I have always loved to travel and have done quite a bit of it, that too solo. I must say however that every trip is like a new beginning, no matter if you've traveled solo before also, especially, if your next trip is to a place you didn't visit earlier ever. I see many people going on cozy family trips in holidays and call themselves 'travel bloggers' by lifting content straight from wiki and their focus is like that of silly tourists, I find that laughable. To be real traveler one needs to accept the challenge to travel alone and off the beaten path! I like traveling alone rather than with some pesty companions to distract me all the time with their whining. While alone, your survival instincts are at an all time high; you discover yourself ~ strength and weaknesses. Only thing that acts as hindrance is there's no one to look after your baggage while you want to go to the loo. Well for that, carry a chain/lock and tie your baggage to any tree/chair you find :-)
Some days back I bought a tent. It was so cute that I ended up buying two more. Blame my flipkart vouchers for tempting and spoiling me. I've always loved the nomadic life and so envied places in the west where one can indeed live the caravan-life. They have designated camping grounds where one can bring in their own mobile homes/caravan/tents etc and avail the facilities, relax and move on. Sadly, in India there's no such 'public' camping ground ( tell me if there is - I never found even after extensive research; and no I don't mean the encroachers ). Thus, even though I had three tents now, I was clueless where to take them and camp. And India being so unsafe ( mainly from humans, also the wild ), it gives me the jitters to camp alone ( however one advise, try to sneak out far from civilization if you really want to camp alone and make sure nobody notices/follows you ). Camping, if planning for many days, is not easy btw - you have to carry utensils ( for food ) and dig out a dry-pit eco toilet to answer nature's calls ~ no water there, and using natural water sources like rivers/streams are not recommended ( only toilet paper/wet tissue is used to clean ). [ Dry-pit eco toilet is where you dig the ground, do your 'thing' and cover it with the soil again allowing it decompost ]
Recently, I was invited for a camping trip in the mountains. On further research I found there were indeed camping grounds where one could spend the night under the open skies. Only, they seemed to be operated by tour companies who had their own specific tents ( swiss-type ) which one had to rent. So, my idea of camping solo nearly went kaput. But good thing is many of these grounds are in public land ( under govt jurisdiction ) esp Rishikesh beach camps, so, one can indeed put theirs on too if they wish. Only, they'll not get the services ( food/eco-toilets/security etc ) offered by the registered camps. Must mention here, many are unregulated ones too, so facilities there might not be as good. Do check reviews properly before booking one.
As I was looking forward to my trip, news came that due to bad weather and landslides, many treks got postponed. One was mine that had to be put on hold. But was there stopping me? I had already dreamt of camping out in the open and there was noway I'll put a hold on my dreams. So, I decided to move on, on my own this time. So, yes --- the next few days were going to be very adventurous for me. But, I must share the meticulous planning I had to make so that my trip went glitch free. Never forget, on your own, you need to be extra EXTRA careful.
UPDATE : I'm back from the trip and will be writing a series of posts on my whole 'Himalayan' adventure. While the above was written before I set out, the rest is a continuation of it - as to how exactly I set forth :-)
The Planning :
First and foremost is of course I had to find the tickets to get there. Its in the Himalayas for God's sake. So, at least to get to the foot-hills I needed to get on that bloody train, lol. So, a hectic train 'searchathon' online followed, as well as a mad calculation of distances from one place to another to calculate the overall duration of every train/bus or taxi that'd take, to get there or the attractions around - I found the sites below of great help to plan the itinerary.
For train search I used - enquiry.indianrail.gov.in/ntes/ and this - distancebytrain.com
For Distance between places I used - distancesbetween.com
The Itinerary :
2nd is obviously the Itinerary. This was a solo trip, so there was noone planning for me. I had to do everything. Based on the distances I calculated on the sites above, I zeroed in on the places I would go keeping either Haridwar or Rishkesh as my base. I found many places that could be traveled within the same day and be back from as well. Since, my trip was of 6-7 days ( including train travel time ), I opted for Mussoorie via Dehradoon, Tehri via Chamba and Rishikesh, Kempty via Dehradoon again. I skipped places like Lansdowne, Kausani, Ranikhet, Sitlakhet, Kanatal, Dhanolty, Auli, Uttarkashi and many more which are also doable. One must start early morning for each place, because by 7pm mountain roads are all shut and you have to catch your vehicle ( last bus/tracker ) before that if you want to return same day. Uttarkhand has lots of beautiful places to explore, not to mention some mind-boggling treks. Since, it was my first time I kept the exploration to the easy-level.
The Packing :
I got my tickets, so did the required packing next. Since, I was going in the month of July, I didn't pack very warm clothes ~ kept my luggage light. And as I was travelling solo, I got my first-aid plus my other safety devices ready too. I had a hammer which I needed for my tent ( in case I decided to use it ), also my pepper-sprays, stun-guns and a mini trowel. Safety weapons are a must if one is travelling alone. Infact, any thing you are carrying like a pocket-knife, deodorant, safety-pin, tweezers etc can also be used as a weapon too. And for pepper-sprays one can make a mixture of it right at home using Vinegar+HotRed&GreenChilly+BlackPepper+Oil(little). [ After straining it, using it in a bottle with spray nozzle gives equal effect as a market-bought one ]
The Points : to remember while travelling alone :
- do not give exact dates of your travel and also never post live-updates on social media.
- do not carry too much cash; carry just what you need and don't keep in one place.
- do not look lost or unsure about things in a new place.
- do not talk too much with strangers, avoid them; however, one can talk to families.
- do not carry fancy bags/gadgets or wear expensive clothes; avoid attracting attention.
- try taking public transport as much as you can - they are cheap and safe.
- try taking evening trains in case of long journeys, so that night can be spent in trains.
- try to behave like a local with confidence ( well, that's what I do :-)
Must mention here, locals can make out if you are an outsider. For instance, if you ask an auto or tracker driver to take you to a place, they'll ask you back by mentioning a few routes ( which you have no clue about ) that you'd like him to take. Your hesitation and lack of knowledge can easily be spotted, nearly happened to me ( in Delhi ). So, if possible keep a rough map with you with important landmarks, road names of places you are visiting marked on it. So, you can know instantly which route the person mentions.
With all my homework done, I was ready to hit the road. My next series will cover the entire Himalayan trip, so look out for it...