When the mer­cury spikes, take a hike. Es­cape the city for the hills, where the air is crisper, the breeze cooler and the rains that much more ro­man­tic. You know you want to!

Hindustan Times - Brunch - - Front Page - by Asad Ali and Satarupa Paul

A FA­MOUS ENGLISH moun­taineer and au­thor, Joe Simp­son, de­scribed it as “the beck­on­ing si­lence of great height”. Some kind of “in­verted grav­ity” that at­tracted peo­ple to climb mas­sive moun­tains. And if you ask the new-age trav­ellers in In­dia flock­ing to the hills, they’ll swear they’ve felt this pull too. It’s not just the clos­est hill sta­tion that’s on the radar of the In­dian trav­eller any­more. The de­sire to ex­plore has fu­elled the search for less fre­quented trails. Des­ti­na­tions that are “off­beat” have grown in pop­u­lar­ity with each pass­ing year, with more peo­ple will­ing to ex­pand their travel hori­zons than ever be­fore.

But at what point did this urge to head off for the moun­tains be­come so ir­re­press­ible that it be­came a trend? Or is it all an old ro­mance given the twist of mod­ern love? Anil Nair, news edi­tor of The

Out­door Jour­nal, a pub­li­ca­tion which spe­cialises in sto­ries re­lated to the out­doors, thinks this ‘trend’ has been there since the ’70s. “But such travel choices were limited to sin­gle-minded adventure seek­ers or trav­ellers... there was no col­lec­tive ‘move­ment’ as such,” he says, and adds, “Now with the In­ter­net and blogs, peo­ple are able to pen down their ex­pe­ri­ences. That has con­trib­uted to this wave of new-age ex­plor­ers.” When asked what draws him per­son­ally to the moun­tains, Nair promptly says, “Soli­tude and pure air... and no traf­fic jams!”

For Sankara Subra­ma­nian, a popular travel blog­ger ( Be On

The Road), it’s the sheer size of the moun­tains and their all-en­com­pass­ing vast­ness that at­tracts him. “It’s so hum­bling. Also, there are so many sto­ries in and of the moun­tains, the peo­ple are so warm, al­ways wel­com­ing.” He says it’s al­ways ad­vis­able to travel with a part­ner, es­pe­cially if you’re driv­ing or motorcycling to far-flung places. “I avoid trav­el­ling in large groups though. I like to meet new peo­ple, make new mem­o­ries, and just be with the soli­tude of the moun­tains.”

This af­fair with the hills can some­times be so tor­rid that many con­tem­plate leav­ing their jobs, just to be able to travel. But that’s ob­vi­ously not prac­ti­cal. Dheeraj Sharma, founder of the widely popular on­line travel com­mu­nity Devil On Wheels, says he rou­tinely gets a lot of queries from peo­ple who just want to quit and travel. “I al­ways say that you should take a sab­bat­i­cal in­stead. I have been trav­el­ling for close to five years and I’ve man­aged to do it with­out quit­ting my job. You just need to learn how to plan your leaves five or six months in ad­vance.”

One facet of trav­el­ling into lesser-known des­ti­na­tions is the ef­fect it can have on the im­me­di­ate ecosys­tem. Mathew Kurien, art direc­tor at The Out­door Jour­nal, says that one must un­der­stand the dos and don’ts while trav­el­ling and most im­por­tantly, not pol­lute the en­vi­ron­ment. “First-time campers should keep san­i­ta­tion is­sues in mind. We’re do­ing a se­ries, on how to poop re­spon­si­bly while camp­ing – you can just dig a six-inch cathole about 200m from a river while an­swer­ing na­ture’s call. The point is to be re­spon­si­ble for the en­vi­ron­ment while trav­el­ling.”

An­other of­ten over­looked as­pect, when it comes to trav­el­ling to off­beat places, is – a bit iron­i­cally per­haps – how a zeal­ously guarded re­mote place be­comes vic­tim to main­stream tourism. Pho­tog­ra­pher Ab­hishek Bali says, “As an ar­dent trav­eller, I do feel that some places should be left as they are in their nat­u­ral pris­tine state, that they should not be com­mer­cialised. But it is our habit as hu­man be­ings to travel to all cor­ners of the earth, to ex­plore, to dis­cover.”

And per­haps it is this in­her­ent, ba­sic in­stinct that’s driv­ing more and more peo­ple to seek out des­ti­na­tions that were ear­lier just a mere blip on the tourist radar, to ex­plore be­yond the ob­vi­ous, to not just see but also ex­pe­ri­ence, feel and re­mem­ber.

asad.ali@hin­dus­tan­ Fol­low @AsadAli1989 on Twit­ter satarupa.paul@hin­dus­tan­

Fol­low @sa­taru­pa­paul on Twit­ter

Sangla Val­ley in the Kin­naur dis­trict of Hi­machal Pradesh

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