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Factors Which Influence the Effects of Outdoor Education Programs

Posted by treks-trips-trails on August 30, 2019 at 7:30 AM Comments comments (5233)

What is all this hype about adventure-based training?

In the mid-late 1980's and early 1990's there was a boom in the use of adventure-based training for purposes of corporate development? The novelty and excitement of a zip line and thrill of rappelling stimulated many possibilities for learning. But there were also the perceived risks, the challenge to get employees to participate, the cost, the time involved, and a lack of conclusive evidence. There was also no standardization or qualification system for outdoor adventure trainers. And it only takes a couple of programs to get some bad press to make it difficult to sustain growth for a new field.

Corporate adventure training was a new field with much promise. The boom has since plateaued and matured in its professionalism. The evidence supporting the positive outcomes of outdoor education, including applied to corporate settings has been largely supportive. Adventure-based training is perhaps the most underutilized training method with some of the greatest potential. There are a wide variety of possible applications of adventure training. According to research and theory there are at least 11 major factors that seem to influence the effects of an adventure training

Factors Which Influence the Effects of Outdoor Education Programs


Factors that matter

Outdoor education programs vary widely in philosophy, methods, and activities, so its difficult to synthesize the holy grail of the "key factors". Based on our experience (several years instructing outdoor education programs and several years of teaching, reading and researching about outdoor education programs), we propose these following factors are the main determinants of the effectiveness of a program :

Individual differences

Every individual is different, and the single, biggest determinant of a participants' experience is generally the individual's personal history (stored experiences) and the motivation, fitness, goals, readiness for change, etc. with which the individual enters the program.

Philosophically, this notion of the importance of the individual draws upon John Dewey's principle of continuity which, along with the interaction with the situational circumstances (the program) ultimately determines the quality of an individual's experience.

In psychological terms, individual differences refers to psychological constructs which vary amongst people, e.g, personality factors such as introversion-extraversion, emotional stability-instability, etc., but also to many other factors, such as motivation, coping, self-efficacy, locus of control, and so on.

Five areas of individual differences which hold much promise for future investigation are:


• Self-efficacy

• Coping

• Readiness for change

• Resilience

• Goal-setting

Traditionally, the focus on individual difference research in outdoor education has been on variables such as gender and age, and demographic factors.

Gender: There are no clear differences in overall or specific outcomes for males or females or single-sex or co-educational groups; even though gender is a ubiquitously quoted individual difference, it doesn't seem to be a strong or clear determinant of empirically measured effects of outdoor education programs.

Age: Research tends to have found greater effects with adults rather than adolescents or children. However, this could be because adult programs tend to operate with motivated volunteers, whereas youth programs more often involve an element of compulsion by parents or teachers.

Organizational Philosophy & Culture

The programs' philosophy and culture give rise to everything else; staffing, program design, recruitment, communication with participants, etc.; program quality ultimately stems from the official and implicit reality and professionalism of the operating organization; Does the program have a strong philosophy focusing on development of the desired goals? And does the program culture set up strong expectations of success in reaching the desired goals? It is no secret that our strong commitment to "hard-core, growth-oriented" philosophy has been the chief recipe for its success over the years.

Experiential, concrete, consequential problem-solving tasks

Offer hands-on, concrete, learning-by-doing tasks with real-world constraints; allow freedom for participants to mistakes which have clear, natural (rather than arbitrary) ramifications.

Dramatic activity in novel context

Utilize unique, engaging context of wilderness and provide compelling, intense, challenging, adventurous activity which excites and keenly focuses the mind and body.

Theory-based, principle-driven, customized, holistic program structure

Utilize well researched educational and psychological theory in program design. On the one hand, customize program design to meet the unique needs of participants, on the other hand make clear use of good design principles such as:

• Gradually increase the level of difficulty of activities: Often you may need to start at a more basic level, but likewise, you can often help people to much higher levels of skill. Don't be afraid to slow the program right down to help people grasp important concepts, but likewise, don't be afraid to rapidly increase the challenge when participants are capable.

• Attend to the rhythm and pattern in the program structure. Ensure overall flow of program is holistic by incorporating cognitive, affective (social or emotional), and physical learning activities.

• Try to make use of all of the participants’ different senses through various experiences and activities - i.e., sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste.

Carefully selected & trained leaders

Select staff carefully (e.g., warmth is an important factor, as is authenticity, transparency, and intelligence). Then enculturate recruits in compelling organizational philosophy and provide real incentives for their commitment, especially ongoing training to foster their personal and professional growth.

Facilitation techniques

Specific studies have been done testing different types of facilitator techniques and the findings do suggest that particular techniques are beneficial.

Program for transferability, including significant others, exploring personal stories, & metaphoric thinking

Teach skills and meta-skills which are directly applicable to everyday life; Look for ways of involving significant others to help communicate and socially reinforce the changes; Look for metaphoric structures that relate back to home life;

Length of program

Longer programs have been found to be more effective -- certainly, 1 month programs are significantly more effective than 1 week-long programs, which are in turn significantly more effective than 1-day programs.

• Although the relationship between length of program and effect is significant and positive, it still only appears to be a relatively small effect. Thus, length along is no guarantee for success, and is it is possible for a short program to effect substantial, lasting change.

• The relationship between length of program and size of effect is likely to follow a decay curve - i.e., the benefits of going from one day to two days will be much larger than the benefits of going from six to seven days, which will be much larger than the benefits of going from 21 to 22 days.

• There may be a weak relationship between length and effects because of grossness in assessing length. Length at the lower ends can also be measured in number of hours of treatment, or number of hours of active treatment (do we count being asleep for example?). Also, increasingly programs are moving towards intermittent treatment and it is difficult to clearly measure of establish the actual meaning of "length".

• The relationship may also be weak because instructors and participants have a gestalt tendency to treat any program as a whole program, regardless of the number of days. To the extent that we are influenced by "hero myths" or "stage theories" of change, then we can appreciate that the entire cycle will be fitted by a good instructor into a program, regardless of the number of days. There is always, for example, some apprehension felt by participants on the first day, and some relief felt on the last, whether that is later the same day or many weeks later.

• All in all, it has become clear that the trend towards shorter outdoor education programs is in contrast with the effectiveness research. A silver lining of the drive towards shorter programming is that there has been significant new focus on developing more carefully planned activities, frontloading, facilitation, etc. in an attempt to elicit and facilitate development during a short time period.

Environmental & logistical events

Weather, gear, logistics, & back-up support. These issues normally play little part in determining outcomes when they go according to plan, but it is also not uncommon for weather or other logistical events outside the group's direct control to provide experiences which can prove:

• hugely beneficial (e.g., group bonding arising from carrying someone on a stretcher for 12 hours through difficult conditions) or

• particularly damaging (e.g., failure of safety equipment)

Program modality

There are no clear differences in outcomes between different program modalities (e.g., land-based vs. water-based. Of course there will be exceptions -- some participants are struck be a particular activity, but for most program participants, a similarly effective experience would have ensued in different type of program in a different location.



How to choose Binoculars

Posted by treks-trips-trails on August 13, 2019 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (4257)

Binoculars can be used for hunting, bird-watching, astronomy or watching the action at sporting events or concerts. However, not all binoculars are created equal, and being able to choose the right pair for your particular hobby makes a big difference in the long run. By knowing what to look for in a pair of binoculars and how to evaluate them, you’ll be able to make sure you get the right type of binoculars for you.

1. Choose binoculars with a 7x to 10x magnification for general use. The number that comes before the “x” when describing binoculars refers to the magnification factor, or how much closer objects will appear to be. If you just want binoculars for general use, rather than for a specific hobby, binoculars with 7x to 10x magnification are best. These will give you adequate magnification for most activities and won’t be destabilized if your hand slightly shakes.

Binoculars are referred to with 2 numbers, such as 7 x 35 or 10 x 50. The second number is the diameter of the main (objective) lenses in millimeters; 7 x 35 lenses are 35 millimeters (1.38 inches) in diameter, while 10 x 50 lenses are 50 millimeters (1.97 inches) in diameter.

While binoculars with relatively small magnification factors produce images that are less magnified than those produced by binoculars with higher magnification factors, these images will be sharper and your field of view (how widely you can see) will be wider. If you need a wide field of view, such as for viewing a football game from high seats, choose a lower magnification.

2. Look for high magnification for long-range hunting. If you’re hunting in the mountains or in wide open ranges, you’ll want to use binoculars with larger magnifications, such as 10x or 12x. 

Note that the higher the magnification of your binoculars, the dimmer the image will be. Although the image you see will be larger, your field of view will narrow and it’ll harder to keep the image focused. If you choose binoculars with 10x magnification or greater, get a pair with a tripod socket so you can mount and steady your binoculars when needed.

If you’re hunting in a forested area, you may find that binoculars with a 7x to 10x magnification factor are more appropriate.

3. Prioritize larger lenses for bird watching or low-light activities. Binoculars with larger objective lenses have wider fields of view, which are better for finding and following birds when bird watching. They’re also able to gather more light, which is important in low-light activities such as hunting at dawn or dusk. If you're interested in astronomy, get as large an objective lense (70mm is common) and lowest magnification to see large dim objects like nebulae and galaxies like Andromeda (M31).

If you’re more interested in seeing the details on smaller birds at greater distances, then you may want to opt for binoculars with larger magnifications and smaller lenses.

Note that the larger the lenses are, the more the binoculars will probably weigh.

Generally speaking, standard-sized binoculars have objective lens diameters larger than 30mm, while compact-sized binoculars have lens diameters smaller than 30mm.

4. Determine ahead of time what your price range will be. It’s generally true that the more expensive, top-of-the-line binoculars have higher image quality and are also more durable. However, there are also a lot of cheaper binoculars that are adequately durable and have decent optical quality. Thus, pick a price range that you feel comfortable buying binoculars at and don’t feel compelled to go beyond it.[4]

Think about how you intend to use your binoculars; a pair you intend to keep at home to look out the window don’t need to be as durable as a pair you want to take hiking with you.

5. Decide how heavy a pair of binoculars you can handle. As noted, high-magnification and large-lens binoculars weigh more than standard binoculars. If you plan to travel long distances or don’t have a lot of storage room, you may want to settle for less powerful but lighter binoculars.

You can compensate for the weight and stabilize the binoculars by mounting them on a tripod or with a strap that lets you carry them around your neck

How you intend to use the binoculars is especially relevant here. If you plan to carry them around your neck while hiking, heavy binoculars may be a real burden.

6. Consider waterproof versus water-resistant binoculars. If you don't plan on using your binoculars in bad weather or in conditions where they'll get wet very often, you can get by with water-resistant binoculars. If you plan to take them along whitewater rafting or skiing, get waterproof binoculars instead.

Note that waterproof binoculars are usually more expensive than water-resistant binoculars.

7. Choose glass lenses for better quality images. Most binoculars have glass lenses, which generally provide better image quality. Glass also partially reflects the light that hits it, although this can be compensated for with the right coating. If image quality is your highest priority, make sure the binoculars you plan to buy have glass lenses.

Note that glass lenses are also typically more expensive than plastic lenses.

Binoculars made with Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass produce the most high quality image, though these are also one of the most expensive types of lens material used in binoculars.

Lens coatings are described with the following codes: C means that only some surfaces have been coated with a single coating layer; FC means that all glass lens surfaces other have been coated; MC means that some surfaces have been coated with multiple layers; and FMC means that all glass lens surfaces have been coated with multiple layers. Multiple-layer coatings are generally superior to single coatings but add to the cost of the binoculars.

8. Opt for plastic lenses for durability. Plastic lenses might not give you the most quality image, but they’re much more rugged than glass lenses. If you intend to use your binoculars mainly outdoors and in rugged conditions where durability is an important factor, choose a pair with plastic lenses.[8]

For example, binoculars with plastic lenses are the best choice for activities such as hiking and mountain climbing, or for children who are handling binoculars for the first time.

Note that while plastic lenses are generally inexpensive, a set of plastic lenses that provide the same image quality as a set of glass lenses will cost more.

9. Evaluate the eyepieces. The eyepiece lenses should rest a comfortable distance from your eyes, and even further if you wear glasses. This is called "eye relief" and normally ranges from 5 to 20 millimeters (0.2 to 0.98 inches). If you wear glasses, you'll need an eye relief of 14 to 15 millimeters (0.55 to 0.59 inches) or greater, as most eyeglasses rest from 9 to 13 millimeters (0.35 to 0.5 inches) from the eye.

Many binoculars include rubber eye cups around the eyepieces to help you seat the eyepieces over your eyes when using the binoculars. If you wear glasses, look for binoculars with eye cups that retract or flip out of the way.

10. Test the focusing function. Look at how closely you can focus the binoculars in the store and measure the distance between them and the object you're looking at. If you care about spotting tiny details from far away, you’ll need to make sure the binoculars have good focusing ability.

Binoculars focus in 1 of 2 ways. Most binoculars have a center-post mechanism, as well as a diopter corrector in case one of your eyes is stronger or weaker than the other. Waterproof binoculars, however, usually have individual focusing for each lenses, with controls on each eyepiece.

Some binoculars are "focus-free," with no ability to adjust the focus whatsoever. These binoculars can cause eyestrain if you attempt to focus on something closer than the pre-set distance.

11. Look at the prism design to gauge how good the images will be. Most binoculars have their main lenses spaced wider than the eyepieces, thanks to the Porro prisms they use. This makes the binoculars larger but makes nearby objects appear more 3-dimensional. Binoculars that use roof prisms let the main lenses rest in line with the eyepieces, making the binoculars more compact but usually at the cost of image quality. However, roof prism binoculars can be made to deliver images of quality equal to Porro prism binoculars but at greater cost.

Less expensive binoculars use BK-7 prisms, which tend to square off one side of the image, while more expensive binoculars use BAK-4 prisms, which deliver more light and sharper, rounder images.

12. Check out the manufacturer's reputation and guarantees. Consider how long the manufacturer has been in business and what other optical products they make, if any, as well as how they'll handle matters if the binoculars get damaged. Note as well whether the manufacturer offers a warranty for the binoculars.

If you buy an expensive pair of binoculars and they become damaged, having a warranty or guarantee from the manufacturer would make it much easier for you to get them replaced.

The wild Lahaul- Spiti valley by Swetha Tawker

Posted by treks-trips-trails on July 30, 2018 at 7:15 AM Comments comments (11023)

The Itinerary

Day 1- Chennai to Amritsar

Day 2- Amritsar to Chandigarh

Day 3- Chandigarh- Shimla- Kufri

Day 4- Kufri – Hattu Peak- Rampur- Sarahan

Day 5- Sarahan- Rampur- Rekong peo- Sangla – Rakchham

Day 6- Rakchham- Chitkul- Rakchham

Day 7- Rakchham- Sangla- Rekong Peo- Kalpa

Day 8- Kalpa- Rekong peo- Puh- Khap- Nako- Sumdo- Giu- Tabo- Dhankar

Day 9- Dhankar-Pinvalley-Kaza

Day 10- Kaza- Hikkim- Gomic- Kaza

Day 11- Kaza– Ki- Kibber- Losar- Kunzum pass- Chandratal lake

Day 12 – Chandratal lake– Batal- Chhatru- Gramphu- Rohtang pass- Manali

Day 13- Manali-kullu-Mandi- Bilaspur- Rupnagar- Chandigarh

Day 14- Chandigarh- Chennai

Finally back home and to reality after a two week travel to one of the most extraordinary places on earth- the lahaul and Spiti valley of Himachal Pradesh. The eastern parts of the state close to indo Tibetan border. This was a trip planned for and booked well ahead and I had made some of my own additions to cover parts of Punjab which is a state I had not seen at all.

June 21, 2018- Day 1 Flew from Chennai to Delhi and from there to Amritsar and the sight of the shining dome of golden temple from the flight made me even more excited and forget the sweltering heat that hit me as soon as I landed. I took a cab from the airport itself which however could not take me all the way to my homestay. I had to cover the last mile in a cycle rickshaw and my homestay was from the outside in one of the most crowded, dustiest and dingiest locality. The room I was allotted was in the second floor and had to climb it through rough stairs not even completely plastered. The place was old but modernized to suit a budget conscious traveler wanting a comfortable sleep. It was a clean but old room with a clean bed and clean toilet. No complaints there. in spite of the locality I still would not mind staying there since it was a true value for money accommodation being just a stone’s throw away from both Jalianwala bagh and Golden temple. Also the homestay owner Rajdeep was an attentive man. I felt safe in his place. As soon as I reached, dumped the luggage and lunched on the best amritsari paneer kulcha, pindi chana and raita, set off to see both the places. Maybe if it was winter and I had one more day I might have included the wagah border change of guards into my itinerary. But neither was the case and I don’t particularly have any jingoistic feelings towards all these. Moreover I suspect the visit to Kargil last year during the visit to leh would stay a more fulfilling memory than wagah could be. I could be wrong.

The Jalianwala bagh was quite different from what I had imagined from the mentions in history text books. I tried hard to visualize the tragedy and horror of general dyer firing at unarmed Indians and the panic. Conjuring the image was quite tedious while gazing at the rather well manicured crowded lawn where youngsters took selfies against the bullet ridden walls. Most of the millennials there visibly had no clue about the historical significance of the place. I did not get offended at it as much as amused since this was another reflection of contradictions between expectations and reality.

The temple complex is adjacent to the garden and the square is lined with many eateries and shops selling all things Punjabi. Kirpans to bangles to lassi to phulkari to jutties. The abominable heat was managed by bowls of cold water being served at all the corners of the temple. The water felt like heaven and I managed to get into the queue to see the sanctum sanctorum. The discipline, cleanliness and the devotion was of a unique quality. The blue dress wearing huge,regal and handsome nihangs kept gently urging women to cover their head and shoulders. There were counters that give the sweet Prasad which is a flavourful wheat halwa dripping with ghee. The simple and melodious gurubani kept me company in the queue that moved fairly swiftly and the sanctum sanctorum was a marvelous and divine sight. Bought a tea and sat alone in the bench in the square watching the goings on in the surroundings. Old slouching men and women in corners, well made up women dressed in fashionable finery, mothers dragging their children away from ice cream and toy vendors, old women walking and chanting under their breath, migrant laborers in shops with a vacant look in their eyes, shopkeepers hopeful of getting the eye of every passerby, sweet and lassi stalls…Came out of the complex and headed back home sleepy and tired. The next door neighbor of my lodge was a milk and sweet vendor. Had a thick creamy lassi from him and the homestay owner paid a visit to the room my greet and to give me bank details for transfer of funds towards stay. He urged me to get back to the temple for the view of the temple at night and have the langar which is the community hall that supplies free food to whoever visits the place. I headed back again to the temple since another visit to Amritsar is doubtful albeit a bit reluctantly. One has to try to make the most of a place because I feel the human life span is too less to visit the same place twice. Same with books too…Even if you were to spend half the day every day of your life reading, there still isn’t enough time to read all the books you want to and you should read.

The temple at night time was a sight to behold. Shining brilliantly and the reflection of it in the pond surrounding the temple will stay etched in my memory and will be the mental visual I have for Amritsar. Headed to the langar hall where there is a method in the madness of food distribution. There is no finesse or leisure. It is all about a rhythm, speed and discipline when hundreds and thousands of devotees are briskly handed over the plate, bowl and spoon and made to sit on the floor awaiting the food. There are many rows like that and I was told a single session could feed more than five thousand people. The meal is a simple fare involving roti, two types of dals and a milk payasam. Food is practically thrown at your plate from above and the same treatment and hospitality awaits the multimillionaire and the begger who is eating there. It’s a lesson on importance of non wastage of food which is insisted in the place…also an immensely humbling experience. Came out of langar and my host had promised to wait for me near the Jalianwala Bagh entrance which is also adjacent to the many shops selling unique products of Punjab. The shoe crazy person I am ended up buying three exquisite leather juttis from a shop where Rajdeep took me…Came back to the room utterly satisfied with the Amritsar experience.

June 22, 2018- Day 2 The second day I was to leave for Chandigarh and had an early morning Shatabdi booked for myself. It was a last minute decision but a wise one. Buses from Amritsar take longer, get stuck in traffic snarls, are more expensive and definitely less comfortable. An elderly auto guy pre arranged by Rajdeep dropped me in station. It was a very comfortable journey through the farming and industrial innards of Punjab where I had a Punjabi sardar gentleman sitting next to me. We got talking and exchanged notes about each other and when he knew I was from kerala, he surprised me by saying he has been there and that he did not get food in Kerala. I was not sure if I was more surprised or irritated at his statement. I was amused by what he said next. He said he just got snacks like idli, dosa, vada etc and no real food that filled his stomach…like what else but Paranthas. I was quite convinced by his argument having seen the Punjabis for two days. Even more so by the two thick aloo parathas sold by the vendor in the train…and that too for just 50 rupees. I kind of understood the meaning of what a meal is for them after that.

Reached Chandigarh in just 3.5 hours where Mangal the auto guy sent by my homestay owner Suraj waited for me. Chandigarh blew my mind with the greenery it had. The roads were not littered, people stopped at signals, well placed traffic signs and clear signages, no honking and overtaking, keeping to lanes, tree lined roads and pathways, kilometers of mango farms with trees bearing down with the weight of mangoes, people plucking mangoes and transporting in horse drawn carts, pedestrian paths used by people, pet dogs and dog walkers, and most surprisingly a separate elevated cycling track. Chandigargh is one of the finest and cleanest cities I have been to. Planned city in a true sense…truly impressive.

Had a lassi at Suraj’s and Monica’s place and waited for my best friend J and her daughter and son to join me from Muscat. At the risk of offending my many close friends I dare say that she is the closest and longest friendship I have had in my 42 years. We studied in school and college together, know each other inside out, we have no pretensions towards each other and no disagreements either. She got genuinely upset when I stopped coloring my hair and I know she disapproves of my cavalier attitude towards appearing young and good. An immensely hardworking, smart wife and mother with a great career going for herself in Middle East we both differ superficially a lot but being real small town girls share the same values and hopes in life. She came by late noon and was pleasantly surprised at how frown up and mature and lovable her kids have grown upto . Ofcourse I have a special liking for kids who are into books and J’s daughter was big into books. We ordered a lunch and rested for an hour and headed to see the rock garden, the lake and probably a bit of shopping.

The rock garden was pleasant but more pleasant was the Nimbu Pani that we had outside, given the sweltering heat of the place. I am normally never really amazed at manmade wonders unless they are so beautiful to make one speechless. Yes Nek chand’s garden was creatively done. But not one of those places that I would say is a must see in one’s life. (Frankly that’s what I felt even about Tajmahal. So my opinion here is quite worthless. Again it is not motivated by some rightist leftist leanings. I genuinely felt that Tajmahal was overrarted.) What I liked though was how the interconnected maze was formed and the lovely open vastness with numerous high swings….we played on them and enjoyed it as much as children. The next stop was Sukhna lake were people were boating. Nothing mindblowing there too specially for someone from a coastal city. Headed to sector 17 for some shopping and eating. Eating happened but not shopping since most of the places were closed by the time we found the shop recommended by Suraj, it was closed. A book store however was open and me and we did some shopping for books for travel. Got an uber to take us back to the homestay where me and J chatted and watched football late into the night against better sense of sleeping early.

June 23, 2018- Day 3 The third day was when our real group journey was to happen. That was when the group of 24 of us was to meet at the pre-decided venue and embark on our 11 day adventure to Lahaul and Spiti valley. We had a sumptuous breakfast of whatelse but parathas and went to the meeting point which was a hotel in zirakpur where some of the other team members who came from other cities stayed overnight. This is the point where I have to talk about the organizer, Satish Menon. I met this unique piece of god’s creation first as an organizer of the trek to Pindari Glacier about five years ago. That still remains as the most memorable and life altering experience I have had. I have done a fair bit of travel ( not enough to have an instagram profile that says travel bug has bit me or adventourous back packer etc….travel is one of the things in my life I immensely enjoy and not ‘the only thing’;) but till date nothing that matches the Pindari experience. I came to know about this trek as Satish was the relative of a childhood friend and she informed me about the program. Though she could not make it to either this or any other trips organized by him, I went with him for the trek and again last year for a road trip to Leh and Ladakh through the Srinagar- Kargil route. Satish is an adventurer mountaineer with more than three decades of experiencing climbing and discovering the beauty of the Himalayas and Sahyadris. A naturalist, minimalist, environmentalist and die hard socialist heart. Mountains are his life and knowledge is his passion. There are very few people that I have encountered in my life who can hold a conversation on anything under and above the sun as convincingly as him – be that music- Indian or western, astronomy, lifescience, chemistry, football, books, nature, botany, books….all with his own brand of wild humour. A true exponent of simple living and high thinking. So naturally I would not want to miss an opportunity to travel with the man.

He doesn’t believe in physical limitations and hence our group this time ended up being a motley group of both sexes of ages ranging from 8 to 74. The oldest being Satish’s jovial and enthusiastic uncle who we all lovingly called Harimama and youngest being j’s son Ankhit a cute curious but shy little fellow. Both of them stole everyone’s heart. Four couples, three kids, four women and nine men made our group (one of whom opted out mid way since he had to go back home urgently). The biggest age group was 50+. Wise and kind folks. One tempo traveler and two Chevrolet Taveras were our designated vehicles. Some had a specific preference for Tavera while some for the tempo but no one was inflexible in changes required on and off. The interesting thing was that the group got to know each other quickly and with in less than two days we all felt as if we had known each other for a long time. What also helped was that we had a whatsapp group running for more than two months before we started the journey to discuss many things and share information about the travel.

The last group to be picked up was in kasauli and after having started from chandigargh, kasauli was our first break to pick them up and have our lunch too. The first night stay was in kufri as shimla was felt to be too commercial, crowded and was in the throes of a severe water shortage. We reached quite late into the night to see the place well or enjoy the beauty. However a nice stroll near the hotel perked us up and helped in building an appetite for a good dinner.

June 24, 2018- Day 4 The next day’s drive was from Kufri to Sarahan. Both the Taveras would have been best suited for 5 passengers plus driver however since we were 24 of us each of the vehicle had to accommodate 6 and it was not easy being in the back seat, with head hitting against the roof and the need to pull the front seat up so that back seaters can get out every single time. However with in less than one hour of having started the vehicle suffered a serious snag with smoke coming out of front. A major part had to be changed and there was no option but take the vehicle back to Shimla. Our vehicle was stuck near a wedding hall kind of place and there was a small time set up inside which could give us tea and when hunger pangs worsened, some aloo parathas too. The other Tavera too waited for us and in all, about half the crowd was stuck and the rest of them moved on to the next destination which was the Hattu peak and temple. We finally caught up with them after a 3.5 hour break. The short journey from Narkand to Hattu involves driving through extremely narrow roads where you are bound to lose minimum 15 minutes to adjust your vehicle and let pass a vehicle coming from the opposite side. We did not have a lunch to speak of that day and went on with our jouney to Sarahan. There was however a steady streak of snacks distributed through out from local non perishable foods brought in by each one of us. The sights enroute to Sarahan was beautiful with hundreds and thousands of apple tree orchards lining each side of the road and green raw apples flourishing in each one of them in bunches…mouth watering but no chance of eating them since they would take good two months more to ripen. We had carried ripe and sweet litchis from chandigarh and also got to taste some wild figs from trees by the road given to us some Nepali workers plucking them for themselves and the taste was delicate.

The ride upto Rampur was pleasant and we still had daylight. Being mountainous areas and also on the eastern side of the country in summer, daylight through out our journey held on till about 7.45 pm every day. The roads from Rampur to Sarahan however got progressively worse and gave a taste of the road conditions for days to come. After dark, such roads offer no thrill since we don’t get to see the scenery but end up concentrating on the bumpy ride alone. That and no adequate food kept most of us irritable. Finally by the time we ended up in our hotel for the night it was more than 10 pm and all of us gorged on the food and went to bed soon. J had a bad stomach and was immediately put on medicines which took two more days to settle fully and only with a dose of antibiotic. Over the full journey S was to be my room mate, who is a friend and class mate of Satish and became my friend during our trek to Pindari. The friendships made in mountains stayed and so she was more of family in spite of having known for a very short while initially. We had set into a pattern where I have my daily bath at night before sleeping and she in the morning. This made our waits for hot water less and the schedule of each person non intrusive into other’s. 

It is amusing how when we are away from home with its demands as well as luxuries, our focus shifts into the mundane so easily. That is to say we literally start watching each other’s back and was seriously concerned of only the ‘Fuelling and flushing’ systems like S says. As a lady making her living being an entrepreneur in the automobile business- traditionally a man’s forte- the choice of words was understandable. We were quite concerned and aware of patterns of each other’s bowel movements and rightfully so because a clogged system can be quite an irritant during long drives. So even before we could open our eyes and wish each other good morning the question to each other used to be ‘did you’ and an ‘yes’ made us joyful and a ‘no’ made us agitated. Such simple worries. Same thing with peeing. The complicated plumbing lines made we women have difficulty peeing when there was no available bathrooms and often had to resort to peeing by the roadside. Over time, we developed a thick skin and became totally unconcerned about people watching or associated shame. Like dogs our eyes sparkled at the site of good sized rocks. A big lesson in travel is never to miss an opportunity to pee. You never know how long you have to wait for the next stop. Really, why should we be ashamed too, men have been doing it for centuries. True equality also involves equality in open peeing. This is just the most basic body mechanism which every human and animal has and it’s as natural as the sun rising in the east. We were told a story by one in the group about his three british colleagues coming to India to experience the happiness of peeing in open. I did not enquire if it was in the city or in wild. In city such behavior would not be tolerated but in the wild among trees and rocks it’s not so much of a crime. Water to trees, dust to dust…

June 25, 2018- Day 5 The next morning had a solo short walk to get the first sight of the snow clad Himalayan peaks at a distance. Having seen them up close and personal in previous visits I had goosebumps at the promise of what awaited us over the next few days and was also excited for the first timers who were to be thrilled out of their wits. Bags and baggage packed, we started on our next leg. Before we boarded the vehicles we made a quick trek to the Bhimkali temple and then headed towards sangla. Enroute at Wangtoo we get to take a quick break to see the mega hydro electric power station and dam across Spiti and Baspa rivers and marvel at the mammoth engineering wonder of Jindal Steel works. We reached Sangla quite early and after a tea break and shopping for basics some in the market headed to our night halt for the day at Rakchham about ten kilometers away. We are to have this place as our base for two nights. The rooms allotted were out of a dream and our small balconies opened to apple orchards and the beautiful river flowing in front of majestic mountains. It was a dream view with Cows and Sheep grazing, beautiful Himachali women and handsome sharp featured men, pink cheeked chubby babies, huge fields full of yellow flowered mustard plants and white flowered tender green peas. The village was having a festival were gods of other villages and people from those villages was visiting rakchham. So we had some drunk and happy men and women in fineries on the road. They said the small town was crowded because of the festival and when they say crowd it means about 100 to 200 people…A different perspective of crowd compared to the towns folk…The food in this place was significantly more flavourful than rest of the places. Since we reached earlier than normal there was enough time for our favourite quiz master Aravind to make us wrack our brains with his housie based on our two epics and went on till dinner time. After realizing that I knew and remembered so little of both, made a mental note to read up the Malayalam version of both before end of the year. I found some time to quickly rinse off some of my clothes and leave it for drying since there was two nights for us in the same place.

June 26, 2018- Day 6 A good deep night sleep followed by a rather cloudy. But managed a short trek to the camp site by the river side, were some of the group had been accommodated the previous night. The day was meant for a short trip to Chitkul, the last village in the indo-tibetan border. J decided to stay back the day to recuperate from the stomach ailment and it worked well for her too. We went on to have a picturesque ride with views of majestic pine trees, rivulets and deep gorges with a view of dense apple orchards down below and of course the Himalayas playing the majestic backdrop. There was a board at our destination that indicted presence of India’s last dhaba. So after a short trip to the monastery and idly watching the firang budget tourists, their hostels, biker groups and just wandering around the small town for a while we went down to the dhaba for a rice and dal lunch. It was a lazy day after return with no fixed plan but just walking around the place and another quiz by our beloved quizmaster.

June 27, 2018- Day 7 The next day was to be a short tip to Kalpa, which was to be reached via a small town called Rekong peo, which ended up being our lunch stop too…small but fairly self sufficient place where some of us stocked up on some essential medicines and much essential fruits. The route to Kalpa too was very scenic with apple trees and pines intermittently. Enroute we visited a small monastery and temple and saw a very precariously perched suicide point which led to a small village which we explored on foot and later headed to the hotel for night cap. A room that opened to apple trees, had hot water and good food…what more could we ask for. As it turned out, yes we could ask for more. And that was a beautiful half hour of Mandolin renditions by our most talented but self taught team mate Shyam. The nip in the air, warm after a good bath and fresh clothes, smell of food wafting from the kitchen and a full moon glowing through the dark clouds playing hide and seek with the mighty Kinner Kailash peak was so surreal and immensely sensational an experience. I was moved to tears by his soul stirring strings. Dinner was good, followed by some old Hindi melodies played through Bluetooth filling the air. What a night and what more could a girl ask out of life…?


June 28, 2018- Day 8 The next day dawned with the biggest disappointment of being a cloudy, foggy rainy morning. It would have been a welcome change if not for the fact that it completely obliterated our chance to see the Kinner Kailash range comprising also of a peak similar in shape to a shivling. The sun and rain played hide and seek throughtout moning hours till we started off after our breakfast. The journey for the day was supposed to be long and tedious and comprising of rough terrains, bad roads and multiple stops. I was in Tavera but the tempo traveler developed a major snag and was stuck in repair at Rekong peo for more than 3 hours. The other tavera too stayed back with them. So the stuck crowd included all except the 5 including me in the lead tavera. In spite of some serious landslide related road block near Pooh, we still were many hours ahead and had a very scenic lunch break near khap where roads were tunneled through the mountains and made them overhand above the road. Khap reminded me of a small hamlet called Setenil in south of Spain which we visited. The topography had changed drastically the moment we had left Rekong Peo in the morning. Tree lines stopped, it was barren and mammoth mountains with scree and shining mica. The river sometimes thin sometimes broad due to many small streams and tributaries joining it on its path snaked down the valley. As we progressed in distance and height the tapestry was bleaker, desolate and inhospitable looking…so very Alistair McLane and wild west …only bigger in scale. Some bikers, military vehicles, repair trucks and migrant labourers repairing the roads dotted our passage while we inched away through what is categorized as the world’s most treacherous motorable roads. The next stop was Nako, but it was too late for the monastery to be open. So just walked down to the Nako lake which was a rather small but beautiful manmade water body meant to feed the sparse apple trees of the area. Vegetation grew sparser. From there we headed to see the Giu Mummy in Giu village, a monk mummified about 500 years ago sitting in a crouched position and found by the villagers after an earth quake. To go to Giu we have to take a small deviation with a very road after Sumdo and after the visit join back the main road to head back to Tabo. The mummy was kept badly in a room inside a glass enclosure broken at the top. Could not help but lament at the condition in which we Indians maintain important archeological sites. An equally sad parallel is the dismal condition in which the museum and Saraswati Mahal library attached to Brahadeeswara Temple is kept in Thanjavur where cobwebs, dust, spit adorn the 9th century bronzes. Garlands in the hands of monkeys is the apt metaphor here.

We joined back the main road while it was still bright. The road was impossibly scenic with yellow, blue and white flowers dotting both sides and we even saw a patch of lavender fields. Five of us lamented at the thought that the rest of the crowd will not be able to enjoy the scenery due to lack of daylight and delay.

Once back on the main road headed to Tabo which boasts of, a thousand plus year old monastery. There we saw the Old monastery with a mud courtyard and mud Gompas and the newer slick one adjacent to the old. A short distance away was a hill with caves full of frescoes, but after the tiring ride and aching bodies we decided to not go for the climb. Also some youngsters coming back from the place said that the caves were closed and the fun of just the climb was not incentive enough for us at the fag end of the day. In the initial days of planning our stop was to be the Tabo but the later decision was to head to the next village which too boasts of a 1200 year old monastery called Dhankar. The accommodation was split in three places close to each other and since we were the first group to reach, we occupied one of them and had our dinner. We waited on for the rest of the group to arrive. They came nearly three hours tired, hungry and some of them with a case of badly frayed nerves. Rightly so, because a night drive in a risky road with a driver driving in breakneck speed is not what one looks forward or enjoys in unfamiliar terrain. Settling for the night and transferring luggages to respective rooms went on till wee hours in the night and early morning. The full moon had a soothing effect and kind of reflected the madness we felt in our hearts. The huge mammoth anthill shaped structures attached to the mountains created by wind and erosion looked eerie against moonlight and strangely bewitching.


June 29, 2018- Day 9 Next day dawned bright and sunny and we had a short trek to an old house perched on a hillock and the adjacent monastery. The same scenery of last night looked quietly huge and gigantic in day light. Another two little treks in the morning made me feel refreshed the tight muscles felt stretched. The next travel was to pin valley and an adjacent monastery and we ended the day in Kaza which was to be our halt for two days.

Ignoring protests from Satish, some of us washed a couple of small clothes since the Sun was blazing hard and it was a scorching hot day, so much so that I had the beginnings of a headache. In fact most day time temperature was quite high and we did not even a require a light jacket till late in the evening. Interestingly however, the temperature in shaded areas as well as times when sun went under clouds was always significantly lesser. Since ours was predominantly a road trip and we were protected against gusts of wind by the security of the vehicle such variations did not demand frequent covering up or removal. Though we had reached Kaza by late afternoon, after the medicine and heat I did not want to venture with the rest of the group to a proper restaurant. Me and a few others stuckt to the restaurant attached to the hotel we stayed and settled for Maggi and tea. A maggi that cost a whopping 100 rupees. But in their defence they had added a tomato and small bits of carrot to it. Went back to the room for a bit of reading and there was an evening gathering in the terrace for some spirits and spirited conversations. 

Satish wanted us all to introduce ourselves. By then we all have been riding together for over a week and the introductions were nothing more of a conversation starter and fun than really getting to know each other. I am a strong believer of the thought that there is nothing better than travelling with a person to understand them than many years of living together or working together. It is the ultimate test of compatibility. And frankly I would not mind travelling again with any of the remaining 22 alone or together. Everyone has their own viewpoints, idiosyncrasies, eccentricities and goodness. It is always possible to ignore what you prefer to and embrace the good and meet midway. If you really can’t live one more moment with him then strangle him and throw him in the apple orchard as a nice lunch for the Tibetan mastiff or snow leopard. Just kidding! Or am I?

The evening progressed to some more singing by our dear Mandolin player Shyam. The settings were different. The effect of music on you differs with the environment, company and your state of mind. After downing two glasses of Chenin Blanc that Aravind had reserved for me I was in a mildly floaty state of mind and the dark clouds against mountains and open spaces around made me want to hold on to the music and not let it dissolve away into the rarified air. The place had enough music of itself. He was playing for us and I did not want Kaza ingesting it. A good dinner later, I borrowed a writing pad from Hari mama to write a letter to my husband and son to be posted from the highest post office in Hikkim that we were to visit the next day. Distance does make the heart grow fonder, and two letters took me an hour and read myself to sleep.

June 30, 2018- Day 10 Next day dawned with clothes all crispy dry and me with no shortage for clothes. We went to the Kaza monastery next door. Saw the insides, sat for a while, walked around the campus and met some peaceful looking monks going about their daily work and proceeded to the shop attached which sold envelopes to send the letters in. Post breakfast we set off for the days travels. From this day till end of journey me and S opted for the tempo traveler. I felt equally comfortable in both. The advantage of tempo travller is that unlike tavera there was no misery of head hitting the roof and hurting everytime the driver hit a bump or brake. Permanently but willingly relegated to the back seat I had by then developed a small lump in the crown. I had become a unicorn. 

The first stop was hikkim. The world’s highest postoffice was in that tiny village. The vehicle was parked and we had a short trek down to the Postoffice and the single postman there deligently and slowly went about his work of selling us postage stamps and affixing the seal. Came out and posted the letters, but even as I write this account after more than a week of return the letters hasn’t reached home. I would give it two months before considering them MIA. Next stop was the Gomic monastery and some of the group climbed a short hill close by where Harimama rendered a beautiful bhajan. Saw the video but I chose not to go for I did not have confidence in my shoes for the descend. It was stupid of me to have chosen a used and slippery shoe handed down by a marathoner friend for a travel like this. It worked well in plains for my walks but not on slippery scree kind of surface.

Again a monastery visit where the monks prayed and blew the long trumpet kind of instrument sending loud booms into the air and ears. A stuffed snow leopard was hung inside and stared vacantly into space. Came out to see a group of Malayalee boys from my hometown Palakkad and went on for a lovely lunch of Thukpa and Momos after making some stale mallu jokes. In august Malayalee company that is a must. There was a brief stop to see a Buddha statue on the top of a hillock but I did not bother to get off the vehicle because the view was as good from there. Straight back to the hotel and me, J and S headed off by foot to explore Kaza town. We had some work to be done with internet and were told we could do it there. However the efforts were in vain since there was neither power nor connectivity that evening. Kaza town was quite similar to Leh markets but the narrow downs had too many ups and downs and were not motorable although tiny cars of the locality managed to drive around. We went to the lovely German bakery for cups of very soothing hot chocolate, yak cheese sandwiches and almond and peanut cookies. There was an old and sickly dog laying about looking for scraps of food. The youngsters in the next table had left a full bun behind and I took that fed the fellow. I assumed he must be in a lot of misery because he could not translate the gratitude in his eyes to a wag of tail. I sent some wishes to the heaven for his recovery or quick passing. Dogs are the best creation of god and they don’t deserve pain of any kind. I missed my Maya badly then.

Then some trinket and souvenir shopping later slowly treaded back to our hotel through the village. The clear sky with millions of stars shining bright, a nice nip in the air and mountains in the background made my heart sing and feel a rush of gratefulness at everything I am blessed with at that moment. I felt I really must be a very dear child of god for him to let me have it. The evening progressed to some mild tension with little Ankhit down with vomiting and headache. But a quick run to the nearby restaurant for some curd and some curd rice later the champion was back to his spirits. It was lack of sleep and tiredness probably that led to it and a good sleep worked wonders for him. We had J’s older kid sleep in my room with S and I slept in J’s room for the night. But that was only after settling the money dealings for the day. When women shop together in any corner of the world, there is always this settlement that forms the crux of affairs of the sisterhood. “I paid for the bracelets, and you for the incense so you need to give me 100 and I need to give you 110”. If you have not done this in a travel, then you have not travelled or they were not women.

July 1, 2018- Day 11 Morning got up with the sun, all packed, set and loaded for the highlight of the travel. We were heading to Chandrataal camp site for the night. This night was supposed to be the coldest night and I had packed a bit of extra warm clothing for my day backpack than usual and included the gloves, an extra shawl and wore my woolen socks. The first stop for the day was the Ki/Key monastery. It had a short climb and it was the last monastery visit for the travel. The monk in one of the living quarters showed us ancient scriptures written in tree bark and offered us a fragrant tea. He was 31 and had been inducted into the monastery when he was nine. His education included very few years of mainstream education and then it was the spiritual path of the monastery. He had a mobile and Whatsapp however. But if one cannot post pictures of travel abroad, good mornings with coffee cups, sexist jokes or photos of kids getting A grades in school uniform, what use is of Whatsapp? Headed back on our trail and saw Kibber village enroute and a brief lunch break later headed toward kunzum la (la means pass in English and tso means river) Satish showed us a hanging glacier and mountains with scree and moraines and explained what switch back mounatins were. A beautiful stop with some gorgeous photo ops later we were in our vehicles. It was quite cold at 15000+ feet in kunzum la and had to wear the jacket for the first time in the day. The road started to get bad steadily. The melting glaciers started to end up as bigger rivulets in the stony roads making it tough for the vehicle to cross with people and the luggage. More than two times some of us had to get down from the vehicle and cross the ice cold water on foot while other drivers helped our driver by removing boulders and making way for the vehicle. There was a sense of rush since we had to hit Chandratal well before night fall. Unlike Pangong Tso there is no permission for vehicles to head or camps to be made all the way near the lake and our camp was quite far from the lake. So we hurriedly dropped our bags in our allotted camps and rushed back to the parking only to be told that the tempo can’t take us to the point where the trek to lake starts and all of us had to manage in the two Taveras with probably two trips to the lake. In a while we managed to get to the starting point of trek. A batch had headed before us too. A nice and pleasant trek of ups and downs takes you to a short plateau from where we get the first view of the turquoise blue Chandratal lake…a much smaller lake than Pangong Tso but I felt it to be more secretive and peaceful tucked away quietly among the mountains and reflecting the snow caps and the sky on its surface. We had some enchanting moments by its side watching the myriad hues the sky took while the dusk quickly edged towards night fall and the lake changed its colours with changing reflections. Closer to the edges the lake was peaceful to gaze into but from high above the view was ethereal. I was too caught up with it that I forgot to even take a picture of the same. The next batch of our group came later but they too had their share of fun at the lake and to avoid the congestion in the return vehicles with just two taveras at our disposal to take 20 odd us back to the camp, me and Satish decided to walk half way back to the first level camps. From there we decided to take the vehicle back to our camp about 2 kms away. Had the return been a little earlier with enough day light we would have loved to walk back that distance too. Had we been a bit early we would have loved to do the Parikrama (circumambulation) of the lake with just a 3 km circumference. It was tiny compared to Pangong which was 130+ kms in circumference.

That walk turned out to be for me the highlight of my travel. Satish always had his one foot in the mountains and his familiarity with any such terrain is great. It was a downhill trek of less than 3 kms but as time was nearly 7 pm and cloudy the chill was biting, but the good speed at which we walked down kept me warm enough. Earlier in the lake I had borrowed a thermal top from J and wore it under my jacket and with that my upper half of the body had five layers of clothing. There was also a woolen cap on the head and a scarf around my neck. But bottom half had only a yoga pant and shoes with woolen socks.

Everything around us had a brown tinge, the mountains and the air. It was a stony and rough mountain road and the vehicles to whom we gave way to pass took as much time to reach to the first camp site as we did by foot. My body and soul was floating exactly like my red scarf. No sound whatsoever – of birds or people or rivers…just the howling of the wind trapped between mountains and our breathing. I felt so light and gloriously happy that I had a doubt if I was awake, asleep in a dream or dead. It was a surreal experience because all the experiences of the body were not experienced by the body but felt as emotions and weightlessness. I wanted the moment to last forever and wanted my body to dissolve into the atmosphere around. Perhaps this is how being with God feels. It took us nearly an hour to reach the first camp site from the lake and I started to feel like I was back in reality only once we were back in the vehicle and small talk and banter started. Slowly the hardships like cold, stiffness and soreness in joints started to be felt. Feet and fingers had got unbelievably swollen due to the cold and lack of blood flow to the extremities. But they were less than minor inconveniences compared to the euphoria I had experienced. We came back to the camp and me into my room where s had already reached and covered under multiple blankets shivering in cold. I too had started to shiver in cold by then.

The niggling irritation that only women feel when they had to pee multiple times in the open and the feeling of being unclean however was more than the discomfort of cold. So a good cleaning session in the bathroom( which by the way lacks a bucket, mug or tap. The only available water is the freezing cold water in the wash basin and what is sprayed by the bidet in the seat…but we Indians are ingenious and resourceful) later methodically got into the six layers of clothing. I finally got a chance to take out and wear the grey overcoat that was an unplanned buy in Sydney because the cold there in the month of May took us by surprise while we visited. Of course I was an absolute travel greenhorn then. Much travel later I have learnt some valuable lessons. To layer, to carry toilet paper on your body always, never missing an opportunity to pee or poop, to always carry medicines and water on you, to covering ears and feet well in cold weather even if you wear shorts,to always steal airport toilet paper and hotel toiletries…follow these rules and thank me later.

There is something called a pee buddy which I had carried with me for my previous travel to Ladakh but I did not carry it now. It’s a contraption for women which is to be held close to your body and since its shaped like a funnel, once you pee into it, the pee lands into the toilet bowl like it does for the other sex of our species. Its made of disposable paper and quite clean and efficient. The lop side however is that with the multiple layers of clothing it is difficult to be pulled and held down for the job to be done right. Too much multitasking involved. And you just cannot afford mishaps while travelling with just two pants. So just better your squat and do it was motto for this travel. 

The camp had a good dinner with even a dessert. Warm gulabjamuns. Since there was no space in the big dinner table me and Bharath ended up sharing our table with two cyclists. One was a man from Bangalore and another a Swedish guy who he met in a similar cycling expedition to Leh and Ladakh. This time around they have cycled all the way from Shimla and has followed our exact same path to reach the camp. However the weather was getting rainy and the roads were so bad that they could do only about 5 kms of cycling in an hour in the stretch between Kaza and Chandratal. So their decision was to pack up the cycles and take them back in a truck to Manali itself. S hardly slept due to the cold and the thin air with her already bad lung issue. I was expecting for a long wakeful night exactly like the one I had at the campsite in Pangong tso last year. But surprisingly I slept like a baby with six layers of clothing and two blankets over my head.

July 2, 2018- Day 12 In the morning there were stories of many who did not sleep, many who heard strange noises and neighing of horses and kept awake. Thank fully the night sleep kept me in good spirits in the morning and ready for the long ride from Chandrataal to Manali. The day started wet and rainy. We started quite early at 7 itself considering the long drive and bad weather. We expected the flow in all rivers and waterfalls crossing the roads to be quite heavy and as expected so was the case. Again some getting out of the vehicle and walking was warranted. With just a bread omelette for breakfast, hunger pangs stuck early. Past the small hamlet of Batal, in a small dhaba in a place called chhatru we had a lovely lunch of rice, dhal, rajma, kadhi and omeltte and left satiated for the rest of the journey. There were patches of heavy rain too in places. The slush in road made it impossible for vehicles to ride up. A tempo traveler ahead of us slipped down the slush eight times before being able to accelerate and take the vehicle up the road. After a fairly long wait and loss of time, some military trucks came the opposite way and the heaviness of the vehicles settled the slush a bit, enough to give a grip and drive the vehicle. The scenery enroute was spellbinding. We always drove adjacent to some river or the other all of them in furious spate due to rains and by the side of them were beautiful flower beds and small wooden briges. There were patches with eight different coloured flowers even. Lilac, lavender ,purple, blue, light blue, white to yellow. A riot of colours from the tiny little flowers that covered the meadows kept our hearts warm. In places it reminded me of the country side mentioned in Thomas Hardy’s old England and in places it looked like the wet and flowery romantic landscape from D.H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover.

The weather being quite bleak, and observing the teeming hundreds of bikers and tourists we skipped the customary stop in Rohtang pass and headed to Manali for nightcap. We sadly did not even stop of our dear friend Suhasini’s fervent plea for bhuttas. A good clean and comparatively more luxurious hotel in Manali, gave the comfort of a long hot bath and I could afford a change of clothes. But most of our belongings had got wet since the tarpaulin sheet covering our luggage on top of the vehicles was leaky. Collateral damage. A decent dinner followed by goodbyes since next day early mornig the group was to split giving into different routes and destinations ahead.

July 3, 2018- Day 13 One group had to break away hiring their separate vehicle since there were some unexpected changes in flight plans back to Bahrain were they were headed. Another group headed in a Tavera to board the late evening train from Ambala to Mumbai. Our Tavera had me , J and kids and Vinod headed to Chandigarh. Except me all others were heading to delhi via train from Chandigarh. Another group of people started late who had plans like me for an extra night or two in Chandigarh before heading home. 

We loaded up said a second round of farewells and started at 5 am. Our craving for tea and something to eat was met well past 7 and much after kullu. The drive was scenic as we fast lost altitude but passed through rolling hills and sparse apple archards. Being in the fag end of the journey we all were eagerly awaiting for the destination to arrive. However our wise, gentleman companion Vinod would have sure felt bored as me and J yapped away all through the jouney about life, career, people in our lives, kids and myriad other things in our chance to catch up finally. 

Vinod was the plan man of the group had already asked our driver to head straight to Pal’s dhaba ( one of chandigarh’s finest) for lunch albeit a late one. The hunger pangs were bad but the wait was well worth it. I had a vegetarian thali while the rest of the folks had rotis with chicken and mutton liver. While I swear by the spectacular taste of my meal they did about theirs. The vehicle dropped us at the Chandigargh railway station. Suraj our homestay owner had sent the suitcase J had left back in house with the auto driver. She had to take it back to kerala and I headed back to the homestay in the same auto. I dropped my luggage and quickly left for sector 17 for some phulkari shopping that was the last item in my tick off list. Suraj had told us to go to the Punjab govt. showroom because rates were fixed and of course I could find some good material for stitching back home. Had a juice and felt terribly alone away from a group of people who was family for nearly two weeks. Had a tiny dinner and read late into the night. The re instatement of connectivity and having to check thousand odd messages in Whatsapp was interesting and disheartening at the same time. Being untraceable gave peace, gave quiet and some time for introspection and to reevaluate priorities of life. Paying the bill of home wifi connection from my mobile banking app as one of the first things that slowly pulled me back into demands of life and comforts which are really bondages.

July 4, 2018- Day 14 Early morning took the same auto to get to Chandigargh airport. Right were chandigargh stops and Punjab starts the squalor is evident. Roads are not laid well, bumpy,with mud pools, cowdung, urchins and garbage everywhere. But one welcoming sight early morning on the ride to airport was of portly sardarjis balancing atleast 4 to 5 huge milk cans on motorbikes sprinting to their destinations. So there still people on earth who are not vegans and kids who rub their milk moustaches with the back of their hands or on shirt sleeves. Reached airport well ahead of schedule and I waited for the long day it was to be, eager to meet family, eat my mother’s idlis, but with oven fresh memories of a trip of a life time… 

The deal that was…

The package cost of Rs.30000 per person included stay, transportation , breakfast and dinner. No lunch. It made sense too since through the day we were on road and people had different appetites and preferences while travelling. The trip was meant to be and understood to be a budget adventure road trip and not a resort vacation involving lounge chairs, pinacoladas, virgin mojitos and sheek kebabs. We all carried our own waterbottles and satish had specially asked us not to buy mineral water bottles since most of it end up in garbage and end up dirtying and polluting the pristine lands we visited. We stuck to the rule as much as we could and kept refilling in hotels we stayed or ate or even in streams or pipes of mountain water. 

The breakfast was almost always parathas, toast with butter and jam, egg and once in a while poha or upma. I love food of all kinds and do not particularly mind anything as long it is vegetarian. Lunch was mostly Maggi, Rice and Dal or Rajma, Momos or Thukpa. We ate anything available in the small eateries on our brief breaks. Dinner was invariably Salad, Rice and Roti with a Dal and mostly a Panneer dish and maybe an extra vegetable. Some places had curd available and some made chicken dishes for non vegetarians. We got soup too in certain places. Nothing to really complain anywhere. I consider ourselves lucky to get all this in such remote places we visited were even reaching basic daily needs is tough and expensive. 

The rooms were mostly double occupancy and triple occupancy for families with kids. With comfortable beds, fairly clean bathrooms and hot water availability, frankly all the places we stayed in, offered much more than I expected. Probably I am satisfied easy or my expectations while travelling on a budget to remote places are limited. My bench mark for mountains is the stay options we had in our trek to Pindari Glacier. Mostly tents and less than basic rooms in small village houses with no running water or water even in buckets…most often only water we used was from streams and small rivulets. And in the eleven days we spent probably just two baths and as many change of clothes. So this was five star luxury compared to that.


The travel arrangement could have been better. While initially all of us including Satish felt that the tempo traveler could be the best option, it did not prove itself to be so because of the bad roads with huge near boulder size stones, slippery slush and streams of water. It could not take the weight of people and our respective luggage. The situation was made worse by the rather adamant and inflexible driver. Many of us were irritated and rightly so at the attitude of the guy to keep repairs for the vehicle to the last moment thus eating on our valuable day light timings and refusal to ply over rough roads. Many were also irritated at the fact that being the tour organizer more than Satish having the upper hand on the drivers, drivers had on us. However in all fairness to Satish and post discussions I had with him on this, I see he had a point when he said when we are in an inhospitable terrain with possibility of getting a different vehicle next to impossible, it doesn’t make sense to antogonise the driver than he has been already. It could be detrimental to all our plans. I am reminded of a sensational Malayalam saying that translates roughly into “Fighting with water only harms your ass” (meaning it remains unclean and unwashed without water to wash it). Though you get the gist, the spirit of the saying is however is lost in translation. Also more importantly the lahaul Spiti belt was not a developed tourist location like Leh and ladakh has become now. If you are lucky you get a great deal, if you don’t then consider it a good adventure. The tourism market is still in its nascent stage there. In another 5 yrs or less you could have a better experience.

How to or how not to pack 

It’s also very relevant here to discuss about the luggage we were carrying. The quantity of luggage each one carried was humungous and was totally incongruous to the terrain and style of travel. I am a strong believer of travelling light. Really really light. I learned it the hard way. I handled the luggage situation really bad in Europe three years back and it left such a lasting impression, that all travels post that I planned well and took as little as possible. I don’t plan to have a different outfit everyday. Frankly I don’t care. Though I don’t judge others who doesn’t think like me, I feel stressing on looks and clothes and spending time on it is a waste of time when experience is all that matters. Yes, if it was a resort vacation or a leisure vacation with gala dinners and dances to attend, or if it was an official travel where dressing to make an impression matters, then we need to be careful in choosing and should ideally consider style and fashion. 

For my two weeks travels what I had packed was:- 

One pair salwar kameez and a cotton dupatta which served as a stole in aircraft too – for just the golden temple visit ( I left this back along with my Amritsar shopping and the gifts that J got me in the homestay in Chandigarh, sicne I was to come back to the same homestay at the end of the travel and fly out of there)

Two thick cotton yoga pants from proyog ( one of which remained unused)

One jean

One thick legging for night wear

One thin cotton and one light weight synthetic short each

Two synethetic tops ( one remain unused)

Two vests

Three light weight decathlon kalenji running t shirts

Two full arm body hugging t shirts

One fleece jacket ( again decathlon bought before travel on sale for Rs 300)

One full jacket

One head band

One woolen cap

Three light weight shawls (bought from leh last year. No real purpose, but good accessories to make it less boring when you repeat clothes)

Three quick dry sports bras and 2 regular bras ( one of it left back in Amritsar)

Seven panties ( one of it left back in Amritsar)

Three pairs of cotton socks and one woolen pair

One decathlon quick dry towel ( unused)

One Raincoat (poncho) unsed

One flip flop and one pair of shoes

A tissue roll

Sanitary products

A head flash light

Pen and paper

Enough cash and id card with one ATM and one credit card in a plastic Ziploc cover in my waist pouch (excluding shopping and flight fares- which were miles redemption- my expenditure was less than Rs 8000. This includes my two nights stay, food and travel in Punjab )

A book to read

All important medicines

Toiletries (toothbrush, paste, soap, shampoo, talcum powder, sunscreen cum moisturizer, lipbalm- all in smallest possible measures just enough for the period of travel. What works best is complementary stuff taken from hotels. They will be small in size and of good quality unless you stayed in a sidey ‘decent’ hotels)

All these items comfortably fit into my longish and superlight wildcraft duffel bag. It could have fit into my back pack too. But over years I have often felt that if it’s not a trek where you have to carry your luggage or the mule carries it for you, it makes most sense to take a duffel bag since its more flexible than a suitcase. It is also easier in a duffelbag to remove and keep back stuff than in a back pack (unless you have top end back packs where there are openings midway, at the bottom etc. Even then backpack mostly means reopening fully and repacking in most occasions and searching something involves a lot of effort. However if I were to choose between a suitcase and backpack I would still go for the discomfort of the back pack.

Dos & Donts on the Trail

Posted by treks-trips-trails on October 9, 2015 at 6:20 PM Comments comments (8361)

There are lots of common sense lessons learned from years of trekking in the hills. Almost anyone who visits the Himalaya returns with a story of another tourist’s inappropriate behaviour or dress. To commit the occasional faux pas is inevitable when exploring foreign shores and local people will often make light of your indiscretion. However, taking advantage of traditional hospitality without understanding the implications, overt ostentation, disrespecting ceremonies or customs, and dressing inappropriately are all considerable insults and should be avoided at all costs.


If you are unsure how to behave then follow the lead of a local, and if necessary ask questions. Everyone will understand that you are trying to do the right thing and you’ll be given all the support to participate in local lives to the fullest. This list of Do’s and Don’ts is by no means exhaustive, so please apply liberal amounts of common sense to your day.



1. Respect cultures and traditions

(a) Consideration be a considerate guest at all times. Himalayan cultures are rich and diverse and can sometimes confuse a visitor but if you are friendly, approachable and consider those around you before yourself, you will always earn the respect of locals.


(b) Photos ask before taking a photo, as many people prefer not to be photographed for personal, cultural or superstitious reasons.


(c) Gift giving the complex patina of Nepali society sometimes calls for gift giving or making a donation; this may be to a monastery or shrine, at a wedding, or at a cultural program. Whenever you are faced with needing to give a gift you should seek the advice of a Nepali to work out what is appropriate. The method of or the formality associated with giving a gift is often as important as the gift itself so make sure you are aware of any protocols.


(d) Affection do not show affection in public.


(e) Bathing showing your genitalia when bathing is offensive. Use a sarong, modesty screen or shower tent and when visiting a hot spring try to behave modestly.



2. Benefit local communities, commercially and socially

(a) Share skills and experience teach when you can, offer a fair rate of pay for services, participate in activities whenever invited.


(b) Do not publicly argue, drink excessively or fight. Demonstrations of anger are considered an embarrassing loss of face on your behalf.


(c) Begging of all the negative impacts tourists have had in the Himalaya, the encouragement of begging along the trail is probably the most problematic. Handing out candy (referred to as sweets, mitai or bonbons) to children who never clean their teeth is thoughtless and irresponsible. Giving money to small children in return for picked flowers is destructive and illegal in all National Parks. If your conscience struggles with the wealth divide then provide skills through training and education, or donate to one of the major charities based in the major cities. But do not just give away items along the trail and so perpetuate a habit that ultimately only reduces self-esteem and can cause long-term problems. If you aren’t convinced of the negative effects of pandering to cute children then trek away from the main trails and experience the genuine, openhearted joy that children show tourists without the expectation of a ‘reward’.



3. Adopt new customs

(a) Clothing do not wear tight or revealing clothing, especially if you are a woman. There is a firm dress code followed by all Himalayan women and is only not observed by the very poor or for special reasons.


 It is considered offensive to expose your knees, shoulders and chest at all times and especially in any place of worship. Unfortunately for women, this means that wearing detachable leg pants is not very sympathetic to local customs in the Himalaya, and cropped tops of any description should be avoided. Men can wear long shorts but should avoid exposing their chests.


☹ It is also considered offensive to highlight genitalia, so avoid wearing stretch or very tight clothing around the chest or groin area.


(b) Entering homes it is critical that you wait to be invited into a home. The social systems that operate throughout much of the Himalaya prescribe a rigid hierarchy of which rooms you may or may not be allowed to enter, respect the wishes of the homeowner. The cooking-fire area is often sacred so always check if you can dispose of burnable rubbish before consigning it to the flames.


(c) Greetings In India and Nepal people greet eat other with the traditional, ‘Namaste!’ Sometimes they will shake hands, especially if they are involved in the tourism sector or have retired from the Royal Gurkha Rifles, but in general you should avoid touching people, especially of the opposite gender. In Bhutan, ‘Kozu Zangpo La!’ with palms upturned is a traditional welcome. Wherever you are, a warm greeting or thanks, or taking a little time to play or practice English is always preferable to a short or quick reply. It will both build respect and relieve any stress you may feel from curious locals.


(d) Eating do not use your left hand to eat or pass objects. Traditionally all Himalayan people eat only with the right hand, the left being considered unclean. Therefore pass foodstuffs to another person with your right hand and use your left as little as possible. You should also avoid touching the lip of a vessel to your mouth, just pour the drink into your mouth.


(e) Offering payment and/or gifts it is respectful to use both hands, or with your right hand while touching your left hand to your right elbow.


(f) Language learn some basic phrases and use them as often as possible.




1. Tread softly stick to trails and recognised camping areas. Avoid creating new tracks, or damaging the environment in any way. Follow the adage: take only photos, leave only footprints.


2. Pack it in, pack it out avoid taking tins, glass, or plastic containers and bags unless you plan to carry them back to a major city.

How long does it take to degrade?


Cotton rags 1-5 months

Paper 2-5 months

Orange peel

6 months

Wool socks 1 to 5 years

Plastic bags 10 to 20 years

Leather shoes 25 to 40 years

Nylon fabric 30 to 40 years

Aluminium cans 80 to 100 years

Plastic bottles Forever

3. Conserve water quality wash away from water sources, and always use local toilet facilities when available. Bury all organic waste at least 30cm below the ground and 50m away from water sources.


4. Conserve natural resources what few resources there are belong by right to the locals. Always ask permission before using anything along the trail. It is illegal to disturb wildlife, remove animals or plants, or buy wildlife products.



1. Beware of altitude sickness use the buddy system to watch for symptoms of altitude sickness. Make sure everyone remains fully hydrated by drinking water throughout the day, everyday. Stay together along the trail, and communicate frequently with everyone.


2. Be safe carry an extensive first-aid kit and know how to use it. Have multiple plans for emergency evacuation and designated decision makers. Leave your itinerary details with someone responsible at home.


3. Be self-reliant don’t assume you will receive help or assistance. Ensure your group has extensive field-craft and navigation skills. Research thoroughly, is your route appropriate for your party? Do you have the necessary skills, experience, resources and equipment?


4. Remain hydrated drinking between two and four litres of water per day will help prevent altitude sickness and improve your body’s recovery time.


5. Don’t rush there are no prizes for coming first on the trail and rushing will probably over-stress your body and may increase your chances of suffering from altitude sickness. Frequent stops to drink water and rest often become photo opportunities and a chance to chat with locals.


6. Trekking poles that more people aren’t impaled by absent-minded trekkers swinging their poles is amazing. Be aware of the pole tips, especially when crossing bridges or negotiating narrow or steep trails.


7. Beware of yaks many porterage animals you meet along the trail are yaks or hybrids of yaks and cattle, and all of them can be dangerous. Every season at least one tourist will die because they got too close to the large horns or were knocked from a bridge. If you see any pack animals (even donkeys cause accidents) coming along the trail you should scramble up the hillside of the trail and wait until they pass.


8. iPod use rather than listening to the noise of life along the trail some people prefer to plug in to an iPod. Doing so puts you at greater risk from animals and rock fall.


9. Common courtesy the trail is often busy, especially at steep or difficult sections. A common courtesy is to give way to people walking up-hill, or to those who are obviously struggling or carrying a very large load.


Trekking Grades

Posted by treks-trips-trails on October 9, 2015 at 8:30 AM Comments comments (10100)

Trekking Grades

Trek grades have always caused debate among guides and trekking companies alike, as what is simple for one person can be beyond comprehension to another. So instead of a single grade the GHT uses a multi-grading system. There are two major components, each split into three categories:

• Trail conditions includes the type of terrain you will cover, navigation difficulty, level of skills required.

• Trail difficulty includes the maximum altitude attained, how much ascent and descent, and the general level of fitness recommended.



Remember to consider both the grades and the total duration to gain an accurate idea of what the trek will be like. For example, a trek to Everest Base Camp with two different companies could take the same route, but one does it two days faster than the other. You would have to consider the various grades to decide if the faster itinerary suits you better, or whether you should give yourself more time to cope with the rigors of the trail.



Type of terrain Easy, up to 25% incline Moderate, up to 45% incline Hard, very steep sections

Navigation difficulty Easy to follow trails Some navigation skills Challenging navigation

Skill level Confident walker Scrambling Ropes needed




Highest point up to 4500m up to 5500m up to 6500m

Amount of ascent/descent in a day Moderate, up to 500m Energetic, between 500 and 1000m Strenuous, more than 1000m

Fitness level Basic fitness Good fitness Excellent fitness




Trail Conditions

Type of terrain whether you are in forested valleys or climbing high alpine passes the type of terrain you have to traverse is dependent on gradient and trail conditions. Major trekking routes sometimes have sections of moderate gradient but are normally on well-maintained trails of easy gradients. Remote, exploratory style treks, especially some sections of the GHT and the more difficult alpine passes normally incorporate steep climbs and very rough trails, called shikari bato by the locals.



Level 1: Easy – trails generally with an incline of 25% or less (although there might be short steep sections) on loose dirt or stone paved trails in good condition.

Level 2: Moderate – trails with an incline of up to 45% and some sections are on rough loose ground including scree and boulders.

Level 3: Hard – trails where you may have to use your hands to ascend very steep sections of rock, snow or ice and/or shifting boulders or scree.



Navigation difficulty trails in the main trekking areas are normally broad and easy to follow with switchbacks to make ascent and descent of steep sections easier. There are sometimes direction signs, and you can normally ask a local and get accurate information. In remote areas you will sometimes have to follow very narrow and ill-defined tracks, which can easily be confused with trails created by grazing livestock. Asking for directions is sometimes a bad idea in remote areas as only a few villagers will travel regularly and their concept of time and distance is vague at best.



Level 1: Easy to follow trails – broad, well-maintained trails, sometimes with signs and/or reliable sources of local information.

Level 2: Some navigation skills – route is sometimes hard to find, use of map and compass combined with judicious use of local information necessary. Employing a knowledgeable local guide is probably advisable.

Level 3: Challenging navigation – trails are hard to find, no reliable local information, you will need a high degree of navigation skills in all weathers and conditions. Employing a knowledgeable local guide is a very good idea.



Skill level for many treks the only ‘skill’ you need is to be a confident walker, that is, be able to balance easily, hop from rock to rock, and cope with slippery or treacherous ground. However, other skills are sometimes necessary, especially on harder treks where you might need to abseil, rock climb and cross glaciers.



Level 1: Confident Walker – you walk regularly and are familiar with assessing obstacles and hazards along a trail. You might require a helping hand now and then on slippery surfaces, but you feel confident being unassisted most of the time.

Level 2: Scrambling – you rarely need a helping hand and can negotiate tricky steep or rough sections without having to sit down or be assisted. You can cope with loose, rocky ground, tracks only a foot-width wide and ascending or descending on all fours.

Level 3: Ropes needed – you have experience with rock climbing, abseil and glacier crossing techniques. You should know how to tie knots, put on crampons and a harness, and self-arrest using an ice axe. Successful completion of a mountaineering course is advisable.




Trail difficulty

Highest point for many trekkers the highest point of a trek is both a goal and a potential hazard. Altitude can affect you in many ways, some extremely serious, and for many people this may mean restricting themselves to an altitude limit, depending on prior trekking experience and fitness level.



Level 1: Low Altitude – for treks up to 4500m.

Level 2: Mid Altitude – for treks up to 5500m.

Level 3: High Altitude – for treks up to 6500m.



Amount of ascent/descent in a day treks that go against the lie of the land, that is, across ridges and valleys tend to be harder than those that following geographic features. The amount of ascent and descent (up and down) in a day can cause knee, ankle and hip problems as well as exhaust the body far more than following more gentle gradients.



Level 1: Moderate – The trail tends to follow natural geographic features like valleys and ridges, and if there is a significant ascent or descent of up to 500m there are plenty of places to stop and rest.

Level 2: Energetic – The trail crosses ridges on a regular basis and/or has frequent sections of ascent or descent between 500 and 1000m, places to stop might be limited.

Level 3: Strenuous – The trail frequently has major sections (over 1000m) of ascent or descent where it can be hard to find any place to stop.



Fitness level recommended your fitness level does not help you avoid the effects of altitude, but it can have a direct bearing on how well your body copes with the continuous physical exercise of trekking. The fitter you are, the faster and more easily you will become ‘trail fit’ and the more likely that you will enjoy every day in the mountains. Ideally you should concentrate on cardiovascular fitness, build stamina and undertake a bit of strength training to add muscle mass.



Level 1: Basic fitness – you should be able to walk, with rest breaks, for 5 to 6 hours on uneven walking tracks. If you are training on even, tarmac or paved surfaces you should be able to sustain a brisk walking pace (4 to 5km/hr) for the same time.

Level 2: Good fitness – maintain a brisk walking pace (4 to 5km/hr) for three or four hours over rough ground, or jog on even tarmac or paved surfaces for an hour.

Level 3: Excellent fitness – walk rapidly and/or jog for hours on uneven ground.



How to train for a high altitude trek 5 week program

Posted by treks-trips-trails on August 7, 2013 at 2:35 AM Comments comments (677)

Fitness required: You need to be in good physical condition before the start of a high altitude trek. You should be able to jog 3 kms in 30 minutes before commencement of the trekking expedition.

A word on fitness. A high altitude trek involves trekking on snow and skiing during harsh winter weather. It takes you to a high altitude of 12000ft  when walking on heavy snow.  At that altitude the air is thin and the conditions difficult.

Your physical fitness is important for a successful completion of the trek. Training yourself to get to a jogging distance of 3 km under 30 minutes makes your lungs strong and gives it ability to process less air for more work.

Here is an exercise schedule which will help you run up to 3 km in 30mins by 5 weeks

Week 1 : Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes.

Week 2: Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 90 seconds of jogging and two minutes of walking for a total of 20 minutes.

Week 3: Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then do two repetitions of the following:

  • Jog 200 meters (or 90 seconds)
  • Walk 200 meters (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 350 meters (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 350 meters (or 3 minutes)

Week 4 : Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:

  • Jog 400 meters (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 200 meters (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 800 meters (or 5 minutes)
  • Walk 400 meters(or 2-1/2 minutes)
  • Jog 400 meters(or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 200 meters (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 800 meters(or 5 minutes)

Week 5 : Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:

  • Jog 1/2 km (or 5 minutes)
  • Walk 400 meters(or 3 minutes)
  • Jog 800 meters (or 5 minutes)
  • Walk 400 meters(or 3 minutes)
  • Jog 800 meters (or 5 minutes)

Flexibility Exercises

Flexibility is the ability of the muscles and tendons to relax and stretch easily.  It determines the amount of movement your bones can make in any direction around joints such as shoulders, elbows, hips and knees.  Stretching improves your posture and helps to prevent low back pain.  Stretching your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors and low back muscles regularly, promotes relaxation in the tissues reducing the strain on your back.  On your trek, it is important that you arrive on the slopes with your muscles relaxed. Carrying a backpack, however light, can become a strain after a while. These exercises will help you to be in good shape before the trek.

Warm-up stretching exercises loosen tendons, increase blood circulation, and help prevent injuries during your workouts or any activity.  Cool-down stretching helps relieve muscle soreness and tightness.


The Shoe-Sizing Guide

Posted by treks-trips-trails on July 9, 2013 at 6:55 AM Comments comments (757)

If the shoe fits, by all means wear it. But how do you know it's going to fit if you buy it online?

Many Web customers have experienced the disappointment of buying shoes online to later realize that the fit is all wrong. Although All generally have faith in their manufacturers' sizing recommendations, we also know that with all the different brands and factories out there, the shoes on offer might run a little larger or smaller than the manufacturer suggests. If customers know this, they stand a better chance of keeping that pair they bought online and everyone "walks away" happy.

How can you be sure the shoes or boots you buy will fit you? Read on. This shoe-sizing guide will teach you a bit more about how shoes are made, how to measure your feet and how to ensure your shoe-shopping experience is a positive one.

Glossary: The Parts of a Shoe

Before diving into our shoe sizing guide, it helps to know a little footwear terminology. Almost every shoe or boot is constructed with four major components, which we usually refer to in the description of each style.


The upper is the visible outer covering of the entire top of the shoe or boot above the sole, designed for visual appeal and the proper level of protection. It is usually made from leather or synthetic fabrics.


The insole is the soft inner layer of a shoe that contacts the bottom of the foot. Designed to cushion the foot or wick sweat, the insole may also be referred to as the "footbed."


A shank is found only in footwear that requires more foot stability, such as work boots and backpacking boots. This stiff piece is usually made of either nylon or steel.


Between the insole and outsole, the midsole is usually a thick, spongy layer designed to cushion or provide extra stability. It is often made of shock-absorbing EVA (ethyl vinyl acetate) in athletic shoes or more durable but less-cushioning polyurethane in work boots and backpacking boots.


The outsole is the bottom part of a shoe that actually contacts the ground. This layer can range from lugged rubber on a hiking boot to thick, smooth leather in a dress shoe.


How a Shoe is Built

Before you can understand why one pair of size 8's does not fit like all other size 8's, you have to understand how a shoe is built. Most shoes are mass-produced in factories all over the world, where different workers using different equipment work on different shoe styles. In fact, some footwear requires over 100 different production steps for completion. The result is that a size 8 running shoe from factory A may not actually end up being exactly the same size as a size 8 dress shoe from factory B.

Here's a very brief rundown on the steps manufacturers take to mass-produce shoes or boots in a factory. The process is similar with handcrafted shoes, except there is more attention to detail and no automation:

• Machines stamp 3-D shapes into sheets of fabric ranging from suede leather to synthetic mesh.

• Next, these fabric pieces are "cookie-cut" and marked or labeled to guide the stitching process.

• The fabric pieces are then stitched or cemented together to form the shoe upper. After this step, the "shoe" still just looks like a rounded piece of fabric.

• An insole is stitched into the lower sides of the upper and an insole board is inserted into the developing shoe.

• The shoe fabric is shaped around the appropriately sized "last," which is a mold (usually plastic) that forms the final shape of the shoe. A machine forces the upper down over the last for a tight fit. The shape of the finished shoe is apparent at this stage.

• Pre-cut forms of the midsole and outsole are layered together and cemented to the upper.

• The finished shoe is removed from the last and inspected for defects.

As you can see from this process, the exact size and shape of the last is largely responsible for the final shape of a shoe. A size 10 last at one factory may provide a slightly different fit than a size 10 last at another factory.

How to Determine Your Best Shoe Size

Unless you're a 10-year-old who's starting to outgrow your last pair of shoes, you probably already know your exact shoe size. But even when you reach adulthood, your feet actually continue to grow larger and flatten out through the course of your lifetime. So it doesn't hurt to re-measure... you might have grown a half-size or more! It's very important to measure the width of your foot, too, since you can't try on shoes in advance when buying online.

A Brannock Foot-Measuring Device®, that funny metal instrument in shoe stores that looks like a combination between a ruler and a medieval torture device, is designed to measure the length and width of your foot to determine your optimal shoe size. This device is usually only used on children whose feet are still growing, since kids' shoe sizes change so rapidly. Yet adults need to occasionally double-check their own foot sizes.

Many shoe stores now leave a Brannock Device® available on the floor for customer use, so the next time you see one lying around take a few minutes to verify the length and width of your feet.

For online printable versions of the Brannock, click these links WOMENS | MENS | KIDS.

Here's how to use this measuring tool:

• Remove your shoes but be sure to leave on a pair of fitted socks.

• Heel-to-Toe Length: While standing up or sitting down with your feet parallel to the floor, place one heel firmly against the appropriately labeled end of the device.

• Record the size indicated at the tip of your longest toe (the longest point of your foot).

• Arch Length: Place your thumb on the ball joint of the foot (the inside part of your foot where your big toe meets your foot) and slide the arch-length pointer to where it is centered on the protruding ball joint of your foot. Record this size also (it may be different than your overall foot size, and is very important since shoe sizes are generally built based around heel-to-ball length).

• Width: Slide the width bar against your foot and record your foot width (ranges from 3A to 3E). This is done by locating your shoe size on the moveable width bar and matching it up with the corresponding width measure.

• Men have a medium width of D, a narrow width of B, a wide width of E and an x-wide width of 3E.

• Women have a medium width of B, a narrow width of A, a wide width of D and an x-wide width of EE.

• If the size falls between two widths, choose a wider width for a thick foot, a narrower width for a thin foot.

• Now that you've got all three measurements (heel-to-toe length, arch length and width), compare the arch length to the heel-to-toe length. Choose the larger of the two measurements as the correct shoe size for your foot.

• Repeat entire measuring process for your other foot, but remember to rotate the Brannock device 180 degrees first. Very few people have feet that exactly match one another, and you need to buy shoes based on your larger foot size.

The reason you want to measure your foot length two different ways is that your best shoe size is probably the longer of your total foot length and arch length. Also, it's good to know your foot width.

For men, D is a "medium width." For women, B is considered a "medium width." Higher letters indicate a wider foot and lower letters a narrower one. Men have a medium width of D, a narrow width of B, a wide width of E and an x-wide width of 3E and up. Women have a medium width of B, a narrow width of A, a wide width of D and an x-wide width of 2E and up.

Despite the usefulness of a Brannock Foot-Measuring Device®, realize that whatever shoe size feels best is best. If the Brannock says you're a size 11 D, but you like the feel of a size 12 E, go with the 12 E.

Foreign to U.S. Conversions

When converting a foreign shoe size to your own shoe size, there are general conversion standards than can be applied. For example, you may have heard that compared to U.S. shoe sizes, United Kingdom sizes are one size smaller. Or that when converting Euro sizes to U.S. sizes, the rule of thumb is to subtract 34 for men or 31 for women. For example, you may think a women's Euro Size 40 would be a U.S. Size 9 (Euro 40 - 31 = U.S. 9).

These rules should not necessarily be applied when buying a pair of shoes online. Nor should you generalize based on previous shoes you have bought. Even if you bought a pair of Euro Size 38 shoes before and they fit, the next size 38 shoes may not (even if they come from the same manufacturer). There are many possible reasons, including brand-specific standards, style anomalies and specific factory standards.


The Break-In Myth

You may have to walk a mile in a man's moccasins before you can judge him, but you don't have to walk nearly that far to judge a new pair of shoes. Despite the common belief that new shoes won't fit right until they've been worn several times and "broken in," only heavy-duty hiking and work boots actually need to be broken in. Most shoes don't significantly stretch out over time, so they need to offer comfort and fit right out of the box.

If you try on a pair of shoes and find them uncomfortable or notice any discomfort zones when just walking around the room, the odds are you have the wrong size or shoes that are incompatible with your feet. Don't waste your time with shoes like these - simply don't buy them (or return them if you have already bought them). Again, this does not necessarily apply to rugged hiking boots or work boots, which usually do have a short break-in period. Even these boots should fit perfectly after being worn for several days, though.

Fit Tips


• Be aware your feet are different sizes. Go with the larger foot when selecting a shoe size.

• Try on shoes in the afternoon or evening when your feet have flattened out and are their largest.

• You may want to go up at least a half-size in running and hiking shoes, to prevent bruised toenails from crowding at the front.

• Be sure to wear the appropriate type of socks with every pair of shoes or boots, and use these when trying shoes on.

• Try different lacing methods for an optimal fit if you have a narrow heel, extra-high arch, etc. (see diagrams below).

Lace-Up Techniques

Even with a perfectly sized pair of shoes, you may not have a truly perfect fit. Creative lacing is one simple way to adjust shoe fit to prevent heel slippage, secure overall fit, or accommodate a wider forefoot. Here are several lacing suggestions to custom-fit your shoes:


If you experience heel slippage, lock lacing will help. Lace the shoe normally until the lace ends emerge from the second set of eyelets. Then feed the laces up each side and into the top eyelet towards the foot. Now cross laces over, and feed each under the vertical section of the other side. Pull and tie normally.


This method of lacing is great to ensure a secure fit for any running shoe. After lacing, put each lace end back through the last hole to create a small loop on the top side of the shoe. Thread each loose end through the loop on the opposite side, pull and tie to create a tight closure.


If you have a high instep, this lacing technique might make you more comfortable. Start with normal lacing at the bottom, then feed the laces up each side of the shoe and cease to criss-cross. Once at the top, continue the criss-cross technique and tie for a secure closure.


If you have a wide forefoot, consider buying shoes especially designed for this issue. You can also try this simple technique. Begin by feeding the laces up each side of the shoe and only use the criss-crossing technique towards the top. Tie for a secure closure.




The Flora and Fauna of Himalayas

Posted by treks-trips-trails on April 17, 2013 at 10:30 AM Comments comments (1024)

General information:

The Himalayas stretches over a distance of about 2500 km from the west to the east. It’s average width along the entire longitudinal extension ranges from 100 - 400 km. The vast area covered by the mountain range along with some fantastic altitude gradients result in the tremendous biodiversity of the Himalayan region. Vegetation and wildlife, both change according to the varying altitude and the resulting differences in climatic conditions.

Thousands of species of flora and fauna thrive in the region, each adapting to its climatic condition, predators and prey unique to each one's habitat.However, as in other regions, man's entry and exploitation of the region has meant that many species have become extinct or are threatened and on the verge of extinction. We present a brief look at the tremendous natural wealth of the Himalayas.


Himalayan vegetation varies according to both altitude and climatic conditions.They range from the tropical deciduous forests in the foothills, to temperate forests in the middle altitudes. Higher up, coniferous, sub-alpine, and alpine forests spring up. These finally give way to alpine grasslands and high altitude meadows. They are followed by scrublands which lead up to the permanent snowline.

The vegetation also varies from the unexplored tropical rainforests of the Eastern Himalayas, to the dense subtropical and alpine forests of the Central and Western Himalayas to the sparse desert vegetation of the cold desert areas of the Trans Himalayas.

However,the floral wealth of the Himalayas have also been affected by man. Over the centuries, man has always been dependent on his forests for a number of his needs. But earlier, these needs were few, the forests were able to replenish the resources, and the delicate natural balance was maintained. But over the years, the human population increased dramatically, and with it the number of industries that depended on the  forests.Extraordinary demands were made on the forests. Forests were cut down for firewood and to feed the growing number of forest-based industries. They were also cleared to accommodate the growing population. As a result, many species of trees that were very common even 50 years ago are now rare or have completely disappeared from certain areas.

Tropical Forests

There are mainly two types of tropical forests that are found in the Himalayas- the tropical rainforests, and the tropical deciduous forests. The tropical rainforests are dense, evergreen, gloomy and similar to the forests of the Amazon basin and other equatorial areas. They occur mainly in the eastern Himalayas which receives very heavy rainfall.

Tropical deciduous forests are found in regions of slightly lower rainfall. They are common in the lower slopes of the Himalayas.These forests shed their leaves in certain seasons. Also the forests tend to be less dense than the rainforests. Forests of teak and sal are common in areas of deciduous vegetation.

Temperate Forests

Temperate forests are mainly found in the middle altitudes of the Himalayas. They are found both along the main Himalayas and on the transition zone between itself and the barren cold desert areas. Dry temperate forests are also found in the drier parts of the Himalayas and the barren Transhimalayan region. The forests are usually found in areas experiencing temperate climate. Their altitude varies from 1800m to 3000m depending on local conditions.

Mixed Temperate Coniferous forests, also known as the western mixed coniferous forests,  are  an attractive forest typical of the moister regions of the western Himalayas, having a  mixture of temperate zone conifers like the deodar, blue pine, fir and spruce. There may be broad-leaved species mixed with the conifers in small proportions particularly in moist shady depressions.

Individual trees attain a height of more than 40 m though the height attained by the trees of this forest type is relatively lesser than those found in the very moist zone of the western Himalaya. This is probably due to the harsh climatic conditions prevailing in the drier parts.

This forest type is found in the main Himalayas and the transition zone between itself and the cold desert regions, generallybetween an elevation of 1800 and  3000 m. It is well developed in the upper Ganga valley and Kali valley of Uttarakhand,India, and in the Satlej valley of Kinnaur.

As the name suggests, it grows in areas of typical temperate climate. Summersare mild and warm with the average maximum temperature rarely exceeding 32 C.There is a short autumn season after which winter sets in. The first snowfall of the season may occur as early as in mid- November. Snow accounts for aconsiderable part of the total annual precipitation. In winter the temperatureremains below the freezing point for fairly long period.

During the past few decades these have come under an enormous strain due  to large scale deforestation for fodder, fuel wood and construction activities.

In the wetter parts of the same region exist the temperate moist mixed deciduous forests or the broad-leaved species which thrive in the wetter climate. In the drier regions within these forests, conifers, and even patches of grasslands can be found. Individual trees may attain a height of about 20 m.These forests range from 1800m to 3000m in the relatively wetter regions. it usually develops in moist shady depressions and along streams and rivers. The forests are found all along the main Himalayas as well as in the transitionzone to the cold desert regions.

Even these forests have come in for severe degradation due to biotic pressure in the form of lopping for fuelwood, fodder, small timber and constructional timber.

Other temperate forests include forests of oak at an altitude of 2500m-3500m. They are dense forests with individual trees rising up to 20m and more in height. In drier patches, these forests are intermixed with deodar and blue pine. The oakforests are mainly found in regions experiencing climatic conditions from temperate to sub-arctic. Major chunk of annual precipitation is from snow, with hailstorms occurring in April and May. These forests have also undergone degradation due to felling of trees for fuel , fodder, and timber. Alongwith the oak forests lie the fir forests. They usually occur slightly higher -between altitudes of 2600m-3600m.

Other forests in the middle altitudes include the cypress forests between the altitude of 1800m and 2800m, in regions of temperate to sub-arctic climate.These occur in relatively drier conditions and hence are open forests.

 Forestsof blue pine are found between an elevation of about 2100m and 2600m in areas of temperate to sub-arctic conditions. They can be found in areas of relatively poor and shallow soil. In these regions grasses and other species thrive during the rainy seasons and die out later on. A thick layer of pine needles covers the forest floor under these forests. These forests can even grow on poorer soils like the highly sandy soils near rivers.  This forest is apioneering vegetation and can grow on very rocky soils, fresh landslides and even recently burnt areas.

Forests of chilgoza or neoza pine occur in the drier cold desert regions. Tree growth is sparse due to the harsh climatic conditions which may even result in stunted or malformed trees. These trees gain a height of upto 18m. The soil in the region is generally  fragile, poor in nutrients and very rocky at places.Chilgoza forests occur commonly in the Kinnaur Himalayas of India, extending from the banks of the Satluj river up to the middle elevations in the valley.

Dry temperate forests

As the name suggests, they are found in drier areas of the region having temperate to sub-arctic conditions. They occur between an elevation of 2000 and 2500m. These forests include both broad-leaved and coniferous species.Open patches of grasslands are found with these forests. The trees, however,are relatively short and do not grow to more than about 18 m. These forestsoccur in areas of poor shallow soils which otherwise get eroded quite fast. The regions usually receive little rainfall and a large amount of snowfallthroughout winter.

Dry forests of Deodar occur in dry tracts between 1800-3000m with trees becoming stunted at higher elevations. The soil quality is generally very poor and prone to erosion. At higher elevations, between 2700m and 4300m, juniper forests are found. These are open evergreen forests consisting of dwarfed and stunted individual trees. The climatic conditions here are even more severe - varying from sub-arctic to arctic. Summer temperatures usually do not exceed 28 C while winters are bitterly cold.

Sub-alpine forests

These forests are found near the snow line all over the Himalayas, and even in the cold desert regions. The trees tend to be stunted due to the extremely harsh conditions in the areas.

High fir forests dominate the altitudes between 2900 and 3500m, especially in the transition zone between the main Himalayas and the dry cold deserts. At higher elevations the trees become stunted. Some broadleaved species also accompany the conifers in the lower altitudes. Average temperatures in summers range from 20 to 22 degrees Celsius. Winter temperatures are usually well below the freezing point accompanied by lots of snow. Birch forests join the fir forests at an elevation of above 3000m.

Low rhododendron evergreen forests can also be found alongside the birch forests.The forests are open with the occasional grasslands in between. The winters areso severe in the region that vegetative growth virtually stops in the winters.

Alpine Scrubs

Alpine scrub grasslands take over from the dwarf sub-alpine forests. These grasslands start at an elevation of above 3000m grow up to the region just below the snowline. They are common in both the main Himalayan regions aswell as the barren cold deserts of the Transhimalaya. Low alpine grasslands are common with the vegetation not growing higher than 1.5m. Trees are stunted and occur sporadically between thickets of shrubs and grasslands. Climatic conditions vary from the sub-arctic to arctic, with snow covering the groundfor over 5 months a year. The growing season for the plants is thus stunted.Pastures are grazed by migratory cattle in summer.

In the inner dry valleys and parts of the trans Himalayas, dwarf rhododendrons grow along with patches of grasslands. This vegetation succeeds the sub-alpine forests and merges with the snowline at a higher elevation.

Just below the snowline is a growth of dry alpine scrub. Trees are absent. Shrubs along with patches of pasture. The scrub thrives in shady depressions and along streams formed by snow melt waters. Dwarfed junipers also occur sporadically.The soil is very poor in nutrients. Dry arctic conditions are experienced, and snow covers the area for 5 to 6 months ever year. In the summers. migratory cattle graze on the shrubs.


Matching the plant world, the animal kingdom in the Himalayas also show fantastic diversity. These animals are also remarkably different from other animals found elsewhere in the Indian subcontinent, for example, the plains of India. The diversity in wildlife is tremendous - be it in case of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians or even fishes, in the Himalayan lakes. These animals live in various habitats, ranging from dry temperate forests to areas above the tree line.

Like the plant kingdom, the animals also need to adapt to the conditions in the mountains like the biting cold, the lack or excess of rainfall in certain parts, the increase in altitude. Several behavioral and physiological adaptations have developed in these animals due to the extreme climatic conditions present in many parts of the Himalayas.For example, many animals seasonally migrate in search of food and better living conditions. Many travel from lower altitudes to higher elevations insummer in search of alpine grass. In winters, the animals tend to come down to lower altitudes to survive the bitterly cold winds.  Some animals hibernate in winter while others resist the cold with the help of their thick fur and bushy tails. In higher altitudes, to cope up with the rarefied air,animals have larger nasal cavities.


Carnivores are the most elusive of all mammals in the Himalayas,especially in the barren cold deserts. There are a variety of carnivores in the higher mountains, some of which are rare and threatened with extinction. These animals were indiscriminately hunted in the past and now face competition from domestic livestock. This has had an adverse effect on the predator populations which barely manage to survive in these fragile ecosystems.

Tiger (Panthera Tigris)

One of the severely threatened animals in the Himalayas is the National animal of India - the Bengal Tiger, or simply, the tiger. Till the turn of the century , tigers were common in various parts of the Indian and Nepal Himalayas. However, they are severely threatened today due to large scale poaching.

For example, Kumaon and Garhwal were famous for their  tigers, which have been known to roam about in its lower districts. For centuries, this delicate natural balance was maintained. However, the increase in human and cattle population in the beginning of the 20th century led to the disturbance of this balance, and the first man-eaters started appearing. Soon the numbers of these man-eaters increased and Kumaon became famous. The hunter Jim Corbett became famous with his exploits in this region. In his classic "Man Eaters of Kumaon",Jim Corbett describes how he shot half a dozen of the most notorious killers in the district. One tiger had apparently killed 434 people before it fell to Corbett's shot.  In "Temple Tiger", he describes how he killed the Champawat tiger and the Panar leopard, which had hunted 836 human beings in the first decade of this century.

However from 1930s onwards, the number of tigers fell sharply with the increase in the number of hunters, both Indian princes and sportsmen of the British Raj.

 The situation deteriorated rapidly and in 1971, the Indian government banned the killing of tigers. Project Tiger was started and the Jim Corbett National Park was formed- the name honoring the famous hunter of the past. Although some argue that  the park and the Project have proved to be a wonderfully successful program to save the tigers of India,the fact remains that the project has not been free from controversies.Official figures put the the number of tigers to be close to 5000. However experts on the topic and independent sources say that the actual figure may be closer to 3000 and not  5000.  There is a rising demand for tiger related goods. Tiger skins and bones are in heavy demand. Poachers and smugglers have established a clever route by which tigers surface in the form of medicines and balms in Chinese markets as Chinese "medicine". Not a year goes by without stories of seizures of bones and skins by the customs officials. But these seizures are only the tip of the iceberg and the poaching still continues.

Leopard or Panther (Panthera pardus)

The panther is found at relatively lower elevations in the transition zone between the main Himalaya and cold deserts. They have the capacity to survive under very difficult conditions. The leopards are not restricted to forests like other members of the cat family. Leopards may hunt during the day if nights are very cold or if food is not available at night. In the cold deserts they tend to migrate according to the seasons, moving to lower elevations in winter and ascending to higher elevations in summer. This is primarily influenced by the availability of food and climatic conditions.Due to shortage of wild food, and the growing population of livestock, leopards maytake to cattle lifting in the mountainous areas.

Snow Leopard or Ounce (Panthera unica)

The elusive snow leopard has a pale grey coat on the upper side which may be pure white on the underside. It is believed to have been found over large parts of the cold desert regions in the past but in recent times its distribution has shrunk significantly. At present the snow leopard is found in parts of Ladakh, Spiti, Garhwal, Kumaon, and   at times migrating to other areas. Snow leopards number from 4 to 6 per 100 sq. kms in a relatively protected areas where preys are available easily.

 Information about the habits of this animal is very poor as the inaccessibility of its habitats makes observation by humans very difficult. The snow leopard may live in the grasslands and bare rocks near the snowline. They are usually nocturnal in habit, lying cleverly concealed amongst the rocks during the day and hunting at night. Their prey includes wild sheep and goats, musk deer, hares, marmotsand other rodents and at times even larger birds. They have the habit of establishing their territory quite like other members of the cat family.

The snow leopard is an altitudinal migrant, moving to the shelter of the valleys inwinter and ascending to higher reaches in summer. Like other beasts of preytheir movement too is governed by the migration of their main prey.

Leopard Cat (Felis bengalensis)

The Leopard cat  resembles a large domestic cat with rather long legs. Its color and markings give it the resemblance of a leopard. This cat is found upto an elevation of about 3500 m in and around forested areas of the cold desert.

It preys on small birds and animals. This cat is nocturnal in habit and prefers to live in the hollows of trees or amongst the rocks.

Jungle Cat (Felis chaus)

The jungle cat has a relatively short tail and long legs. In the cold desert regions of the Himalayas, this cat has a heavier fur. They inhabit areas upto an elevation of about 3500 m, usually preferring open tracts and grasslands. Often they are found in the vicinity of human settlements.

 Lynx (Felis isabellina)

The long erect  tufts of hair on the tips of its ears distinguish the lynx from other members of the cat family. There is usually  a sprinkling of spots on its coat in summer which may persist for some time but eventually disappear with the onset of the winter coat. The lynx is a rare species found in parts of Ladakh, Garhwal, and at high altitudes in other parts of the Himalayas

Dog Family

Tibetan Wolf (Canis lupus chanku)

The Tibetan Wolf is a relatively large-sized animal with a dark coat which may be almost black. They are found in the cold desert areas, both in the open areas and forested tracts. In some areas they may live in the vicinity of nomads, migrating from one place to the other. Increased human pressure has led to decline in the population of this species.

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

This is a richly coloured fox with long silky fur and superb bushy tail. Red is the dominant colour of its coat and hence the name.They are found in different parts of the cold desert areas of the Himalayas.

 Bear Family

 Brown Bear (Ursus arctos)

The brown bear is a  fairly heavy animal with a distinctive brown coat.The shade of brown varies from season to season. They are found in different partsof the cold desert region, usually in the open rocky areas above or near the snowline. They too are altitudinal migrants moving with the melting snows insearch of new grass growth. The brown bear is omnivorous, eating both plants, insects, birds and small animals.

 Himalayan Black Bear (Selenarctos thibetanus)

The Himalayan bear is a relatively more compact animal than either the sloth or brown bear. They are usually found upto an elevation of about 4000 m in the transition zone between the main Himalaya and the cold desert.

 Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens)

The Red Panda is an animal overshadowed by the larger, and more famous, Giant Panda. True to its name, the red panda is reddish brown in color.  It is a long-tailed mammal, with a raccoon-like appearance. The Red Panda, usually having the size of a large cat, is found in the forests of the main Himalayas.The red panda has soft, thick fur -  reddish brown on the back and black underneath.

The Red Panda is omnivorous and feeds on bamboo and other vegetation, alongwith fruits and insects. It lives in the high mountains among rocks and trees.

It is a nocturnal animal and usually  lives alone, in pairs, or in family groups. The litters generally contain one or two that are born in spring after a gestation period of about 130 days. The animal is gentle  and  easily tamed but usually resents being handled. It is an endangered species.

Weasel Family

Common Otter (Lutra lutra)

The common otter is  occasionally in the cold desert region usually in the fringe areas. They also frequent the lower altitudes and can be seen in places like the Corbett National Park.

Beech or Stone Marten (Martes foina)

The Beech is a slender graceful animal found above an elevation of about 2200 m. They live both in the forests and barren tracts near the treeline sheltering in the hollows of trees, under logs, amongst rocks or in holes in the ground.

Himalayan Weasel (Mustela sibrica)

The Himalayan Weasel is found above an elevation of about 2000 m to about the treeline, in forests, dry sandy slopes and even in low-lying wet areas.


There are a large variety of rodents present in the Himalayas.These animals thrive in both the main Himalayan forests as well as the colddesert areas of the Transhimalayas. The rodent population includes the resident population , which have a fixed habitat, and the migrants which migrate with the change in seasons. Some common varieties include the Kashmir woolly flying squirrel, the Kashmir flying squirrel, and the Himalayan marmot.

 Himalayan Marmot

Usually the size of a cat, yet having a scientific name meaning "mountain mouse", the Himalayan Marmots are found in alpine meadows between10,000-14,000 ft. They are commonly found in the Upper Suru valley, from  Ringdom Gompa, all the way across the Pensi pass and into Zanskar.

The Himalayan marmot is distinguished from other marmot species by its dark chocolate-browncoat with contrasting yellow patches on the face and chest. Marmots live in small groups, consisting of an adult male, a couple of adult females, some sub-adults, and pups.

The marmots live in burrows and are hibernating animals. They hibernate for about seven months,beginning in late September and emerging in early May the next year. Marmots feed on grasses and flowering plants. Marmots communicate by physical contact and vocally by whistling. Also called "whistle pig", their most frequent call is a high-pitched whistle, which  warns colony members of danger.

Horse family

Tibetan Wild (Equus hemionus kiang)

The Tibetan wild or the Kiang  is the only member of the horse family found in the cold desert regions. The color of its coat is dark red which attains a darker tinge in winter. It has a narrower dorsal stripe and larger horse-like hooves than its counterpart found in the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, India.

The Tibetan wild is now  found in parts of Ladakh though once it was found over al arger area including Spiti. It lives in herds numbering upto 30 or so. Herds may be seen grazing in remote pastures, away from human presence. These animals too are altitudinal migrants.


Yaks are the mammals that live at the highest altitudes in the world. They can climb up as high as 20,000 ft or around 6100m. Yaks tend to live at high altitudes  because of their thick coat and vulnerability to diseases. In fact, yaks normally cannot live below 10,000 ft above sea level.  The lungs of yaks are usually large in order  to absorb more oxygen in higher altitudes. Yaks can weigh up to a 1,200 pound (550 kg).


Posted by treks-trips-trails on April 17, 2013 at 3:25 AM Comments comments (1256)

Walking in the countryside for pleasure or sport. Usually meaning for a longer period of time than hiking.Trekking often refers to multi-day hiking trips through rural, often rugged territory. Many people who are trekkers engage in longer trips through entire regions of the world, using trekking as away of getting from place to place. It can be incorporated with a number ofother outdoor sports, such as rock climbing or backpacking.

Trekking is different from other sorts of travel for a few different reasons. It tends to be less-structured than othersort of travel, as weather conditions and topography help influence travel plans more than plane flights or hotel availability. As travellers move on foot through often-rural areas, trekking gives travellers an up-close view ofincredible scenery. Many trekkers travel through isolated areas, giving them an experience much different than those who travel in organized groups to more-popular destinations. It often allows them to interact with nature, doing anything from climbing a rock wall to navigating across a mountain or entire mountain range.

Trekking can be done anywhere in the world.Several areas are particularly popular with travellers, including themountainous regions such as the Himalayas in Asia and the Andes in South America. However, treks have been organized in other less-touristy areas regions on almost every continent. Trekking can result in a trip as long or short as participants decide, from trips of a week or more to expeditions that last more than a year. Trekking can be as athletic and adventurous as participants decide. The less-structured nature of trekking and a world of destinations help attract a wide variety of participants to the activity.

Trekking is best attempted initially withsomeone who has experience or in a professionally-led group. This can help introduce those new to trekking to the special skills required to successfully make an overland journey of significant length. A number of outdoor stores and organizations offer classes and plan trips that can help give an idea of thegear and physical ability required in trekking.

 The love of nature & the pursuit of the unknown have eternally drawn man to shed the comfort and security of this home to venture beyond the blue ranges on the horizon and to discover new valleys,forests, rivers and high mountains. The quest of mountain lover is for the freedom of the hills, to be at home in the high wilderness, with no barriers hecannot pass, no danger he cannot avoid with due caution and proper knowledge.This is the essence of enjoyment sought by the trekker and the climber.

Trekking is undoubtedly of value to physical fitness but its aim is not to produce athletes. It is an activity which should develop real love for the mountain regions and appreciation of their grandeur. Trekking leads to a closer interest in plants, trees, birds and animals, indeed in all form of nature study. It inculcates the virtue of sacrifice, the value of physical exertion, sometimes to the limit of endurance,and above all, the spirit of comradeship. A sense of adventure adds excitement towards the fulfilment of the goal.

Trekking is an art which any healthy and young minded person can learn at any age. But it is best to start early in lifeto get the most out of it. Trekking does not demand great strength or immense wealth but merely a desire and willingness to accept certain rough with the smooth. Once initiated into trekking, one soon learns that in order to enjoy one must minimize his wants on the trek. Yet there is no compromise with safety. Mere survival is not the freedom of the hills. There is no greater oppressor than wild nature in the raw.

A sound trekker is mindful of his ownminimum needs. Trekking inculcates qualities of self-reliance, keeping fit and willingness to help. A trekker therefore, carries on his back in miniature hisentire home, bed, kitchen and other needs on the trek. To achieve a sense offreedom the trekker must give up certain comforts and avoid burdening himself with the non-essentials. For, the trekker has no other power of locomotion but his own legs. He learns the camp craft to make himself comfortable in the outdoors.



Posted by treks-trips-trails on August 8, 2012 at 8:45 AM Comments comments (1298)

Where can I find the model name on my tent?

 Each tent has a 2″ x 4″ white tag inside the tent door beneath the zipper stating which model it is. You can also find the model name on a small white tag by running your fingers along the edge of the rain fly.

 Is it better to roll or stuff a tent for a backpacking trip?

 By rolling, you can gently push the air out to make the tent more compact and to make it fit into the stuff bag. A rolled tent is also easier to set up. However, folding and rolling a tent can crease it in the same place each time, eventually damaging the waterproof coating along the fold. Stuffing the tent will distress the coating evenly throughout the tent.

 What is the expected life of a tent with average usage?

 The average expected life of a tent is 7-10 years, using it 2-3 times a year. One usage is considered 3-7 days at a time. Taking good care of your tent is a big factor in determining the tent’s life.

 How do polyester tents differ from nylon tents?

 Polyester has been shown to be much more resistant to ultraviolet damage and abrasion than nylon fabrics. Polyester also has better structural integrity – it doesn’t stretch or sag when wet from rain, snow or dew, which means the inner tent stays protected and dry.

 What is the difference between 3-season and 4-season tents?

 Four season tents are designed to withstand wind stress and snow loads better than three season tents by having additional frame sections for stability. They have 7000 series aircraft aluminum frames, and 2.4 oz. fabrics vs. the 1.9 oz. used in our standard tents. Extra stakeout points help to secure the tents in high winds. Quick-release buckles allow you to set up the tent quickly in extreme conditions.

 While You’re Camping

 How easy is it to set up a tent?

Today’s lightweight self-supporting tents are easy to set up. Nylon tents weigh about half of what their canvas counterparts weighed, so right off the bat you’re working with a fabric that is easy to handle. Shock-cords running through the poles pre-connect all the pieces within a pole section. There’s no guessing as to how many pieces make up a pole section. The self-supporting compression arch framework that is formed in setting up the pole sections lends structure and support during set-up. Once up, the tent can be easily moved and positioned in the best location prior to staking it down.

What else other than UV could damage my tent?

Chemical contaminants can also damage your tent. These substances include insect repellents, stove fuel, hair sprays, fruit juices, and acid from leaky flashlight batteries. Keep these items away from your tent at all times.

Sand or dirt can erode a zipper until it fails to close. If you use your tent in sandy soil, clean the zippers frequently by flushing them with fresh water.

Acid rain can harm tent fabric. Rinsing with fresh water from a garden hose will limit the damage. This will usually clean your tent adequately as well. If you must wash your tent, use a soft sponge or cloth with a mild soap and lukewarm water solution. Never use washing machines, dryers, or detergents. These will damage the tent’s waterproof coating or seams.

What is the purpose of the rain fly?

 The rain fly serves as the protection over the permeable portion of the tent. In all nylon tents the rain fly is an integral part of the total tent system. The water repellant roof cloth allows heat and water vapor to move out of the tent helping to minimize condensation. The waterproof fly (outer layer) provides rain protection and traps condensation. If a lot of condensation has collected on the inside of your fly, we suggest that you remove the fly and shake off the moisture to avoid having it drop on to the roof cloth. In addition, the rain fly also protects the breathable roof cloth from ultraviolet damage, so it’s a good idea to keep it on, even when it’s not raining.

What does condensation have to do with my tent?

 Through perspiration and breathing, an adult gives off about a pint of water overnight. When you sleep in a tent, this water vapor is trapped. If it cannot escape, water vapor reappears as condensation. A tent’s permeable roof allows the vapor to evaporate through the roof to the outside, keeping the inside of the tent dry. The tent windows should also be left partially open at night. Cross ventilation allows excess moisture to escape, reducing condensation. Cross ventilation becomes more important in very humid or extremely cold conditions when the permeable roof is less effective.

 Will nylon leak if you touch it while it’s raining?

 Nylon, unlike canvas, will not leak if touched while it’s raining. Polyurethane coatings on nylon tents prevent water from passing through. Capillary action in canvas tents allows water to enter when touched.

What are the advantages of clips and rod pockets?

 Clips and rod pockets provide added stability to a dome style tent. In addition, ventilation is also improved—air is able to circulate more freely, due to the open area the clips create, between the tent wall and fly.

How do I stake down my tent?

All tents need to be staked down to keep them from blowing away. Securing the tent by placing heavy objects inside is just not adequate.

Once the tent body is erected, stake it out before the fly is put on. This enables you to square the tent up to ensure that the fly goes on properly and that the seams align with the frame. Pull the base of the tent taut between each web stake out loop or ring & pin. Make sure that all corners are square. It is important that you don’t stake the tent out too tightly. You will know it’s too tight if the door zippers cannot be easily operated. Drive stakes through the web loops, or with ring & pin; drive the stake just outside the ring so that the “J” hook catches it. Tie a piece of cord or web into a loop through the ring to be used as a large stake loop if needed.

With the tent properly staked, drape the fly over the frame; attach its tent connection points and stake down any pullouts.

Do not attempt to remove the stakes by pulling on the tent becket loop, as this could cause the fabric to tear. The best way is to pry on the stake itself.

What about staking in special conditions?

 SAND: Long broad stakes with plenty of surface area are ideal in loose, sandy soil.

HARD, ROCKY, OR FROZEN SOIL: Steel stakes work well in these conditions. Store steel stakes separately. If stored with your tent; the sharp edges can cut the fabric. Steel stakes can also leave rust stains, which might damage your tent.

SNOW: Use “dead man” anchors – bury objects (branches, tent bags, or stuff sacks filled with snow) that have a great deal of surface area. Tents can also be tied to snow shoes, skis, or ski poles, which are stuck in the snow.

Do I need to use guylines? How do I guy out my tent?

When high winds or a storm are predicted, do not count on staking alone to keep your tent secure. Depending on the model, your tent fly has built-in loops or rings at optimal guyout locations. It’s important to put in the extra time guying out your tent. Correctly done, it can save your tent during harsh weather.

 Attach parachute cord to the loops/rings and stake them in the ground three or four feet from the edge of the tent. If staked too close to the tent, wind can cause an upward pull that could dislodge the stakes.

Make sure that the top fly is securely attached to the framework underneath. Ties, hook and loop closures, or dog-bones and elastic loops are typical fasteners sewn to the underside of the fly for this purpose.

If your tent does not have loops or rings for guyouts, attach guylines 1/3 or 1/2 of the way up the framework on the main sidewalls. This enables the guyline to support the lower section of the pole, while the upper pole can flex the side of the guyout. This will prevent all movement except toward the anchor. The idea is to get the guylines to work together through opposition.


When You Get Home

 What is the best way to store your tent?

 Color Transfer

 Due to the nature of tent fabrics, color can transfer from darker fabric to lighter fabric if two colors are in contact over time when wet, damp, or exposed to the combination of moisture and high heat. This does not affect a tent’s performance. To prevent/minimize color transfer from occurring, always make sure that your tent is completely dry prior to packing and storage.


 Make sure the tent is completely dry, then store loosely rolled, in a dry, cool place. To prevent dust from collecting on the tent, cover it with a cloth. This allows the nylon/polyester fabric to breathe.

 Ideally, the tent poles should be stored in their fully assembled state. This reduces the tension on the shock cord, prolonging its life. We recommend that the tent bag be used only as a carry sack and not for storage.

 How can I change a zipper slider?

 Loosen the stitching at the end of the zipper, where the slider is positioned when the zipper is fully unzipped. Rather than using zipper stops (metal fittings), we simply tuck the end of the zipper into the seam.

Once the end is freed from the seam and can lie out flat, you will be able to unzip the original slider off the track.

Fit a new slider back onto the track, and then re-stitch the seam to complete the repair. If you are in need of a new slider, you can call our Customer Service Department and we will send you a slider kit, free of charge.

How can I replace the shock-cord in a tent pole?

Make sure to keep the poles in the correct order. This will not be successful if they aren’t.

Cut the old cord and pull it out, or if it’s already snapped, just shake out the cord.

Take one end of the shock-cord and knot it off, then feed it through all of the pole sections, and put the pole together so it’s one long piece.

Pull the shock-cord taut and tie a knot at the end, and then drop it back into the pole. Be careful not to cut any excess off because your pole may not be tight enough.

With the excess hanging out of the end, and the knot inside the end of the pole, break down your tent pole into individual sections, ant then put it back together. They should pull right together if this is done correctly, but you don’t want your poles snapping together, because this can cause the shock-cord to be cut again.

If there are rough or sharp edges at the ends of your poles, a piece of sandpaper will work to make them more smooth.

What does it mean when my tent sticks together?

When your tent sticks together, it means that the waterproofing on your tent is getting older. When this happens, the natural portions of the waterproofing break down, and this is what causes the stickiness. If this happens, please follow instructions on how to re-waterproof your tent given in the next question.

How can my tent be re-waterproofed?

We recommend the use of Aquaseal® Polycoat for re-waterproofing your tent. Be sure to check directions on the side of the container for specifics before beginning the waterproofing process.

 Apply in a well-ventilated area.

All surfaces to be coated must be clean & dry.

Use a medium bristle brush and spread evenly.

When applying to coated fabrics, always apply to the side opposite from that which is coated. This means that you should be applying Polycoat to the outside of your tent.

One application is all that is necessary for the majority of the tent. Heavy traffic areas (such as tent floors) may need two coats.