If we consider travelling as life, then probably backpacking is the best way to live it!

Backpacking may not interest all, but those who go on such trips will tell you how much fun and adventure they have. A planned tour is always better, but then at times, you should let your heart lead you. I always wanted to go on a backpacking trip, but was too apprehensive to do so. But that apprehension went away when my friend told me about his plans of backpacking to Goa. I too joined his gang of backpackers, and before I could know, we were on the road, hitch-hiking! Since then, I have been on various backpacking trips and really glad about it. If you too have apprehensions about it, then take my word; let it go because there is nothing wonderful than this. Read on to know about some of the best backpacking destinations in India, where you can plan your first such trip!

While off on an adventure trip, you would very often be in remote areas, usually far away from medical help and most certainly on difficult terrain. There would be a guide or trip leader and he/she would, if the trip is organised by a reliable, reputed and conscientious provider, be trained and qualified as a first aid responder.

Does this mean that you should not bother to learn the basics of First Aid? I would think not.  In my own experience when I was on my first hike in the mountains, with my buddy along, I was somewhere in the middle of the group who were scattered over a 2 km stretch. The leader was out in front and coming up last was his assistant. My buddy suddenly tripped and twisted his ankle. Not knowing what to do, I started massaging his ankle. Now I know that it wasn’t the right thing to do and had inadvertently caused more damage. I’ve had several such incidents over my learning years and these prompted me to develop a good understanding of how to deal with medical emergencies in the outdoors.

So it’s really important for everyone in the group to know something about First Aid on Adventure Trips, whenever you are out there doing something adventurous. One also has to remember that improvisation is the key to First Aid and one should be able to utilize whatever supplies or materials that are on hand and depend heavily on common sense.

Where do we start then?

Who said skiing is fun? It certainly looks like fun when you see skiers swishing by, snow flying from their skis as they twist and turn majestically. Learning to ski is however, hard work. The boots feel heavy and you can’t bend your ankles, feeling like a clumsy oaf trying to stand up on your skis. You also have to walk around with the skis on your shoulder, you have no idea what to do with your ski poles and if you fall, it’s such a pain getting up on your feet again.

Skiing is fun once you learn the skills!
Skiing is fun once you learn the skills!

The end of monsoon is here and winter’s on its way. It’s time again to plan a date with the Himalayas. After exploring the majestic Trishul, Nandaghunti and Dhauladhars in Uttarakhand and Himachal in the summers, it is high time we should look east. By east we mean North-east. And there is no better way to explore Eastern Himalaya than to trek to Goecha La Pass. This trek route brings you up and close to Kanchendzonga Mountains like no other. Kanchendzonga or the sleeping Buddha is the tallest mountain in India and the third highest in the world. Trust me when I say that this trek will surpass all your expectations. The mountains are higher than you have ever seen; the climbs harder than what you have done so far and the weather much colder than what you have experienced so far!

That is why it’s my pleasure to list out a few things to keep in mind to best prepare for Goecha La Trek 

Know the trail

The Trek is generally moderate since we climb up to 16000 feet. The trail goes through moss covered forests of chestnut, oak, maple, pine, and magnolia and last, but by no means least, the most popularly known Rhododendron trees. We explore the rich bio diversity of the diverse forests throughout the trekking trail. If lucky you may spot many beautiful birds like Red Billed Leothrix, Rufous vented Yuhina, Fire breasted Flowerpecker, and Silver eared Mesia and many others. One encounters not just Mt. Kanchendzonga but also gets a close up view of Mt. pandim, Kabru and Simovo. It is a perfect place for a naturalist and a mountain worshipper. So keep your cameras ready and a writing pad if you would want to take notes.

Before World War II, there was a lot of exploration going on in the Himalayas. The 1930s, many consider to be the Golden Age of Himalayan Exploration, where legendary mountaineers, such as Eric Shipton and Bill Tilman explored the Himalayas from the Karakoram to Garhwal. While the world was still talking about Mallory, unknown to the world, a few plucky British explorers were spending a lot of time looking at unexplored valleys in the region.

Frank Smythe
Frank Smythe

One of them was Frank Smythe. Born in 1900, he made attempts on Everest and Kanchenjunga. But he is best remembered for his discovery of Valley of Flowers.  In 1931, Smythe invited Shipton to his expedition to climb Kamet in Garhwal, a peak that had been attempted many times by the legends of the early Himalayan climbing. Smythe writes, “Kamet, a mountain 25,447 feet high, situated in the Garhwal Himalayas, was climbed by a small expedition of six British mountaineers of whom I was one. After the climb we descended to the village of Gamsali in the Dhauli Valley, and then crossed the Zanskar Range, which separates the upper Dhauli and Alaknanda Valleys, by the Bhyundar Pass, 6,688 feet, with the intention of exploring the mountainous region at the sources of the two principal tributaries of the Ganges, the Alaknanda and Gangotri Rivers.”

Often, the famous places across the globe are known for certain things. But, most of the times, there is more to such places than meets the eye. A classic example of this would be Ladakh. Yes, I know that pictures of Ladakh, the lake shown in movie 3 Idiots and Khardung La, would have popped up in your mind. This is precisely where the problem lies. In our search for diamonds, we disregard the rubies, emeralds and sapphires. What I mean by this metaphor is that many go to Ladakh for the three places, known most to them, but miss out on exploring those places that are not so famous. And, it is in these small and slightly remote places that the true charm of Ladakh lies. With this blog, I hope to tell you about the unexplored places in the region that you must make a point to visit. Let’s discover the alluring offbeat places in Ladakh.

What comes to your mind when I say the word, ‘August’? Let me tell you what comes to my mind. As soon as I hear this word, I think of heavy rain showers, cool breeze and greenery. The idea of trekking in August, usually when the monsoon is at its peak, came to my mind when my friend commented in one of our conversations, “You don’t go for trekking during the monsoon!” My spontaneous reply to him was “Why not?”, and then he was silent.

The question sure may have got him thinking, but I was thinking a lot about it too. Why do people not go for trekking in August, which is only beautiful and soothing? That day, as soon as I reached home, I started researching on “trekking in the monsoon.” My search made me realise something.

Home to some of the highest peaks in the world, Nepal is arguably the best mountaineering destination on earth. For a long time, people from across the world have been coming here to experience adventure and give themselves a challenge. The popularity of trekking in the country has opened so many new trails for thrill seekers. Mountain passes, glacial lakes, valleys and peaks themselves, what don’t such tours take you to? Now, obviously, Mount Everest is the most sought-after peak by experienced mountaineers because it is the world’s highest. Annapurna is another distinguished peak among mountaineers.

Now, here is the catch. It is not just the peak you can trek to. If you don’t consider yourself that experienced or fit or adventurous, then you can also hike just to its base camp or opt for the popular Annapurna Circuit Trek. If you ask me which one is better, Annapurna Base Camp Trek (ABC) or Annapurna Circuit Trek (ACT), then even I am confused because both of them has their own different experience. It is almost like asking someone, which ice cream flavour is better, chocolate or vanilla, or which Thrash Metal band is better, Metallica or Slayer. For everyone’s sake, including my own, let us do a comparative study of the two trekking routes.

To make it easier on myself, I have decided to make the comparison on the basis of the difference in route, altitude, challenge factor and a few unrelated aspects as well. Keep reading to see how it goes.

Reading has always been my most favourite thing to do. I remember reading with a torch inside the sheet, way past my bedtime as a kid. Even today, no matter how busy I am in life, I never go to sleep without a book. And when someone reads as much as I do, it becomes impossible for them to not want to travel. In my experience, all my bookworm friends, (that is quite literally all my friends) are fond of travelling. The inverse might not be true; all travellers may not be readers, but trust me when I say that almost all readers are travellers and backpackers. When we read something, our mind creates images of those things side by side and therefore all these years of reading about faraway places has awakened a side of me that craves adventures in unknown places. Though I have not travelled as much as I would like to, owing to demands of school and work, whenever I can squeeze out a break of a few days, I totally go for it. And when I do get to travel, I almost always find myself planning a trip to the mountains.

One of my very first getaways to the mountains was in Manali. It was the second year of my college, and I was just getting used to my new-found freedom! So three of my buddies and I decided to spend a few days of our semester-end break doing nothing, but travelling. It is important to mention that since we were quite young and inexperienced, we chose a destination closer to home and Himachal Pradesh was as far as we could have gone from Delhi at that time. Nonetheless, it was a dream-come-true for all of us as this was our first vacation ever without the constant restrictions imposed by our parents! Upon reaching Manali and spending two days in sightseeing and clicking thousands of pictures, we started to look for something else, something more adventurous to do. And when you are in the mountains for the first time, there is nothing better than trekking to give you that sweet taste of adrenaline. Dev Roopa trek’s surreal beauty helped us zero in on the destination and what came then is still etched in my memory.

Read on to know more about this trek on which nature presents itself clad in its finest of attires.

Don’t you just hate it when it is September and raining continuously, and you cannot do anything, but sit stupidly at home? Well, I do and I am about to get really sick of it. I want to go out, damn it! And, I will. Who cares if it is raining and what if we get a little wet?! At least we will have some fun. So, here is the formula! Let’s just brave the rains and head out wherever our desire takes us. Now, for a long time, my mind has been fixed on trekking. Most people, I talked to on this front, told me that trekking should not be done in the monsoon. They said that the path will be slippery, there might be a danger of landslides and that the weather will be horribly humid. But, I have a habit of doing things, I know I am not supposed to. This is the whole point of adventure and thrill, isn’t it?

So, to satisfy my thirst for ‘insanity’, I sat on my laptop, searching for what all treks I could go for in September when the rains are at their heaviest. To my amazement, there were others like me, who had already done something like this and uploaded accounts of their experience. They had all written about how nature was at its prettiest during the wet season and how the grass was tall, dense and green everywhere they looked. What I liked the most, reading their accounts, was having clouds literally on one’s face and getting the chance to walk through them. There were numerous hikes I read about, but there were a few that really caught my attention.

The ones, I am detailing in the following sections, are all in the moderate-to-high altitude (11000-20000 feet) category. Places below 11000 feet altitude are your regular hill stations, and you don’t need September to visit them; these are essentially summer or winter destinations. At the above-mentioned altitude range, summers are characterised by snow, which has only started melting. It is only in the rainy season that it disappears and the real beauty of the place is unveiled. Keeping this in mind, I have specifically chosen the best treks in September. Read on.