Trekking can be a wonderfully rewarding activity. When undertaken in a UNESCO designated World Heritage site like the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP), the experience becomes even more exceptional. Situated in Himachal Pradesh, GHNP is home to a variety of flora and fauna. The entry point to the GHNP is a hamlet called Gusheini, about 60 kms from the famous hill-station of Kullu. The village continues to remain a largely unknown place, as tourists continue to throng the better known places like Dharamshala, Manali, Simla, and McLeod Ganj. This relatively anonymous gem Gusheini is GHNP’s biggest asset. The landscape of the hamlet and GHNP are clean, the air is pollution free providing an astounding sight of countless stars in the night sky, while the free-flowing river provides a pure source of drinking water for flora-fauna and humans alike.
The GHNP covers an area of more than 700 sq km, so a trek through the National Park can extend from a day to a week or beyond depending on the route. There are different routes within the National Park which trekkers and guides take. The difficulty level ranges from easy to moderate and even difficult for the longer distances which comprise of steep inclines and continuous climbing. The two main three-day treks are the Gusheini – Rolla – Chalocha or Gusheini – Rolla – Shilt Hut routes. Both of these cover a distance of around 15-18 kms (one way) and can be done over a three days (including return journey). Some of the longer treks upto Tirthan valley or the Sainj valley extend beyond 80 kms over 5-8 days. Distance however, is rarely a determining factor for undertaking a particular route. Physical fitness of the trekkers, availability of time on hand and the desire to travel farther into the woods determines the path to be undertaken.
While walking through the steep curves, narrow ridges, wooden bridges and crossing the rivulets of cold water, destination is seldom a goal for trekkers. The beauty of a trek is the journey. The excursion is a humbling experience in itself, especially for us city folks. While a walk through the city streets takes us through crowded roads, noisy streets and pollution filled air; a trek through the forests takes us through a “road” less travelled, filled with the sounds of birds, flowing water and bristling trees. The aromatic smell of Cedar (Deodar) trees has an energizing effect on the mind and body in contrast to the pollution filled air of our cities.
While a trek can be undertaken on different terrains, forest areas provide splendid views and drastically different weather between daytime and night time. Walking over narrow ledges, slippery rocks, creaking wooden bridges and thorny shrubs on an endless ‘path’ is a thrilling experience. The journey is not just a test of physical stamina but mental strength as well. Living with the basic minimal necessities, basic first-aid and medicines, making do with simple food, limited set of clothes and a back-pack is a life-long learning experience. It is a refreshing disconnect from our mundane lifestyle back in the cities. These treks also bring us a step closer to nature and ourselves.
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