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Never Ending Voyage - Lessons learned from Trekking

Never Ending Voyage – Lessons learned from Trekking

Blue, green and brown were my most used pastel colors all through my childhood not knowing that these colors will forever leave firm imprints on my life. I am a total hill person. I love anything and everything about mountains, clear blue skies, vast green meadows and dense forests. I don’t remember what kick started this love but it’s there now for a while and one thing that I am sure of is that it will last till my legs give away. Mountains have given more than have taken from me. Here are my life lessons or  things I learned from my trekking experiences –

You can’t succeed if you don’t try. You could only fail if you didn’t try .

 I have been a soft corner for nature since childhood and was automatically drawn towards mountains and their beauty. Often times reading several adventure series and travel books made me wonder if I could also embark on such journeys! What would it be like treading difficult paths like these amazing men did? I used to underestimate myself thinking I can never scale such heights till I made up my mind one day to give it a shot and there hasn’t been any stopping since then. My first trek to Kedarkanta was not only strenuous but also painful.Never Ending Voyage - Lessons learned from Trekking1

My body did not expect hardships that I suddenly hurled on it and neither was I mentally prepared to hike more and more. But more I trekked along, pushed myself ahead, ignoring the pains and sickness, the easier it got for me to walk ahead. I slowly began to see things differently beyond the hardships and discomforts that nature bestowed upon me. I started to observe more, feel more and see the beauty of things around. That was the first time I realized how many other things I was capable of doing if only I tried. There is no point in letting the fear of failure hold you back from doing something you want to do or capable of doing. Just start with venturing out, see how far you get, improve your abilities and keep going!

Rise above yourself, there is a bigger world ahead that awaits you.

We are so engrossed in our own world, with our own little problems that we have lost all our capability to look beyond ourselves. It’s only when we are exposed to rough terrains wherein we are cut off from civilization and see local tribes with bare minimum necessities to live on, yet never complaining and living in harmony and complete submission with nature, that we wonder whether the Glass is half full or half empty? Mountain life is tedious and difficult. Hill people live in wooden houses with basic amenities and in areas that are always prone to natural calamities, bear tremendous cold weather, walk for miles to fetch water or woods from the forests. Kids with cracked red cheeks that hurt all the time, often walk for hours to attend school yet you will always find the locals hospitable with whatever little they have, ever smiling at you when met enroute. Sometimes they lend a helping hand or just pass a good luck smile and move on. In contrast, we the urban city life dwellers always live a life of tension and stress – we have loans to repay, our salaries are always too less, loved ones who never reciprocate, we love foods which we can’t intake as we have the growing obesity issues seeping in to our lives. We are constantly put under the scanner of society with people analyzing our every step. But if you manage to break free of this cluttered city life every once in a while you will come across people who care, and who bond with strangers with no high expectations.

A trek develops a sense of gratitude to things and people around.

Trekking makes you ponder over how many people and things came together to make your success possible. You instantly feel thankful about it. A monsoon trek to Deomali helped me realize “how many things” and “how many people” have contributed to our well-being.Never Ending Voyage - Lessons learned from Trekking2

Trekking gives us time for reflection, which promotes clarity. Clarity significantly improves decision making abilities.

There are many things about trekking that simply make you think. It could be the alone time, the view, the scale of the mountains, anything. But it promotes thinking and often gives you clarity. Walking alone in mountains is a great experience. Trails cut between mountains and run by the riverside. I get this opportunity mostly in my Himalayan treks. There are miles and miles of mountains in front of us and miles behind us. I feel minuscule among the mighty mountains. It is here I start wondering about the purpose of our existence. Have we found it yet? Do we even know that we need to find it? What are our primary and secondary duties in life? What are the factors derailing us from our duties?

Never Ending Voyage - Lessons learned from Trekking

These questions are not tricky ones. Sometimes on a trek, we get answers that are extraordinarily impactful on our lives.

Trekking helps you realize that true happiness is not a product of amassing things.

On the Bramhatal trek in the December of 2021, we walked past some beautiful forest and mountain passes. In my opinion, they were the the best seven days I have ever spent. Now let us look at it the other way. We were walking with a backpack, eating simple food and having “the best time”? How can someone be having the “best time” when they are deprived of basic necessities of a comfortable bed, car and sophisticated restrooms? What does happiness depend upon then? “What” and “how much of it” do we need to possess to be happy? How much mental baggage do we absolutely need? What I have said afore is by no means a complete cover of my experiences, but it gives you an idea of my biggest learnings. Never Ending Voyage - Lessons learned from Trekking3While some of my learnings are universal, learnings from a trek is also a subjective experience.

 

Tunganath and Chandrashila Trek - ShepherdTrail Blog 9

How I Met Me – A Trek Date – Tunganath and Chandershila Trek

How I Met Me – A Trek Date

At times, all it takes is just that 1 trip, 1 destination, 1 moment, or 1 experience to see through oneself.

For me, that was my 1st Himalayan Trek to Tunganath and Chandrashila (12,500 ft) in Uttarakhand. A trek that made me see life with a new lens. This blog is more about that lens than the logistics of the trek.

The Trek (Tunganath and Chandrashila)

It was a 5-day trek from Sari Village – a beautiful hamlet at an elevation of 6500 ft in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, around 200 KM from Rishikesh.

The trek had actually begun days before reaching Sari. There was a lot of prep work that went in, starting from cardio exercises, weight training, a few breathing exercises, shopping the trekking gear, making a packing checklist, first-aid kit, etc.

And finally, I reached Sari – the base camp for my Trek. Reaching the base camp was a Trek in itself😊.

First, Fly from Hyderabad to New Delhi. Then take an overnight train from New Delhi to Haridwar. And then comes the 7 hours long road journey from Haridwar to Sari.

Tunganath and Chandrashila Trek - ShepherdTrail Blog 1
This has been always the same in all my treks. It’s like getting you prepared for the real trek 😊.

The next 5 days were absolutely thrilling and exciting filled with memories of a lifetime. Of course, it was very tiring for a beginner, but it was equally relaxing around gorgeous campsites as you can see.Tunganath and Chandrashila Trek - ShepherdTrail Blog 2

Each day was full of scenic views of Mt. Chaukamba, Rhododendron forest trails, idyllic glens and meadows, beautiful Himalayan birds like the Yellow-billed blue magpie, and Uttarakhand’s State Bird – The Monal.Tunganath and Chandrashila Trek - ShepherdTrail Blog 3

It was all about how you keep going and push yourself to complete that 1-day target, instead of thinking how to reach the summit, as the saying says – One step at a time.

No matter how far or high is the summit, if you just focus on today’s target, push yourself to achieve that one thing today, that’s how you reach towards your summit.

The Summit

“One day, the mountain that is in front of you, it will barely be visible in the distance. But the person you become in learning to get over it? That will stay with you forever. And that is the point of the mountain.”― Brianna Wiest

This is exactly what happened to me in the trek. I am an entirely different person after the trek; I am more of a minimalist than a materialistic, confident, adventurous, living life to the fullest, respectful and mindful of the power of Nature more, valuing Living over Existing. Impossibilities are sometimes the gates to new possibilities. Exploring one’s fears and limitations opens such gates that we never imagined.

This is what standing on the summit felt like – That eureka of accomplishment; that gush in self-confidence, self-motivation, and seeing a totally different world up there – a different power of creation that I never realized even existed. A moment of nothingness which was also a moment of wholesomeness.

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You are out of thoughts – that blank moment of life when all you have are those mighty peaks, those high swirling birds, that soothing chillness of the breeze, You, and your heartbeat. That’s all is your World there.

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That moment of stillness when you find yourself pondering over – Who am I? What is your Life about? What is this creation about? Are you Living or Existing? What’s your purpose on this Planet? Universe has the mystical power to show you what you are seeking.

The Fears

I am a very fearful person 😊. I am claustrophobic, aquaphobic, minor acrophobic, and cynophobic.

I was never aware of these phobias so strong within me until this trek. The moment I went into the sleeping bag in my tent that night, I couldn’t breathe. I felt suffocated, anxious, increased heartbeat – I was just unable to sleep inside the tent. In the entire trek of 5 days, I could sleep a total of 8 hours only. That’s when I faced this phobia head-on – that was the moment I realized this is so strong within me. Every night I used to try different ways to put myself into sleep –mountain pictures, music, staring at the moon and stars in the sky, keeping the tent door slightly open, etc.😊At times, I just walked around the campsite like a zombie 😊. That made me witness some amazing twilights and star-lit skies though.Tunganath and Chandrashila Trek - ShepherdTrail Blog 6

This was very difficult during my 1st trek, however, the subsequent treks were a bit better and now I’m able to sleep at least 5 hours every night on a trek 😊.

My next phobia was fear of dogs. Due to a not-so-good encounter with an angry dog in my childhood, I have been very scared of dogs all my life. I met a couple of mountain dogs on my trek and I bonded very well with them, as you can see😊 That’s the 1st time when I really petted a dog. This guy was with us for the entire trek – he followed us from Base Camp to the Summit, like a true companion!

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Anyone who has been to the mountains can certainly relate to what I’m trying to convey here – even dogs in the mountains are so compassionate and full of warmth. You just need to feel them. From that day on, mountain dogs are my friends 😊. I’m still trying with the city dogs though 😊.

As I mentioned above, reaching the Summit brought in a lot of confidence and everything seemed possible to me thereafter. So, I decided to face my next phobia – Fear of Water. Claustrophobics are mostly aquaphobes too. I did go for River Rafting in The Ganga at Rishikesh, after my trek. The oarsman literally pushed me out of the raft saying “you should try this” 😊 Trust me, it gave me chills all over, I was scared to death and couldn’t process what’s happening.

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It was really horrifying for a person who never has even tried any basic water sports 😊. You can see that on my face (lol).

It’s always better to face your fears and limitations and fail than to fail anyways running away from them. It will either break you or accelerate you as I did. So, take that plunge towards yourself and explore the real YOU.
This is how I met Me on 1st May 2018, when are you meeting yourself?

Please share your here, it will be my delight to read them.

ShepherdTrail Blog - Triund Indrahar pass 1

My solo trip to Triund and unfinished attempt to Indrahar Pass – Himachal Pradesh

This story is 5 years old, in the month of April 2016, My exams were over for BBA Final Year. I thought of going on a tour on my newly purchased 2nd hand bike, I asked my friends but they had other plans, so I decided to go solo, I checked my bike’s papers and serviced it the day before the long run.

That night I had a fever, but I decided that whatever happens in the morning I’ll go for my adventure on my first solo trip. The next morning I woke up all excited for my adventure. I prepared my breakfast, had it full as I didn’t know where I’d be able to eat next, because it was my first-time solo road trip to Himachal from Jalandhar, Punjab. I still had a fever but as I’ve decided, I went for it.

So I reached Mclodeganj, Himachal Pradesh from Jalandhar on my bike in the Afternoon (165 k.m.). I arranged my food at the Mclodeganj square, took information from locals about the trek distance, camping gear, food etc.

In the evening I left for trekking of 8 km, excluding the Bagshu fall, On the way, I took a break for 3 times as it is a pure mountain trek, On the way, I outpaced some group of trekkers maybe because I was single and didn’t have to wait for my mates or might be I’m a quick trekker :p , Finally, I reached Triund top and sat on a rock to catch my breath, I sat there, enjoyed the view and strong blow of wind which I think was felt by my soul, I saw people walking and sheep herds, which as guided by the shepherd’s dogs and then I went to the shop and rented a camp which cost only Rs 400/night, it was a small tent for a single person, If you’re a group of people you can rent a bigger one which will cost you Rs 800, Rs 1200 and Rs 1600 which can accommodate up to 6 people.

Since I was alone, I didn’t know what to do next so I sat and kept on staring at the mountains, it was magical, it was soul-soothing, I felt so relieved, I can’t explain it in words, since words won’t do justice to what I felt, suddenly I heard dog fight, one of the shepherd’s dog has almost killed the other one, the dog’s bite was so strong that it almost chocked the other dog, I intervened and shouted really loud, after that the fight was over and I started my buffer-free view of the mountains and clouds, I was sitting and I heard a voice, Hey, are you also on a solo trip? I said yes and introduced ourselves, He asked me what’s your plan, I said, I rented a camp so I’ll set my camp and I’ll stargaze at night and I’ll leave in the afternoon, He said why, won’t you go up to the mountains, I said, is there more to go?

He said yes, I’ve been in Himachal for a month and I know there’s more than very few people know, I agreed to stay and to climb the mountain, then we set our camp and stayed for the night with a complete stranger turned friend.

There were a few foreigners too, They also came for trekking with a group of 8-10 people, they played soulful music, set a bone fire, it was magical. We ate Daal Chawal at the shop, it tasted good, don’t know how, then I stayed up to stargaze, It was a little cloudy yet very beautiful night sky.

Shepherdtrail Blog - Triund 2

Triund

The next morning we left for the mountaineering to the Indrahar peak, without any mountaineering gear, without any guide, with the slippery sole of my shoes. We trek for 6-7 km of normal mountain trek, on the way, there was another shop and we ate Maggi there, then we continued our trek, Indrahar Paas is the top of the mountain visible from Triund top, yes, the highest one is Indrahar Pass.

So, we reached the valley of Indrahar pass and saw a few empty shelters there, don’t know who lived there, then we saw a few locals, we offered them to be our guide but they refused and showed us the way a little, we followed the trail and climbed up after we reached the halfway I saw clouds filling up the valley and slowly coming up, I never saw clouds beneath me, I was astounded by the view. I said to my friend to have look behind, he saw then we decided to climb faster.

We were at 75% of our mountaineering when clouds finally caught us, and it was raining snow, yes It was snowfall on the mountains, it was heavy snowfall so we took shelter under the rocks for around 30 minutes after it stopped we started to climb up again, but it was very slippery, because of the snowfall, so we reached about 90 % of the peak but now there was no way we could have climbed up without the professional gears as it was a straight mountain with snow, so we decided to climb down now, we don’t want to go back but there was just no way for us to climb the remaining 10%.

So we started coming down, it was so slippery that I slipped 1-2 feet thrice, and trust me I felt like I’ll die and prayed to God, Bhagwan bacha le aaj, my friend was ahead of me and he just kept saying just a little bit more we have almost reached don’t worry, thanks to him we finally climbed down to the valleys, stopped for the Maggi again as we were totally exhausted.

Then we came back to the Triund with a bottle filled with mountain’s water which was fresher and healthier than your RO+ UV combined :D. Handed over the camp to the shop and trek down to Mclodeganj. We were so tired that our knee couldn’t take it anymore, my friend was barely able to walk, luckily we found a stick for the support and climbed down at last.

So we trek for 30-35 km from McLeodganj-Triund-Indrahar pass-Triund-McLeodganj, so the people who say it is one day trek they might don’t know about Indrahar Pass trek, which starts from 7 km ahead from where the Triund trek ends.

Oh, the fever faint away, I never felt more alive.

Thank you so much for reading, I truly appreciate it.

Kareri lake - Shepherdtrail Blog 1

Kareri Lake – A Solo Adventure

The weather outside was clear. The evening breeze was cold and my brain was thinking, “it’s almost winter… So what next ?”. I wear a personality that longs to be in the wild but COVID and lockdowns had played their part in being a spoilsport. So when winter 2021 came and the world moved from “revenge travel” to “plain old travel”, I was the first one to get on the wagon and decided to go on a solo adventure.

I was longing for a sight of the mountains and Kareri lake was on my mind because it was the easiest to reach in terms of transportation. Booked bus tickets and ran off to Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh from Delhi. Took a taxi to the quaint Kareri village early morning. Nothing could give you more peace than being in a traditional pahadi homestay, talking to the locals who are yet to see destruction through commercialization. I had the whole day and also left my work laptop at home, so I decided to do some exploring on my own around the village. And ended up descending down a kilometre from the village and found a quiet stream to sit by, soak up the sun and just be present.

Day 2 was trek day. Since I did not get my own camping gear, I had decided to complete the trek in one single day, although I don’t recommend this because I did not have that much time to enjoy the path. Woke up early and when I got out of my room, I was welcomed by cloudy and cold weather with negligible visibility. I was recommended not to go by my Pahadi host, but, you know what they say, when the longing is strong enough, even God comes looking for you. So there I was, started walking from my homestay in Kareri village. My phone showed a biting 3-degree temperature, a weather warning highlighted in red, time was 8:32 am, my hands aching from the chill but my legs feeling strong ready to go all the way.

It took me around an hour through the village to reach “Nauli ka pul” as the locals’ state from where the trek starts. There are 2-3 shops around the bridge and you need to go along the ascending path just beside the bridge. The trek here was covered with overhanging pine, rhododendron and oak trees. I lost my way here twice because of fallen trees obscuring the path. But the beautiful forest kept me going. All the while I was walking alongside the stream which ended up being with me for the whole trek.

At around 10 am, I crossed the stream by jumping around some boulders and entered into a much more dense forest. There were wooden bridges but they were all in a dilapidated condition. The forest pushed me into a small meadow after a short while and the path was pretty much clear after this. It was like walking, all the while the stream brushing off of your trek path. The trail was pretty much defined except the fact that while ascending you may not be able to see it clearly due to huge boulders & stones. By 11:30 am I entered into territory where the temperature dropped steeply and I could see that even the stream was frozen in places where the sunlight couldn’t reach. I became reassured of my path when I came across a few closed dhabas and a Shiva temple. I could see the problems with going solo.

The last part of 4.5 km of the trail was the most difficult because the path was covered in snow and even though my trekking shoes were helping me, I had to tread carefully. I did not want to slip and injure myself since I hadn’t seen another soul along the way. At around 1:06 pm, I reached the top where I could see all of Dhauladhar, Pir Panjal and parts of Kangra valley just melting together into Kareri lake, which was starting to freeze. It started snowing lightly, but the biting cold wind gushing around, made me decide to immediately head down the mountain.

All the shacks and dhabas were closed & there was nobody around. Just me standing at Kareri temple, which is dedicated to Shiva and Shakti. I just automatically bowed down to the temple and the mountains. Thanked them for showing me how minuscule I was.

Just as I started to head down, from nowhere a stray dog joined me along and started following me, and as if it was god sent, the dog, unlike any I have come across, followed me all the way back to base which was around 10 km of descending. 4 hours of descending just flew by. Exceptional Dog, an exceptional day and an exceptional view etched in my memory forever.

A few points to remember :

I stayed at Maan Homestay in Kareri Village. Everyone knows the host Maan Singh so just take a cab and ask around the village.

I did not take any vehicle to the starting point. Just took the beaten path just shooting off of the roadhead in the village. Had to walk 1-2kms extra due to this.

The very definition of adventure for me is to be alone and just be crazy in whatever you do. However, I do not recommend going solo especially if you have zero experience of hiking in the Himalayas or you are physically unfit.

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