The monsoon season has begun and after a long hiatus, I am making travel plans. After all, monsoons happen to be one of my favorite seasons for exploring Himachal and Uttarakhand. This is when the hills truly come alive and are at their wildest.
Not too long ago, I used to hate traveling during the monsoon season and used to feel bad while riding in the rain.
However, I have changed for the better. Though I don’t take rains in the mountains lightly and while I enjoy them, I treat them with the respect they deserve.
Here are my 5 tips for having an enjoyable trip to the Himalayas in the monsoon season.
Don’t skip the essentials: If you’re planning to travel during the monsoon season, it is best not to skip the essentials. Here are just a few:
- Rainproof jacket and lower, these are easier to manage than an umbrella, especially while traveling with luggage and are essential for bikers.
- Shoes with a good grip on wet surfaces, you don’t want to be slip and slide, instead of walking in the hills!
- Fully charged power bank (I recommend Mi 20000mAh), to keep your phone going, in case you get stuck en route.
- Food like chocolates, dry fruits, biscuits etc. to sustain you in case of delays.
- Portable water purifiers like Lifestraw Go, so that you can purify dirty water in case you’re stuck and clean water isn’t available.
- First Aid Kit.
- A small torch (headlamps are easiest to handle).
- Spare plastic pouches (zip lock bags work the best) to keep your electronics and clothes safe from water.
- A travel guide or a roadmap (digital or hardcopy), so that you can pick another destination or route if the need be. You can also download offline maps in Google Maps. But, please don’t depend on a data connection while traveling in hills.
Apart from these, if you have space, you can carry a couple of newspapers and a hairdryer. These will help you quickly dry your shoes and clothes.
Do your homework: If you’re planning to travel during the monsoon season, then keep a tab on news and weather reports. Although, rain is to be expected and landslides can occur anytime. There is no point heading to a particular destination if the road is already blocked or in case a severe storm is expected.
Add to that, some places are notorious for frequent landslides eg. Kinnaur, so if you can’t afford to get delayed/stuck, it is best to avoid them during monsoon and stick with comparatively safer destinations.
Keep a buffer day or two: Keeping a buffer day or two in hand, especially if you have a train or plane to catch at the end of the trip is essential while traveling during the monsoon season. Even the Manali/Shimla – Chandigarh Highway can get closed due to landslides or flood and the last thing you would want to do is miss your flight or an important meeting.
Don’t be rigid about following your plan: Spontaneity is the key to a great trip, even more so during the monsoon season. Don’t be a crybaby if you can’t make it to the destination you had in mind, instead take a diversion to somewhere you have never been to and explore that place. I have done this numerous times, irrespective of whether I was traveling on a motorcycle, in a car or using public transport! I have usually ended up having more fun and adventure by not caring about the destination and going with the flow.
Respect the nature: There is no greater force in this world than nature and those who take it lightly pay dearly for their mistake. So make sure to heed to the warning of locals and don’t underestimate the current of a river or the ability of a nallah to turn from timid to ferocious in a split second! So please don’t take unnecessary risks and err on the side of caution. Add to that, unless you’re an experienced trekker, please don’t feel you will be able to cross a large landslide as easily as the locals (even they plunge to their death from time to time.) Do it only if you’re 100% sure of your ability to cross a particular section.
Please keep your loved ones informed of your movement and also the fact that you might not be able to contact them if you’re traveling to a remote or off-beat destination due to non-reliable phone connectivity.
If your electronics eg. camera or phone get drenched, please do not try to switch them on. Remove the battery and place it in uncooked rice for a couple of days. Rice will absorb the moisture and then you can safely switch on your device, without the risk of it shorting out due to moisture.
Camera lenses can fog up if you’re moving in and out of the cold area in humid environment eg. AC room/car. Keep them in a ziplock bag and take them out after a few minutes.
At the end of the day, just go with the flow and enjoy yourself. Don’t stress about traveling to a particular place or covering a certain amount of distance each day. Hills are for laidback holidays and there is no better time for it than a monsoon.
So just chill, have tea and pakodas and enjoy the rain in the mountains…