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Monday, September 21, 2020

Tracks of time: Trekkers explore new paths during the COVID-19 crisis

Trendspotting: Just like the other guidelines trekking too has had to adapt to the new COVID norms. What could be a challenge is to adjust to a mindset of interacting with the locals, the evening camaraderie, sharing stories and then the hugs

Written by Nagina Bains | Chandigarh | September 1, 2020 10:50:13 am
trekking, trekking corona, trekking india, indian express lifestyle, indian express newsHiking is meditative, every step is a result of focus and the body has to be in balance, else losing one’s way is easy (Getty Images/Thinkstock)

As the ‘guild’ of trekkers reconciled with their rucksacks and down jackets gathering dust while the pandemic, like a termite ripped through the layers and made its presence felt, the unlocks gave respite to many in every part of the country. Trekking at any level was given the best shot. We spoke to a few avid trekkers who have traversed newer paths and unexplored ways of life in this time of crisis. Three months back, when the coronavirus was a calamity unfolding in another part of the world, Daniel Francis, a pastor and trekker from Mohali was looking at the itineraries of several Himalayan treks and narrowing down on one before bookings opened. He did pick one, Bhrigu Lake, one of the well-known routes along Manali’s Himalayan trekking trail. Twenty days later, the entire country was in lockdown, train journeys were suspended and trek routes were forbidden territories. “But with the subsequent relaxations, I plunged into action, as I enjoyed a trek to Hatu Peak. It’s easy if you can drive to Barog from Chandigarh and then take a next stop at Narkanda, which is the beginning of a seven-kilometre trail to the artistic Hatu temple,” shares Francis.

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A sense of abandon, surrendering to nature, inhaling the much-needed dose of oxygen and embracing the void is addictive; it’s a cult and a must-do for those who want to walk on the wild side. Jashan Chatwal, a Chandigarh-based trekker says that whenever he plans a trek in the Himalayas, he looks forward not only to the climb, the tent stays, make-shift bathrooms or the delicious meat curries, but also the absence of the noise of our existing urban lives. “I have been exploring local urban hikes and forgotten parks of the city, discovering gorgeous dead ends and pretty houses around where I live,” says Chatwal.

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Hiking is meditative, every step is a result of focus and the body has to be in balance, else losing one’s way is easy. Sheena Singh, an avid hiker reinforces the view. “You have to be super present and that’s what trekking is, it’s being in the moment. It’s not being somewhere else. It’s being in the right now. With COVID-19 numbers going up, I am concerned about the possibility that trails may close again which is why it’s sensible to follow the local guidelines and maintain a physical distance. That means, for instance, avoiding popular trails or peak times.”

Just like the other guidelines trekking too has had to adapt to the new COVID norms. What could be a challenge is to adjust to a mindset of interacting with the locals, the evening camaraderie, sharing stories and then the hugs. But like the rest of the world when you have to do what you have to do, self-preservation comes easy. “I love chasing sunsets. And that’s the reason I opt for trekking. The pandemic has instilled a sense of gratitude for what we had. Who knew that crossing Parwanoo would be what it is now? I recommend the Malana village trek which starts from a place called Jari, which is in close proximity to Chandigarh. It’s an opportunity to appreciate nature that is in our neighborhoods, even if it’s just a few trees, squirrels, and birds, surrounded by a lot of concrete with a blue sky above,” reflects Akshit Sharma. Sometimes all one needs is a mountain, the blue sky and then you can hear Bob Dylan whispering, “The answer my friend is blowing in the wind”. Trek on…

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