“ T housands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity” ― John Muir, Our National Parks
Someone asked me yesterday: “Why do you trek? What do you achieve? You could have gone for a picnic and enjoyed in a swimming pool instead”
I told him that a remote trekking destination is the only sacred place on Earth where I meet myself. The journey to the summit is like a pilgrimage for me. He laughed at me and said: “You can even do that when there is no one at your home. Just lock your room and talk to yourself, why climb ?”
A trekker looks in amazement as the sun climbs up above the clouds on the Sandakphu trek. Picture By: Amruthesh C
It was my turn to ask him a question now: “Why do you need to go sight-seeing outside when you can see every place sitting in front of an HD screen with Internet ?”
He said that it was different as witnessing something in person was refreshing and breathtaking. I then told him, there are many hidden places on Earth that cannot be reached by car, train, bus or any other means of transport. In such cases, your own two legs – the natural means of transport – can take you forward. Every bit of land is accessible by this means in the most fuel-efficient manner.
Furthermore, I showed him some of my trek photographs from the deep valleys of Ladakh, Bhutan, Kashmir and our very own Sahayadri Ranges near Mumbai. I explained how I was fascinated to reach the origin of a waterfall, rather than just see it from a distance like a tourist.
View from the top of a waterfall on the Rupin Pass Trek. Picture By: Kanishka
After the demonstration of photos I got into the real reason of “why do I trek ?”
“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves” – Sir Edmund Hillary
Most of the treks delve deep into nature with the rivers, flowers, birds, animals, lush green trees, forts, caves, waterfalls, etc. There’s ceaseless amazement at what mother nature might present to you. Last but not the least, pure air, which is a luxury nowadays for those of us who reside in concrete city jungles.
It’s due to the determined efforts of trekkers that previously unknown places are documented and seen on television channels like Nat Geo and Discovery. Trekkers spend days climbing to old forts and Alpine peaks for one footage of forgotten history. A wildlife photographer can spend months in a hostile jungle just to get one shot of a sneaky Snow Leopard.
For most trekkers, a trek serves as a reconnection with the internal self. The quiet mountains and deep valleys provide enough solace to introspect. In such places, one does not hear any sounds except the chirping of birds and gliding of breeze. This sound is far better than the instrumental music we hear. The smell of flora and fauna is invigorating and better than the all the fragrances we wear.
The Kashmir Great Lakes trail that oversees the twin alpine lakes of Nandkol and Gangbal. Picture By: Suresh Kerketta
Trekking also eliminates the fear of heights. Reaching the summit point helps build self-confidence. This mighty goal is achieved one step at a time. A trek is not a 100-meter race and helps bring parity among team members. The fastest trekker is as fast as the last one.
“After all this time questioning whether I could trust myself, my instinct had proven right — I’d found a path in pathless woods.” ― Aspen Matis, Girl in the Woods: A Memoir
At its heart, it’s a team building activity that encourages bonding with people you don’t know. With no cell phone coverage, electricity, and modern day luxuries you get a taste of the nomadic way of living. It makes us learn how people in far-off mountain villages live. Meeting kids hiking their way to attend school, tasting local cuisine ,etc – come with their own set of enchantment. The entire experience teaches you to be humble and being content with the simple pleasures of life. We learn to respect the divine powers of nature who have given us so much and in turn demand for nothing.
The enchanting Pine forests on the Tarsar Marsar trek. Picture By: Kishan Harwalkar
The most popular pre-conceived notion that I’ve heard is that trekking is a strenuous task. Yes, trekking like any other sport needs discipline but it’s much easier to get a hang of. All that it requires is a firm dedicated self. One has to start at home for this. Start taking stairs instead of lift and elevators. Jog your way to the local market for grocery. Slowly your legs and core muscles become strong and trek-ready. The next step is to go on small runs and jogs. One could also take out a dedicated hour per day and train in a gym or run in a stadium. Join one of the local trek groups for an easy trek preferably with 1-2 hours of a moderate climb. Once you are off the main roads and into villages with lush greenery and refreshing waterfalls, the fear of heights is replaced by sheer excitement.
That, my friend, is why I trek.
He replied: “Dude, when are you going next? I will join you. Its high time I spent some time with myself.”
With a smile and a wink, I replied: “Welcome to the world of trekkers.”
This article was first published by the author in Udaipur Times.
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