Thursday, 23 February 2012

Nalin's Blog: Mountain Travel in Winters

Nalin Khanduri, Founder GIO

I love the mountains and the outdoors. I’ve been going on wilderness trips for over 20 years now, and yet, I simply can’t get enough of it. This passion for adventure and the outdoors, the mountains and nature, propelled me to start Great Indian Outdoors (GIO), an adventure/outdoors company in 2000, which is now one of the leading ‘adventure tourism’ companies in India. My posts in this blog are mostly about how my life, my passion and my work are so closely connected.

I have, for years now, been travelling into the mountains during winters and have developed a clear preference for this season over summers. I have asked myself several times, am I and a few more, the weird variety or is it really a good idea to be in the mountains during winters. After serious rounds of deliberation on what stops people from winter travel, I have reached the following conclusions:
  • Poor Marketing. Mountain destinations have always been sold as great summer destinations by hotels travel companies & tourism bodies. Nothing wrong with this, only that majority of people have construed this to mean that they are great only during summers.
  • Perception of harsh weather is a strong deterrent. It is true that nights can get cold but if one is inside a room and in possession of some warm clothing than surely the bones are not going to create music.
  • Lack of facilities around this time. People assume that things are not fully functional in winters.

While the majority doesn’t visit because of the above-mentioned factors I find them to be my reason for my winter explorations!

Poor marketing results in lesser number of tourists. Nature works with less pressure on it and one can feel the difference and enjoy it. Air is fresh and crisp, has a great smell and offers joyful clarity. One gets to see distant mountains and valleys very clearly, something not possible in summer months. Another big draw is the winter sun. I love walking endlessly, basking in the winter sun. Contrary to the popular belief it’s very pleasant during most of the day and yes during evenings one has to stay indoors or sit beside a small fire with something stronger than ginger tea in your hands. Needless to say I go for the latter. Being an amateur photographer for about 25 years now, I find some solace in the fact that pictures come out really nice around this time. Unfortunately, its digital technology, clarity of air, sharp landscapes and not my skills which make this happen. I also save on travel insurance as I feel the probability of me being mowed down by a vehicle is very low. I find hotels are much cleaner and hotel owners more courteous in winters.

BUT what really draws me to the mountains in the winters is the fact that both the mountain and the people that inhabit it are also having a great time around this time, being least bothered about commerce and pleasing people and in the process radiating happiness. There is a very festive mood all around with major local festivals around this time. I have, in fact, seen in some remote villages which are completely isolated due to heavy snow, this is the time when every evening people are celebrating. Men, women and children gather together and sing late into the night with five feet of snow all around. I guess this is the time for the mountains and the mountain people to recharge their batteries for the summer onslaught!

So am I being a back-stabber by letting out the secret of the mountains? I don’t think so, just like only the true mountain lovers tread the mountains in winters, I am sure only a true mountain lover might read this piece and the secret will stay within the community.