Triumphing the Triund

By Aditya in Experiences
Updated 19:57 IST Jan 02, 2018

You are always choosing! Often the only difference between a problem being painful or being powerful is a sense that we choose it, and that we are responsible for it.

- Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F.ck

 

Life changing or life saving would be an over estimation, but this book has certainly influenced me, my thought process and forced me to reconsider my anchor points. It took me on a long walk of introspection and think about the choices I made. And while there are so many choices (micro and macro) that one makes, which reap reward or force retribution, here is a small account which fits the quote.

Now in retrospect, I find the choices that I made that day to be strange, funny and alarming at times, but most important of all, they were choices that I made.

March 2017 not long back, it was that period when I had left serving an organization and was yet to start the new enterprise. I decided to travel to Himachal Pradesh. The objective was multifold, take a break from routine, enjoy the travel and explore a new state, that was obvious. Witness a test match at the picturesque Dharamshala stadium, that was incidental. Trek the Triund hill, the objective was unknown or unclear then. Maybe I sought adventure, maybe I wanted a nice post on social media, not sure, but I was determined to do it.  

Before I started my journey, I read a few blogs and articles about the trek and made an assessment. Although my fitness level at that time was far from best, I somehow felt that I would be able to do it. The blogs suggested that it was an easy or moderate trek. Loaded with information from the internet and not so clear objective but a definite drive, I started my journey.

Strange, but for an early riser, I started very late at around 9 am. The local bus ferrying commuters between Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj was cramped but a fun ride. The small bus filled with locals and taking the numerous uphill hair pins covered the distance in about half an hour. I got down at the McLeod Ganj bus stand and without wasting further time, went to the auto stand. The price was agreed after a quick bargain and we started the ride to Bhagsu Naag temple. The conversation  with the auto driver followed, (keeping it in Hindi):

Auto Walah: Ji sahab, kahan se aaye ho?

Me: Pune se.

Auto Walah: Pune wale bahot aate hain.

Me (thinking): Have heard the same in MP and Uttarakhand as well..

Auto Walah: Marathi aur Bengali, adhiktam yehi log aate hai. Ghumne ka shauk hai…

Me: Ji

Auto Walah: Akele hi aye ho?

Me (thinking): Have heard the same in MP and Uttarakhand as well..

Me: Ji

Auto Walah: Puri jagah dekhoge? Dalai Lama Temple…?

Me: Nahi, Bhagsu Naag Ji ke darshan karke, Triund jane ka irada hai

Auto Walah: Triund? Akele jaoge? To fir Dharamkot wale raste se chale jao., main chod dunga aapko.

Me: Na ji, main to isi raste jaunga.

Auto Walah: Jaisi aapki marzi.

The moment he suggested that I should take the Dharamkot route, years of prejudice about the auto drivers forced me think that he was taking me for a ride. I made my choice as if by instinct and with a healthy dose of pride, I have done my homework and I know my route, stick to the plan.

I got down at Bhagsu, paid him and parted ways with the customary Jai Bhole Naath. The temple is a few paces from the road and was not at all crowded. A few people were bathing in the kund. I took the blessing of Bhagsu Naag Ji and started walking on the pebbled track. As I look back, I have no idea why I decided to skip carrying the sack, maybe I wanted to be light on my feet and was going to be back in about four hours. So I just had a modest jacket and scarf with me as I took the first step towards Triund at around 10 am.

For about a distance of 500 meters up to the waterfall, the gradient was easy and the path and steps built in stone. A lot of tourist walk up to the waterfall to take selfies and groupfies By the time I reached there, it was pretty warm and I removed the jacket and tied it around my waist. There was an interesting cafe serving European cuisine which was occupied by lot of foreigners enjoying coffee and the views. A small board pointed in the direction of Triund.

As I crossed the waterfall, stepping and jumping over large rocks, a native dog came along and started following me uphill. I am not too fond of dogs but I found his company nice and was strangely glad to have him around. The pebbled path was replaced with a foot track winding along the numerous Rhododendron trees. The dog used to lead and sometime trail behind, sniffing here and there. I kept track of the general direction we were heading and kept an eye on the waterfall as a landmark.

About an hour or so into the trek, the Rhododendron cover gave way to a bare patch and I could see a small temple at a distance. I felt thirsty and was eager to find water there. That is when it dawned upon me that I was not carrying water either. I reached the temple and was glad to see a tap. The cold mountain water was fresh and rejuvenating. I prayed to the Devi and stood in the shade. I then realized that the dog was no where to be seen and neither could I see any people around. I realized that I did not encounter a single person on the trek route till this point. There were a few houses on the plateau build with local slate rocks and I also realized that all of them were either abandoned or at least unoccupied for the time being. I had a strange feeling but I decided to look around. I checked my direction again, noticed the waterfall, now looking much smaller. McLeod Ganj and Dharamshala along with the stadium were visible in the valley below.        

The blogs had told me that the route is easy and has shops offering food and water. Something was wrong, or was it not the right season to trek? Little confused but still determined I decided to push on. From here onwards there was no demarcated path, I decided to make my own road and climb in the general direction upward. “I would reach the top of the hill and take it from there, if too tired, I can always climb down,” I thought. And so I kept walking. After a few minutes of random steps a trail suddenly appeared from nowhere and I felt better. I kept on the march and was on top of the hill only to realize that there was another hill further up.

Now the waterfall and the valley were growing distant, but I was feeling ok, as long I had them in my sight. Now I also had another landmark, the Devi temple, so my return path was clear. I made my mind to climb this second hill and make an assessment from there. I reached there around noon. That was about two hours of uphill trek and snow peaked mountains were no where in sight. “Something is wrong, this is much tougher than the blogs suggest,” I thought. I also realized that I was again feeling thirsty and a bit tired, if not exhausted. Time for a decision, after climbing for two hours, do I give up and return to base or I push ahead some more. I decided the later. Too much pride, I guess.

But as I walked a few more minutes, I started to realize that I was loosing strength every minute and feeling thirsty as well. Sitting was out of the Dad's coaching manual but I was too tired so I sat on a rock and looked down. I was nowhere. Two and a half hours from McLeod Ganj and probably a few more minutes from Triund. As I was resting there, contemplating I heard a few voices. I searched and saw a few men walking towards me. Fear, who are they, will they rob me, will they hurt me? Misplaced fear, they turned out to be young boys enjoying the trek just like I was.

The conversation with the kids followed, (keeping it in Hindi):

Kids: Sir, akele aaye ho?

Me thinking: Not again…

Me: Haan, aur kitna aage hai?

Kids: Bas aa hi gaya, chalo chalo.

Me: Upar khane pine ka prabandh hai

Kids: Haan dukane hai, chalo chalo

And before I realized the kids crossed me and merrily went ahead. I was filled with hope and disappointment. Hope for the kids assured me that it is not too far, hope for a finally saw humans on the trek route. Disappointment for they didn’t stop for me, and I was dumb enough to not ask for water. But that chat offered me just enough motivation to go on.

The motivation proved worth, as exhausted I was, I saw the snow peaks for the first time. Triund was within reach, and looked promising. Although the motivation didn’t last long as I realized that there was another hill to scale. By the time, I had started feeling and acting like a Bollywood actor does in a Registan. “Pani, Pani…” Funny in retrospect but I was quintessentially f…ed..! Can you believe what I did? The first sign of hope that I can survive (gross exaggeration, but that happens when your brain is short of oxygen and water) came from a pool of snow. I promptly picked a handful and ate it. If I have ever experienced magic, here it was.  

It gave me the much needed energy and I pushed on to trek hopefully the last hill. Finally after three and a half hours of endurance and willpower test, I made it to the summit. What I saw and experienced is beyond the realm of words. The Dhauladhar mountain range in all it’s majestic glory stood there. The clouds would play hide and seek with the peaks. A few minutes it would be dark and gloomy and then it would open up and bright sunshine showered everything.

I went to the first shop that I saw and drank water and rested, soaking in the beauty of the place. Had the most delicious Maggie noodles I have ever had till date. After a casual exchange with the shop owner, now with the very familiar, “Akele aaye ho?” questions, I decided to explore the table land atop. What I saw and happened next is the crux of this long winding trekalog.  

Hardly a few meters beyond the shop was a large tableland filled with hundreds of tourist (mainly youngsters), laughing, clicking pictures and having a great time. I was completely bamboozled. I went ahead and saw the group of kids. The conversation with the kids followed, (keeping it in Hindi, by now you know):

Kids: Sirjee aagye?

Me: Ji

Kids: Pasand aya?

Me: Beshaq. Behad khubsurat hai. Yaar lekin ek baat bata. Ye itne sare log kahan se aaye hai?

Kids: Dharamkot wale raste se. Wo bada asan rasta hai. Ded-Do ghante me upar aur pure raste mein dukane bhi hai…

Me: Accha?

I was grinning from ear to ear. After spending a few more minutes there and taking pictures and selfies myself, I decided to climb down. This time…., of course the same route. When I was about to start my walk down, it got extremely cold and it started to snow. I quickly rushed to the shop to take shelter and enjoyed a cup of tea. The shop owner assured me that the snow fall wont last long and it actually stopped in a few minutes. The sun kissed peaks back in the full glory.

With food inside my stomach and water bottle in hand, I was feeling far more comfortable and was confident that I will make it down. My target was to reach McLeod Ganj before sunset. I do not know why we are so engulfed with fear? Fear of getting lost, fear of darkness, fear of animals, fear of people and what not. The climb down was pretty much clear, three hills down, then the Devi temple, then the walk through Rhododendron forest to the cafe and down to Bhagsu Naag temple.

It must be have been around 3:30 pm, I was going down the second hill as I saw a women climbing up. I could make out from the distance that she was a foreigner. She had a large back pack and moved at a slow yet steady pace. In a few minutes we crossed each other and in that passing second exchanged a polite smile. I was first shocked and later inspired by the lady’s resolve. It would take at least an hour and a half for her to reach the tableland. It might get dark, she was alone, did she have a tent reserved? Did she have friends up there? I felt strangely shameful of my fears. None I saw in the lady’s smile and her determined walk. That also made me a lot less anxious to reach base before sunset, which I did anyway.

By the time I reached Bhagsu, I was completely exhausted. With no more energy left to walk and lesser even to enjoy the bus ride, I took an auto down to my hotel in Dharamshala. The conversation with the auto driver followed, (keeping it in Hindi):

Auto Walah: Triund gaye the?

Me: Ji

Auto Walah: Bhagsu wale raste?

Me: Ji

Auto Walah: Akele?

I just smiled.

 

You are always choosing! Often the only difference between a problem being painful or being powerful is a sense that we choose it, and that we are responsible for it.

I choose to walk the Bhagsu wala rasta. The Dharamkot wala rasta would have been a lot less tiring, it might have given me a bigger window atop, but it would not have taught me what I learned this way. I don’t feel the need to summarize the learning, I don’t want to get preachy.

Another quote from the same book that I would like to share though is this:

I was in love with the result- the image of me being successful- but I wasn’t in love with the process. And because of that, I failed at it, repeatedly. I didn’t even try hard enough to fail at it. I hardly tried at all. It took me a long time to discover that I didn’t like to climb much. I just liked to imagine the summit.

I admit that although this trek did provide me some of my finest moments, it has been difficult to replicate such choices elsewhere in life. We must consciously make the choices, enjoy the climb, only then will we reach the summit, and it will always be worth it. Always..!

 

Wishing you all a very happy new year and a life filled with choices you make.

Cheers.

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