If I were as auspicious as Tibetans, I might have taken the giant black scorpion which appeared in my room the morning my trek was to begin as a bad sign. Instead, I wondered how to get rid of it. As the little beast scuttled toward the protection of my bed, I grabbed two pieces of paper and shuffled it across the floor toward the door. It put up a fight with it's stinger raised, and claws grasping at the paper, yet I was to prevail in my first such encounter. Later, I was told the increasing rains tend to bring them more out into the open.
Hiring a porter to carry my personal belongings and sleeping bag was an inexpensive option, however after meeting so many people who carried their own bags in
Harold and I met at the trekking office as the morning rains continued. We ended up waiting about an hour until it stopped, taking a taxi with our porter up to a cottage above the pine forest. This unforeseen ride saved us an hour's walk up about 300m in elevation. Ashok, our young guide, met us there. We received packed lunches, our sleeping mats, and me my sleeping bag. Once all the bags were packed, we set off.
Climbing uphill along a dirt and rock path, amongst the clouds, it took about four hours at a comfortable pace to climb 800m and reach Triund (elev. 2,900m/9,570ft). Toward the end, I was motivated by one basic need, finding a big boulder behind which I could use a virtual toilet. At one point, I took a few quick steps and was immediately out of breath, a poignant reminder of how high up we were already.
Little more than a campground set in grazing pastures for goats and horses, Triund spanned a pretty green ridge which gave us views of the pass we were to ultimately ascend in one direction, and the towns of McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, and Kangra in the other. I felt a headache develop, and was unsure whether to attribute it to the altitude or the massive sunburn I unknowingly received on the top of my head and face.
We were served a snack of tomato soup and spicy popcorn, followed by a hearty Indian thali (rice, lentils, veggies, chapati). As I did all day, I continued to drink as much water as humanely possible. It had been Cameron's number one piece of advice about traveling at high altitudes.
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