tibetan for Soupy Noodles), the noodles were not so spicy and both of us tried putting a load of red chilly paste inside it and both of us cried our way down till we finished our stuff, I personally used 4 paper towels to finish off with my tears :), it was very adventurous.

There was a small mess up when the monks brought us extra food than we actually ordered for and we found that we had ordered a dish twice, but still the monks also made a mistake for their part and bought another dish which we had not ordered for, since it was a charity organization, we all decided to pay up for the monk's mistake, since I was the root cause for the first mess up, Vijayan and team asked me to give the money for charity, we dropped the cash in the charity box, the monks were very happy with this. We were particularly happy with the neatness and the quality of food there, but the service was little sloppy as the monks did not understand good english, but the overall quality and price was remarkable.

We just went back to HOTEL SHIVALIK and had a great sleep.

For the trekkers:
Mcleod is 1700 metres above sea level, almost twice as high as Bangalore.
Maggi seems to be the State dish for the State of Himachal Pradesh, you can get it everywhere and people just seem to love it.

The shop at the half-way point started at 1984 and is run till now, a Maggi costs Rs.30 and no one's complaining for it is hard work to get stuff up there.

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