Dos and Don’ts of visiting the Himalayas
The Himalayas are as amazing to look at as the people who reside in them. Travelling through the Himalayas, if taken in the right spirit, can be extremely rewarding. On the other hand, the wrong attitude and the wrong preparation can lead to a disastrous experience – and you do not want to do that after the long flight to the country and all the efforts made to reach there. So here are a few tips on how to travel in the Himalayas.
Keep an open mind while planning
Just like New York is much more than the Statue of Liberty, the Himalayas are much more than the Mt. Everest. So instead of joining the queue to the Base Camp, explore other parts of this mountain range. That includes communities in Ladakh or lesser known hikes in Eastern Nepal. Decide on what your interests are and what you would like to see before embarking on your plan.
Ramp up your fitness regime
Whatever you are doing as part of your active regime ramp it up. If you run, increase your endurance till a week before the trek. If you walk, increase the distance that you walk and try changing routes and walking or more uneven terrain. Half the injuries on a mountain can be avoided by fitness and it also keeps you alert.
Use common sense
This is applicable in almost any situation – travel related or not. But increasingly, common sense seems to be not so common. There is no need to get down from the jeep if you’re on a safari and there is no need to stray away from a group while you’re on a hike. We have seen tourists jump into icy water or go on dares near strong rivers.
Take a tour
Considering the dangers that the Himalayas’ dramatic terrain possess, go with a Tour Operator who knows the place. There are many accredited tour operators who are professional and can reduce your headache to a huge extent. We are one of them. At the outset, it might seem more expensive. But then, you are in safe hands and without worry.
Respect local customs
The Himalayas are a different world and sometimes, it is difficult to understand the rationale behind customs and etiquettes. An atheist may fail to understand why she or he must pray before embarking on a hike or why some communities believe in ghosts. But we may not know the entire circumstances or the history. So instead of doubting, polite questions and respect for local customs can take you a long way in making the best of friends.
Have a sense of humour
People living in the mountain villages face adverse conditions. Amenities that we take for granted can be very challenging to obtain in such villages. These include basic amenities like electricity, water, and food. In spite of this, you will never see a person complaining or morose. Everyone will have a smile on their slips – as if a joke is constantly playing in their heads. Sharing this humor will endear you to them and again, possibly secure an invite into their homes.
This follows the point mentioned earlier. If you behave like a client, you will be treated like one and will be left without insider access to local lives. But if you help out – chopping vegetables with the cook or going to get water with the helper or helping the horseman find his horses – you will be seen more as a friend.
Don’t drink tap water
While drinking from a mountain stream is often a good idea, it is best to not drink the tap water. Having to provide safe water to billions, drinking water is segregated from water that is used for washing or for household purposes. If you must drink tap water, boil it or use a steripen or activated carbon tablets.
Take it easy
The best laid plans can be destroyed by a small avalanche, a flat tire, or a sprain. Don’t stress too much about what happens next. While the beach is often seen as the epitome of relaxation, the mountains are where you can really take it easy. There will always be help at hand and your main aim is to travel – not reach.
The Himalayas have the most unpredictable of weather. So pack accordingly. Wear layers and carry a rainproof jacket. Multipurpose wear goes a long way too. The Buff serves the purpose very well. But a scarf can be very useful too. If you are travelling to the mountains, don’t carry suitcases. They are cumbersome and a challenge on gravel paths and on horsebacks. The ideal is a rucksack. But if you don’t have that, a duffel bag is great too.
Do you have some tips from your experience? Let us know in the comments section.