Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Nalin's Blog: The Trekking Bug

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.

Why do I love to trek so much?

I asked this question to myself for the first time just a couple of days back. Considering that it’s my passion and I have been at it for years, I was shocked not to have a ready answer to this apparently simple question. I started out on the trails at an early age of 8 years and have been treading the wilderness for close to 32 years now. It was with my father and uncle that I took my first step into the `other side’. In these years I have burnt quite a bit of rubber, walking long distances into far off regions, creating experiences etched permanently into my memory.  From beginning itself I have felt very comfortable being with nature, never feeling like a tourist and never enjoying it like one. I would, from time to time, enter this world for a few days, spend time there and come back planning my next trip, needless to stay enjoying every second of it.  While my reasons are not so clear I can share from experience what makes many people head to the remote mountain again and again.

Mountains hide a lot from us, within their deep valleys and lofty heights. They hide enchanting landscapes, budding wildlife, interesting cultures & intriguing mysticism. Exploring these well nurtured secrets is addictive to say the least. Considering that Moon, Mars and the 2 Poles are not really next door, trekking offers a great solution to satisfy the explorer in one. Also mountains, like the people they shelter, change form and character every few hundred kilometers and this variety in landscapes and culture is what interests a lot of people. One summer you could be walking the high alpine meadows of Garhwal Himalayas enjoying goat cheese and ‘kacchi’ (local brew made from millet), while the next moment you could be walking on moonlike, stark and breathtaking terrain of Spiti Valley in Himachal, savoring Yak cheese and ‘chhang’ (rice beer made locally).

Mountains bring with them some amount of unpredictability and ruggedness which reflects in the people they shelter and their way of life. Living the simple yet adventurous mountain life gives a very different flavor. Food is just for nourishment, clothes just for protection, trail mates your family and your two legs mode of transportation. It can’t get any simpler. Learning to play the outdoors, without meddling too much with it gives a good kick to quite a few including me.

Unfortunately, I am not someone who can claim to be perpetually stressed because of work or a series of broken relationships, but can still say with a lot of conviction that contrary to the popular belief very few people trek to de-stress. Also, I have never met a single enthusiast who treks for fitness benefits. On the other hand there is a very big group of trekkers who have a spiritual connection with the mountains and this group is not limited to our own ‘sadhus’, but people from all over the planet. Then there is this big group of people who quench their thirst for adventure walking the wilderness. Mountains offer the best playground for adventure with features like forests, rivers, gorges, glaciers, snowfields & mountain summits and all this in a very dynamic environment, controlled by none. They offer one an opportunity to set a challenge for oneself, however big or small, and living up to these challenges can be a great source of joy, enticing one to keep coming back for more.

How one gets the bug, I am not too sure of; but what I know for sure is, once you get bitten, there’s no doing away with it. I am hooked to the outdoors for all the above-mentioned reasons and more; and believe that the mountains are still holding lots of pleasures for me which they will unfold slowly and slowly…