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Jalori pass snow trek with Himalayan Ecotourism

Beating the hike-o-phobia

Trekkers with special needs enjoying the wilderness of Tirthan Valley

Beating the hike-o-phobia

By Somdatta Chatterjee, alias Babee 🙂

Being born with a condition that leaves me with difficulties in depth perception and fine motor control, bullying was something I had to face everyday during my growing up years and since we live in a world that believes in normalising oppression, it took me a lot of time to realise that what I was being put through was infact not acceptable! Back then, PT classes looked like nightmares, and Annual Sports days were synonymous to Trauma.

Having lived through such days, I had formed an opinion over the years, that anything remotely related to hiking/trekking/camping wasn’t my cup of tea and that I just wasn’t cut out for such stuff, and never in my wildest dreams did I imagine going for one! Therefore when my Dad pitched his idea of taking me for a trek to the Himalayas, I wasn’t excited at all! In fact, I remember vehemently opposing it!

What followed in the next few months were, a lot of dilemma and frequent bouts of self doubt on my part and multiple reassurances from my Dad (who introduced me to a Blog where I first read about the Tirthan Eagle Nest Homestay and its owners, Stephan and Hema), some rigorous self-counselling, and my father exchanging a few hundreds of emails with Stephan, to share his concerns about me, and Stephan consistently promising to take care of everything!

Upon our arrival, our beautiful hosts greeted us with the most cheerful smiles and warmest hospitality and kept telling me not to worry as much and that the trek route would be chosen keeping my comfort in mind..

It was a 3 km topsy-turvy trek, which though I must admit wasn’t anything close to cake-walk for me. The hike and camping were arranged by Himalayan Ecotourism, a joint venture between Stephan and 65 local trekking professionals organized in a cooperative society.

Stephan decided to personally accompany us that day inspite of having other commitments. The entire team, led by Keshav, was extremely caring and sensitive to my needs all along. Even though I found myself in a couple tight spots, with my feet occasionally losing grip or me gasping for breath after a tough climb, they tried their best to make it easier, occasionally cracking jokes to make me feel better..:) They were very attentive to me, and kept checking if I wanted to stop for water or some rest.

It wasn’t easy, but frankly, I was exhausted and elated at the same time on reaching the summit point at Sarchi Meadow where we were to camp for the night. It’s one of my biggest personal victories till date where I was able to get the better of my condition, and that I can now look back at with pride. I had done it, afterall! Thank you Stephan, ’cause none of this would have been possible without you and your wonderful local friends!

Again, all said and done, I still feel that meeting Janisha and little Aniq was the best part of my visit and it is with them that I’ve made my fondest memories.. and I just can’t keep myself from sharing a few.. Read on!

I found my soul-sister in the mountains!
Meeting Janisha, the daughter of Stephan, is one thing that I’ll always be grateful to life for..

Frankly speaking I’ve never seen a more perceptive, empathetic and mature 7 year old!

Ever-so- keen to help and ensure that her guests are comfortable to the best of her ability (and sometimes going to even greater lengths), I can vouch for the fact that she’s the sweetest being you’d ever come across!

Right from helping me climb stairs at her home, to accompanying me on the rocky hill sides of Tirthan valley, she was there with me through it all, silently trying her best to make things easier. She even made a garland for me out of some flowers she had picked from the riverside! 🙂 She wanted to dress me like a princess!

Our trekker enjoying by the riverside in Tirthan valley
Our trekker enjoying by the riverside in Tirthan valley

I fall short of words to explain how loved I felt in the company of this beautiful little girl :’)

I was humbled by her ability to connect with Nature at such an intimate level and seek comfort in its solitude, from such a young age.

The day after we arrived, we went for a walk late afternoon around the mesmerisingly beautiful bungalow and there came a ditch on the road which we needed to cross to get back on even terrain..I remember taking unsure hesitant steps and what this sweetheart did next almost moved me to tears :

Without a word she rushes to the garage, comes back with a couple of wooden planks, and not only places them perfectly over the ditch but also walks over it herself, to make sure it’s firm enough for me to cross over! :””)

I still have no idea what I have ever done in life to deserve such a pure form of affection.

The day we were leaving, I suddenly notice her gaze fixed on me, at the breakfast table..I smile..and she shyly whispers to me, “You are so beautiful” 🙂

Trust me, that was the cutest thing I heard, and undoubtedly the most genuine compliment I’ve EVER received!

Thank you Janisha, for redefining Love for me.. You’re a soul perhaps too precious for the world !

You’re already doing great, baby girl! Keep Rocking 🙂


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