trekking the himalayas
Since we couldn’t go to Kashmir we decided upon a little trek up the Himalayas. How hard can it be climbing 5500 metres? The Himalayas include Everest, the earth’s highest mountain and border India, Tibet and Nepal. We started our trek in McLeod Ganj home to the Dalai Lama in the beautiful Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. I booked our trek through the Pink House where they organised everything including our guide, porters, tent and sleeping bags.
We began our trek walking the 100 steps up from the guesthouse and through the town with Sonu our 30 something newly married guide. We met our two porters at the first chai shop and who carried everything from the tents to the cooking stove. We walked for about 6 hours with stops in between where we would play cards and so our porters could smoke. We passed other young Indian trekkers on their way up and were followed by mountain dogs who helped guide the way. Once we reached Triund we took in the incredible view across McLeod Ganj. Our tent was set up for us and dinner was cooking. We sat with other overnight trekkers around a bonfire keeping warm and we made them sing their national anthem and we in turn sang ours with hand on hearts.
We set off around 10am saying goodbye to our new Indian friends and headed alone up the lonely mountain. We were told day 2 was supposedly the easiest however we all agreed it was no way near easy! Constantly up hill we climbed and climbed. We passed the last tea shop just one hour from camp and from then on we were on our own. We could hear rushing water in the distance and eager to see the source of the Ganges we summoned more energy. We climbed over huge boulders and crossed a beautiful waterfall. The higher we climbed the colder it became. We finally reached the cave which was to be our home for the night. Lydia and I went to find fire wood and helped to build the best bonfire of our lives. With armfuls of twigs and branches we saw two trekkers in the distance and waved them over. An Austrian and Israeli they were travelling without a guide and came to join us camping. The view from our cave was incredible and darkness slowly descended as we ate our vegetarian dinner. Food tastes seriously good when you are hungry!
We woke up at 5am (actually I don’t remember sleeping…) and were greeted by toast and hot ginger tea. It was so cold outside that there were large puddles of ice! Fran and I slept in the tent inside the cave whereas Lydia braved it with her sleeping bag only. It was tough leaving the comforts of the cave but once we ventured outside it was pure fresh bliss. It was time to begin our ascent to the top! Every so often we would stop for a quick rest and gasp at the view below us. We were way above the clouds with the sun feeling so hot against the early morning. We passed hundreds of mountain goats on their way down as well as one trekker who said we didn’t have far to go. Hurrah! Knowing I was so close adrenalin kicked in quickening the pace. And then… WOW! Over the other side were the incredible never ending Himalaya’s with snowy peaks. It felt like we were on top of the world. It was absolutely freezing up there yet that didn’t stop Lydia and I doing some ‘free spirit’ photographs! I will never forget that feeling of accomplishment.
After about 30 minutes at the top we had to head back down before the thick mist took over. Doing quick steps we were thirsty and hungry and felt like we were in a race against the weather. Once back at the cave we met a lone trekker who would be sleeping in the cave that night with the mountain shepherd. Our last stop of the day was at the Snow Peak chai shop but we still had about 3 hours to reach it and by this point we were desperately thirsty! Our water had run out that morning and with the intense sun and constant exercise it wasn’t good. All of us could hear the fast pace of running water from the Ganges so it became a race to find it. Finally we came across fresh water making it’s way down the rocks.We scooped down and filled our bottles from the highest point and splashed water over our faces. Water had never tasted so good!
That night we decided to sleep in the chai shop for 150 rupees each instead of our tent. Thinking I’d be cold I layered up however it was so hot in there we all had to de-layer. In the middle of the night I woke up to find Fran shuffling around with her torch, she said she thought she could hear a mouse by her head.
Turns out there was a mouse by Fran’s head… We woke up boiling hot from a oven like effect within the chai shop. Banana pancakes were served whilst we said a sad farewell to our trekking friends and before we began the grueling trek down the Himalayas. By far my worst point as it felt like I was undoing all my hard work from the days before. We kept each other going talking about Pride and Prejudice and playing 20 Questions. We just knew our thighs were not going to forgive us the next day. The weather was taking a turn for the worst and it became cold and rain clouds hung low over us threatening to go faster. We said goodbye to our two porters at Triund and Sonu took us a few more hours to the waterfall.
It felt so strange to be surrounded by lots of people, it’s amazing how quickly you can adapt to the seclusion of the mountains. Sonu clearly didn’t want to be hanging around with three girls so we let him go and said we’d make our own way back. Lots of Indian tourists wanted our photograph (though why we couldn’t understand as we looked awful!). We met an Israeli couple and they led us to the main street to pick up a tuktuk. Apparently there was a big Israeli celebration being held in McLeod Ganj and the Indian police were on full alert patrolling the area making sure no trouble broke out.
We made it back to the Pink House and Javid the owner gave us a room to shower in. We had to hurry as we needed to board our coach back to Delhi. McLeod Ganj was a whirlwind of excitement, adventure and pushing our bodies beyond their limits. We all agreed it was one of the most beautiful places we’d ever seen. The trek was hard work and our bodies were so stiff for the next week however we didn’t regret it one bit. Next trek: Everest Base Camp!