It’s not easy. Staring at pictures of extraordinarily beautiful snow-capped peaks, lakes, hills and other such landscapes, while sitting in this mind-numbing urban setting in Bangalore, is not easy.
But staring at these pictures is part of my job. For those of you who don’t know, I’m currently working at Indiahikes. Indiahikes organises treks (national and international) and documents obscure trails all over the country. I’m working as the editor here, and my job is to edit articles and write a few myself. I also get to travel and go trekking for free. Just saying.
So, over the weekend, I thought, “I’ve had enough of just staring at pictures. It’s high time I jump into one.” So I set off on a local trek to Ballalarayana Durga, which is near Kudremukh in Chickamagalur.
You must understand the implications of going as part of the organisation and not just as a participant. It was my first trek after close to six years, and yet, I was handed a lot of responsibility on the trek. We went with 45 college students and I was told to take care of them and encourage them to trek. If they were tired, I was told to ask them to not give up.
I was quite apprehensive about it. What will I do if I can’t go any further? What if I want to give up?
The last time I trekked before this was to Kumaraparvatha. I was a wreck during that trek. I threw up at the start. I almost passed out on the trail. All of us completed just half the trek. Although it was fun being with friends, from a trekking point of view, it was a failure.
Yet, I made up my mind and went, determined to make the fit and unfit students trek to the destination. Along with me came Nisha, a colleague, who, I suppose, had the same thought running in her mind.
I was surprised at my own capability. Knowing that my boss had told me to be the encourager and not the encouragee, I egged students on and didn’t sit down to rest at all. Believe it or not, I actually didn’t feel tired although I walked 16 km in a day, without prior daily-exercise. And 16 km in the mountains is a lot!
That’s when I realised that it’s all in the mind.
My colleague, Parth, who is a trek leader, said that our body is a machine – one of the most beautiful and efficient machines. It can go on forever, provided the main switch is on – the main switch being your mind. So while you’re trekking, if you think, “Oh God! What am I doing here when I can sit at home and chill watching TV,” you’re switching off your mind. No matter how much physical strength you have, you are not going to have the capacity to go on. (In my opinion, you’re being daft.) On the other hand, if you take time to open your eyes, look around you and appreciate nature, your body will automatically want to move on and see what is beyond the next hill.
And when you’re walking, exhausted, trust me, every minuscule thing is a thing of beauty. Every shady tree, every blade of grass, every gust of wind is a thing of beauty. You will never thank God more for creating food and water and shelter. And don’t even get me started on the beauty of a good nap after a trek!
In fact, when we reached a waterfall and rested there, I dipped my feet in the water, lay down on my back facing the bright blue sky and closed my eyes. That half hour’s nap was the best nap I’ve experienced in my life. I didn’t have a care in the world. Not about people watching. Not about the hard rocks that made my bed. Not about the blazing sun in my face. It was the best nap I’ve ever had.
That power nap was all I needed to get back on my feet and trek 8 km again. Ushering the college students, Nisha and I trudged along the trail, through the meadows, the silent forests at night and back to the base.
Once we reached the end, we stretched and lay on our backs on the road. We stared at the stars and the waxing moon. We ate pulao to our heart’s content.
It was a blissful experience. I slept like a log on the bus back to Bangalore.
The aftermath: You’d think that after walking 16 km uphill and downhill in a day, you wouldn’t ever want to walk again in life. But after I got back, I’ve only been more enthused about walking around and exercising. I probably seems silly, but for everything I do, be it climbing four flights of stairs to the terrace or carrying a 10-kilo puppy around the house, I think, “Gah! I climbed 20 km. There is nothing I can’t do. I’m invincible!”
I am, of course, aching all over, but this is a good kind of pain. It’s the pain that tells me that my muscles are becoming strong. They’re going to take good care of my bones if they get strong. Fitness is something that comes automatically with trekking. After you go once, you’re hooked to trekking and you want to get fitter everyday.
The best part of a trek is that you feel like you’ve earned everything you get- be it the scenery, a sip of water, the food, the fresh air… You earn every single bit of it. All you have to do is spend some calories.
On a holiday, though, you’re earning nothing. In fact, you’re burning a hole through your pocket to repeat something you do at home – sit in a hotel room, watch TV, use WiFi, order a regular/fancy breakfast.
Of course, I love holidaying too. Nobody can really have anything against holidaying, But somehow, after going on my first trek, I feel trekking adds so much more value to your trip, in terms of self-gratification. It’s something that adds more meaning to your life. It makes you stronger, harder and quicker. It removes the word lazy from your vocabulary. It teaches you how to live minimally. Luxury is something that is wiped off your desires, whether you’re on the trek or at home. It’s all about going back to the basics and you’ll be surprised how well your body and mind deal with that.
It’s hardly been four days since my trek and I can’t wait to go back to the mountains again.
Every time I go out, I want to do better.
I want to reach greater heights, literally.