I’ve always dreamed to hike the great Himalayas, but never made a concrete step in this direction. A year and half ago, in between jobs, I was truly thinking of going there, but then a good job offer came in the way. However, I’d been talking so much about it, that my partner decided to give The Trails Less Travelled by Avay Shukla to me as a Christmas gift. It sat on the book shelf for a bit more than a year, before I finally decided to open it…
The book describes several treks in the Himachal Himalayas, in the Northwestern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. This mountain ranges also includes the Great Himalayan National Park, established in 1984, which covers an area of more than 1100 square km at an altitude between 1500m and 6000m. In June 2014, the park was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
The author belongs to the Indian Administrative Service and has served in Himachal Pradesh for 30 years. His reports from the remote valleys of Himachal contain both awe-inspired natural descriptions, but also poignant reminders of how the encroaching economic development may soon destroy these natural beauties. He does not refrain from criticizing his own employer, the government, for his lack of action to better preserve these unique valleys, but also to offer the local communities support for a more and more difficult way of life.
The region is full of culture, natural diversity, rich ecosystems and varying landscapes, from the jungle forests of the lower altitudes to the high pastures to the barren glacial terrains. The treks described in the book require strength, endurance, perseverance and some technical skills, as they often have to negotiate deep gorges, boulder-strewn river beds and glacier crossings. But they also offers plenty of rewards, from crystalline lakes to rare wildlife sightings to small temples found in the most remote of passes.
On one hand, I would like to immediately go and venture in Himachal, on the other, I’m afraid that some of these treks would be unrecognizable 10 years after the author walked them. It’s yet another reminder that if we want to preserve these natural wonders for the future generations, we have little time to act and a lot to do.