Throughout my graduation years in Delhi, I had heard stories of Triund, Kheerganga and similar treks in the state of Himachal Pradesh. A few months ago, my friends and I decided to take the trek to Triund. I was aware of the terrain and knew that it wasn’t a tough trek which meant an easy start although I yearned for more adventure.
We were already travelling to Nurpur for a friend’s wedding and decided to hitch a ride to McLeodganj. Our journey took us through 5 buses in a single day but that was the best part. I can understand the fun of having your own vehicle in the mountains but finding yourself on rusted irons seats of local buses with the local crowd is quite another experience. I remember we took a bus to McLeodganj from Dharamshala , it was packed with young monks and on the way they sang songs in their language which to our tired group was a retreat.
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We started for the trek a little late, as we were all exhausted from our journey. But tiredness did little to subside our spirit. I was happy that my journey started right from my hotel in Bhagsunag, we got to see some really cool house guest stays and cafes. Needless to say it was a village and the narrow trail had already enthralled us with excitement. All my cheeriness came to an end when I reached the common starting point of the trek – Gallu Temple. First, there was more crowd than expected. My previous treks had always been quiet and peaceful but here it didn’t feel different from being in Delhi. You could see similar crowd, same songs by Honey Singh being played and people littering everywhere. I ignored this assuming it to be the start point and things would be better along the way.
The path to Triund is not very adventurous in its sense but beautiful indeed. It involves no crawling and climbing and you literally walk up to the hill. Thanks to local authorities and residents who make at least two trips to the top to keep lives of tourists easy. I was enthusiastic about the trek as it offered gigantic view of Dhauladhars. I remember my friend showing to me from Nurpur and it encouraged me to find that wall next to me on the peak. After beating the tiring trail of about 3 hours, I reached there and saw those three huge peaks in front of me and trust me, I was awestruck by its size. However, my excitement was short-lived when I looked around the place. There were more than two hundred people putting up in tents, the place isn’t quite as is expected on a mountain peak and unclean!
I am so disheartened to write this but one of the reasons that Triund became disappointment to me was because of the amount of garbage I could find. Till now I had just read articles about how traveller is different from tourist and there I could sense the difference. They smoke cigarettes, throw alcohol bottles, food wrappers and plastic as if someone would come and clean the litter. I made friends with a few trekkers and they told me that they were carrying garbage bags to collect garbage and carry it back with them. None of us were aware that this is what Triund would be hence, we didn’t get ours. But we helped the local people clean the place. We took some rest and collected all the dry garbage and threw it in the bins next to the small tea shops. Obviously, we couldn’t clean the place thoroughly but made sure that we did our best till we were there.
I remember talking to one of the shop keepers to whom I asked how they manage waste and food stock, to which he replied, “You can very well see how poorly these tourists treat this place. When we walk uphill, we bring food stock for the shops and on our way down, we take the garbage. There are so many of us yet are unable to keep it completely clean. Every day tourists come and spoil the place. Foreign tourists are better than Indians. They help us clean the place, feed our dogs and pets and talk generously. We Indians must realize the importance of mountains.”
What else could I say? He found foreigners better than Indians and why not, at least they lent a hand in the purpose. I am not against this place but certainly not excited to pay another visit. But if at all, any of you are planning such trip, take the following notes:
- Use local transport, it’s cheaper and convenient.
- Try not to carry packaged food but if at all you want to carry (as it is very expensive at the top), make sure you bring the wrappers back.
- Take a garbage bag along, and on return you can either hand it over to the locals or give them to shop keepers who can send it back to the town.
- Try and support locals who provide home stays for really cheap price. Also, their establishments are far from the hassle of main market and will give you a peaceful encounter. Or if you still need privacy, you can always find accommodations which use solar energy for electricity usage. In this manner, you’ll be encouraging right practices.
– Text and Images by Ishani Palandurkar