There are travellers who like to take their time to explore places and there are travellers who like to stuff their days with as much to see and do as possible. But there’s a third kind- the worst kind, that spends hours browsing through pictures of beautiful places, merrily imagining themselves over mountain tops, sighing at YouTube vlogs of the out-and-about, never actually having the inclination to get up and make it there. I belonged to this third kind until recently- but in Ruskin Bond’s words, “Once you have lived under the Deodars, you will return to touch the trees and grass, and climb once more the windswept mountain pass.”
Here’s the story of my first trek- one that open the floodgates for many more to come.
Influenced and a little carried away by the stories my Kheerganga-return friends relived for us one evening, I signed up a trek I couldn’t back out of- in case you haven’t been in a similar situation, self esteem is as good as motivator as any. Before I could churn up a good excuse to back out (with my dignity intact) we were standing at the dam at Barshaini (near Kasol and Tosh), ready to trek 15 kilometres to Kheerganga on an uncomfortably warm morning.
That was the day I learnt my first lesson: Sometimes you just need to get up and go. The rest will work itself out. We had barely walked 200 meters uphill when my breathless plea for a “break” began. My excuse? We had skipped breakfast. After 30 minutes spent on Maggi, Nutella Toast and some Hide and Seek (the authenticity of which I’m still questioning) we began our second attempt. Naturally, history from an hour ago repeated itself and here I was- panting and breathless, begging for breaks. Luckily, everyone else was considerably out of breath as well.
Lesson 2: Don’t judge a trek by the first 2 kilometres. After the first 2 kilometres, the rest of the trek was comfortable, barring a few rough patches. We hopped and skipped over waterfalls, splashed about in the puddles along the way and stopped for breath over 20 times before we reached midway. We stopped for refreshments at a cafe when we had made it halfway- with a view to swoon over and watermelon juice to pump us for the journey ahead. After taking in the view, resting our feet and guzzling down our mugs of juice, we set off once again, happy to have made it in good time thus far.
And that’s when lesson 3 hit us: Take frequent breaks, but as far as possible only breaks for a minute or lesser. Don’t give your body enough time to get comfortable again. When you’re on the move you stop feeling breathless after a point because the body adapts to your pace and whips up the strength you need to keep marching on.
With every twist and turn here on, we encountered a new view of the valley, a landscape revealing mountains for as far as the human vision would allow, mini waterfalls to walk through and glimpses of a ferocious distributary of the Parvati river. One could spot over 1o waterfalls and little streams trickling down the hills on their way to meet the river. We were enjoying the journey, enjoying the walk, the path we took and we didn’t care about the destination. (It was a good thing we didn’t worry about the destination, for as we were about to discover later, Kheerganga was a disappointment, and had we pegged our enjoyment on the destination and not the journey, our experience would have been a regrettable one.) That was lesson 4.
We finally made it to the waterfall that was so enormous, so ferocious and so larger than life, that we stood there in awed silence, amazed by the power and size of nature’s ability to create and destruct. The last leg of our trek was left, and this was the toughest part. Physical exhaustion aside, the trek from the waterfall to Kheerganga was a steep uphill climb along slippery slopes, loose mud and roots and rocks covered in mist and dew. It was too much for the body to handle, specially for a first timer (even though the trek thus far hadh been a breeze), required as much mental power as physical power. The bags we were carrying became burdens and even with just the basic necessities we would require up there- we were walking against gravity with more than our body weight.
Lesson 5: You will seriously question your physical fitness. Work on your stamina for even the easiest of treks, for at least a month before your trek begins. For tougher treks, the degree of physical fitness naturally varies. When we finally made it up there, somehow dragging our feet and tugging at each other for support, our destination was disappointing.
We didn’t scream from mountain tops, didn’t get a chance to jump high with happiness, but we still found ourselves saying, “Man, that was worth it!” The trick to successfully making it is not to count milestones. That has never worked for me. If anything, it just gets more daunting to think about the many milestones you still have to cross. But to enjoy every minute of every second, irrespective of what you’ve signed up for- isn’t that what we mean by Carpe Diem?
Author: Nikita Butalia
Nikita Butalia is the founder/editor of Stumbling Around Delhi. A 20-something travel blogger who shows off her experiences in witty and informal blog posts based on luxury weekend getaways around Delhi, short trips around the country and solo travel experiences abroad. She dreams of checking the entire world off her bucket list, Antarctica being at the top of that list!