You’ll have to Trek – A Lot
And that means you need to be very fit to “Brave Those Mountains!”
Whether you’re an Experiential, Adventurous or Slow Traveller – tags don’t apply here. There is a lot of walking involved on a daily basis. Most common commodities and services you require are scarce and you can’t take your Car or Bike out for everything (you don’t even have roads!)
What this implies is, you need to start working out months in advance to be able to do these tasks with ease.
How did I prepare?
A bit of a Backstory: Though I had travelled a lot earlier in my life, I only ever started taking travelling seriously after my accident. This accident had left a huge fracture running through the length of my lower right leg and a displaced knee. Even after the fracture healed, my leg wasn’t strong and my knee didn’t bend more than 90 degrees. My leg muscles had lost their muscle memory and I still haven’t completely recovered from it.
I started working out around half a year before I found myself in the Himalayas. Though my reasons for working out included recuperating, getting stronger, preparing my leg for travelling in general; this aspect of my life no doubt shaped my muscles, made my body stronger and increased my endurance and immunity.
When I found myself climbing and living in the mid-range Himalayas, the distances seemed more than they actually were, due to the inclination of the mountains and required considerably more effort than walking in the plains. Finally, I had the opportunity to put myself and my months of handwork to the test and turns out I was in better (hell even great) shape than other travellers who had no physical restraints like I did, managing to keep up with the locals who are accustomed to the region.
So, don’t skip that 5-mile run or let that gym membership go to waste! Trust me it’ll all pay off in the end. I follow Perfectly Fit series – Claudia Schiffer for my workout, which is flexible enough to allow me to work out while travelling and I can vouch that my body has completely transformed since I started doing it.
Packing light is extremely essential!
Throughout your trip, you’ll probably always be on the move. With mostly wilderness and remote high-altitude villages connected only by trails keeping you company; your options don’t often go beyond walking on foot. Ultimately, it is “you” who is going to carry that hefty bag of yours. And it a mighty task to do even without that weight on your shoulders.
Yes, now I know not all of us are Light Packers. We often hoard things and pack way more than we require. So here’s a tip for that which I personally follow, because packing light didn’t come naturally to me as well and it’s called the “Quarter Rule”.
So, X is the Number of things you think you require for your trip. You half that number and half it again. In the end, X/4 i.e. Quarter of the things you originally thought you required is the number of things you actually require and will use actively.
Simple, yet the execution of this is tougher than you imagine. A conscious effort in implementing this every single time will definitely help you get rid of that extra clutter in your bag.
There is no proper disposal system for the “plastic” you consume
One might think that Climate Change and Plastic Pollution are just something cynics keep blabbering about. But take my word for this one, it is as real a problem as they come, even though you don’t feel its direct impact tucked in your air-conditioned office and home, where everything is delivered to your doorstep.
All those Maggi in the Mountains and other cliché experiences that you’re trying to replicate come at a cost – birth of plastic waste that never really disappears from the face of the earth. Each plastic wrapper and Use & Throw product you consume will make it to that huge smelly trash pile that you despise so much, which also takes away the charms from the place whose natural beauty you have come to enjoy from so far. And all this trash is only going to end up being burnt or end up in the oceans.
I have personally witnessed a burning pile of trash on a slope in Rishikesh, resembling flowing lava falling into Ganga. So, please watch where your trash goes and have home cooked local delicacies, travel zero waste just like I do and carry your non-biodegradable trash back and give it to the nearest recycling centre.
Remember that you are a Child born from the soil of our Mother Earth and that’s where our journey will end – us turning back into that very soil we were born out of. It is your duty to love and take exceptional care of her.
Things may not always go as you planned
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve realised is thinking I could plan ahead or foresee what my trip would look like, even before setting a foot in the Himalayas. Though I was quite unaware of the situation, where the places were actually located, how to get there among other details of my trip – I expected a concrete itinerary answering my exact – what, why and how’s. Man, how wrong was I!
I had completely forgotten to take into consideration that mountains – mighty though they may seem – are in fact some of the most delicate and volatile types of landscapes. Human intervention on attempts to make our lives easier only makes matters worse. You never know just what might happen, where you might get stuck or even just how long it might take you to travel from one place to another.
Also Read: Feeling 22: Birthdays, Learning and Goals
These factors are important and constitute the very essence of living in these parts. I have seen landslides so bad that the huge boulders ended up taking roads along with it, leaving so many stranded including “me” – in the middle of nowhere. Life is harsh and hardly ever as easy-going or carefree like living in a city. So respect that and don’t forget to take into account the possibility of these downright scary events taking place in front of your eyes, before you arrive here and give yourself that “buffer” – even if things turn ugly, you can make it to places you’re heading next. As they say, Better Late than Never…
Your transport options are scarce
People living in other parts of India have the benefit of having choices over various means of travel, you have trains, buses, flights, taxis, cars, motorcycles and the like pretty much at your disposal at quite a good frequency. Often overnight journey’s accompanied with good roads make travelling to and fro a seamless experience.
But I found out, sooner than later that everything is not as convenient when you plan to reach places where hardly anyone goes. To experience purity, I had to give up some luxuries. Transport was hard to get by, and going from one place to another means you’ve got to catch that early morning bus or shared taxis that only operate up to a certain time of day. Yup, after 7 am there were no buses plying and no shared taxis after 10 am to the place I was supposed to reach and if you miss the last bus or shared taxi, it meant being stuck for another day.
Even with counting these already scarce public transport options, the places I went to had just about 10-15 vehicles total plying to and fro in a day. Puts the extreme scenarios further into perspective, right?
Food is more expensive than elsewhere
It is important to understand that the Geology, Conditions, Labour, Farming Techniques and Produce in high altitudes are different from those in other parts of India namely the Plains or Plateaus. Things are hard to get by and unless it is local produce like the millets and pulses grown by the people there. And food can get a bit expensive. Don’t forget that winters mean Snowfall and nature goes into a slumber.
All the things that were so easily available in your grocery shops and farmer’s market are hard to get by here. There are transportation costs added to everything as they have to bring food from far to the region with lives risked every time and having them available is no less than a “luxury”. Enjoying the same delicacies that you’re used to back home often means shelling out a bit more from your wallet.
Locals are Nice! Go talk to them
Living through harsh times and circumstances have somehow only ended up making people in the mountains kinder. But, I know that this is a fact of life. Misery only brings out empathy and kindness out of people. All the bitterness and anger in people living fairly easy lives is diluted by it. Being a solo female traveller I think this was fairly important for me to accept.
I honestly wouldn’t have made it on the journey I set out on if perfect strangers living there wouldn’t have helped me or adopted me as their own family member. Only when you see selfless hospitality do you understand the true essence of life. Difficult times can only be braved when a fellow human decides to help you when you find yourself in a sticky situation.
Also Read: Majuli: A Paradise Lost In Time?
Bring on that big smile of yours and don’t shy away from striking a conversation with someone whose reality is very different from yours. You have absolutely nothing to lose and a world to gain. And besides, there might be some of the most amazing and heart-warming stories hiding behind that answering smile for you to carry forever in your heart.
Here’s hoping all these tips will help you and be at the back of your mind throughout your journey. Now go be amazing wherever you’re headed!