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A trip to Chitkul: My quest to be Himalayan for life

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chitkul, Kinnaur

To be born and brought up in the Himalayas is a great privilege not everyone gets. And I am one of those lucky chaps who grew up rolling in mud of the mighty mountains. Exploration is an instinct that grew stronger and stronger as I traded off countryside living for higher education. There is a saying if smell of Himalayas creeps into your blood, you will return to the misty mountains time and again. And this is how my journey to be a Himalayan for life started; my body and mind stopped responding to a mundane life of corporate world and I quit my job to embark on an unforgettable journey with my friend (Sunny) to Chitkul – a beautiful, small village situated at an altitude of 11,320 feet in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh. I still remember biting cold morning of February month when winter was in full swing. My hometown (Shimla) was already shrouded in a thin layer of snow when we booked two tickets to Sangla – 215 km away from Shimla. Temperature was in minus and the idea of travelling on bike was already out of question.

At 7:00 a.m. in the morning, we grabbed a seat in an HRTC bus that took us to Sangla. We reached there at 6:00 p.m. when it was snowing. With great difficulty we managed to find an affordable room at a homestay; spent a night there and woke up in the morning to see the entire village covered in one foot thick layer of snow. It was a great disappointment to know that the traffic had came to a halt and travelling to Chitkul – our ultimate destination which was still more than 22 km from Sangla – looked impossible. We requested a taxi driver and hired him who managed to take us 4km in the snowy road, and finally gave it to circumstances when the car skidded to hover a foot over the edge of the road.

Snowfall at Sangla

Sangla, Kinnaur

Sangla, Kinnaur_1

We paid the brave fellow and decided in a fraction of seconds to move ahead to cover another 18km on foot to reach our destination. We kept walking while leaving our footmarks behind us on the untouched snow. It had started snowing again and all we could hear was sound of fresh snow crunching under our feet in petrifying silence that accompanied us for another seven hours until we reached Chitkul at seven in the evening. Snow, which measured mere a foot in the day, had piled up to two feet by the time we reached our destination.

chitkul

chitkul

chitkul

It snowed for another one hour and suddenly came to a halt while we finished finding a room at HPPWD resthouse. The caretaker, a localite, at the resthouse was more than amazed to see us all draped in snow in time when no traveler dared visiting that region of the state. He was kind enough to offer us warm water for drinking and washing hands and feet, followed by tasty food. As we stepped out in the small courtyard after having dinner (there was no balcony as the building was single floor) to see the weather, we were amazed to see what the Mother Nature had bestowed us with – a million dollar view of the valley shining like a pearl in bright moonlight. We were the only two people, other than natives, to have been offered an opportunity to see a never-before-seen view of the valley, as per the villagers. My camera was out of juice and power supply had already crippled in the village due to heavy snow, all we could do was store all the beautiful memories in hard disks of our minds.

chitkul HPPWD Rest House

Next morning, we did not want to leave that place, but clear weather and sparkling snow invited and challenged us to get rolling on the way back to the zero point. We also accepted the challenge with great courage and courtesy, and started walking back again.

Bad weather, deep silence, bone-chilling winds, hunger, and tiredness were few things we eventually befriended on our quest to be ‘Himalayan for life,’ and, in all certainty, this was one of the best things we ever did.

chitkul

chitkul temple

The way back

chitkul - the way back

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Triund: Where the sky romances with mountains and wind plays music – a travelog

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Triund Where the sky romances with the mountains and wind plays the music

If you are in Dharamshala or around, a trek to Triund Hill is something you must not miss. The reason is, it is a moderate trek, even if it is for the first time you are planning to trek, you will not have any difficulty. The trail is beautiful and there are amazing plants and trees to help you uplift your mood and energy. It doesn’t matter how long you take to reach the top, but when you are up there you will feel amazing. The view from the Hill top is magnificent with 360 degree view of the mighty Dhauladhars and the sky looks so beautiful and at night it is enchanting. It is a sublime experience which you must have. Plus at night, when you look down, you can see the entire town gleaming with lights, and that makes your trek worth.

I will not say that I am any Triund or trekking expert. However I have done this trek thrice. I have my experience which I would like to share with you and if you are planning a trek solo, with friends, family or anyone, or if you are just curious about Triund, you will get to know quite a lot from my side.

Triund-trek1-Ask-Gypsie

So, it was 2015, when I planned for Triund along with two other friends. I was novice at that time about Triund and we spent a lot of extra money during the trek. For the other two treks I preferred a trekking company and it was a wise decision. As I came across a lot of local stories of the place and I enjoyed it more than my first visit.

triund

My trek began from Galu. There is a small check point at Galu where you have to register yourself. It is free of cost. While my trek guide was filling the formalities, I sneaked out and enjoyed a cup of ginger lemon honey from Thapu Dai’s chai shop. He is a man with a lot of stories and he likes to discuss a lot about politics and sports. He has some old books for sale and I bought a couple of them while returning.

on-the-way-to-triund

The hike from Galu to Magic view cafe (which is the middle of trek) is easy with a little gradient and the trail is really beautiful. At some places there are small boulders and if you are tired you can take a small break. I reached Magic View in one and a half hour and it was a beautiful walk with the smell of flowers making it refreshing and the trees giving shade whenever I felt the heat.

Magic View is a small café as I already mentioned. It was built in 1984 and it is the oldest chai shop of the trail and taking a break at this small and cosy place is is nice idea. You can have lemonade, chai, green tea, coffee, maggi, bread omelette, chocolates, energy drinks, cigarettes, and other trek essentials like walking sticks, woolens, gift items etc. from this place. Also, the view from the porch of the café is mesmerizing.

mega-view-cafe-triund

The trail from here takes a better gradient and there are rocks on the way which made me little tired. The route was zig zag and there was no place to sit and relax so I kept on walking, until I came across a beautiful boulder on my left. I fell in love with it and I named it “Shivee Boulder”, because it is pretty and it has enough space to lie down and relax or have a quick nap (I love to do that).

Also Read: Shrikhand Mahadev- A heavenly Himalayan trek

Thank God, I came across that boulder and relaxed, because after that the altitude was increasing and I was really tired, until I saw a dry waterfall. My guide told me that it was the underground waterfall which makes the Bhagsu waterfall. During monsoons, the level of water increases and it becomes a small stream on the dry nallah. Plus during winters there is a lot of snow on it.

Shivee boulder_Triund

Ask-Gypsie-shivee-triund

Soon we crossed it and there started the real walk. We had 22 curves to walk. I was actually tired and wanted to rest, but my guide encouraged me. He started telling me stories related to the trek. He told me about that one dangerous curve from where some tourist guy fell down while taking a selfie. He also told me about his experiences like, once while coming down from Triund he found an iPhone and apple watch. He named that place iPhone point. He returned the things he found  to the owner from Delhi and till date they call him and send groups for Trekking. He was so happy while telling me his tale of honesty, I could see real happiness in his eyes (Himachali people are honest)

Ask-Gypsie-triundHe was talking to me while an Indian trekker from Rishikesh stopped me and took a selfie with me. He was so impressed with me because I was carrying a huge backpack (and it was really heavy). He told me that he had seen girls walking up with just their purse and still cribbing and crying. His trek partner was a foreigner from Spain and she was  equally impressed. I was on cloud nine and trust me, this motivated me and I climbed non stop till the last tea shop where the 22 curves end.

triund-dog-ella

There I met Ella, a beautiful German Shepherd. She was really graceful. At that chai shop I had some water, chai and tried to play flute, and I was really bad at it. The only tune I can play on a flute is a Garhwali song “Bedu Pako”. May be I was breathless or tired or still on cloud nine, I couldn’t do it.

Gypsie On the way to triund

It was about to rain, so my guide asked me to start again. In five minutes I was on the top of Triund and it was a great feeling. The moment you reach the top, you can see a shack which is run by a guy named Kalu. He makes a nice bonfire and people like to sit there for exchanging their experiences and free music. I enjoyed the bonfire but didn’t stay at his place because there was something better.

Baisakhi Chacha: The Mountain Man

dadu-and-Ask-Gypsie

Baisakhi Chacha, I call him mountain man. He is serving at the Himachal Pradesh Forest Guest House located at Triund Hill since last 35 years. At first when I met him, he looked little occupied with his work and we hardly spoke for a couple of minutes. So, I broke the ice and started the conversation. “Chacha, Chai milega kya?” He looked at me, smiled and went to the kitchen. At tea we discussed a lot of things about mountains and he told me many stories related to his experiences with various trekkers from the past.

After tea we had a nice lunch which chacha made for himself, but he shared with me. He served me some wild mushrooms (Ban Bakri) with rotis. That was one great treat after the trek. Baisakhi chacha is a sweet person, however, when you will meet him for the first time you will be showered upon with stabbing words like, “Room nai hai. Pehle kyu nahi book karate. Sahib kabhi bhi bookings bhej dete hai. Sheher ja k book kyu nahi karate ho?”

When I asked him if he feels homesick, he replied in simple words that since last 35 years this is my home. I live here, the air, trees and climate of this place is like my family and I enjoy staying here. He can reach Triund top from Galu in 35 or 40 minutes, if there is no one to stop him and ask questions, like how far it is from here, is there any shop around or is it difficult from here etc. Chacha hates talking to strangers, but if he is comfortable with you, you will get to know a lot of stories from his experiences. He wakes up really early in the morning to fetch water from churri, which is around half an hour walk from Triund and if he finds anyone mis using water, that person is in soup. Talking about family and life, he told me a very interesting stories from his native village and his life in Triund. His supernatural encounters during snow and when there is no one on the hill. He also shared some interesting incidents with trekkers, like, during the late 80’s when British travelers were frequent in Triund and one evening while going uphill he met a British woman who needed some help. Baisakhi chacha not only helped her but took the entire group safely to the top and served them with tea and quick snacks available. The British woman was really impressed with him and she proposed him to marry her and she was even ready to take her to England. Chacha was smiling while telling this story and when I asked him, “Aap kyu nahi gaye?” Shyly, he replied, “Merko uska bhasha nahi samajh aana tha, usko mera nahi. Bahar ke log alag hote hai na.” Apart from that we talked about many other things and he told me amazing stories about the place.

Also Read:Churdhar – A mesmerizing and challenging Himalayan trek

Last year, Government of Himachal Pradesh awarded Baisakhi Chacha for providing hospitality in Triund. Till date, whenever I feel my life is tough, I think about him and get my confidence back.

Best time for Triund Trek:

During January to March, Triund trek is not open because of the snow. If you want to enjoy natural splendor to the fullest, the best time for Triund trek is from April to May. However, it is mostly crowded during this time. September to mid-November is also a nice time for this beautiful trek. You should definitely avoid Triund during the monsoons because the rocks are slippery and the mud is slushy during this time. There is a high risk of slipping down the hill during rainy season.

Important details about the trek:

Trek Duration: It can be covered as a day hike. However, if you plan a stay during night, you will get a chance to see the beautiful and star studded sky and if you look down, you will see the dazzling lights of the town. I will recommend you to stay at least one night at Triund.

Trek distance from McLeod Ganj to Triund: The distance of the trek is 9 Km, but it is an old saying that, you cannot measure the distance of mountains in kilometers. It is the number of hours you take to reach the top.

Starting the trek: You can either start the trek from McLeod Ganj or Gallu. I prefer staying in Dharamkot for a night and taking a short walk to Galu. These days there are auto rickshaws and taxis available from Dharamkot to Galu. Auto rickshaw charges rupees 80, and taxis are available for rs 400.

Triund Altitude: 2842 mts.

Triund trek grade: Moderate

Accommodation: There is a Forest Guest House on the top of Triund, but you need to book it in advance otherwise you will not get a room. There are tents available on almost every shack of Triund. You cannot pitch your own tent there if you don’t have permission from the Forest Department, which you should take at least a day before the trek from Forest Office in Dharamshala town.

Triund trek essentials:

  • People who trek often, know this already, however, if it is your first trek, you must carry a day sack, keep a small torch, first aid, tissue roll, water bottle, packed lunch, fruits, juice, camera and extra clothing as the weather of Dharamshala is unpredictable, it might rain or get colder than you expect, in the night.
  • Good quality, ankle length, waterproof trekking shoes or sneakers which are comfortable. Wear good quality cotton socks and keep a pair of flip flops.
  • For sun protection, you must apply sunscreen lotion, lip balm with SPF, sun glasses and hat.
  • Wear comfortable cotton T-shirt and lose trousers. Also, keep a warm jacket with you.

Some quick tips:

  • Be a responsible trekker and do not litter your waste. There are dustbins or huge bags available which are given by Waste Warriors, an initiative by Jodie Underhill to clean the mountains. All the shacks and shops have the waste bags available.
  • Keep water bottle with you because there is no water source on the way and buying a bottle of packed water can cost you rs 40 to 60. You can refill water from the filters available at Magic View and other shops on the way by paying rs 20 for one liter.
  • The way is laden with Rhododendron flowers, do not freak out and pluck the flowers or damage any other plants and trees. Let the beauty stay on the way.
  • Do not disrespect local cultures and nature. Be friendly to other trekkers.
  • If it is your first trek to Triund, hire local guide, they will make sure you get a tent to stay plus you will not have to worry about your meals. They will also take care of your safety and above all you will get to know a lot of local stories from the place. You can feel free to contact me to help you get a good guide.
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Eligible HPTDC employees to get one year bonus

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Himachal Tourism

HPTDC earned an operational profit of Rs 804 lakhs till date from 1st April, 2016. The turnover of the corporation has increased by 0.49 percent

SHIMLA- The State Government has approved one year bonus to eligible employees of Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC), informed HPTDC Board of Directors on Monday.

The Board also approved regularization of 56 daily waged and contingent paid workers, who have completed seven years of regular services on 31 March 2016 or on 30th September, 2016.

As many as 585 employees were benefited during the last 45 months by way of promotion, regularization etc, he claimed in the meeting.

Nod was given to fill five posts of Manager/Assistant Managers through direct recruitment in HPTDC. It was also decided to come out with the result of 63 posts of utility workers in this month itself. To fill up 100 posts of Utility workers, 63 posts were advertised.

Govt. also suggested construction of a small commercial complex at Tatta-Pani where around five to six hot water wash rooms have been constructed. Further, construction of a small restaurant to facilitate the visitors was proposed in the meeting.

Govt. directed to speed up the renovation of Hotel Shivalik at Parwanoo along, refurbishment of the Bushahr Regency at Rampur, and expansion of dining hall of Shrikhand Hotel at Sarahan.

It was disclosed that the corporation earned an operational profit of Rs 804 lakhs till date from 1st April, 2016. The turnover of the corporation has increased by 0.49 percent.

Managing Director, Dinesh Malhotra said that during last 45 months, a sum of Rs. 14 crore had been incurred on the 71 properties of HPTDC including hotels and restaurants.

Chief Secretary VC Pharka sought the Fuel Cost Ratio and the Food Cost Ratio for the next meeting in small units of HPTDC. He said that the water sports at Tattapani on reservoir water would soon start as the matter regarding this was at final stage of discussion.

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HPTDC to launch Hotel Management Software for better management and monitoring: Malhotra

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HPTDC

SHIMLA- Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) will soon introduce Hotel Management Software for all its units to facilitate better management and monitoring of its activities with in and outside the State.

This was disclosed by Managing Director, HPTDC Dinesh Malhotra while presiding over the performance appraisal meeting of the field officers of the Corporation, here yesterday. He said all the formalities had been fulfilled and tenders had also been called to develop this software which would help in effective monitoring of all properties of the Corporation besides handling the manpower and other activities from the head office.

He said the efforts were on to make all individual properties of the Corporation as profit making by formulating a special strategy after taking into consideration the strength, weakness, opportunities and threats. He said the emphasis was being laid on making every unit profit earning and to up keep all the properties in a proper manner.

Malhotra directed the field officers to bring qualitative changes in the services being offered by them to the guests and introducing unique and exquisite dishes based on particular area, especially for the foreign visitors. He also stressed for giving top priority to the feedback of the guests so that whenever they visit the same place again, they were happy and convinced.

While having a detailed power point presentation with the field officers on each unit of the Corporation, Malhotra reviewed the performance of each hotel and café and said necessary renovation and up-gradation work would be carried out and emphasis would be laid on providing more facilities to the visitors. He directed them to send proposals for bringing further improvement in the hotels and cafes as per the requirement for which appropriate funds would be provided at the earliest.

He also directed to work for reducing the deficit and earn profit through individual marketing by starting special packages for different institutions, public sector undertakings and tourists in the concerned areas. He asked them to hold meetings with private hotel players and associations to bring innovative changes in their marketing strategy.

 

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