For as long as I can remember, I havebeen a beach person. Then came my travelling twenties and I fell in love with the surroundings that are diametrically opposite. Smooth tarmac roads hugging the bends on a mountain, chilly winds that make your eyes water involuntarily, undulating stretches of green and tall trees backgrounded by gorgeous orange sunsets that are best watched hugging yourself – clad in a thick jacket, woollen cap and lumpy gloves. The Himalayas became my new happy place, once I encountered all this. It happened on my first visit to a place called Valley of Flowers, tucked away in the Garhwal region of Uttrakhand. I came back converted, re-energized and in love with mountains. I have to say that the adoration for hilltops has only grown from then.
Days spent in the cubicle are nothing short of ironic. You’re connected to the world by your Wi-Fi, virtually traveling to different corners of the world, sharing screen space with friends and families across oceans and whetting that wanderlust by saving and clicking on each itinerary that takes your fancy. WhatsApp groups are created, plans made and e-mails clicked on. In the hope of rekindling connections with each other and exploring a new destination, the cubicle is a warm, cosy place of comfort and more than that, heartening to make plans. But what about a real connection of the mountains? It is the exact antithesis of whatyour heart truly desires – an unplugging from the world, and a more meaningful connection to yourself and your environment.
To pander to my heart’s desire of visiting hills atleast once in two months, I could have not chosen a better base city, than delhi. One of the reasons I moved here, was for its easy access and proximity to the Lower Himalayas. I wouldn't just say 'mountains' because not all mountains are Himalayas.
The way I connect to the Himalayas is one of those inexplicable things that true love is made of. Sometimes it's a bounty of walnuts, apples and apricots, sometimes it's a rainbow after rain, and sometimes it's the clouds clearing up for for a few minutes so you can admire the snow clad peak in distance. Himalayas do love you back, like no other mountain range in the world. They reveal and hide temptingly, keeping your interest in them forever. The simplicty of village life by the banks of its many rivers, an indomitable spiritual vibe, adventure honing topography or just hillside homes that have balconies overlooking deep valleys can leave an indelible mark on your mind and your soul.
Uttrakhand has become my favourite getaway to the Himalayas because most of the times I don't have more than a a couple of days break from work. I’m sure that’s a relatable problem for a lot of us.Crammed work schedules add to the chaos of life. One needs a time out every now and then, and Uttarakhand offers just that respite. The state offers a variety of getaways – both to the taste of the tourists and offbeat.For me, I like to veer off the treaded path, so I try and add something which is not overexplored. Heading off the beaten road to quaint little villages like Sursingdhar, Viratkhai, Kanatal or Jayalgarh is a luxury where you can connect with nature and with yourself. Luckily, these are well equipped even for city dwellers like us, with Himalayan Eco Lodges camps. Comfy warm beds, stunning views from sit-outs, local food, assistance from people who live here and their wealth of knowledge to dig into are the highlights for visitors. Besides, all of these places are an overnight train plus car ride away, or a short flight and a car ride away from Delhi.
Once you’re at the destination, fully in tune with nature and reasy to unwind, you can stay in holiday comatose or jump into a number of activities. Terrace farming, day hikes, afting adventures, camping, and learning to cook to local delicaies are some of the things that can keep you busy in the days. If you’re done catching up on some reading by the river, you can opt for some high-octane adventure by bridge slithering, rock climbing and even choosing to go on a longer trek. All in all, it is a cathartic experience that is entirely unmatchable to a virtual travel from the cubicle.
Another reason why I love the Himalayas is for its dense forests, muddy trails that criss-cross between them and a host of wildlife and birds that have made these thickets, their home. Ideal for long walks or precussors to your longer treks, these times in the forests are rejuvenating.
Admittedly, you may need more time and training for the longer treks, but they can be lifechanging. From the beautiful Valley of Flowers to the mystic Roopkund, from the adventurous Swarg Rohini to the marvellous Nag Tibba, there is something for everyone, depending on the advenure quotient and inclination. Though I have been eyeing the Roopkund Trek since a few months, I still can't decide between that one or Kauri Pass. One thing is for sure. Both will be re-energising, and both will delightfully be minus Wi-Fi.