We left Dharamshala in the pouring rain. It was during the first week of September; rainy season in India. We were seven people by now. When I left for India, we started with just three: me, Laura (Elias’ best friend) and Nicolas (Laura’s boyfriend). We all came from Belgium and took the same flight to New Delhi to start our Indian adventure. In Delhi we became four, as soon as we joined Elias who waited for us at the airport. Later, Jill and Flo arrived, two friends from Laura and Nico whom they had met in Australia while working on a farm. Later in Mussoorie, Akeel joined our crew: a Kasmiri Indian guy our age.
Jill and Akeel were the leaders of the trekking project: they were the most experienced hikers. I was happy other people were organizing most of it, since I had been really sick (Delhi belly parasite) and I had no experience whatsoever in multiple-day hikes carrying tents and all. I was actually quite nervous and a little hesitant to start hiking in the pouring rain (what an idea, hiking during rainy season) right after I had been sick in bed for a week.
But I decided to see it as a challenge (you know how much I love challenging myself) and downloaded some interesting podcasts and audio books to keep me going.
Preparing for camping at Triund
We rented our camping gear at one of the adventure stores in Mcleod Ganj. This was not so easy, Jill and Akeel had a hard time finding a shop that wanted to rent us the gear: all adventure tour companies wanted to sell us a guided tour and told us it was not allowed to camp in the park without an organised tour. We weren’t sure if we could trust them, since they all wanted us to buy their (expensive) tours. In the end we found a shop (I think it’s this one, I also marked it on my travel map).
Obviously, despite the warnings of not being allowed to camp, we went anyway. We negotiated four tents for seven people, seven sleeping bags and 3 big (very unpractical) mats for two days for about 500 Indian rupees per person. It was not very clear if there were going to be many chai stops or cafes on the way because most illegal cafes in the mountain area had been closed by the government and the few that were left were probably going to charge a lot for their goods, since they have to carry everything up the mountain. So we bought some bread, peanut butter, fruits, cookies and nuts to keep us fueled. We also took a lot of (too much) water, just to be sure, in case they didn’t sell water anywhere. So we left, with heavy backpacks, not sure if we could enter the trek and not sure if we could even see any pretty views through the cover of clouds.
Real backpacker style, we didn’t manage to leave very early… And as the rain got worse and worse we were forced to make our first long tea stop to hide (and warm) ourselves. We’d hardly made it to the end of Dharamshala and it had taken us over an hour. When the rain finally subsided a little, we started hiking again and arrived at the entrance of the official Triund trek. There is a little office on the right side of the entrance and when we passed there with our big backpacks (clearly planning on camping) the police officer stopped us and briskly told us we were not allowed to enter after 2 pm (it was 2h30) and we were not allowed to camp. We didn’t know what to do and started talking to the owner of one of the cafes right before the entrance. He smilingly told us that the officer wouldn’t be there in the early morning and we should come back between 6 and 7 am to enter the park without any hassle. We asked if it was possible to camp somewhere near the entrance and he pointed towards a hill a little further on. We decided to put up our camp for the night and try again next morning, meanwhile wishing for better weather.
We hiked up that hill and on top we found a perfect flat area to put up our tents. It was a magical place: everywhere people had put up colored Buddhist flags and the view over the valley was stunning. We had dinner down the hill, at the cafe from the man who helped us and ate the most filling paratha I’ve had in India. It stopped raining and we got to enjoy a beautiful sunset. We sat for a while (in squat position, not to wet our asses) and watched the city lights of Dharamshala in the valley, while getting to know each others’ life stories. It’s these moments I cherish most: experiencing life intensely with other people, feeling connected through shared adventures and because of that getting to know one another on a different and deeper level and through that, learning about life.
The rain had stopped! We woke up for sunrise and packed our wet tents, but with lifted spirits as we saw the clouds parting. We lost Flo, who had cut his foot in some glass and turned around, back down.
As we had been told, the officer’s office was empty and we quickly passed the entrance, deciding to hike up to the first tea stall and have our breakfast there. By now, the sun was shining brightly and it was hot. We made our own breakfast with a view that forecast good things for the day. It was a tough day, having to climb about 1000 meters over 6 kilometers. Around 1pm we arrived at the Triund camp, where clouds blocked the view for the most part, but they gave the area a mystical atmosphere. At Triund, there were 2 guesthouses and some shops but they didn’t want us to camp there. We had to decide if we were going to hike up for another 2 kilometers (an incline of 360 meters) to the snowline and camp there, or go back down. We decided to go up, still hoping for some beautiful views of the Himalaya’s. It was the best decision we could’ve made. We arrived at a beautiful camp spot near a ‘cafe’ of an old man who let us camp in his ‘garden’. It’s the second cafe you pass after Triund (Himalayan Quest Camp & Cafe). The man sells some water (the most expensive we’ve bought in India but fair enough), chips, cookies and noodles. He offered us a place to sleep inside his hut, of course for a small price, if it got too cold at night. We set up our tents and admired the unbelievable change of landscape every two minutes. Sometimes we were in the middle of the clouds and five minutes later the clouds parted and we could see the incredible view around us. The afternoon sun had dried our tents and sleeping bags and we could just enjoy the beautiful sunset, go to our tents early and wake up with sunrise.
The night was a little cold but just doable. Waking up with the sun coming out again and the view of the Himalayas made it all worth it. We had enough time to get down to Dharamshala so we decided to leave our tents and hike up to the Gletsjer. It took us about an hour to get up to the eternal snow. Jill and Akeel decided they wanted to hike all the way up to the top of the mountain so we left for Dharamshala with just the four of us.
After packing our tents we started hiking down. We left about 11 am and took our time to go down, with some tea and lunch breaks on the way) and arrived in Dharamshala around 5 pm. As we hiked down, we hiked into the clouds again and we couldn’t imagine the hot sun we’d felt just a couple hours earlier on top of the mountain.
Tired but happy we celebrated our trek with a beer and some good food.
Summary, tips & tricks
- Even during rainy season, you can find (chai) shops on the way so don’t bother carrying too much food and water up the mountain
- Make sure to pass the entrance of Triund before 7am if you want to camp at Triund or before 2pm if you go down the same day (but this way you will most likely not make it up to the snowline)
- If you don’t want to camp: if you leave early morning from Mcleod Ganj, you can make it up to Triund or snowline in one day. There are a a few chai shops and/or guesthouses where you can ask to stay the night.
- A guided tour is absolutely not necessary, the paths are very clear, you can also find the routes on Maps.me and Google Maps. If you have an Indian simcard, my 4G worked until Triund camp
- Difficulty: It’s pretty tough with heavy backpacks, but definitely doable if you are a little fit. Without tents it’s a moderately easy hike.
- Best season: Don’t be like us and try to avoid going during the rainy season if you can. (best time is February/March or October/November, when it’s dry but not too cold).
- Cost: it’s really not expensive! We paid 500 rupees for the tents and about 5 to 10 US dollars per day for food, water and some tea and snacks on the way.
- Route: See the map for detailed info about the route and camping spots (zoom in on Dharamshala region). You can click the lines and the symbols.