For people from the sun scorching plains of India , winter strikes to be the most magical time. A time when pleasant weather sweeps in the plain, and the snowfall changes the known landscapes into extraordinary sights. So today I am remembering my first winter in Himalayas back In 2014. Working as a trek leader for an adventure organisation , I was stationed in the region of Dalhousie , Himachal Pradesh, for two long months of peak winter season. While trekking in such environment has a lot of physical stress, but the memories made, are surely beyond what can be termed " beautiful ".
Walking through hard snowfall , leading batches after batches has a toll on your knees. Layers of skin burn due to the sub zero cold and dampness all around, with fingers and feet having the risk of blood clotting and eventually frost bite. But with such risk and hard work comes the ethereal views of landscapes , that I was lucky enough to capture with my basic digital camera. Check them out and the stories with it.
In the small wildlife sanctuary of Kalatop, nestled in Dhauladhar range above Dalhousie , I was stationed for a month. This was my little cottage. Built during the colonial times with Deodar trees ( Silver fir ) , it was warm inside for the nights. However continuous snowfall kept everything wet and damp, and the fire place could not be used. I could easily call this one of the best homes , I have had my fortune to stay in.
Walking out of the sanctuary , one could reach a tiny hamlet of temporary settlement. During the summer months when snow was no where , this is used by people of nearby region. A nearby Hindu temple which gets opened in summer , brings flocks of tourist , and makes this hamlet the perfect trade post. In the winter , the snow claims there empire , leaving the houses and giving a feel of haunted hamlet.
Even the most ordinary of landscapes turn magical , as snow spreads its wings around. A seating around the corner in the village which might be overlooked in any other times, becomes a perfect spot to romanticize and miss someone you love. How I wish , I had her beside me to sit, and sip in a hot cup of coffee.
Tell me who would you like to have with you , in such a magical place?
Khajjiar is a very crowded tourist spot throughout the year. Its rolling green meadows and velvet touched pine forest depicts a reflection of Swiss Alps according to Indian tourists. Hence it is always flocked by herds of tourist all the time except winter. Winter means roads are often closed due to the high snowfall , and only those like us who has a love for hiking can reach here. The green gives away to white , the famous lake freezes and people can walk over it easily but carefully. A fantasy world is created hence forth, with not much people to disturb you, you might just feel you have walked in Narnia. Such is the beauty of winters.
Heavy snowfall is a common occurance in the high Himalayas. At times with in four to five hours the snow can reach six to ten feet. In such a case, everything is stranded on the road for next few days untill the authorities come to open up. If you are a person who has no much obligations in life , like me , you will have a good time. Or else for people with a limited time in hand for vacation might get stuck and find themselves in knee deep problems , with knee deep snow!
However hard life may be , winter is just fabulous. Personally it is my favourite season. A season when you see the nature has let go of everything , embraced an ending , only to begin anew. Movies like Frozen and Narnia , has always stirred a beautiful picture of winter in mind, and being in India , it is easy to have a budget experience of such a fantastic season. If you are in love with winter , awaiting snowfall or planning to make a magical unforgettable memory like me , do use the next four months from December to March , to fulfill yourself. For any kind of advises or to plan a tour , you can always hit me up. Also write about your favorite memory from winter , I would be glad to know.
People tend to do something right , even though, they enjoy themselves in something else. And the best example of it is, the fact, that so many people I met love the countryside and village life for it's calm , simple and ordinary ambience. Yet they choose to build their life around bustling cities with their stressful ambience. Why we do it , is a deep resonance of the sub conscious mind and it's will to achieve a perfect life , even without knowing what actually " perfect " means for each of us individually. I won't go into that detail, for it's a detour of how our mind works but most of us do what we feel right, rather than what we actually enjoy. The total nuisance is in the Rights and Wrongs, inbuilt in us by years of conditioning in school , family and society.
Anyways , Everytime you visit small villages around the places you travel you get a slight conviction that it's not always peaceful to be trying to be right. And that is exactly this small village and it's residents taught me , while on my time there.
India throughout has picturesque landscapes. The India villages find their places in those extraordinary surroundings to a wanderer's eye. During my recent tour in South India, in the state of Tamil Nadu , I came to know about this village from a local wanderer and definitely made time to visit here with my ongoing traveler from England. It's an worthy effort to seek beyond the ordinary, and that for a Tour Guide means, better service and recognition from his traveler. I couldn't miss out on that opportunity. For a whole day we decided to live and explore around this well kept secret village.
Nestled among the hills of extended Eastern Ghats, close to the touristic town of Kodaikanal is the small village of Poombarai. The region of this village is quiet dramatic , as it lays in a bowl kind structure , walled by hills on every side. The village is agriculture based and all throughout the bowl, they have perfectly managed step cultivation with inch accuracy of perfection. The different terraces and steps add on to the colours of the village and surrounding, making it one of the prettiest sights I have ever seen.
The houses in the village are made of red soil tiles very ethnic to this land. It is the red soil with minerals that helps them grow such a rich harvest. The roofs shimmer in sunlight , and the walls are painted with bright colours, giving a beautiful eye catching contrast to every corner of this residential area.
My traveler and I , both enthusiastic about this bountiful surrounding we were in, decided to hike around the farmlands before heading in to the village . Eric , my traveler from England was a farmer himself and felt at ease and amazement both at the same time. He knew more about the crops that were growing than me. Probably because he is from the same kind of terrain, where as I am more local to the lofty high Himalayas and the agriculture there.
Prominently five crops were to be seen around. Majority was garlic. The whole area can be called a Garlic Haven, which reflects in the local food we tasted later. Second was the carrots. The sweet and tasty carrots. Other than this you find beans , peas and paddy. In a year they have three types of crops and do the crop rotation, which helps them keep the work on land going.
The farm lands are curated and organized in precise accuracy to use up the land as much as possible to most optimum ability. Tiny trails going through them were chosen by us to walk around, as we saw in far , the local men with strong bulls ploughing for the next set of vegetables. The people of Poombarai are as beautiful as their village from souls. The farmers in the field were so delighted to have us in their field, they offered their produces for us to taste. It was a first time for me to taste carrots straight out of souls and that was delicious. Peas were sweet as well , but I have had it in Himalayas too. Though the love involved in gifting them to us made it special on many ways. I am not a avid vegetable lover , but if I find this kind of it more, I have no complaints.
Lastly every part we went through, we were invited to eat food with them. We could only oblige a few, since of our already vegetable filled-up tummies.
What stuck me most, is though, people belonged to different sectors in financial conditions, that was evident yet all of them lived almost in same ways. Their houses looked the same , and the food eaten. It didn't matter how much they earned , it is their way of living that connected them.
Once we were passing by a house located distant from the main village, in the base of the farming fields. The farmer and his wife was having meal when we were passing by their farm. Without knowing our language, they just with gesture showed us, if we wanted to eat with them.
That was eye opening, to do it to strangers , in middle of your meal randomly. I can't imagine anyone doing that in the technology evolved more educated cities that we are from.
This people work hard to produce the food that we only eat as parasites , and just like me , I am sure a lot of you too, have no idea how to farm or actually create them. It is of no secret that we of all are the most dependant race. The ones that we live in the cities and have no idea of how to produce our own food. And it is such that why we have to keep living there and do things that seem right, just because it covers up our inability to live an independent life enough. Our dependency makes what seems right , and our dependency also does not let us enjoy the things we do. At the end , I am sure most of us would like to know , how to produce our own food, and live this content life that reflects in smiles of the people of Poombarai.
What is your take on this ? Have you ever felt useless because you can't produce your own food ? Let me know. Thoughts are personal and garnered while my tour guiding trip of South India in February last week.
The benefits of travel go beyond making memories and meeting new people. Getting out of your comfort zone and exploring a new place can have a remarkably positive impact on your emotional well being. Want to know more? Here are seven ways,
How travel can be good for your mental health.
1. It can help you stay fit and healthy.
Physical exercise is known to improve mental well being, and travel offers ample opportunity to get active. Whether you enjoy pounding the pavement on a city break, swimming in the sea or summiting mountains. getting to know a new destination by embracing the great outdoors can boost energy levels and improve your mood.
Immersing yourself in and connecting with nature is another key way to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression – and while you can do this anywhere (even in cities), it makes sense to incorporate a little ecotherapy into your travels too.
2. It shakes up the status quo.
Whether you venture abroad or simply to the next town over, taking a break from your usual routines with a trip away from home can help break negative cycles, get you out of a rut and reveal a world of possibilities beyond your bubble.
‘When I'm in a period of depression, getting out of the house and out of negative routines (for me, wallowing on the couch and eating junk food) can help to clear my head and give me the space to properly consider the things my brain is telling me,’ says one of my friend and former travel editor. ‘Going somewhere completely outside of my usual sphere, be that in the country or abroad, can be an effective way of gaining both literal and metaphorical distance. If nothing else, I have interesting stuff to go and look at and do as a distraction!’
3. It gives you a different perspective.
Experiencing different cultures can open your eyes to new ways of living. Something as simple as learning a new recipe or changing the way you spend your downtime can have a dramatic effect on your wellbeing. Travel can lead you to question and challenge the norms of everyday life at home, potentially inspiring you to make positive changes.
When I feel my own stress levels rising, for example, I like to think back to my experiences riding in tuk tuks in South East Asia As we overtook buses on blind corners, dodged death-wish pedestrians and got cut up by countless motorbikes, our driver remained relaxed and took it all in his stride, as did other road users. Despite the chaos, everyone was calm. After a few of these journeys my own worries and bewilderment dissipated as I realised that the alternative responses – fear or road rage – serve no-one. I try to apply this lesson to my life at home: you cannot control the actions of others – only the way you respond to them.
4. It increases creativity.
It’s been scientifically proven that new experiences – particularly ones that allow you to immerse yourself in a different culture – improve the neuroplasticity of your brain, increasing creativity in the process. After a stint of grief-induced agoraphobia, a Famous Lonely Planet Travel Writer Erica Buist decided to go around the world to take part in seven festivals for the dead – and write a book about it.
‘I helped build an altar for the dead in Mexico, danced in a parade in Nepal learned enough Japanese to get by in Kyoto, and in Madagascar I got hit in the head by a corpse (it was on the shoulders of its dancing descendants),’ she had said. ‘Every now and again I feel a shadow of not wanting to leave the house, but after all the experiences I’ve had, it’s hard to doubt my ability to get to the shops. Travel is stressful, even when it’s wonderful, and now when things go south it's almost like the travel I've done is a benchmark I know I can get back to.
5. It lowers stress levels.
Sometimes all your body and mind need is a rest – and where better to chill out than on a sun lounger somewhere warm? Sunshine is a great stress-buster, giving you a dose of mood-boosting vitamin D and increasing the brain’s release of serotonin, the so-called ‘happy hormone’. Leaving work stress and the everyday routine behind in exchange for afternoon naps, leisurely walks and the freedom to make your own schedule can do your mental health the world of good. Spending time away with friends and loved ones can add to the feel-good factor, while solo travel can refresh your sense of independence.
6. It boosts self esteem and confidence.
Travel isn’t always swaying palms and spa days. It can also mean navigating crowds in excessive heat, getting lost, struggling with language barriers or culture shock – all of which is extra challenging if you’re prone to feeling down or anxious. Claire and Laura from "Twins that Travel" have found that dealing with travel stress has helped them cope in their everyday lives.
‘For us, travel has become an unlikely form of therapy for our anxiety. By keeping our worlds "big", travel gives context to the smaller tasks in life that can often feel overwhelming when you suffer with anxiety. For example, the elation of stepping off a plane after getting ourselves to the other side of the world makes completing a short train journey seem easily achievable. Travel continues to keep our lives open and fulfilled, which in turn, leads to better mental health.’
7. It’s an act of self care.
When you’re feeling low, it’s easy to feel guilty or undeserving of nice things. But treating yourself to a trip – whether it’s a staycation or far-flung getaway – can be an empowering act of self care.
Of course, anxiety and depression can make travelling difficult. Anxiety makes you worry about doing it, and depression both saps energy to organise it and tells you that you are not worth the effort. Planning a trip can be a good way to push through that and show yourself some love or give yourself some purpose.
As well as the focus and excitement travel planning can bring, travel itself grants you the freedom to do what you love, take time to rest and practice living in the moment. To this end, for many people, travel is not simply an enjoyable pastime, but an essential part of fostering a healthy, positive mindset.
So I plead if you are feeling too miserable , change your place, that is one of the best way to change your on going mood. It does not have to be far away or exotic abroad, a simple near to town destination will fulfill the same purpose.
Note from the Author,
" Travel made me rich and free. Magic and miracles are true , once you wander on the roads to places different and divine. I have collected so many thoughts and stories while being a Tour & Trek guide for last seven years. Sharing with you all, those memories and stories , and wishing you all , that someday you guys travel far and wide too. I am not a great writer , so ignore my grammar and spellings, read it with feelings, and you might just be affected with the wanderlust to hit the road"