GOAN GIRL ZINDAGI

A ORDINARY GIRL ON AN EXTRA ORDINARY JOURNEY

10 MEMORABLE TREKKING EXPERIENCES OF MY LIFE

Boulder filled pathways, the continuous steeps, the forested areas, the beautiful waterfalls, the impressive greenery on the meadows, the glaciers, the rocky structures, the narrow gorges, the high passes and the mesmerizing mountains are the famous ingredients of almost all treks. Trekking is an activity that offers a great opportunity to explore the natural and cultural wonders around us. There are treks for all fitness levels, for all seasons, and for all length of days – offering experiences for everyone from young to old, beginner to experienced, solo trekkers to families!

I am a total hill person. I love anything and everything about mountains, clear blue skies, vast green meadows and dense forests. I don’t remember what kick-started this love but it’s there now for a while and one thing that I am sure of is that it will last till my legs give away. I often venture out to high altitude terrains to move away from the dust and pollution of city life, sometimes to take a break from repetitive and boring life and mostly to have some private exclusive time with the mountains.

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Over the last few years, I have been on trekking routes that cut through forests, deserts, valleys, and taking you to hillforts, high peaks, lakes, glaciers, etc. Some of these trekking routes are spectacular and famous all around the world, with trekkers flocking to the trails every year to explore the immeasurable beauty.

Right from lush green right to stark naked mountains, there is a crazy buffet of treks depending on the weather, difficulty and regions. The exciting part of the treks is the quaint villages and hamlets that you cross. With stunning views, gushing rivers cutting through mountains, connect with local people along the way, and hot meals to satiate the ever-hungry hiker; India is a haven for those who love to get lost in nature.

Whether you prefer a casual stroll, a day-long hike or a week-long trek, there’s a walk on planet Earth for you. These 10 classic treks are amongst the best trek experiences of my life; all of them require a sturdy pair of lungs, fit legs and a good amount of preparation. But the reward is an experience that lasts a lifetime.

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1. GOECHE-LA

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Duration – 11 days

Difficulty – Moderate to difficult

Altitude – 15,130 ft

Visited – Late March 2018

Trek starting point – Yuksom ( Western Sikkim )

Famous for – You don’t just see one summit — the Kanchenjunga — but 14 other big summits. 

The Goecha La trek is unarguably one of the best treks in the Himalayas taking you through the stunning and diverse Kanchenjunga National Park in the heart of Sikkim. It takes you an inch closer to the legendary Mt. Kanchenjunga, the third-highest peak in the world. This trek is a class apart from the rest of the treks in the Himalayas and for good reasons which are better left to be explored by you. One of the highlights of the Goecha La trek is the glorious Mt. Pandim which will leave you spellbound. The view of sunrise over Mt. Kanchenjunga is a once in a lifetime opportunity, a moment to cherish. 

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Samiti Lake is another big attraction on the Goechala trek. The view of the still waters, and the reflection of Mt Pandim in the lake, especially in the early hours, is a visual treat.

Yuksom is where you will stay on the first night and from there, the exciting trek to Goechala commences. The trail is blessed with rhododendron forests. And come spring-summer months of April and May, they burst to life with pink and red flowers! It’s an enormously pleasing walk through the wooden-log trails of these jungles!

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2. SANDAKPHU

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Duration – 7 days

Difficulty – Moderate

Altitude – 11930 ft

Visited – Late April 2017

Trek starting point – Maneybanjan ( Darjeeling district)

Famous for – The only trek in our country where you see four of the highest mountains in the world.

Sandakphu epitomizes the wild elemental grandeur of the snows. Nature here is at her pristine best, and the vista at the top is worth all the hardship endured on the way. Aptly called the Paradise of Trekkers, the peak is a vantage point from where one can see four of the world’s five highest peaks – Everest, Kanchenjunga, Makalu, and Lhotse – in a continuous snow-clad arc. The trail passes through the Singalila National Park which is home for the unique Red Panda. The trek follows a mountain ridge which is also the international border between India and Nepal.

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Fresh air and green forest welcome you in here throughout the year. All the seasons come with their full glory and unique beauty. In late spring and summer, from the months of April to June, the weather is pleasant and the temperature stays over freezing point. The flowering trees are in full bloom, the Rhododendron flowers redden the hill, and chirping of the songbirds accompany you across the trails. It is a nice time to go for a hike in the nearby trails into forests. Flowering in the Singalila Range of mountains adds extra color to the journey towards Sandakphu.

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3. TRIUND

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Duration – 1 day

Difficulty – Easy

Altitude – 9760 ft

Visited – June 2017

Trek starting point – Dharamkot ( Himachal )

Famous for – Perched right at the top of a ridge amidst the jaw-dropping views of the peaks of Dhauladhar Mountain and Kangra Valley gracing the two ends.

Easily the most popular trekking trail in Dharamshala, Triund is a spectacular ridge beneath the mighty Dhauladhar range. Located about ten kilometres from the bustling city centre of McLeodganj, this trek is almost a rite of passage for travellers visiting this Tibetan city-in-exile.

The trek comprises of undulating and steep but well-defined trails through the lush forests of green rhododendron and oak trees. So, there need not be any hassle about how to reach Triund or getting lost in the way.

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The first 5 kms of the Triund trek are simple and never fail to offer excellent panoramic views of the Dhauladhars along every bend of its trail. Thereon, the route gets steep and requires a sturdy walk. This stretch is popularly known as 22 curves because of the 22 sharp curves en route. The Triund trek will take at best four hours to complete. The trail itself isn’t too grueling, even for the unseasoned trekker.

Once you reach the grassy meadows, the clouds descend to give you company and the view is absolutely spectacular! Those who forget to bring their cameras along will regret it for a long, long time. Getting to the Triund valley is an achievement in itself. But the more adventurous can try hiking further to the Kareri Lake, where you’ll come across rock-cut caves to explore, Indrahar Pass, Minkiani Pass and all the way to Kuarsi Pass and Mani-Mahesh.

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4. KARERI LAKE

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Duration – 2-3 days

Difficulty – Easy to moderate

Altitude – 9650 ft

Visited – September 2019

Trek starting point – Kareri village ( Dharamshala )

Famous for – A picturesque glacial lake surrounded by mountains and alpine trees that is more stunning than you can imagine.

The trek to Kareri Lake is one of the most scenic alpine trails in Himachal Pradesh that goes to several gushing streams and passes through green meadows.  It takes you through lush sub-tropical pine forests that are filled with chir and chilgoza pines, interspersed with broad-leaf species. They are also host to a high density of birdlife which is easily spotted. You will come across artistic mountain villages that have a charm of their own.  Be ready for a huge variety of terrains on this trek, ranging from straight roads to river crossings over wooden bridges, and steep ascents.

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Frequented mostly by the Gujjars and Gaddis who reside in the nearby villages because of the extensive pasturelands that the Kareri Lake houses, the lake also boasts of beautiful clusters of dense conifers and different kinds of colourful perennial flowers. The snow melting from the Dhauladhar range serves as the water source for this high altitude lake, and the pristine water from the Kareri Lake then outflows in the form of a stream known as Nyund. 

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5. KHEERGANGA

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Duration – 2 days

Difficulty – Easy to moderate

Altitude – 9670 ft

Visited – July 2016

Trek starting point – Barsheini, Parvati Valley, Himachal

Famous for – Kheerganga’s history is said to date back thousands of years when it was Lord Shiva’s abode. The place is known for hot water spring and a splendid view of Parvati valley.

This trek is an experience of lot many things at once. The streaming wonderful valley of Parvati through the way, some exceptionally excellent meadows, forested ways with pine trees, couple of cascades, crossing towns are just a few instances of the journey phenomenal. The most uncommon yet bizarre thing is the heated water spring at the top of chilly kheerganga. The water truly has some supernatural loosening up vibes in it and you ought to visit this place once in a lifetime.

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About nine kilometres long, the trail takes you through the mesmerizing hills of the valley until you reach an absolutely delighting land surrounded by snow-clad peaks and hot water springs where you can relax and rejuvenate. This path offers exquisite vistas of the picturesque mountains, valleys and landscapes filled with snow. With every step you take, there will be an upsurge in love for this place. On reaching the top one surely gets lost in the dreamy ambience and splendid views. Trekking is not the only spotlight of Kheerganga. One can also take up a number of outdoor activities in this place. You can enjoy a calm, peaceful walk in the woods, indulge in some scenic photography and explore the local life. 

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6. PRASHAR LAKE

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Duration – 2 days

Difficulty – Easy

Altitude – 8900 ft

Visited – January 2018

Trek starting point – Mandi ( Himachal )

Famous for – An oval-shaped lake with the backdrop of mountains look dramatic, like the one from landscape paintings! It is believed that sage Prashar meditated on the banks of this lake.

Prashar Lake is a well-kept secret in the Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh. The trek follows a charming trail through a forest and several rivulets. Meanwhile, one can enjoy the local culture as the trail goes through villages as well. The trek offers a 180-degree view of the Dhauladhar, Pir Panjal and Kinnaur mountain ranges.

Locals believe that the lake is in the shape of Bheem’s elbow. Hence the region came to be known as Kamru Valley. And the lake is also known as Kamrunag Lake. An ancient Pagoda style temple dedicated to the Rishi Prashar, the patron God of Mandi region, stands besides the lake.  It is also said that the whole temple was built by using single deodar tree and it took 12 years to complete the temple construction. 

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The Prashar Lake which has perimeter of about 300 mtr. is decorated by a floating island in it. Its crystal clear water adds to the charm of this scenic spot.  A walk around the lake gives a mystical experience of calmness of the surroundings. This trek is a perfect blend of spiritual journey and exploring into the serene and beautiful Himalayan mountains. 

Interesting fact – Till now no one has been able to find out the depth of Prashar Lake. Locals say that once they have seen big trees drowning in water due to a storm and that too without leaving a trace on the outer surface.

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7. DHANKAR LAKE

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Duration – 2-3 hrs

Difficulty – Easy to moderate

Altitude – 13582 ft

Visited – July 2017

Trek starting point – Dhankar village, Spiti valley

Interesting fact – This trail is offbeat and not many people know about this lake besides only a handful few would ever bother to visit it. Thousands of tourists travel on the Spiti Circuit each year but the majority of them would turn back from the Dhankar monastery itself.

Dhankar Lake is a high altitude lake located about 2 kilometers from Dhankar Village in Spiti Valley. It is a freshwater lake and can only be approached by an easy to moderately challenging trek. The beauty of the lake is not the lake itself but the extreme feeling of solitude it offers. Words fall short of describing the feeling of sitting beside that magical setting of the lake in complete silence with a large view of the mighty Manirang Pass range in the backdrop. Within a span of just a few hours you would have seen a profusion of colors, each one fascinating in its own way.

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There are some spots on this trek from where you will get spectacular views of Dhankar Village situated on a cliff above the confluence of Pin River and Spiti River.  It is suggested to visit Dhankar Lake during the summer months. Ideally, April-end or early May up to September. The pleasant summer months are perfect for enjoying the outdoor beauty of this range. Temperatures range from 5-20 degrees in the Summers. The valley is lush and filled with a variety of flowers, which adds to its natural beauty. The winter here is bitter and cold. Due to snow and ice, the area is rather slippery and not suited for activities like trekking. 

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8. NONGRIATDOUBLE DECKER LIVING ROOT BRIDGE

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Duration – 2 days

Difficulty – Difficult (Approx 3500 stairs)

Altitude – 2400 ft

Visited – May 2017

Trek starting point – Tyrna, East Khasi hills ( Meghalaya )

Famous for – Nongriat is a combination of two words “Nong” meaning village and “Riat” meaning cliffs or ridges. So it literally means “A village surrounded by ridges” – and that’s exactly what you are going to find in Nongriat

Few know of this place and fewer have the mettle to get there. The walk to the village was, and I cannot emphasize this enough, a remarkable journey. The beauty of the trail was to be found all around, in the organic fragrance amidst the leafy forest to the bright sun winking at us from behind the trees. There were barely any glimpses of the blue sky because of the umbrella of greenery forming a canopy above us. 

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As we followed the trail deep into the thicket, what beheld us was the extraordinary sight of long, intertwined roots that formed a bridge. These tangled fig roots are naturally grown through betel tree trunks on opposite sides of a river or stream. Over 15 years the roots meet, and intermingle to form a sturdy bridge which is reinforced by bamboo sticks, stones and twigs. This ingenious system of living roots that grow and gain strength over time, has been mastered by the local Khasi tribe. Nongriat, the postcard destination of Meghalaya, took my breath away. 

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9. TAKTSANG LAKHANG

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Duration – 1 day

Difficulty – Medium to difficult

Altitude – 10240 ft

Visited – November 2019

Trek starting point – Paro, Bhutan

Famous for – The small cliffside monastery known as the Tiger’s Nest is said to be the meditation site of an eighth-century Buddhist master. 

Taktsang Lhakhang is Bhutan’s most iconic landmark and religious site. The name Taktsang translates to “The Tiger’s Nest”. This temple is one of the most holy sites in the kingdom and clings impossibly to a sheer cliff face 900 meters above the Paro Valley.

Legend states that Guru Rimpoche flew to the site atop the back of a tigress and meditated in the cave for 3 years, 3 months, 3 days and 3 hours in order to subdue evil demons residing within it. The cave has been considered a sacred site ever since and many famous saints have travelled to meditate in it.

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As one climbs the well-maintained but very steep trail the monastery seems to appear and disappear in and out of the trees and the mists. After 3-4 hours of a long slow climb—going slow is recommended to help manage the pace of the altitude—one arrives at the only beginning of the entrance to the Tiger’s Nest, a rock outcropping overlooking a vast chasm, with the monastery on the other side. No trip to Bhutan would be complete without a visit to this remarkable heritage site.

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10. BUNBUNI PASS

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Duration – 2 days

Difficulty – Easy to moderate

Altitude – 10900 ft

Visited – July 2019

Trek starting point – Barsheini, Parvati valley, Himachal

Interesting fact – Everyone knows about the Kheerganga trek but Bunbuni pass is small detour in the same area that remains minimally touched by the tourism boom. A true hidden gem !

How does it sound to sit on a vast Himalayan meadow and watch the sun set into the mystical Parvati valley? 

The trek passes through some of the most beautiful landscapes of the Himalayas from crossing glacial streams to dense forests, from views of high peaks to vast meadows. You walk into the oak forest, secluded from any signs of civilisation, and suddenly the forest opens to stunning view of snow-capped mountains.  The big adventure is trekking up to the high altitude Bunbuni Meadow. Staying in modest mountain homestays, tents, and eating simple homecooked meals, you step back to simplicity and surrender yourself to mountain life.

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Parvati Valley circuit is the perfect brew to calm an agitated soul. The crisp mountain air, coupled with the delicious Israeli food, with the smell of burning herbs coursing through the otherwise unpolluted air, make up the so-called “Amsterdam of India”. Before you make any presumptions about the hippie paradise, you ought to slow down and enjoy the slow pace of life in one of the loveliest Himalayan Valleys in India.

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WHY YOU SHOULD TREK?

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Let’s be honest – trekking is not a typical ‘tourist’ experience involving grand monuments, culinary delights, exciting shopping, or souvenirs to bring back. It is much more sacrosanct than that. It is a bold challenge that you give to yourself to be more fitter, patient and calmer.  To gain deeper insights into why you should trek at least once, talk to some of the fellow trekkers and hear about their experiences.

Trekking is affordable, creative and allows you to make plenty of new friends to socialize with. If you haven’t yet added trekking to your bucket list items yet, it’s time to do that. So buck up, strap on your boots and prepare yourself for feeling on top of the world when hiking onto towering heights, trekking through lush forests or walking along sublime terrains. Challenge your body, your strength, your stamina and your view of the world. A word of warning though – trekking is pretty addictive!

An experience with even a single one of the above-listed treks is sure to put you into a frenzy for exploring nature; such is the greatness of this little sport. Untamed nature, sky-splitting peaks and varied landscapes all create an allure which is hard to escape from and ensure an experience worth reminiscing through life. 

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‘A mixture of adventure, pleasure and self-realization, trekking is an experience of a lifetime!’

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