It may seem that the adventure
quotient of a hike is proportional
to its altitude, but not everyone
climbs just to get to the top. For
tropical trekkers, there's more
pleasure to be found in exploring
jungles and observing nature.
If you've walked through a wildlife
reserve or even a coffee estate, you'll
know what to expect. Unlike mountain
treks that are about climbing
and soaring views, jungle hikes are
about greenery so abundant it hems
you in. The land is undulating, the
weather humid, it rains often and
you frequently come across lakes,
rivers and waterfalls.
"It can suddenly become dark at
noon because of the thick vegetation;
finding your way out while trying
not to disturb the ecological balance
is the challenge," says Sankara
Subramanian, 28, from Bangalore.
Even plucking a leaf in a bio diverse
spot can disturb the balance, so
trekkers have to be very cautious.
Subramanian has been on tropical
treks in central and southern
India, traversing coffee plantations
at Baba Mulayangiri, wildlife sanctuaries
at Brahmagiri, and the
Kodachadri hills. "I've walked on railway
tracks, through honey valleys,
and in dense jungles. It's just beauty
of all kinds put together," he says.
Know the challenges
Acclimatisation in tropical areas is
about dealing with humidity, staying
hydrated, and protecting
yourself from pollen
and dust mite allergies. "Before
starting out, know your area well
and go on a three-hour long trial at
different times of the day," says
wildlife filmmaker Mike Pandey.
At various times, Pandey has suffered
allergies, been stung by leeches
and encountered charging elephants,
tigers and leopards. But he's
learnt these things can be avoided.
"You're not part of their food cycle
so animals won't attack unless they
feel threatened. Listen to the sounds
and remain a mute spectator. In that
lies the adventure," he says.
Leeches are a major concern it's
hard to escape them. Some trekkers
mix salt, lemon, snuff and tobacco
in cloth and tie it around their legs.
Others take saltwater baths with
Dettol and soak
their socks, jeans and cap in the
Some places have specific challenges.
For the Sabarimala temple
trek in Kerala, for example, hikers
practise walking barefoot on a
thorny path 40 days before the journey.
And if you go to the Dudhsagar
waterfalls in Goa, you'll encounter
whisper rain: A moisture-filled mist
that condenses into water when you
walk through it.
Staying safe in the wild
Exploring uncharted lands may
sound tempting, but wandering into
the forest without foreknowledge is
a bad idea. "A map isn't always helpful,
since rain can transform the
topography," says Subramanian. To
be safe, travel in a group, stay on
the trail, and take along a local guide.
"Trekking on forest territory isn't
permitted in quite a few places, so
apprise the local authorities of your
trip. They might mistake you for
poachers otherwise," says Pandey.
You'll need to have the right gear,
but travelling light is important. Use
a headlamp, wear good boots, a raincoat
and carry thick clothing so that
you can avoid being bitten by insects
and other small creatures.
So take along a camera. Says
wildlife photographer Gaurav
Athalye, "If you're bored of landscape
photography, on tropical treks
you can explore a whole new vista
-- that of macro-photography."
Start your trek early in the day,
and camp near a village at night. "As
you walk across the Nilgiris, you hit
small towns where farmers grow
spices and even herbal medicines.
It's overwhelming to see what nature
keeps hidden from you until you discover
it for yourself," says Pandey.
Periyar forest in Kerala, can be
explored on day/night trek.
Kodagu peak in Coorg is the highest
in Karnataka and known for the
locals who're beekeepers.
At the Brahmagiri wildlife sanctuary
in Karnataka you may see gaurs,
elephants, tigers and deer.
At Silent Valley park, Kerala, you
can study butterflies, orchids.
Keep these in mind
Carry empty bags and bring back
your trash. Never chop trees.
Try not to use toothpaste as it has
fluoride that can kill fish in the water.
Conduct a recce beforehand or trek
with a local who knows the forest.
Plan the trek so that you end the
day at a village on the forest's edge.
Don't panic if faced by an animal;
they don't attack unless cornered.