Trekking in the Indian Himalayas

Deep in the heart of the Himalayas, in remote valleys isolated from the outside world by snow for nine months of the year, the ancient kingdom of Zanskar seems light years away from the modern world and its inhabitants.
“Where Heaven and Mountains Meet” Oliver Follmi This quote sums up the untouched beauty of the ancient Buddhist kingdom of Zanskar found in the western reaches of the great Himalayas in India. I recently stumbled across a piece I wrote after having the pleasure of traversing this exotic land of ancient kingdoms, high mountain passes and unforgettable landscapes in 2003. And I am looking forward to sharing snippets of the article with you, it makes me want to go back to explore this region further. For most people, trekking means Nepal, however there is another region just as spectacular and wondrous as Nepal, and that is the often forgotten Indian Himalayas. I was lucky enough to visit and explore this magical region, and I have never returned from a holiday so humbled, amazed and revitalised. I have been to many parts of the world and this venture was by far the most memorable of my experiences. The area I am referring to is Zanskar and Ladahk, nestled near the Tibetan Plateau. This Himalayan traverse was not a holiday - it was an adventure! An adventure that will live in my memory forever. The town of Manali is your first introduction to remote villages and high altitude, and is just a taste of what is to come. Acclimatization is made easier by an introductory four-day trek into the Hampta Valley. The entire valley is a riotous green, with conifers covering the mountainsides. It is so green and lush that it begins to feel like hiking in Switzerland! The journey then takes you to Darcha where the true trek begins, over the Shingo La (5000m) and into the wide Kargyak valley. This is the first taste of the remote Himalaya and its people. The strange scope of the mountains and their kaleidoscopic colours make the effort of getting to the top rewarding. The extreme weather conditions have carved caves, spires and peaks, which inspire thoughts of the Grand Canyon. As you trek further northward, the area becomes virtually treeless and gives a feeling of great space and majesty. Trekking in altitude is hard going and you sometimes wonder what possessed you to climb the Himalayas! However, the exhilaration you feel once you traverse the high passes is indescribable and more than worth the effort. One of the most rewarding parts of this trek is interaction with the locals. The generosity of the Ladakhi people is truly amazing they have so little, but are willing to give so much. One of my most precious memories is the encounter we had with a Buddhist monk. After a very long and arduous day we were welcomed into the monk’s home to share a cup of tea with this wonderful and sharing man. Cramped together in his little room, I began to appreciate the simplicities of life, not only were we showered with cups of tea he also brought out a stash of sweet biscuits. It was a true honour to have been able to spend time with such a generous human being.  It was a revelation for me to see the austere life led by the monks and young boys in the monasteries, perched precariously on top of rock formations and on cliff faces. A particular highlight of my trek was the Prinkiti La, although not the most beautiful pass, it is the last pass, and awarded the opportunity to look back over the country traversed and feel proud of your achievements, and for coming so far. I could revel in the panorama and was in no hurry to leave, after all what good is life if you have no time to stand still and appreciate the view? The flight back across the Himalayas is a reminder of what you have achieved, an easy, comfortable hour flight compared with the twenty-three days of arduous trekking. One of the great things about the Indian Himalayas is that the trekking season is the opposite to Nepal’s, so if you are unable to take holidays in the months from October through to May, don’t worry, the next four months from June to September are perfect for trekking the Indian Himalayas. Crossing the Indian Himalayas from south to north may appear to be a daunting challenge but the enormous sense of achievement felt at the very last pass is worth every moment. These are my memories from my very first trekking experience in the Indian Himalaya’s, taken from a short piece I wrote about the area and the unforgettable experience, I think this will be going back on my bucket list of treks. Give Personal Travel Management  a call or drop us a note to enjoy
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Destination and Adventure Marathons so many choices……….

The world is full of interesting and exotic places to undertake your first marathon. It was about a year ago that I decided I wanted to run my inaugural destination marathon, but I just didn’t want to run any marathon, I wanted my first to be special! I had a great time on the internet trying to find the most unique run, from running a monster race in Loch Ness, undertaking the festival atmosphere and wine tasting of the Medoc Marathon in Bordeaux, enjoying reggae tunes in Jamaica or running through Disneyland. So many options and exciting travel destinations to choose from and these are only a few which were uncovered. During my search I found a myriad of lists claiming what the top ten or twenty best marathons worldwide were. But at the end of the day it is a personal decision and if you ask a variety of different runners the world over, I am sure they will all have their own favourite marathon, it may be the Gold Coast Marathon because they ran it with their best friend or the Prague Marathon because that is where their partner proposed to them on the Charles Bridge after the race! However, during my research (and there has been a lot of it) the general consensus seems to be the following ten races are among the running world’s favourite: 1. London Marathon, April 2. Berlin Marathon, September 3. New York City Marathon, November 4. Chicago Marathon, October 5. Boston Marathon, April 6. Stockholm Marathon, June 7. Rotterdam Marathon, April 8. Paris Marathon, April 9. Honolulu Marathon, December 10. Amsterdam Marathon, October But for me the allure of something a little different and unique encouraged me to delve deeper into the quest to find a destination marathon with an intriguing twist. These types of races are commonly referred to as adventure marathons. Adventure marathons provide the opportunity to run through game parks surrounded by exotic game or racing around Rarotonga in the South Pacific, running the Great Wall in China or taking on the coolest marathon on earth, which is indeed the Polar Circle Marathon. But if you want to take adventure marathons to the extreme there is the marathon which is considered the highest altitude marathon in the world. The Everest Marathon which thankfully heads downwards from Everest base camp to Namche Bazaar, but still that is a lot of acclimatisation to take on, hence the mandatory three weeks in Nepal prior to the start of the marathon. But if you simply find the concept of marathon running boring and you want to test your whole body there is the opportunity to partake in possibly the toughest half-marathon running experience on the planet a Tough Mudder event. Tough Mudder events are hard-core 20 km obstacle course designed by the British Special Forces, which take place across the globe! We could venture further in to the realms of destination running possibilities with the inclusion of Ultra marathons, but we won’t venture down that path just yet! As you can see it is a jungle out there, when it comes to choosing your first destination marathon or even your 100th.But the best part, once you have confirmed and registered for your goal race there is no better motivation to stay fit and healthy to guarantee you reach your running goal and to ensure you maximise your travel experience. Give Personal Travel Management  a call or drop us a note to enjoy
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Weird and Wonderful Border Crossings

I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to cross numerous borders during my travels. Many of them by bike. Most of the time they were a little intimidating, slow going and between some countries slightly corrupt! But during my expedition across the Silk Route with Tour d’Afrique in 2007 we had a wow of a time crossing the border from Georgia to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan being the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia, bordered by Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Iran and the Caspian Sea and is a country full of diversity and history. As some of you might already know, long distance cycling is rewarding, but at times a tough way to traverse a continent. Usually the thought of crossing yet another border can be daunting as it can be time consuming with several hours of waiting being the norm for some crossings. I feared a similar scenario crossing into Azerbaijan from Georgia instead I received a pleasant surprise upon arriving at the border: music, dancing, food, flowers, tea, speeches and general craziness all before 9.30am. Our Tour d’Afrique cycle group was officially being welcomed into Azerbaijan by the Azerbaijan Ministry of Tourism and we enjoyed this friendly hospitality throughout our entire stay in this fascinating and generous country. Of course all the riders joined in on the border festivities, partaking in the traditional dances, cheering at the right moments during the welcoming speeches and generally making the most out of this unique and probably once in a lifetime border crossing experience. The border guards soon gave up on the mandatory no photo policy as all the cyclists snapped away happily. However, our day or should I say week of stardom was only just the beginning with police escorts, ambulances, the Azerbaijan cycling team and their support trucks. Everywhere we rode people were waving and children lined the streets eagerly requesting high fives. Most of our journey through Azerbaijan was filmed by the Ministry of Tourism and we were greeted with welcoming ceremonies in different towns as we traversed this friendly country. To top off our first unique day of events we were welcomed to our accommodation, a 450 year old Caravanserai, complete with underground stables which served as a trading outlet for the Silk Route. Our abode for the evening was immersed in history and the final steep climb to this incredibly beautiful place was soon forgotten as you stepped inside and admired the fascinating history that surrounded you. That night the cyclists feasted and enjoyed a fabulous outdoor dinner once again hosted by the Azerbaijan Ministry of Tourism. The following day we were back on our bikes with the film crew following our cycle adventure and the locals once again lining the roads clapping, providing us with encouragement and with a few invitations to join them for some local tea. Azerbaijan is indeed cycling heaven and what travelling by bike is all about. As Mark Twain once said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover” Give Personal Travel Management  a call or drop us a note to enjoy
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You will never regret it and you too may enjoy a special and unique border crossing like we did.

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