As inditramp near its 5 anniversary, it is time to address a question that I’m asked often.
How do I start Trekking in India?
and the corollary to the main question
Is it something I can do? Will, it cost too much? Is it dangerous?
So now that winter’s here and my trekking schedule is a bit iffy let me try and answer this question and its corollary keeping in mind the schedule of an average person living in any Indian city.
However, before we do that let’s get the obvious bits out of the way. Getting started with trekking does not require you to rush out and start hoarding special gear. Neither does it need a six-pack washboard abs (P.S. Yours truly doesn’t have them). Nevertheless, what it does need is a bit of common sense and a sense of exploration.
This reminds me of my first “proper” trek in 2000 – from Holi to Jawalaji, across the Dhauldhars over Jalsu Pass . My gear at that time a pair of corduroy pants, army surplus leather boots, cotton t-shirts and home knitted sweater all wrapped up in the biggest schoolbag I could borrow. While it was not optimal in terms of gear I could have bought, yet it was the first step that encouraged me to go out and explore most of Himachal Pradesh on foot.
But I digress, now back to your question. Let me break this down in easy steps for people who have a job, maybe have families and are living in an Indian city yet want to start trekking.
- (This one is especially for us men) Ditch that urge to head for that gear store - As much as it helps inditramp if you shop at Amazon using my affiliate link , lay off those purchases for the first three trips.
- Research and pick a destination in the hills that has things that you enjoy other than hiking - Whenever I have that urge to get away – my favourite pick is usually Mcleodganj. Now before you pick up the pitchforks and torches and say et-tu Bharat. Let me explain. Mcleodganj is more than Bhagsu falls and Triund. There are hundreds of trails that connect small hamlets in and around the Dhauladhars that are begging to be explored and walked. These trails are hardly visited by your average tourist Bharat. The destination is important! Because it gives me more to do than just trek. I’m fond of good food, and some shacks/shops serve excellent fusion and continental food. It has good coffee shops if you know where to look, in general, a laid-back vibe if you know where to go. You get my drift – the idea is to combine day walks with your other passions.
- Cajole your company/boss for a week’s leave - Make up a cousin’s marriage or fall sick – the possibilities are endless. A week is important because even after putting aside 2 days of travel it leaves you with 5 days in your hands. 5 days or more are essential to a – get a vibe of the place you’re visiting b – Get out of the work routine both mentally and physically.
- Remember you have the gear in your closet or borrow what you need - Frisk your closets for what you have lying around. Most people own at least one pair of synthetic tees from brands like Nike / Adidas etc, Synthetic pyjamas and Sports shoes, home knitted sweater/windcheater. Go with what you have, as long as you avoid cotton . Use that laptop backpack as a day bag or borrow one from your IT friend.
- Ditch that expensive hotel and find a homestay - that is a bit further away than the main town and at least a 1000 rupees less than your maximum budget. 3-5 kilometres is optimal because it means you will have to walk half an hour or more to get in town (a good size walk to work up an appetite in the evening). A further away homestay gives you more money in pocket to explore the nicer restaurants/coffee shops/bars in town and leaves you with some spare change to tip the staff (they will appreciate it more than the waiters and staff at your exorbitant hotels and will be more than willing to help you out with the right trails). Such homestays are far from the madding crowd and give you a chance to interact with the locals instead of tourists from the city. As a city dweller as it is you interact with enough city folks. Locals with whom will be staying with will be happy to share their local trails with you – places where they go to graze their sheep, get wood etc. which means more options for your daily walks.
- Get up with the sunrise, get some packed food and start walking - Day walks on village trails are perfect for people who are just starting. There’s little to worry about setting up camp, cooking, finding directions. Follow where your heart leads you, take photographs if you like that, sit in a field of grass and muse over life if that’s your calling, or perhaps start a pen and paper diary as I did. No pressure. Like I said the idea is to have fun without getting bogged down with hiking details like where will I set up camp, water supply etc.
And there it is 6 simple steps to ease into hiking without complication or making it expensive. Once you’ve done this a few times its time to expand your horizons and get started with your first overnight trek.
“If adventure has a final and all-embracing motive, it is surely this: we go out because it is our nature to go out, to climb mountains, and to paddle rivers, to fly to the planets and plunge into the depths of the oceans… When man ceases to do these things, he is no longer man.” - Wilfrid Noyce