As a responsible trekker, my visits to the mountains are divided in two phases. Phase 1: Clean up the path and Phase 2: The trek. Traffic or not, every mountain side reeks of the impact of humans, it is not a pretty sight. At the same time, people who travel to trek with me expect a pristine surrounding. Most of them are not Indians and find it difficult to understand why people would litter the mountains. I have never been able to find an answer to that question but I would love to hear your thoughts.
The trek to Triund from Upper Dharamshala is a well-known one and is best suited for first-timers. The easy pace of the slope combined with enchanting views as one goes higher and strategically located shops offering refreshments are exactly the kind of support system that newbies need. The lesser-known hiking trails along the main path are, to me, the real finds.
The lesser-taken paths take you deep through the jungles, away from the active main path to Triund and is best-suited for those not in a rush to get to the top. These are also the trails that are least polluted and still have much peace and calm to offer. One such favourite hiking trail turns from Moon and Sun Cafe and takes you through the densest part of the jungle and out at the Bhagsu waterfall at Shiva Cafe.
The few people you meet along this hiking trail include avid hikers, resident travellers as well as locals. This 2-km hike is truly the essence of hiking/trekking. You walk along the path, pause, meditate or simply wonder. The forest is dense but there is no fear of any wild animals. There are several deep gorges so you better watch your step though.
In the rains and in winters, the moss can be slippery and the path tricky. Summers and autumn months are the best for this hike. It is also in these very months that you get to see the wild flowers in bloom in the meadows. These flowers scattered on the meadows are nature’s genius stroke of brush on this canvas.
The forest and meadows are sacred to the local people and though you may sit, lie, meditate or photograph here, it is best not to pluck flowers or fruits or damage the natural scene in any way. Even in the deepest parts of the hike, you will find dustbins (courtesy Clean Himalayas) which should be put to good use as a responsible hiker.
I usually put up at The Flourishing Flora, a responsible homestay run by an educated family just ahead of TIPA. They serve the best home-cooked food! There sitting arrangement overlooking the valley is the best place to plan my tours and definitely to ponder over life and all its meanings. Give them a go, if you are there sometime. Alternatively, connect with me here and we can plan our hike together.
— The author is Priya Tripathy, a social media manager who is also a responsible traveller.