The dictionary defines hiking as a walk along trails or in the countryside, as opposed to walks which are largely urban. In contrast, treks are long, arduous journeys, typically on foot.
As I consider which of these I like best, I suppose I will have to say hiking. Not that trekking is something I dislike, but what I actively seek, is more just experiences with nature. I am not trying to conquer mountains or beat my previous record of the highest peak I climbed, which, I have noticed, a lot of serious trekkers definitely do. Maybe I am just unambitious like that. 😊 But I love fresh air, I love being surrounded by trees and birds that I can’t name. I love crossing streams and bathing in rivers, I love seeing the sun setting over lofty mountains from my tent.
To that effect I have trekked and hiked in several forests and mountains in the world. I trekked in a leech laden forest in Bali, visiting uninhabited jungle temples that still hold the echoes of eons past. I also trekked the very popular Mount Batur, and saw the surreal and alien-like volcano crater.
I did innumerable hikes in Germany, which is paradise for someone like me that loves hikes and history. Most of the castles in the Rhine and Mosel valley, as well as in Bavaria, are set atop cliffs or mountains, and the paths are just little trails through the forest. Lush green trees, several berry laden bushes along the way that I ate from, butterflies flitting atop the trees and sunlight filtering in like vaporized gold characterized many of these hikes.
I have trekked in Karnataka and Sikkim in India, through deserts in Egypt and uninhabited islands in Thailand. I have climbed and walked the stark cliffs of Meteora in Greece. Make no mistake – I am no fearless mountain climber exerting myself to achieve the next difficult thing. But I am also not just a city dweller, content to pound the pavements of our very busy streets. I am somewhere in between, I suppose, like many of you actually. 😊
One of the most memorable hikes I have done, from the perspective of beautiful scenery, a multi-day hike, sleeping in tents and waking up to the view of gorgeous mountains is the Chandrashila trek I did with IndiaHikes a few years ago. This was by no means a very difficult hike – one of the easier ones I have done in fact.
And yet, in the space of four days, I stayed in a remote mountain village, hiked up to a lake that the Gods themselves are said to have drunk from, walked through some of the most colorful Rhododendron forests and learnt how to identify a carnivore from an herbivore through their poop (yes, really!)! I walked through a dense forest, slightly lost as our guide tried to find the trail again, through vast plains, among skeletons of dead animals that had become the food of the ones higher up in the food chain. There, cut away from civilization, from the chatter of our TVs and mobile phones, in the thrall of not only nature, but also our most primal instincts, I felt closer to the rest of the universe than ever before.
On the final day of the trek, we visited the Tungnath temple, the highest of the Panch Kedar temples. Skeptics should skip the rest of this paragraph, but honestly, the energy at this temple is unbelievable. I am not sure if the temple itself has it or if being there transformed my energy into something more profound, but I promise you that even if you are only a little open, you will experience what I like to think of as grace in this temple.
Following that, there was a lot of slipping and sliding over snow to reach the peak of Chandrashila. I don’t know if other trekkers feel a sense of accomplishment, but I just felt…small. Inconsequential. Absolutely dwarfed by the scope of the world, and my very insignificant place in it. But also simultaneously like I was not alone, never alone. As if even when my body was dust, my soul was connected to something larger than myself, part of it, and hence as consequential as the sun to the solar system. Ah, I am doing a poor job of explaining these complex feelings. Suffice it to say that the mountain air makes philosophers of us all. I swear that is probably why all these ascetics and monks meditate in high-altitude places. They must become instantly wiser than they were, 3000m below. 😛
"Did you hear the wind's message?" Said the mountain to the tree. "Oh no, I was busy rustling my leaves and dancing to the tune. Why, what did the wind have to say?" Said the tree to the mountain. "Never mind, it doesn't matter anymore. The moment is past". Replied the mountain. ⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ Have you ever wondered why you are always rushed? Why you always seem to have too much to do and too little time? Why it is so difficult to catch your attention, and why you are bored so easily? .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ When I was a child, my grandma used to tell me, "Harinie, you are really smart, but you need to learn to sit still". And she would make me sit still for three minutes every day, until I dreaded those three minutes. Now, I marvel at how wise she was!!!⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ Stopping to smell the bright and beautiful roses is something we should all do. But it's equally important to catch that rain drop on your tongue, to lift up your face and feel the sun shining on it, to gaze at the sky and wonder if that's a Pegasus or a turtle in the clouds. ⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ When was the last time you did something like that? Truly let go and sang a song off key? Danced like no one was watching? Ran just because it felt good to run? Tell me about your magical moments, I'd love to hear about them. After all, life is what happens in the magic between the moments.⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ This photo was taken during a trek to the Chandrashila peak in the Himalayas. I'm immensely grateful to #Indiahikes for the memories.⠀ .⠀ .⠀ .⠀ #travelwriter #travel #travelgram #travelblogger #wanderlust #ilovetravel #himalayan_ignite #postcardsfromtheworld #travelling⠀ #traveltheworld #igtravel #travelblog #travelpics #wanderer #mytravelgram #ig_worldclub #worldcaptures #worldplaces #traveler #Himalayas #girlsborntotravel #potd #TLPicks #colorfulfocus #nomadsofindia #unrevealingindia #CurryTraveler #dametraveler #badasshikingwomen
Much elation and many photographs later, we quickly made our way back down before mid-morning, because the melted snow would be treacherous. And, we all wanted to avoid slipping away into oblivion. 😀
I have not been on another hike with IndiaHikes. Why, if I enjoyed it so much, did I not plan another one? Many reasons I think. I wanted to experience hiking in other parts of the world. I wanted to do it myself and see if I felt any different. I wanted to use different guides, I wanted…. many things that I have done since. And still, it is my fondest hiking memory.
Waking up to the tinkling of the bells on the mules, the lemon tea that Kailash had ready every morning, finishing the day’s hike to ravenously eat Maggi, huddling in the tent to watch the clouds and rain obscuring those magnificent mountains…. these are some indelible memories. Maybe, someday, our paths will cross again, and I will trek with them. But maybe not. And that’s OK, because I will be exploring other mountains, other woods and other glaciers.2