Tibetan prayer flags flutter colorfully on a light breeze, while an eerie mist shrouds the trail as we leave behind the bustling main square of Mcleod Ganj. It’s the beginning of a two day, one night trek high into the Himalayan foothills, and early impressions are fabulous. The small town tucks neatly into the folds of the Kangra Ranges and already offered spectacular vistas in the early morning light, but with every uphill step the views got more and more special. My hiking partner Amanda, on her first jaunt beyond the U.S, just couldn’t contain her superlatives, and time and again I heard, “I’m just blowin’ my own mind, Steve, blowin’ my own mind.” I think she liked it.
After around 2 hours our guide Satish led us to a small tin and tarpaulin tea hut known as Magic View, where we rested and took in the panorama…or at least that was the plan; the clouds had rolled up the mountain so quickly that the view was invisible beneath the chilly blanket of mist. Nevertheless, it was still magic, especially with hot chai to warm the cockles.
The mist cleared, and onwards and upwards we went, snaking around narrow ledges and dodging pack mules carrying supplies to camp at Triund. The sun was back, and under blue skies the scenery was truly fantastic. A little over 2 hours later, and after a steep final push, we arrived at the Triund Plateau into a genuine ‘wow’ moment. On every side, valleys plummeted 2000 meters, only to rise impossibly again into the Dhauladhar Range, tipped by snow and glistening like diamonds. It was a beautiful sight.
I found myself a cosy rock and read for an hour until dinner was served in camp, where over dahl and rice, tales were told between fellow trekkers who all agreed that we were in a special place. Once darkness enveloped the plateau we were treated to the clearest starry night, the silence only punctuated by distant rumbles of thunder and the occasional cries of a lost sheep.
With a 6:00 a.m rise ahead for our push onto the 3,500m snow line, it was an early and chilly night in my tent. But what a sunrise. Waking above the clouds is always an exciting moment, and when the dazzling orange sun peeked above the nearby ridge it was ‘wow’ all over again. “Just blowin’ my own mind, blowin’ my own mind,’ I heard from somewhere behind a big rock.
We made it to the snow line and spent 30 minutes savoring the serenity, as massive eagles effortlessly rode the thermals while searching for lost sheep. We were first up from camp, and had the mountain to ourselves. I chatted to Satish as Amanda wandered off and out of view. After a little while the young guide began to look concerned. A month ago 2 tourists disappeared from this exact area and despite the best efforts of the Mountain Rescue unit and the Indian Army, they have not been seen again. It doesn’t look good for them, but fingers crossed for a safe return. With worry edging his face, I scanned the hill side, and spotted Amanda some distance further up, cross-legged on a rock, meditating, or so she said. Looked to me as if she was taking a nap.
With Satish assured, the hike down was leisurely but no less inspiring, and around 2 p.m our weary party of 3 strolled proudly into Mcleod Ganj, well in need of a hard earned Kingfisher or three.It was a beautiful hike with spectacular scenery that will live long in the memory, where even the ‘Magic non-Views’ are magic.
Where have been your best hiking moments? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
All images by the Nomad, except those by the one ‘blowin’ her own mind’ and Satish. Thanks guys.
Coming very soon: Hanging With The Dalai Lama and Other Cool Monks