A novice’s guide to successfully trekking Kheerganga!
Nestled deep within the Himalayas, is a village from our childhood fairy tales. TOSH, a village from another dimension, a place so quiet and pure, you feel like wrapping it in a warm blanket and singing it to sleep. Mountains, as far as the eye can see, the color green dominating everything around, the sweet smell of pure air, gives you supreme bliss.
We went in the month of May, when the rest of India is covered in dust and sweat. The lost world, as I like to call it, just summoned us all the way from Delhi. When my friend suggested that we also attempt to trek Kheerganga, I gasped!
“I can’t climb more than four floors in Delhi, without panting. What makes you think I can climb an entire mountain?” I argued. But he was adamant.
And so, it ensued. We took a bus from Delhi (Majnu ka Tila – 9.30 pm, Rs 900 each), and arrived at Bhuntar the next morning, from where we took a local bus to Barshaini, for as cheap as Rs. 60 each. From there, small private cars took us all the way up to Tosh (for Rs. 250 – 300). We stayed in Tosh for 2 days before the trek to soak in all it had to offer. We visited small waterfalls (half an hour walk from Tosh), graced almost all the cafes, met and spoke to so many people of different nationalities, interacted and played with the locals and just existed, for a while!
On the day of the trek, the mountain seemed huge and I was doubtful whether we would ever get up to the sight that was promised. Even when we did reach the top, I had to pinch myself to believe that I, had climbed a mountain. We had seen the dreamy pictures on the internet, but nothing prepared us for what we felt at that moment. The most beautiful backdrops, the uninterrupted green landscapes, the roaring silences, interspersed with the chirping of the birds, the soft humming of the waterfalls literally put us in a state of trance.
Let me tell you how a 5’2″ tall girl, who has never visited a gym, with no prior experience in trekking, successfully completed a 14 km trek in 6 hours (and in one piece)!!
TIP 1: ATTIRE
A full sleeve comfortable T-shirt with a tank top underneath, jeans or comfortable tracks and shoes. These will help you not only in scorching sun in some spots, but also for braving the evening chill and you can put on or take off the outer garment in case you get too hot or cold. Keep a light jacket handy (preferably rain proof and should be the top most thing in your bag) for rains and when it gets misty. Trust me, you don’t want to get wet. Avoid wearing skimpy clothes, you may hurt yourself if you scrape against a pointy rock or wild thorny bushes. Also I would highly recommend simple canvas sneakers instead of heavy duty sports shoes. I had perfect grip everywhere owing to those, as I could feel every foothold and footstep, had no fear of twisting my ankle as the shoes moved conveniently with my natural footstep and dried easily (if wet in rains or in passing streams) unlike sports shoes.
TIP 2: LUGGAGE
It’s a 6 hour upward climb, overnight stay with minimum or no electricity and no network. Nobody is climbing up there to look at you, just the scenery. So, girls, dump your makeup, your extra extra clothes, and all other unnecessary items, pull your hair in a tight bun, and get comfortable. Preferably, pack for two people in one bag, a medium sized ruck sack, (back support bags are highly recommended). In this way, both of you can walk bag less for half the trip each. For all unnecessary luggage, that you might be carrying for the other part of your tour, there are cafes and shacks at the start of the trek, where they will safeguard your stuff for as low as Rs. 100/bag or even lesser.
TIP 3: WHAT TO CARRY
- Two water bottles (Don’t spend on bottled water, you will pass fresh water streams every now and then and you can refill your bottles there. The water is as pure as it gets, so don’t stress.)
- Two light towels (not turkish), one for face and one for body
- a light jacket (rain proof preferably) / umbrella (although jacket is more convenient, because it keeps your hands free and your body warm)
- Shorts and T shirt, something which will work as night clothes (trust me you need to change after a whole day of trekking) and also as clothes for dipping in the hot springs.
- Shawl (for winters) or stowl (for summers). Guys can carry a muffler or scarf.
- Slippers – You need to take off your shoes after 6 hours of hard climbing and also give them a chance to dry up if wet.
- Camera, torch and minimum toiletries. (Toothbrush, toothpaste, facewash, cream, lipbalm)
THAT IS IT!
TIP 4: HOW TO CLIMB
- Keep yourself motivated. If you feed your mind negative thoughts, you will get more tired.
- Look around and enjoy. The scenery is enough to make your day. Do not complain. Travel with positive people.
- Try to minimize breaks. The more you stop, the harder it is to get back up. Follow a tempo/rhythm. Allow yourself to stop only after certain time intervals, or if you just can’t walk.
- A lot of people you meet on the way, are tired, sweaty or in pain. Smile at everyone and do not pick fights. Remember, that you are on a cliff, and there aren’t many people around. Make friends on the way, they will keep you going.
- A lot of dogs also follow you or lead the way. Don’t be scared. They are harmless and their presence can only lift your spirits.
- Try to start early. The darker it gets, the more scared you are. There are no lights around, and believe me, you cannot climb that terrain in mobile torch lights.
- You are going to encounter different terrains. Mud, sludge, rocks, trees, small streams, bridges, logs, winding narrow paths, grass etc. Chart your course accordingly. When you come across a particularly difficult stretch, stop and think about where you are going to plant your feet. Isolate the strongest looking stones/rocks and step on them firmly. Try not to get your shoes wet (you have to wear them for a long time, getting them wet will just make them heavier and more uncomfortable)
- Balance yourself well and make sure you get a strong foothold in tricky places. Some people find the trekking stick helpful, I personally think it’s just one more thing you have to carry all the way up there. It’s best to keep your hands free. Whatever suits you.
- Don’t be hesitant to sit wherever needed (rocks, logs, dirty chairs, mud, grass) you can wash your clothes later. Don’t complain about the insects, bugs, mud, dogs, piles of shit, etc. etc. etc. Remember, you are in their way, they’re not in yours. However, don’t touch suspicious looking plants or animals, they might sting or bite.
- Don’t create noise or play songs in high volumes, or throw stuff around or in general be a jerk. Remember that people go up there to seek silence and peace and you’re just ruining it for everyone else.
- Don’t be scared, you’re neither the first nor the only one to climb it. If millions of people have done it before you, you can do it too! So keep telling yourself to go on. One dip in the hot water springs, and all the fatigue, the pain in your limbs will vanish!
- Be nice to everyone at the top. No one came in a helicopter.
- Talk to the locals, they’ll have the best stories to tell.
- Keep cash handy. No ATM cards or networks work.
- Don’t eat too much or too little before starting the trek. One omelette, juice, bread and butter is enough. Plus, you’ll get a lot more on the way!
A treasure trove lies up in the mountains, the wind in your lungs, the water on your skin, the aroma of the leaves, inhale everything and cleanse your soul!!
I climbed a mountain, did you?