Intrepid travelling in India
When we are planning a big trip away, we all want to get the most out of it. We all dream of making our own footsteps rather than follow the well-worn tourist path. Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with that path. After all, it is more than likely popular for an excellent reason. No one can dispute the grand splendours of The Ellora Caves or the tranquil beauty of the backwaters of Kerala.
However, there is also a part of us that burns for a real adventure. To move away from the maddening crowds and push our limits. I am quite sure it is the same for any of you reading this. That is why you have clicked on this article, right? In my post-Intrepid travelling in India, I aim to give a little insight into some of the more of the beaten track kind of adventures I have gotten involved in. It is in the hope I can inspire you to plan your own adventures in this incredible country.
India has an increasingly well-oiled tourist industry as evermore wonder hungry foreigners are making a beeline to experience it for themselves. That means it is possible to travel from one site to another in relative comfort. The days of the hard grind of travel are all but over if you wish them to be when visiting the famous sights.
Whats more India has the second largest population in the world. New Dehli alone has more people living in its concrete jungle than all of Australia. So it may come as a shock to you to discover there are massive swaths of the country still untamed. There are Mountains still unnamed. The opportunities to get off the beaten track and get into the wilderness are endless. Tribes in distant valleys live in a way hardly changed in centuries. Jungles team with wildlife and timeless cultures thrive in the mist-shrouded mountains of the Himalayas. There are plentiful opportunities for Intrepid travelling in India so let me elaborate.
Intrepid adventures in India.
In truth, the adventure here can be just as big as you want to make it. You can enlist on an organised trek into the wilderness or with considerable planning your own big adventure. If you are planning your own, there are many considerations to make. Will you need a guide? Will you need a tent? Is food available along the way? These are just a few of the many questions you will have to address before undertaking a journey into India’s vast wilderness.
Now let us have a look at some of the ways you can get off the beaten track and for a little extra information on just five of my personal favourite intrepid adventures to have in India check out my post.
Trekking in the Himalayas.
Over the years, I have concluded the best way to get out into the wild is with your own two legs and in all reality, that is the only way in some parts. India has countless trekking opportunities, and you can push yourself just as hard as you want.
India lacks the tight grip on the trekking industry that neighbouring Nepal has. Its most apparent in Ladakh where as long as you purchase a permit and even if you have no experience what so ever, you are still welcome to crack on.
The walk from the main road to the entrance to Tso Moriri to Kibber in Spiti Valley is a whopping twenty-one-day extravaganza, and there is only a single village on just one of those days!
But before you rush to go and book your flight to Leh, I would strongly reconsider. Do you have the equipment, endurance and most importantly, the experience? If the answer is yes then sure give it a whirl. But if like almost everyone else you do not, India has many simple treks to stretch your legs and challenge yourself. Walks range from half-day excursions to multiday expeditions that you can efficiently orchestrate on your own.
Just ask yourself how much experience do you really have? No one knows you better than yourself, so answer honestly and plan from there. I cant Emphasise enough to be kind to yourself. I have been trekking in the Himalayas many times and have seen some nasty accidents. Hostile weather, getting lost, slips, trips and falls are all possible occurrences while hiking. Remember if you do take the longer walks independently, it is unlikely anyone is coming to get you.
It does not matter if you are going on a quick walk in the hills or lacing up your boots for a week; you should pack correctly. Wear the appropriate footwear and remember now is not the time to be breaking in your new pair of expensive north face shoes. You will more than likely need sunscreen. It may not be warm, but the higher you go, the more intense the ultraviolet light becomes.
For someone like myself whos skin is not a fan of the sun, I found covering up to be the best course of action. There is something called a buff. I just love these things they keep the sun off your body, its lightweight and absorbs sweat. I use them everywhere, in the jungles, cities or the mountains. They are not very expensive, and you can carry them in your pocket.
In the same token, make sure you have the proper rain protection. You don’t want your kit getting wet when out on the trails. Make sure your rucksack has a rain cover built-in. If not, buy one as these things as they are convenient indeed.
Consider if there will be food available each day and if there is not, you will have to carry your own. Quite frankly I would advise taking some of your own anyway to make sure you are getting sufficient nutrition. It is always easier to bring food you do not need to cook as it takes away the need for a stove. There are numerous options for the village to village hiking routes, were at the end of the day you stay in peoples homes. They provide you with food, shelter and water along the way. It is both practical and provides a good insight into local life.
Water is another consideration. If you go on one of the homestay treks, you will get water, but it will be from local sources. While I have never encountered any problems with this, it may be prudent to carry iodine tablets if you are not comfortable with that arrangement. For longer treks with no accommodation, you will have to get water from whatever sources are available so it may be wise to invest in a carbon filter. They are expensive but will probably be necessary as you do not want to get sick days into the wilderness.
As obvious as it sounds, invest in a map! Do not rely on GPS as electricity is intermittent, to say the least in some parts. Even a cheap one is better than getting lost.
You will need your own shelter if there is nothing else along the way and, If you have to invest in this, it is probably wise to go in a group to spread the weight. Never Trek alone anyway as some of the paths are seldomly trodden, and no one will be able to raise the alarm for you should anything go wrong. In the far north, it is possible to employ pack horses for a fee. They are called pack horses but are definitely not your trusty stead. They are, in fact, donkeys. However, they know the route, and if you decide to get them, they can double up as a guide because they know where they are going.
Top three treks for Intrepid travelling in India.
I will now tell you some of my favourite and most rewarding treks that you can organise for yourself. They are all Multiday, and you do not need to bring a tent or cooking equipment. Embarking on these challenging treks will test your abilities and find your comfort zone. Some people discover that trekking is not for them and you wouldn’t want to do that on a long journey where there is nowhere even to get a good nights sleep.
The Homestay trek in Spiti Valley.
Take a walk through some of Indias most striking landscapes. This little slice of Tibet is sure to impress anyone who puts in the effort actually to make it to Spiti Valley in the beginning. For a full breakdown of the area, check out my post a backpackers guide to Spiti Valley. The five-day walk takes you from one traditional village to another, offering an insight into rural life. The trail will undoubtedly test your endurance with two mountain passes to scale. Be aware of Altitude sickness as it can be an issue here.
Singalila Ridge Trek
The Singalila Ridge Trek is another five-day walk that is easily accessible from Darjeeling. The altitudes are nowhere near as high, but the landscape is no less beautiful. You can marvel at some of the worlds most iconic peaks such as Everest, Lhotse and Khangchendzonga all in one sweeping view. You will need a compulsory guide for the part where you are in the national park because you are walking across the Nepali border. There are places to stay along its route so that a tent is not needed. Make sure you book your accommodation in Darjeeling to ensure you get a bed along the way in peak season.
Markha Valley Trek
Yet another five days walk through stunning scenery. There is a lot of homestays along this beautiful route, and that means you don’t need a guide or carry a shelter.
There is one very high pass for you to get over, the Kongmaru La and it is a whopping 5250m. So this is an ideal route for those who want to find their limits in relative safety.
Despite its remote location, this route gets pretty busy in season, and the whole path sits within the Hemis National Park, so there is an excellent opportunity to spot some wildlife along the way. For scenery alone, this was one of my favourite walks I have ever undertaken.
If you don’t fancy the full five days, you can opt for a much shorter three days two-night walk. This route is understandably busier but, there is plenty of spaces to get a good nights sleep. The scenery along the shorter route is stunning, and there is an excellent chance of seeing some interesting wildlife. It is not like you would be shortchanging yourself if you were to choose this as an option.
Jaisalmer camel treks.
This is a fantastic way to get into the wilds of India. The Thar desert is a place of stark beauty and is surprisingly filled with rich biodiversity. The Culture is quite unlike anything you will find anywhere else on the Subcontinent as India begins to merge with Pakistan. Many tourists who visit Jalsalmier will take a camel ride for the evening or maybe overnight. But for you to get away from the crowds and see this place in all its raw splendour, you must go for much longer than that. Five days or a week you can really get out there and immerse yourself in this desert wonderland.
Anyone who has even made an overnight trip out here will tell you it is hard going. The relentless sun beats down on your body from dawn to dusk, and if you visit in the winter, you can look forward to freezing nights as well. There is no chance to wash, and sand gets literally everywhere. But the landscapes are intoxicating and the bright stary skies at night will stay with you forever. I strongly recommend a trip out here for any wildlife enthusiast.
There are three places to organise a camel safari, and they are all in Rajasthan. They are Osian, Bikaner and far and away the most popular is Jaisalmer. For me the later is the best place to organise a trek from. It is incredibly popular with hundreds of people going into the desert almost every day, but it is easy to get away from the crowds as they all head to the same places and before long you are all alone in a thrilling new world.
I have never gone back the same places twice in this vast desert, and I can’t get enough of the peace that comes with travel here. I find cooking my dinner over a campfire and going to sleep under the stars with nothing but the calming sound of the camel’s bells jingling in the background to be sheer bliss. I am sure you will too for those who don’t mind very rough and intrepid travel.
When many people think of nature watching they think of it as a relaxing past time that is almost passive. Well, India has some vast stretches of wilderness that will challenge even the hardest of us. In many of India’s national parks, walking is for obvious reasons prohibited. But in many of the far-flung areas of the country no such rules apply. So my final suggestion in this post for Intrepid travelling in India is to pit yourself against the wildest of India’s national parks. Here are my top three recommendations for the ultimate challenges:
Khangchendzonga National Park
Khangchendzonga is the third highest mountain on earth and sits on the border between India and Nepal. Both countries have dedicated a massive swath of land to a national park. The Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve is home to an astonishing array of flora and fauna. Species Include the Red Panda, Dhole, Sloth Bear, Snow leopard, Blue Sheep, to name just a few. There are also over 550 species of birds that call these slopes home, making this a delight for any nature lover.
Moving around the park is only possible by walking, and you will need a guide and permits. Walks can be for two, five, nine or even more days depending on where you want to visit. If you choose to walk to the Kanchenjunga basecamp and then connect onto the Singalila Ridge Trek that will take the best part of two weeks to complete.
If you decide this is for you, I would advise going to Yuksum in Sikkim and shopping around for the best deals and to discover what it is you want. That is where you get your permits, and that is where all the competition for your business will be. If you go all the way to base camp, you will need tents, food, water etc., so it is essential to go through a reputable company. So check the reviews online as this is no walk in the park.
Namdapha National Park
One of Indias largest expanse of wilderness seems lost in the corner of Arunachal Pradesh. It is a staggering 1985 sq kilometres and is home to a beguiling array of wildlife, most famously the Endemic Namdapha flying squirrel and also all four species of large cats found in India. There are over 500 species of birds to tick off your list in Namdapha, and the landscapes range from lowland Detrocarp forest to the icy Himalayas.
You can make your own way to the park headquarters as long as you have a permit to visit the state but getting around the park without a guide is impossible. You can go on shorter walks around but in all reality most walks deep into the national park last for eight to ten days. Have a look online to find a reputable company and negotiate a cost. If you do want to make your own way here, you can come from Dibrugarh in Assam to the town of Miao and then on to Deban where you will find accommodation and the main entrance to the national park.
Neora Valley National Park
This little know national park Sixty kilometres outside of Kalimpong is an enchanting stretch of rainforest in the shadow of Khangchendzonga. It is home to a healthy population of red pandas that people come here to see.
Aside from the stars of the show, the 88 sq kilometre national park is incredibly diverse. The jungle at Neora Valley is really thick, so any sightings of wildlife you do have all tend to be fleeting. The rainforest is visually stunning and one of the best I have ever seen, to be honest. As an avid nature lover, I found this place incredible.
The few visitors that do come here only come for the morning and just drive up to the viewpoints. To get inside the park properly, you will have to apply for written permission from the west Bengal forestry department.
Once that is done, make your way to the tiny town of Lava. Find a hotel, and you will have to organise your transport up to the beginning of the trek, guide, porters and food all by yourself. Curiously this is all dealt with by asking around the taxi rank as they seem to know what to do. The walk to the Bhutanese border is four days round trip, and there are some forest huts you can stay in that are super basic, but they keep the wildlife out.
In summary of my guide to Intrepid travelling in India.
India is a country you can find real adventure in, and I could have easily have made this post three times as long, just talking about my favourite places to experience adventure travel. I hope my post has been able to help you get an idea of what kind of adventure you want to embark on. My closing piece of advice to my readers is don’t rush into anything. The longer you plan something, the better organised it will be. Besides the planning keeps me driven when I am saving, and I would imagine it is the same for you.
It seems it has become all the rage to come to India because the secret is out that its a wonderful country, however, it is not difficult to get off the tourist trail and create your own unique experience. I am quite sure those memories will last a lifetime for you. If you have any more questions about this matter or any other and you think I can help, then please do not estate to leave them in the box provided and I will get back to you, until the next time my fellow intrepid travellers, happy planning.
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