Friends, there are several interesting activities that can be combined with trekking. These activities not only add fun to the trek experience but also have the potential to evolve into big passions later in the life. So let’s have a discussion about them:
You knew this was coming, right? Well obviously, that’s the most common hobby of trekkers. Majority of photographers (including me) are amateurish (who click anything and everything) but are keen to learn this art with time. The more experienced ones are focused, passionate and professional in their approach. Apart from the general subjects of mountains and people, which almost all of us cover, these guys have an in-depth focus and knowledge on subjects like flowers, wildlife, and butterflies/insects. It’s a continuous learning activity.
PLAYING MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS:
What would you do when you’re happy? Maybe you sing or hum a tune. The joy one gets from being in the company of Mother Nature can best be expressed by way of music. Music adds charm to the whole trekking experience. Mountains are indeed a great place to indulge in this pastime.
The most common musical instrument that you’d come across while trekking is probably the Harmonica (or Mouth Organ). It is small in size, lightweight and easy to carry along. It is a happy moment for a trekker to play a few tunes atop the mountain while enjoying the beauty of the valleys! Perhaps one can look to play the Flute as well.
Among other musical instruments, I have seen people playing bongo drums (and you won’t believe: the dhol as well !!). Though owing to the size and weight of these instruments, it is not possible to carry them while trekking, they can sure add some musical beat to the long journeys/travel, where games like Antaksharis are common. Or they can be carried during picnics/camping in and around the hills.
Unlike the Himalayas, where the trek duration runs into several days, on account of the high altitudes and distances involved; most treks in Sahyadris are short enough to be accomplished in a day’s time. But it is worthwhile to spend a few days in the mountains. It is a unique experience.
In spite of the low altitude of the Sahyadris, there are fascinating places like historical forts that require a minimum of 2-3 days time to explore. Alternatively, one can combine two or more peaks in the same mountain range for a 2-3 days’ adventure. If one is not keen on physical exertion, then places like lakeside, forests, caves, foothills or even beaches can be selected as a spot for camping.
These longer outings require better planning especially with respect to the equipment/stores as one is expected to spend nights away from home and cook own food. It is during such excursions, that one can possibly bring along bulky musical instruments like the Guitar or Bongo drums to entertain the group.
The geography and climate of Sahyadri Mountains augur well for forests to flourish around it. Most trekking routes pass through dense jungle and vegetation. These jungles are a home to several beautiful birds.
Often when trekkers start the adventure early in the day, several sweet melodies are unmistakably heard. If you are lucky you could spot some birds too. But let me tell you, bird watching is an art to be learnt by practice. It requires great patience and the right mannerisms/technique. Hence, something like bird watching or birding comes quite naturally to several trekkers. In fact I have seen trekkers becoming excellent birders.
There are several birding groups that undertake birding tours to various places across India. Every region has a different topography and different types of birds. It would be a good idea to join one if you have an inclination towards this hobby. There are also books and references available. It is amazing to witness that the birds reciprocate to a call made by the birder.
Now, how important are trees to a trekker? In summers, they provide much needed shade to a tired trekker; while in monsoons, the green cover is refreshing to the eyes! Having trekked in barren places under the hot sun, I have realized the importance of trees. Not only to trekkers, trees are of great value even to the villagers, wildlife, birds and the climatic conditions of the region.
While planting seeds and saplings is a fun thing to do, it must be done in a proper manner and at the right time (ideally during or just before rains). One can and must take help of an expert in this matter. There are several NGOs like Hariyali (www.hariyalithane.com), which carry out environment protection activities. One can team up with such organizations to encourage afforestation in needy hills/areas.
Many trekking groups like the Podar Hikers’ Club (PHC) have successfully undertaken this activity at several trekking spots. These are minute things but have a great impact on a trek.
Many people who aren’t used to trekking get tensed when they hear about climbing mountains. It’s a general mindset, which all humans have. But as a trekker one knows that basically trekking means just walking on foot. Only thing; the path we trekkers walk is inclined and requires effort. However, it is not a rocket science or a dangerous thing, as many believe. Obviously, there are precautionary measures one needs to follow while trekking, still, largely there’s nothing technical about it. It’s a simple physical exercise. Most of the mountains in Sahyadris are of moderate grade. Any normal person with average build and fitness can become a trekker.
But, the Sahyadris also boast of many exciting geographic features that offer challenges and are of technical grade. These are rock formations like pinnacles, boulders and walls, which require technical skills and prior training. They are not a regular hikers’ cup of tea. But for those who love the thrill and challenge of scaling the most difficult peaks and features, for them is Rock Climbing. Rock Climbing is an offshoot of trekking. It is an advanced stage of trekking. It requires great fitness, practice and commitment. Nowadays, Rock climbing is more of a competitive sport and which is being conducted on artificial indoor walls.
There are several trekking clubs, which conduct courses on rock climbing. The most popular club associated with this sport is Girivihar (www.girivihar.org). It is one of the oldest clubs in Mumbai and a pioneer of this sport. Its annual rock climbing competition is renowned and attracts participants from around the world. It also has to its credit, building and maintaining an artificial wall for rock climbing, in Podar College. Apart from trekking and rock climbing, this club is also involved in various adventure activities like rappelling, cycling, skiing etc. It also undertakes Adventure Camps (for kids too) and Himalayan treks and expeditions.
THE NEXT STEP:
I have written this article keeping the Sahyadris in my mind. But the next obvious step for a Sahyadri trekker would be to explore the Himalayas. To begin with, it would be a very good idea to apply for membership of the Youth Hostels Association Of India (YHAI), which provides excellent opportunities to trek some of the beautiful places in India at very low prices. It inculcates a sense of unity and confidence among youth coming from the various parts of the country. At YHAI, the definition of Youth is: One who thinks of himself as young, irrespective of his/her age. You can visit their web page () to know more about them. I’d personally recommend YHAI to trekkers who like to travel and want to explore new places across India.
For the more serious souls, who are active trekkers and have a great inclination towards climbing mountains (like the Himalaya), must consider undergoing a Mountaineering course. Some of the renowned Institutes that impart technical skills and knowledge of mountaineering in India are:
· Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (Darjeeling) 
· Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (Uttarkashi) 
· Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports (Manali) 
These courses will open up new avenues and opportunities.
Apart from these, there are several other exciting activities like STAR GAZING, TREASURE HUNTS, CLEANLINESS DRIVES, CONSERVATION OF FORTS and VILLAGE WELFARE. These not only add to the enjoyment, but also inculcate good values and increase the general knowledge of an individual.