Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Daytrek to the Dhauladhar: Prelude to the Himalayas


My first taste of the Himalayas was, in fact, not in Nepal, where I am now. No, I saw my first snow-capped peaks in the Indian Himalayas—the Dhauladhar Mountains. And this was a good thing. It was some sort of a prelude for what was to be one of the most rewarding and most breathtaking experiences, literally and figuratively, of my travel life. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Dhauladhar Himalayas in Dharamsala, India

Let's begin with our accommodations in Dharamsala, where the Dhauladar Mountains can be viewed and accessed from. Our hotel on this leg of our Indian journey was one that was a above the Tibetan town center of McLeod Ganj. Technically, it was not even part of McLeod Ganj, but rather in a village above it. We can either get a cab to get to our hotel. Or walk up to it, an effort which took 30 minutes as the trail was all uphill. The first time we did walk the trail was at night, which I was not a fan of. Night-trekking, I mean. But again, that's alright. It was beneficial, in fact. It gave me a taste of what it was like trekking in the cold air of the Himalayas. Also, have I mentioned it was all uphill? It was.

McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, India

Dhauladhar Himalayas, India

Walking around McLeod Ganj, one will notice that there are many, if not hundreds, of tour agencies offering daytrips or full-on camping trips to the Dhauladhar Mountains. Some will take you just right at the snow line. Some will take you over the Indrahar Pass, which will lead you to another part of India upon descent. I entertained the thought of doing a trek but never got on to it. Fortunately for me, I have a friend who was bent on doing, at the very least, an independent day trek around the towns and villages above McLeod Ganj. So, after a bit of prodding, I joined in.

Dhauladhar Himalayas, India

Dhauladhar Himalayas, India

It was a very easy trek. Heck, we just followed one of the roads leading out of McLeod Ganj. We passed by a couple of prayer stones and met a few Tibetans on the way. Again, a tashi delek (the Tibetan greeting) will get you a smile and a nod back from these gentle people. The day trek that we did was actually recommended by a French lady whom we met at the hotel. She did this a day prior and what she liked most about it was the experience of seeing snow monkeys, which we also saw. They were picking fruits on the trees right by the road. Now that was cool.

Snow Monkeys, Dhauladhar Himalayas, India

Snow Monkeys, Dhauladhar Himalayas, India

After an hour or so, we reached what our map said was a lake. I say it like that because when we got there, we found nothing but a puddle, a huge Olympic-pool sized puddle. Dal Lake is what it was called, named so as it takes the color of the brownish-yellowish edible beans locally called Dal. I guess we were just not in the right time of the year to see this sacred body of water.

Dhauladhar Himalayas, India

We realized that making the lake our goal for the day trek was a little bit anti-climactic. There was really no reward there. So we hiked further up the road. Until finally, the road ended. Now, this meant something. Our map said that the road does end here and further ahead, we will encounter a foot path to villages up in these mountains. We saw the footpath and followed it. True enough, there were mountain villages there. Mostly populated by the Gaddis, who were very welcoming and open to strangers passing through their front and back yards. A few minutes more and we finally got to the other side of the mountain. We’ve left McLeod Ganj behind and below us, we hear the mighty roar of a Himalayan river, supplied by the Dhauladhar Mountains right in front of us. Now that’s a proper reward.

Dhauladhar Himalayas, India

Dhauladhar Himalayas, India


I know trekking in the mountains isn't really everybody's cup of tea. Is it yours? What are some of the day treks that you have done? Any interesting sights along the way?


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