Sunday, June 13, 2004
Manpreet Singh describes the joy of trekking along a popular route in the Dhauladhars
IT is a one-day trek on the oldest migratory route followed by shepherds of Chamba and Kangra. Years ago, the British began trekking to Triund on this route and today it is a poular trek route with the domestic as well as foreign tourists.
From McLeodganj, in upper Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh, it takes you about four hours to reach Triund. If you are adventurous enough, you may reach the snowline at Illaqa after an hour-and-a-half climb from there.
An adventure travel agent, Prem Sagar, in McLeodganj says this trekking route is becoming popular as "it is the nearest snowline in the entire Himalayan range. Perhaps, the only place in the world where the snowline is just 13 km away. Here you can see the snow birds and wild animals like musk deer and black bear."
Triund is nine km from McLeodganj and Illaqa is about four km further up from Triund. While Triund is open for trekking throughout the year, Illaqa, as it snows heavily there, is good for trekking from April to June-end and September onwards to Christmas time. Most people stay overnight at Triund, trek to Illaqa and return the next day. One can be back the same day.
An early morning trek begins from McLeodganj (1700 metres), as one ascends to Dharamkot village (2100 metres), panoramic scenes stretch below — layers of hills housing small villages spread in the vast expanse of Kangra Valley.
As you go up a little further, you hear the silence speak in the sound of birds’ wings flapping. It is early dawn and the happy, free birds take joyous flights, hovering over your head while your sweating body demands a few resting moments. You can hear the wind and see its presence in swaying tiny twigs and towering pines. The music of birds reverberates all around in their magical chirping.
And then you reach the Galu Devi Temple (2130 metres), besides which is a small refreshment shop aptly named "Rest a while." From this point the trekking gets rigorous, with 22 steep curves and tough trails.
Sometimes, more than a 100 trekkers pass in a day for the snowline from here during the season. Most are foreigners. The going gets tougher. Your mind is fully focused on the heights while your body is busy using all its power to pull along your tired legs. On the way as you take rest, sitting on a rocky stone, and look below the human habitation, the worldly ambitions and cities’ rat race seems so far away. Meanwhile, you continue to rough it out through a gruelling course — walking on stony trails, yellow-brown fallen-leaf paths or jumping over an occasional fallen tree trunk.
On the way, one meets the simple shepherds guiding their flocks to the greener pastures during the summers. Like the rugged-faced 41-year-old Chattar Singh says, "I have been taking our goats and sheep on this route to Chamba and Lahaul since my childhood along with my father."On reaching Triund (2975 metres) the sheer magnificence takes you unawares. From here it takes just a little over an hour to reach Illaqa (3350 metres) — the snowline. Spotting an Indian family near Triund, on its way to snowline, with two boys below 10, in this rough terrain, does come as a surprise, though. "We wanted to do something different than just sightseeing the famous tourist spots. It is very challenging," says Kapil Tewari, a middle-aged engineer from Delhi, adding "And my kids are enjoying every bit of it."
It is a feast for the senses once you reach Illaqa — the snow-covered Dhauladhar range spreads out before your eyes. From here, the shepherds move on to Indrahar Pass to cross over to the Chamba Valley.
Enamoured by the majestic mountains, Matthew, a young trekker from UK, is all excited, "Man, your country is beautiful. I am glad that I came here. The trek was just amazing. It’s so wonderful here. I will remember it for life."