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
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.
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.
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.
HP Govt Notifies New Paragliding, River Rafting Sites, Plans Floating Restaurant at Tattapani
Shimla-New sites for adventure sports activities in Himachal Pradesh has been notified by the State Government, informed Director Tourism and Civil Aviation, Yunus Khan, yesterday.
On 23 February the State Government had announced that it was planning to open a floating restaurant at Tattapani in Mandi district. Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur had also inaugurated water sports activities at Tattapani from Shimla.
Additional sites for paragliding and river rafting has been notified. Now tourists visiting the state could experience paragliding at new sites in the districts of Kullu, Kangra, Mandi, Chamba, and Shimla.
New notified paragliding sites in Himachal Pradesh include:
- Pandhara to Gadsa and Khargan to Nangabag in district Kullu
- Tang Narwana to Khirku in Kangra district
- Darouta to Lahra (Khajjiar) and Lahra to Darol and Raina to Nainikhad Jarei in Chamba district
- Prashar and Spenidhar in Mandi district
- Tikkar, Junga to Chauri/Junga in Shimla district
New site for river rafting on river Beas from Nadaun to Dehra Bridge has also been notified.
Other than the notified river rafting sites, already existing sites in Himachal includes
- Shamshi to Jehri and Babeli to Pirdi in Kullu district,
- Luhri to Tattapani in Shimla district,
- Darch to Jispa and Kaza Bridge to Tabo in Lahaul-Spiti.
He said that for the safety of paragliding pilots and tourists, the Department of Tourism in collaboration with Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering & Allied Sports (ABVIMAS), Manali, has taken the initiative to provide training courses to paragliding pilots, which includes SIV course, a safety training course for Tandem paragliding pilots.
Director said that in the last two years an expenditure of approximately rupees two crore has been incurred on imparting training courses to 749 persons, which includes basic mountaineering course, paragliding course, basic, intermediate and advance skiing course including SIV course for providing training to locals from these newly identified areas.
In addition to these new notified sites, there are many other notified sites in Himachal Pradesh for paragliding for adventure enthusiasts. These sites include
- Bir-Billing, Chohla Indru Nag near Dharamshala in Kangra district,
- Solang Nalah, Marhi, Talaiti-Talogi, Majach-Shanag in Kullu district
- Mauja Rehad to Karganoo in Solan district
- Ser Jagaas in Sirmaur district.
State Government had already also notified H.P. Miscellaneous Adventure Activities ‘Amendment’ Rules. The government also said that it would start new water sports activities like a speed boat, water skiing, jet skiing, ski-boarding, water scooter, cruise etc. in various water bodies.
In the Karsog area, the Government had said, popular tourist destinations such as Mahunag Temple, Kamaksha Temple etc. would be developed from a religious tourism point of view.
Himachal: Temples, Hotels, Private Bus Services to Remain Closed for Now
Shimla-Temples and religious places in Himachal Pradesh will remain closed for now as the State Government and the District Administrations are yet to issue any Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Though the centre has issued SOPs, Himachal has entrusted Deputy Commissioners to take a decision regarding re-opening of temples. Most of the temples in the State are under the Deputy Commissioners of the districts.
Himachal Pradesh – “Devbhoomi”- has a plethora of temples and places of religious importance like Tibetan Monastery and the abode of Tibetian spiritual leader Dalai Lama. The income of these temples plays a considerable role in the economy of the State. There are towns and regions which financially depend on visitors/pilgrims. A large number of visitors from outside the State, especially from Haryana, Chandigarh, Punjab and Delhi, West Bengal visit these temples or arrive for pilgrimage.
But from March 17 – the day temples were shut down and tourists were prohibited to enter the State-there is no income. Salaries of priests and others employed at these temples are paid from their income.
Also, the Language, Art and Culture Department of Himachal Pradesh Government is supposed to issue guidelines in this regard.
So far, DCs have not issued any notification in this regard and are of the view that the staff at temples, shopkeepers around these temples and other traders need to be trained and sensitized to ensure safety.
Though the State had announced re-opening temples and hotels and restaurants from June 8 for only residents of Himachal Pradesh, it would require a great amount of effort from the district administration to filter visitors and ensuring that no person from outside the State is lining up at temples. The State borders are open for movement of traffic and a large number of people have already returned and would continue to return to their native places in the State for a while.
With the return of these people, the State has witnessed a big spike in the number of COVID-19 cases. The state has reported over 410 cases so far. Of this total, over 350 cases have been reported May 3, 2020, onwards – the day boarders of the State were opened for returnees. The cases continue to rise with several cases being reported every day.
Therefore, the State Government need to be very careful while opening temples. Lack of social distancing, screening, sanitizations of temples, proper preventive measures to save temple staff and shopkeepers could turn temples into hotspots of COVID-19 spread within no time.
“We are in no hurry to open the temples to the public. We will take a call at an appropriate time once all precautions are put in place and staff at the temples are fully trained for implementation of the guidelines,”
said Deputy Commissioner Kangra Rakesh Prajapati.
Kangra, Una, Hamirpur and Bilaspur districts have famous temples and shrines which the pilgrims from all over the country especially Haryana, Punjab and UP visit every year.
Kangra district alone receives lakhs of pilgrims and visitors every year as it houses famous temples like Jawalamukhi, Chamunda Devi, Bagalamukhi, Brijeshwari etc. Dharamshala is famous for its Monastery and because of the residence of Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama.
“Once we open the access of the public to the temples, it will be difficult to differentiate between the locals and those reaching the temples from outside as a lot of people have already come to their homes from outside during the lockdown,”
To implement SOPs, the District Administrations in these districts are likely to conduct training of staff, priests, guards and shopkeepers around the temples during the current week. There is a possibility that some of the temples would be opened for the people of the State for paying obeisance.
However, religious gathering and events would remain prohibited.
Hotel and Restaurant Owners Want to Remain Closed
The hospitality industry, which is worst hit due to the lockdown in wake of the corona pandemic, is also reluctant in opening hotels and restaurants. Hoteliers were asked to re-open from June 8, but they declined to do so. Various associations of hoteliers from various districts had held a video conference with the State Government last week.
They had told the Government that before the hotels could be opened, the staff would need to be trained properly, which would take time. Also, as the entry of tourists is still prohibited, the hoteliers are preferring to remain closed.
Private Operators Remain off the Roads
The State Government had decided to re-open public transport after the end of phase three of the lockdown, and the HRTC had resumed the services on a conditional basis like plying with only 60 per cent of seat capacity, regular sanitization before and after every tour, ensuring social distancing etc. However, private operators have declined to run buses and demanded a hike in fares in order to start operating at 60 percent passenger capacity.
Also Read: Private Bus Operators in Himachal Refuse to Start Operating from June 1 Unless Govt Provides Relief
Triund: Where the sky romances with mountains and wind plays music – a travelog
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
He 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.
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.
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
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.
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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