Contacts of trek guides, porters, taxis, hotels, rental agencies, and other local service providers

A few of us trekkers have compiled contacts of local folks and services like porters, trek guides, cabs and taxis, and of accommodation, bus depot, etc. Please do your due diligence before agreeing to use the services. We do not recommend these folks in any way.

See the spreadsheet at bit.ly/travelcontacts. Locate the required info by using filters for type of service or trek.

If you wish to share the local contacts you have, please leave a comment or write to me at blackfog at Gmail. I shall list the contributors below for credits.

Thanks to the following folks for contributing to this list:

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Trekking in Karsog and Janjheli valley and nearby

Mandi district is a hotbed for a host of activities. Karsog area near Mandi is a beautiful retreat for nature and culture lovers. The temples, the trails, the age-old architecture, the festivals, and the valleys makes me go here again and again. I am compiling a list of a few treks in this region.

The most popular treks in this region are to Kamrunag temple and Shikari Devi temple. A few lesser known hikes are also listed below and offer hiking through areas untouched by the crowds, at times good views of the snow-clad Himalayan ranges, and beautiful meadows.

  • Kamrunag temple or Kumarwah lake trek starts from Chail Chowk or Rohanda
  • Shikari Devi trek starts from Janjehli or Kataru
  • Budha Kedar trek starts from Bulah or Kataru. I wonder if it can start from Raigad for those who want to hike longer.
  • Mahunag temple is at a road head but there are trails to this temple that locals use
  • Dhamoon Tibba starts from Sainj Bagr
  • Jyuni Valley hike starts from Dhangyara, 20 km ahead of Chail Chowk
  • Janjehli to Karsog
  • Tungasi Dhar
  • Magru Gala hike near Chhatri
  • Gada Gushaini

Shikari Devi temple is a very long one-day hike or is better done with overnight stay/camping. However, others are easy day hikes with immense cultural exposure.

A few other hills in the region are less popular and are not accounted for in popular posts on the Internet. There is a good scope of local exploration. The typical starting points of the popular treks are Sundernagar, Janjehli, Rohanda, Karsog, and Chail Chowk. These places are within a few hours of road distance from each other and are well connected by local buses. From Delhi, you can board a Mandi-bound bus and then use some local transport.

A very good account of winter trek to Shikari Devi is available at Inditramp website. The GPS trails of Shikari Devi are here and of Kamrunag is here.

Doing Kamrunag and Shikari Devi treks in one go

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Kamrunag lake and temple

The two most popular treks in this region — Shikari Devi and Kamrunag — can be combined into a weekend. Given the shortness and ease of these hikes, it may be more fulfilling to combine these. It’ll also save time and money.

On day 1, reach Rohanda, do Kamrunag, reach Karsog, and spend the night.
On day 2, start early on Shikari Devi trail; finish by evening; reach Mandi by night and board a Delhi-bound bus at night.

Notice the important transport timings from planning perspective.

  • 0700 – first bus from Sundernagar to Rohanda.
  • 1400 – 1800 A few buses ply from Rohanda to Karsog. However, better reach Chail Chowk and take a bus to Janjehli.
  • 1500 – 1800 Can get a local bus to Sundernagar or Mandi.

Another possibility is to reach Shikari Devi directly from Kamrunag instead of coming down and taking buses to either Karsog or Janjehli. This requires a ridge walk of a few km to reach Shikari Devi from Kamrunag lake itself. It is a well-trodden trail and has water for most months. Accommodation options are available at both the destinations.

Please share your experiences, queries, photos, basic information, local contacts, GPS logs, blog links, etc. in the comments section below.

Why they don’t want us to trek aka fears around outdoors?

“There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

People who are not exposed to hiking and outdoors may have healthy wonderment, unjustified fears, malformed opinions, and outright crazy misconceptions about the sport.

To us hikers these comments seem ridiculous or have nuisance value, but the need of the hour is to educate people around us and to spread the awareness that the following are just misplaced and malformed.

5764026117_acbccfa5ea_nPhoto via sboneham is licensed under CC BY

 

  • Why trouble yourselves with so much exertion?
  • It takes much resources, time, and money.
  • What if you are attacked by a wild animal?
  • All the wild animals are out there to kill humans at first sight.
  • What if you are caught in a storm or a cloudburst?
  • How will you live without food for days?i
  • Trekking is for ‘them’ — the crazy ones who have no one to look after and have no loved ones to care about.
  • Even if you climb a hill, what will come of it?
  • If you don’t summit, it was a waste of time and resource!
  • Let’s go just like that, without preparation because I live in the hills so I must always be able to scale.
  • There are landslides in the hills! Like all the time.
  • Hiking is dangerous because of the horror stories we’ve read in the mass media.
  • Stop the silly business of going hiking because married people look after their families instead of wandering off on their own.
  • It is a boy’s sport!
  • Why torture yourself, now that you earn enough!
  • It is a remote place. What if the tribals catch you?!

Leave in comments section what you’ve heard as arguments against being out there with nature.

Set waypoints for these places of interests and facilities when recording a GPS trail

To make your GPS trails more useful for others, consider capturing the following information as waypoints. (Let me know in the comments if you’d like to know how to record GPS trails.)

Food, water, and shelter enroute

  • Drinking water sources
  • Water source that must be avoided for drinking
  • Temporary shelter, say from rain or snow
  • Camping spots and human settlements
  • Dhabas that offer food and dhabas offering bed too.

Places of interest on a trail

  • Trail to choose at bifurcations
  • Very sunny parts of a trail (need sun protection)
  • Unsafe ledges or cornices
  • Leech prone portions (need shoes and salt)
  • Sections with Bicchu booti (need full length trek gear for protection of lower legs)
  • Spots where wildlife is commonly spotted
  • Sections with tricky crossings (like slippery, mossy boulders during rainy season; may need guided help)
  • Secluded ponds on a stream where one can bath(!)
  • Flash flood prone areas adjacent to streams (need to be watchful during rains and to be passed quickly)
  • Very steep sections (need footwear with good grip and watch out during rains)
  • Sections with debris and moraine (need ankle support)

Consider sharing your trails for everyone’s benefit on wikiloc and OSM. Yours truly can be found at www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/user.do?id=1691516. If you share trekking trails on a public platform, leave a link in the comments section.

Optimizing your social media videos for maximum effectiveness

Who doesn’t love to share their story with the world?! Videos are an amazing medium as they have a very high bandwidth to convey our stories in a matter of seconds or minutes.

We travelers also use videos for sharing our experiences with the world, help our friends and readers do their share of armchair travel, for online reputation management, as an entry point to business conversion funnel, hone our skills at video production, to boost our social media presence, and so on.

There are those travels that I’ve conceptualized or managed completely based on the videos posted online. Then there are those few videos that have been a disappointment because those do not serve any purpose.

Self-deprecating disclaimer: It is subjective to speak of serving a purpose because even such videos clearly serve the purpose of making the creator happy. Being happy is an end in itself, because who am I to judge what rocks your boat πŸ™‚ However, if you are the one who is looking at up-leveling the usefulness of your videos by conveying more in less, then this blog post is for you. I’m sharing my personal opinion on what makes a video useful to me. I shall try to be objective and give tangible points that you can understand without much wonderment.

When shooting/recording

  • Use both, the audio and the video channels in a video. When shooting, see if you can capture the speed of the wind at the top of a mountain to subtly convey how windy it was, the chirping of birds at the dawn to indicate how musical the mornings are, the raging sound of water to indicate how gushing the flow is, or record your own voice to convey more context and info than what’s recorded on video.
  • What is the neighboring area and its natural beauty? What does the terrain look like? What is the degree of climb? What are the nearby water sources if any? Where is the tree line? If it is rocky, then how difficult is it to walk on it?
  • What is the complete view of the object and not just a myopic, zoomed-in view of the activity you may be doing there. For example, if it is waterfall then move the camera a little to indicate the height of it, the force of falling water to indicate if one can bath under it, the outflow from the basin to indicate how fast the water is, the approach to the waterfall to indicate if it is risky or not to walk, speak out how cold the water is, and so on.
  • What is the roads’ tarring quality? What is the width of the road? What is on the sides of the road? How dense is the road because it’ll get darker faster in the evening than open roads. Very dense forests near the roadside means possibility of having wildlife at night on the road. All these parameters indicate the quality of drive and safety.

When uploading

  • Spend a minute to write a good title. All media hosting platforms allow you to update to a more meaningful name than the file name. Make sure to use a few keywords like place name, event name, what you are showcasing in the video, etc. in the title.
  • Do a dry run before uploading. Make sure the video is in the desired shape. Re-uploading video will change the URL so use this option only in dire straits.
  • Deleting older videos is a big NO. It will also change the URL and break the backlinks or embeds for your users.

When sharing

  • When sharing on a social media channel, be cognizant of the basic SEO like description, tagging, location, date, etc.

 


Work in progress — more tips to be added soon!

Child, elderly, and beginner friendly easy treks in the Himalayas

I am compiling a list of the child-friendly hikes and make this post a one-stop shop for all the trails that kids can accomplish. Of course, your kid’s mileage may vary so please do your due diligence.

This list, by its very nature, will always be a work-in-progress compilation. I’ve made public the incomplete details hoping these will help many folks. Leave your insights and suggestions in the comments section to update this best.

 

Trek Base city Accommodation* Distance to hike (km) Comments
Abott Mount Lohaghat Hotel, tent 5 Photos
Pangoot local hikes Pangoot, Nainital Hotel 3-12 A long trek, A short trek, photos
Barot local hikes Barot Hotel, tent 3-10 Jallan Guest House; Waterfall near the trolley tracks; Badagaon area
Bashleo Pass Shoja, Jaon Tent
Bijli Mahadev Hike Kullu Hotel 3 km from Chansari, 15 km from Kullu Info1, Info2
Chakrata Moila Tibba and Budher Caves Chakrata Hotel, tent 4
Chakrata Tiger Falls Chakrata Hotel 2
Dalhousie local hikes Dalhousie Hotel
Deoria Tal Sari, Rudraprayag Cottage?, Tent 2-3
Dugadda to Lansdowne Lansdowne Hotels 8
Hatu Peak Narkanda Tent 7 Photos
Jamu peak Renuka Ji Hotel, tent May get longish and heat may take its toll.
Kamru Nag lake Karsog or Rohanda Sarai, tent, hotel 4 km from Rohanda Listing; Photos
Kapil Muni’s hill Renuka Ji Hotel, tent
Lal Tibba Mussoorie Hotel
Mussoorie local hikes Mussoorie Hotel Info1
Rajagunda forest Bir, Billing Hotel, tent Hike from Bir to Billing on road; Billing to Rajagunda forest and alternatively to Badagran
Serolsar lake Jalori Pass Tent Info
Shikari Devi hike Karsog Hotel, tent 18 km from Janjehli; 1 km from road head if going in a vehicle Info1, Info2
Shimla TV Tower Shimla Hotel
Solan Tibba Solan Hotel
Taradevi Shimla Hotel 4 km from Tara Devi station on highway
Vaisho Devi Katra, Jammu Hotel, sarai

* Accommodation is categorized as ‘sarai/huts’ for basic roof (carry sleeping bag); personal ‘tent’ for camping trips; ‘hotel’ option for day hikes or short hikes where you can come back to the base city or reach the next town.

Please share the discoveries and the experiences of your kids or beginners with us in the comments section.

Dry foods to pack on a trek and an analysis of trek rations

For the self-organized trekkers out there without the support of porter out there, it is an interesting exercise to pack food. While food is not the heaviest item in our backpack, it is one of the most flexible category when it comes to optimizing it. If you do not want to carry a stove and can make do with dry food, then read on. I shall continue to update this post with new ideas/discoveries. Keep coming back πŸ™‚

I do not hire a cook. On a few treks, I was fortunate to avail the services of cooks of other groups by paying a small amount but otherwise I subsist on dry rations. I speak the following from my limited personal experiences; it may not suit your needs. Do share in the comments below as to what rocks your boat. If you find the post useful, it’ll be nice to know so in the comments.

 

  • Dry fruits: As if, you didn’t know πŸ™‚ In my opinion, this is a costlier option. There are cheaper and equally good options! Read on.
  • Chocolates: In my opinion, chocolates are costlier per unit weight or calories provided. Take protein bars, if you must.
  • Dates, biscuits, and Chikkis: Offers fantastic energy to weight ratio, much cheap than other options, and have some decent nutritional value too. This is my preferred food on a trek. Did you ever notice that Parle-G has almost the same energy density as other fancy biscuits?
  • Noodles: Filling, energising, tasty food that can be eaten cooked or raw, if need be. I like Wai-Wai noodle raw better than raw Maggi.
  • Cereal and milk powder: I am not big on cereal but to each their own. These two items can be eaten raw (separately!), if you cannot light a fire.
  • Fresh fruits: If weight permits, these are excellent too. Pick these from the base village or orchards on the trail, if any. Fruits are refreshing, quench thirst, are appropriately filling, and provide roughage.
  • Specific trail food: Rich food created specifically for hikers is available commercially and is a great option if you are willing to shell out some money for it.
  • Potatoes: You can find potatoes anywhere in the hills. Buy some from the village folks enroute. Mind you, these will add good weight to your backpack but are worth it. You can either boil these or roast these in campfire. To avoid charring of a thick outer surface, wrap in tin foil.
  • Glucose and ORS: Technically not a food as it is not filling. But a mix of Glucose and electrolyte salts are quite refreshing and energizing, as these make up for all the sweating. You can substitute this with the likes of Gatorade.
  • Peanut butter: Quite a dense food calorie-wise that does not occupy much space in the bag. Recently, I saw Sundrop’s small sachets worth Rs. 15 in a supermarket. I find this option slightly above average in cost per unit calorie provided. Some folks may not like the taste as well.
  • Boiled eggs: From a base village, if possible, you can get a few boiled eggs for variety. Though be strongly advised that these weigh much and can drain you fast. The only USP is protein and variety.
  • Maggi Masala: Technically not a food, but a Rs. 3 sachet of Maggi cooking masala can add much taste to your boiled food on a trek. Sometimes, I carry a custom mix of spices in a very small bottle in my backpack!
  • Homemade snacks: Provides good variety and a nice reminder of the warmth of our loved ones back home. Though this option requires preparation in advance and may add weight, volume, or both to your luggage. Heck, I once carried homemade laddoos and matthi on a trek!

Packing dry food on trek

Please

A request here is to carry the rubbish you generated back with you. Food items tend to generate a lot more rubbish than other items carried on a trek.

Waste disposal

While we are at it, here’s a shameless plug of an oft-wondered, barely-asked, and rarely-followed tips on pooping in the hills. Here’s a “hilarious and practical thread” on Indiamike.com about the topic. While I recommend reading the entire thread for its fun and educational value, but for those in a rush, directly jump to reply #8, #23, #24, and #28 for some fantastic tips.