A budget trip to Triund (Mcleodganj) from Delhi
The best part about being a Geography Student in Delhi University is that our semester end examination ends much before most of the other courses. So, on 15th May, I had planned a trip to Mcleodganj and more specifically Triund along with my Geography buddies. The initial phase of the trip was not very cheerful for me because of one main reason. Just before my Human Geography exam, my friend Anirudh comes to me and gives me a shock as he cites that there have been adverse weather conditions in Mcleodganj causing severe thunderstorms and that his parents will not allow him to go for the trip despite all the bookings and excitement. This weather report reduced our group of four into three. However, the one to back out was not Anirudh. So, I, Anirudh and Aakash boarded the 8 PM AC bus from Majnu Ka Tilla to Mcelodganj. So, we were all set and the bus moved. The bus stopped for dinner in some random dhaba in Sonepat and then we dozed off.
The next morning, when I slid open my eyelids, that scenery from the bus rejuvenated me to the most extreme level. It was raining heavily and the mountainous woods and ridges looked prepossessing. We had entered Dharamshala. Aakash was fast asleep and I and Anirudh were enjoying the scenery with awe. I wondered how capable a driver has to be to drive through those sharp twists and turns in a mountainous area like Mcleodganj. A huge salute to all the bus drivers!
Finally, when we got down from the bus in Mcelodganj bus stop at around 6:45 AM. Anirudh was repenting to have not cancelled the trip after looking at the torrential rain which was literally attacking us. After taking a few pictures of the mesmerising valleys, we took a cab worth hundred bucks and drove off to Snow Lion Restaurant for breakfast. We took a cab only because it was raining, otherwise one can easily walk to this restaurant from the bus stop. We were slightly before time but decided to sit there and chat about random futile stuff. After around 15 minutes, the restaurant opened. It was a good place for breakfast. It is not very student friendly as per the cost of the food but not so student unfriendly. Throughout the time, we were discussing whether we should go for the trek. In our background, we could hear two more couples being indecisive about the trek as the weather was getting worse. Thus, we decided to not go for the trek and instead do sightseeing of Mcelodganj and Dharamshala. Also, we ended up booking an OYO room for the night.
After leaving the restaurant, we went to the Prayer of Wheels and simply took a round of it. Thereafter, we decided to take a walk downhill and have a cup of tea despite the hard-hitting rainfall. Walking through the woods of Mcleodganj, we encountered a variety of breathtaking sceneries. After a point, we started our return and had a cup of tea near Mcleodganj Bus stop. There is a multiple level parking lot belonging to the Bus Stand near the tea stall, which manages to give few stunning views. I assumed that the cloudy weather escalated the beauty of the view.
After having that refreshing cup of tea, we decided to stroll to our hotel. Google map showed that it was a thirty-minute walk from where we were and thus, we began to walk. And, certainly, I don’t regret taking a walk rather than a cab. We saved money as well as savoured our eyes. As we walked through, we spotted numerous shops selling different items such as handicrafts, clothes, footwear, souvenirs and so on. I was immediately attracted by those incredible shops but decided to bump into those shops while returning. As we walked further, we got spectacular views of the unique architecture of the settlements of Mcleodganj and Dharamshala. Just a few hours in this place and my visual sense was already heightened. And, believe me, the unexpected surprising weather, sudden reverberation of waterfalls and wind and the tangled roads along with the cheerful people added extra beauty to the entire experience.
As we neared the hotel, we satisfied ourselves that this thirty-minute walk was alluring enough to compensate for our trek to Triund top. But I got a call from our guide, Mr. Praveen. He told me that the weather has become better and asked if we were ready for the trek. After a brief discussion among each other we decided that we would go for a day hike to some point and start our descent before sunset. We immediately rushed to the hotel, checked in, changed up and met the team and rest of the trekkers near the Bhagsu taxi stand. Finally, after multiple cancellations and indecision we started our trek.
We crossed through the Bhagsu market, then the Bhagsunath temple and finally reached the Bhagsunath waterfalls. Sitting near the tip of the waterfall, a different vibe embraced me and the wind prompted my heart to look at the world in a different way. Another thought that came to me at that time was that we have almost completed the half of the trek but the guide exclaimed, “This is the starting point of our trek and it will take another four to five hours to reach till the top.” Honestly, I was excited. I wanted to reach the top although; my friends made it clear that we would start our descent after about an hour of trek. I was slightly disheartened but, I had to agree since we were a team. Without wasting much time, we continued our trek. When I crossed the waterfall, I could see that few of the group members were struggling to cross the rocks of the waterfall and one among them was my friend, Aakash. I assumed two reasons for his struggle. Number one, he is not very experienced in doing much physical and challenging activities. And number two and more importantly, he was wearing canvas shoes which according to my experience is slippery at its best and has zero or near zero grip and thus, not very advisable for trekking. Nevertheless, I loved his zeal to challenge himself. So, after crossing the humongous rocks of the Bhagsunath waterfall we began walking further.
Quickly, I counted the number of people present in our group. There were twelve members: Two couples, one in the mid-twenties and the other probably late-thirties (didn’t ask them), four young men who came for a bachelor trip (I dreamt and envied), the guide – Mr.Praveen and three of us. Interestingly, the four young men were ex-Kirorians (the students of Kirori Mal College are known as Kirorians) and I managed to remember one of them. His name was Rishabh who was Physics student in KMC and is now working in State Bank of India, Mumbai (I guess). I managed to remember his name because of two main reasons. Firstly, he was a well-versed and confident fellow who knew and dared to start a conversation with a stranger and hence, he had initiated the conversation with me. Secondly, not bragging but, we both were literally leading the group during the trek, mostly, if not entirely. Yet, it must be noted that though I escalated above the hill much before the group, I always made it a point to stop, sit and wait for my friends till they reached me. This action ensured that we moved forward as a team and also, I could rest a little and boost myself for the rest of the trek. To conclude, we three were the youngest in the group.
Now, we are walking until we reach and we all decide to take some rest. I was amazed to see the shops in the hills but more amazed to look at the cost of the products there. It was either twenty five percent more or double of the amount in the lower areas. Whatever be it, I deduced that they deserve to charge more since they have to carry the burden of bringing the goods all the way from the lower areas till such high altitude areas.
We began to walk further. The road becomes narrower, weaker, more rugged and steeper which means scarier. The narrow lanes were surrounded with dense vegetation of oak and deodar and we could only hear the pounding of the Bhagsunath waterfall over the rocks. The morning rain had made the roads slippery and muddy causing numerous problems to all of us. I noticed that my canvas friend, Aakash was struggling to walk in the terrain. He was slightly exhausted and slightly scared and this combination inhibited his motivation to walk further. He kept saying, “Just a few more minutes.” Anirudh was helping him but I was busy leading the group. So, I decided to slow down myself and help a friend in need. I held his hand and encouraged him to not give up and keep walking at least for more thirty minutes. With this ardour and passion we kept walking. Although I discontinued holding Aakash’s hand very soon, I made it a point to keep encouraging him to at least reach a specific targeted point.
We kept ascending and resting in few points, specifically in those areas with shops so that we could drink or eat something or areas with boulders where we could sit or areas providing captivating sights of Dharamshala and its adjacent areas of Kangra district. The Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium, Dharamshala located at an altitude of 1,457 metres above the sea level appeared small but stood out among the numerous other colourful buildings and structures of the city. Back at home while watching cricket matches, the simple fact that international and national cricket tournaments are being played in a stadium at an altitude of 1,457 metres above sea level used to amaze me. But, now we are heading towards an altitude of 2900-3000 metres above sea level, which indeed is double of the height of that stadium. An inexpressible mixed feeling of pride and joy had clasped my senses.
Time passed by and now few more structures became visible such as the Maharana Pratap Sagar Dam and the Kangra plains. Most of us were extremely worn out including me. I was left with minimal energy and stamina and all I could do was boost my will power. Few of us were panting and almost gave up. But, our guide was very motivating and encouraged us to buckle up and be innately strong and optimistic as we were just thirty minutes away from the Base Camp. From there, we could have the astonishing view of the snow capped lofty Dhauladhar range. So, we all started to walk again.
And, within thirty minutes we were all there, at our Base Camp. No sooner did my eyes gaze at the towering Dhauladhar range than my eyes remained affixed and my heart was satisfied with all that effort. The windy atmosphere, gushing through my skin and blowing my hair, made this episode of my life even more invigorating. And, a significant realisation of me needs a special mention. As mentioned above, three of us had initially planned a day hike only for about an hour and then descent before the sunset. But, here we are. We didn’t realise that we had reached the base camp. We were so satisfied that we became speechless and simply stared at each other and smiled. Although significant, this was not the singleton realisation that I had. There were few more. One of them was that it would not be possible for us to walk back downwards. Therefore, we had to spend our night at the base camp with the group which means we would be sleeping in the tents. I became super excited and contended though; my friends were slightly hesitant about it and it was obvious and genuine as the weather over there is really very erratic and it may cause a troublesome night. Yet, we would stay at the tents and things couldn’t get more exciting after a four hour uphill trek. Another realisation was showered upon us by the guide. He told us that we had taken a longer and difficult route to reach Triund top. The shorter and easier route had been destroyed by the rains. Adding on to this and to everyone’s surprise, we hadn’t yet reached the Triund top. We have to trek another two hours through the rockier and steeper hills to finally reach the Triund top from where we can have even more breathtaking views of the Dhauladhar range, Kangra valley and never seen before sunset. Well, my body was tired but my heart was electrified.
During our rest for about one and a half hours at the base camp, we had one of the tastiest maggi (since we were famished), clicked a few instagrammable pictures of the sceneries and ourselves and interacted with each other. I envied the ex-Kirorians group (group of four bachelors) as they would head towards Bir Billing for paragliding post this trek.
End of rest and the finale begins now, the most back-breaking part of the trek. Looking at the point where we had to ultimately reach made me ponder that this part of trek is exaggerated in terms of difficulty level. It looked so near. It was doubtless that I was tired, but the trek looked quite easy. Without further ado, we started our trek. The initial slope was really very steep but short and so, it didn’t take much time to finish. Our target point appeared nearer. So, we walked more. But, wait. I realised that the slope was getting steeper and steeper. And, within fifteen minutes of uphill walk, I was fatigued. Stamina dropped till zero. All that I had was will power. Resting in specific points in every five minutes, we made it till the top. It took an underestimated two hours to reach the Triund top. But, here we are. After all that strenuous effort, we finally made it till the Triund Top. And, the view of the mountains and the valleys blended with the inner satisfaction to have completed the trek made me examine and interrogate my own capability and strength. Although it was my second trek, this trek made me realise things I have never realised. No matter what people called me or judged me with, I knew I was strong and this trek was the trigger to permanently implant this fact in my brain. I could see that many of the group members including my friends were interacting with each other and few were savouring the moment by dancing, jumping, singing or all of the above. But, I preferred to lie down alone over those lush green unpolluted grasses near those flock of sheep in an angle that could give me a clear view of the mighty Dhauladhar range. I cannot express that moment in words and will always fail to do so. I also ended up taking a short but effective nap while the unadulterated wind was stirring my anatomy and evaporating all my sweat. Finally, that moment at the Triund Top had to end. And it ended with a bang. We experienced the astounding view of the sunset over the Kangra Valley and trust me; the horizon never looked so attractive. With this, before it could get darker we started our descent. It was a little scary but much easier than climbing upwards.
It hardly took an hour to reach the base camp. There were four tents set up for four sub-groups and the very idea of sleeping in a tent never fails to excite me. A light-hearted and slightly romantic atmosphere was created as we were all sitting around the bonfire and one of the girls played soothing music (not every time though). Few even showed their talent such as singing, shayari, jokes and that’s it. I wanted to flaunt my dance moves but, there was no space and more importantly I was shy. And, who knows, I may have slipped and rolled all the way to the valley had I chosen to flaunt my dance moves! This day had to conclude and this night was on the brink of conclusion. We three zipped ourselves in the tent and shielded ourselves with the cosy but slightly stinky sleeping bags. Aakash played a few beautiful songs such as Qaafirana, Namo Namo, Afreen Afreen, Chali Kahani and I cannot recall more songs as I had dozed off by then.
Waking up in the tent was not very different except for the fact that few of my body parts were close to frozen. I unzipped myself from the sleeping bag and then unzipped the tent and there I was gazing at the sun emerging through the mighty Dhauladhar range. As we sipped the cup of tea we couldn’t stop adoring the splendour of the sunrise. Sadly, few of our group members were still fast asleep. I pitied them for having missed such a beautiful sight. Very soon, they were woken up and we were all served breakfast and now, it was time for our descent.
As soon we embarked on our descent, I realised that it was in fact much easier and faster to climb down. It hardly took two hours to reach the Bhagsunath Falls which was the starting point for the trek. And, this time we all ended up almost at the head of the Bhagsunath Falls from where the waterfalls looked taller and the shimmering water and the enormous boulders appeared enchanting. We were just a few metres away from our hotel. We all walked as fast as possible via the Bhagsunath Temple and Swimming pool, Bhagsu Market and finally reached the hotel an hour before our check out time. Three of us took a quick shower, consumed our complimentary breakfast and checked out immediately.
Carrying our rucksacks, we decided to first visit the Bhagsunath temple which is a Shiva Temple and sit there for a while. Many of the devotees take a dip in the swimming pool of the Bhagsunath temple. Even I wanted to take a dip but, we had little time left and we wanted to explore more of Mcleodganj. I wanted to go all the way down to the bottom of the Bhagsunath falls but my friends were exhausted and couldn’t even think of doing something which resembles trekking. Therefore, we took a mutual decision to explore the markets which were a beautiful blend of Tibetan, Indian and a little bit of British culture. A variety of products were being sold. Few things that instantly caught my eyes were the handcrafted clothes, traditional clothes and accessories, souvenirs such as diaries, show-pieces etc. One must not miss trying the Bhagsu cake sold in most of the bakeries there. It has a quirky sweetness and this only compelled me to pack a few more to carry it for my mother.
In the course of exploring the numerous chains of shops, we ended up in the Mcelodganj main square. It was here where we decided to have a quick sightseeing of the town before we leave this beautiful town. We took an auto worth 350 bucks. The driver first took us to the St. John Church in the wilderness. It looks ghastly and spooky. The deodar trees amidst the church make it look even more ghastly. This monument is dedicated to Lord Elgin, one of the viceroys of India. The dazzling window panes, neo-Gothic architecture and the Christian cemetery give it a magnificent outlook.
As we left the church, we dropped a few coins in the wishing well. After this, our driver took us to the Dal Lake (Don’t get confused with the Dal Lake of Srinagar, this one is nothing in comparison to that). Honestly, I was very much disappointed with this lake. It was dirty with plastic bags spilled all over and there was nothing worth seeing here. It was a dull lake with below average maintenance. Anyway, the next spot somewhat rejuvenated my spirit. Our driver took us to the Naddi hill point. It is a point from where we get a stunning view of the Dhauladhar range. It is also the starting point for various treks such as Triund (a different route than the one we took) and Kareri Lake. But, alas! Within seconds the entire spot was covered with heavy fog.
It was not the first time that we had experienced the uncertainty of weather in Mcelodganj. Initially, we were a little scared to move ahead because of the dense fog. However, we moved ahead and I managed to click a picture of me sitting on the cliff. We were unfortunate to have missed the sight of the Dhauladhar range but, I guess we were very fortunate to have experienced the fog attack coupled with an ineffable vibe. As we walked further, we spotted beautiful wild daisies and conifers. The walk ended as we reached the SahajaYoga Meditation Center and International Sahaja Public School. Thereafter, we headed back to our Auto. Now, the entire area was covered with dense fog and visibility was reduced to zero. We were frightened to travel in such a dense fog but our driver was confident as well as experienced. Trust me, it was a fun ride. It was a bit scary but not always do we get to kiss clouds of sudden fog. Safely, we reached the Mcelodganj main square. We were left with an hour for our departure. Now, there was torrential downpour but, we had to find a place to satisfy our hunger. We found a North Indian restaurant which was pretty average. We quickly had our food and rushed to the Bus stop for our departure to Delhi. Thankfully, there was no chaos created by a couple or anyone this time. Instead, I met an Australian lady who was so friendly and interesting. She indeed made my twelve hour long journey to Delhi very fascinating as she shared various facets of her life and culture and vice versa. Every trip has to offer many things, some expected and some unexpected, some good and some bad but, its recollection can be the worst hangover.
Best time to visit: September to June (winters can be severely cold but, you can experience the best sights of Mcleodganj as it snows)
How we reached: AC semi sleeper bus
Other ways to reach: Nearest railway station is Pathankot which is around 90km from Mcelodganj. You need to take a cab from the railway station. Nearest airport is Gaggal Airport, Dharamshala which is 10km from Mcleodganj.
Travelling in and around Mcelodganj: Mostly walking, Cabs, Auto
What we did and saw: Triund trek, Bhagsunath waterfalls, Bhagsunath temple, St. John’s Church in the wilderness, Dal Lake, Naddi Hill Point, Authentic markets
What else can you do and see: Namgyal monastery (must for you, sadly we missed it), Tsuglagkhang Complex, Tibetan Museum, Triund trek in winters, Dharamkot, Minkiani Pass Trek, Kareri Lake Trek, Indrahar Pass Trek
You can also add Dharamshala sightseeing to your trip which also has a lot to offer.
Budget specifications (per head):
AC Bus (Delhi-Mcleodganj): 1200
AC Bus (Mcleodganj-Delhi): 850
Triund trek package via Thrillophilia: 1200
OYO room for one night: 500
Extra expenditure (shopping excluded): 500-1000
Total budget: 4250-4750
Few points to make your trip better/cheaper:
- Booking a hotel room can be excluded if you are confident about your stay in the tents which is already included in the Triund trek package.
- You can also save some amount by booking normal buses or travelling via train.
- Keep checking the weather reports of Mcelodganj. The weather of this town can be unfavourable at its best.
- You can carry an extra amount if you are interested in buying those authentic and attractive handcrafted clothes which may be a little expensive and may exceed your budget.
A Geography student from Kirori Mal College, DU. Apart from being an active traveller, he has always kept an interest in dance, languages and cinema.