My First Trek – An Attempt to Buy Some Experience

In: Travel|Trekking

By Bakshi Gulam

28 Jan 2017

How all this “trek” thing started?

Till I was in Chennai, going for a trek never hit my mind. Neither were there much trek trails nearby Chennai nor was trekking popular among Chennaities.  After moving to Bangalore, I started hearing about treks from fellow colleagues. Recently my boss had been to Kumar Parvatha trek and had written a blog about his experience. When we were discussing about it, he asked me “Do you trek?”. I told him that I’ve never been to any. He then told me, “This is somewhat difficult trek. We’ll plan some easy/moderate trek in near future. You can try joining us.” I told “Okay.” Though I told him “Okay”, one question was still lingering in  my mind – “Why should we undergo so much struggle unnecessarily?” :-P

In few weeks, I got a mail from one of our team-mates. It was about a trek being planned for Tadiandamol. Initially I was in a dilemma of whether to go for it or not. Few weeks back, I had failed to test temperature sensor, altimeter & barometer of my Chronos watch at the Nandi hills as the trip got canceled due to breakdown of my bike. I wanted to test those sensors at least this time. In addition, my boss had recently shared a motivational article with all prospective trekkers on a theme “Buy Experiences. Not Things.” Moreover we were told that the trek trail is just 4kms. Finally I registered for it with an intention of “buying an experience”. I thought even if I couldn’t buy anything, let this be a stress-buster – something different from my day-to-day work.

Even a “bad experience” becomes a “good story” ;-)

We all assembled at the office on a Friday eve and headed towards Virajpet – a nearby town from Tadiandamol peak. It would not had been 1 hour since we started and the vehicle broke down. The vehicle got switched off in the middle of the road and not moving a bit from there. We had to push the vehicle to the side of the road and the driver was trying to figure out what happened. We informed the travel agency about this and they had promised to send another vehicle to the spot. Meanwhile people were kidding our boss, “Hey it’s getting late. This time ask for exact ETA”. :-P   Then some of us went to a tea shop and had tea/coffee and some snacks. Some people who joined at the last moment had forget to buy toiletries. They rushed for a nearby shop and told “Everything happens for a reason”. ;-)   I started realizing one of the thoughts of the author of the article “Buy Experiences. Not Things.”. It says “Even if the experience is bad, we’ll have a story to tell.” I felt it to be so true and reminded my boss of this and told “Now this is adding up to our story”. ;-)

Checking-in past mid-night

Then we got a replacement vehicle and continued our journey a little behind our schedule. We checked-in at Virajpet very late in the night waking the guys in-charge of that residency up. The guy who opened the rooms for us, asked “Are you seriously going to check-in only now? When are you going to check-out then?” We just had few hours of sleep and got up early in the morning and headed towards the base of the trek trail. I was surprised to see a school at the base. I wish I could go back to my childhood and study in a school which is located at such beautiful location. Our trek leader distributed the ration to everyone and then we started the trek.

Missing Chronos

Suddenly I felt like missing something. Oops! It was my beloved Chronos watch. I had left it in the hotel we stayed last night. This just shattered my dreams of measuring temperature, altitude & pressure and plotting a graph after coming back from the trek. This reminded me of the movie – “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” in which Mitty’s friend O’Connell – a passionate photographer, decides not to take a rare shot of a magnificent snow leopard just because he thinks the mere shutter sound might spoil the moment. He wanted to experience it instead of capturing it. “Everything happens for a reason. Let me enjoy the nature and live this moment instead of thinking too much about calibrating the altimeter.” I said to myself and moved on.

Actual Trek Experience

First 500meters was very difficult. There were two reasons – 1. It was a bit steep compared to mid trail. 2. I had just started moving my body out of it’s comfort zone. There were lot of thoughts going on my mind at this point – “Have I done a mistake by signing up for this? Will I be able to make it to the summit?” After 500meters the trail become less steep and my body got adjusted to it. There was a beautiful view point in just 2kms from the base. It was like a perk encouraging trekkers to go high and high to witness/experience more and more beautiful views. We took small breaks in between to take snaps also to give some time for our legs to gain strength back. The last 500meters of the trail was again very difficult. Difficult than the first 500meters. I was tired and out of my breath. But the peak was visible and it was attracting me towards it like a magnet. Finally I reached the summit. There was a board by forest department marking the hight of the peak – it was “1748m”.  There was a overwhelming joy. A feeling of “Yes I’ve made it. I’m at 1748m above sea level. I’ve conquered the third highest peak in Karnataka”.

Trek Lessons

There were few trekking lessons I learnt in my first trek.

1. What to carry & What not to carry:

As we’ll be navigating difficult terrain on foot, we should always try to minimize things we carry in our backpacks. I have heard of stories where people carry too much in the beginning and then leave their things in the branches of trees mid-way as they can’t continue carrying heavy weight. I’ve also seen people carrying sun-screen, cap with neck-cover, trekking stick which was very useful for them. I heard from one of the fellow trekkers (who had been to high-altitude treks) that every 200 grams we carry matters at high-altitudes. While trying to minimize things, we should also not leave things which are important for our survival. There is always a trade-off between weight and the importance of the thing we carry. May be experience will help us figure this out in the long run.

2. Placing your each step:

When we walk around our house or office, we don’t mind where we place our  next step. In fact, sometimes we walk while talking over phone or even texting a message. But while climbing hills or navigating forest, placing each step right is very important. Even a single wrong step can cause you great trouble. This is very important while climbing down than climbing up. First I was placing steps randomly and finding it difficult to stop against gravity. Then the trek leader told me to place the next step, check is it stable, transfer you weight on it and then take the back leg. This really helped me to get down the summit. While climbing up, some people carried sticks with them. I had no idea why people are carrying a stick with them. Only while climbing down, I realized the importance of a trekking stick. In very steep terrains, a trekking stick will act as our third leg and be very useful. However we shouldn’t put all our weight on the stick. Rather, we should just use the stick as a third leg, while we are moving our own legs.

3. Danger of Wild Animals:

Tadiandamol doesn’t seems to pose any danger of wild animals. However we should also consider the wild animals that live nearby the trek zone when we plan for a trek. I also got some valuable lessons from experienced trekkers regarding wild animals. One such lessons goes as follows: “A lone elephant is more dangerous than a herd of elephants. In hilly regions, elephants can out-run humans uphill. But they find it difficult to run down-hill due to its heavy weight. Hence if a lone elephant chases us, running down-hill might give us an edge over the elephant.”

Life Lessons

Indeed, this trek has given me a lot of life lessons.

1. “Say Yes! and learn along the way”:

After coming back from the trek, the first thing that hit my mind is a quote by my Influencer – Sir Richard Branson. He says “Even if I have no idea where I’m going or how to get there, I prefer to say yes, instead of no, and learn along the way. Life is more fun when you say yes!” I felt this to be so true. Though I had dilemma initially, though I had never been to trekking before, I said “Yes!”. I would not have witnessed the magnificent sight of the peak if I would’ve said “No”. Most importantly, I’ve learnt many things along the way.

2. Planning:

Planning is very important in every aspect of our life – be it professional or personnel or a trek. Since we had experienced trekkers with us, we planned the whole trip neatly and were able to migrate unforeseen issues that came along the way. We took just an apple, an orange, 3 bananas, 1 or 2 tetra pack(s) of juice, 2 snickers, 1 packet of bourbon biscuits & 2 liters of water. This stroke a perfect balance between weight and hydra/calories required to finish the trek without exhaustion. It would have been a disaster otherwise.

3. Live a minimalistic life:

Many of our lives are “trapped” now-a-days. Trapped by the apartment we live in – by the city we live in – by the  job we do – by the car we own. Once we get into this “trap” we forget the basics and simply play along with it. What was luxury once becomes necessity now. These treks teach us the basics once again. Living a minimalistic life will give us freedom in our life same as the freedom we get when we are out in the nature during treks. This will help us buy more experiences than things.

4. Be open to learn:

There is always an allegation on younger generation by older generation that the young don’t respect the old. IMHO, one of the important practical reason is the advancement in science and technology. There were days when you can learn things only from books or somebody’s experience. Hence experienced/senior people were respected by the young. As time changed, when the young can get to learn things (even their senior people don’t know) at their finger tips (Internet/mobile), their respect towards the senior people gradually decreased. However I feel the young should still be open to learn things from seniors’ experiences. There could still be something in the experienced which we wouldn’t be able to find on the Internet. I doubt I would’ve learnt many things from the web that I learnt from experienced trekkers.

5. Live life in anticipation:

The same article quoted excessively above (“Buy Experiences. Not Things“) also insist us to live life in anticipation. It says 47% of time average mind is wandering. This is preventing us from “living the moment”. When we can’t live the moment, “living in anticipation” would be the next better option. Anticipating material things will not help as it leads to “impatience” most of the time. But “anticipating or longing” for an experience will be better alternative according to the author. Planning trips like this will help improve our well-being as we “anticipate” an experience when we are planning and “buy an experience” & “live the moment” when we are in the trip. In my personal opinion, living life in anticipation will also help us avoid surprises and mitigate risks better.

Happy trekking!

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This is Bakshi Gulam. I’m a programmer, a blogger and an open-source lover interested in anything related to computer systems. Click here to read my bio.

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