Travel In Smaller Groups
Hikers! I’ve traveled in a small group, I've traveled in a medium group, I've traveled in a large group AND I’ve traveled with what practically felt like a yatra! It was on the magical trail of Roopkund, that I traveled with a group of a whopping forty-four trekkers (despite the group limit being 30) with another travel company based in Pune. The group was large enough to have people from varied age brackets.
EXCEPT for MINE!
Man if it wasn't for the visual blessings of the Trishul ranges and the tranquil bugyals of Uttarakhand, I’d succumb to my worse judgment of the whole trip.
While there’s no other bliss like the bliss of traveling solo, if you must, travel with a smaller group.
1. Age barriers:
Traveling with people of different eras is amazing. The best, if I must say. Large groups call for large gaps in age brackets. Be it the delusional and outgrown teen-adults, too old but too young 20-year-olds like me, middle-aged individuals with outrunning powers or the elderly smashing the hindrance of a weak knee. If there are more than 3 people of the same age group, many micro groups are created and the trek turns into a social event for the intergroup exchange of formal small talk. That's always boring.
2. Speeds don't match:
As I mentioned, various age groups result in various internal groups. These groups like to keep up with each other while walking.
They like to walk at their own speed
We waited hours for Teen adults to keep up, busy exploiting their time sans parents. We had to wait for half an hour for them to catch up with us. Halting for so long too often could bring down your speed drastically as you let your body to cool. It would turn into quite a frustrating affair. If you're a passionate trekker, you know why that's a problem.
3. Unnecessary Delay
If you’re traveling in a big group only a smart leader will give you a reporting time one hour earlier than the actual time. I was once accompanied by a careless leader on one of my favorite treks. I can safely say that he was oblivious to the concept of buffer time. As a result of which, we left late, we reached late and that's never good for reasons I’ll rant about in another article.
4. An array of Tantrums
Look I’m not saying traveling in big groups is the worst thing but the myriad variety of tantrums are frustrating and rather unique. A boy with us once ruined bonfire night on a trek, only because his inflatable pillow assumed a hole in it and he couldn't use it. In the same group the next day, a certain aunty was afraid to cross a wide stream of water. It’s ok to be afraid but if you choose to go on a trekking adventure, the least you can do is trust the expert guidance employed to you. i.e. the locals. As a result, we were an hour late to depart from the campsite and lost a good spot to camp.
5. Fights and Disputes
In an accompanying trekking group, a 45-year-old lady fought with 18-year-old boys over the fact that they were making fun of her health-watch. Enough said.
6. Forget Solitude
Roopkund was a highly commercial trek resulting in its closure last year. To that I’ll say, I wasn’t surprised. When I was crawling my way through the last snow laden stretch directly to the lake, a 14-year old memory from a pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi came back to me, refreshed. There’s no way you can get a scenic shot of an iconic view. Simply because two hundred other people are trying to take it with you. Some are even keen on wanting to do a legit photoshoot.
If you’re in a smaller group, well-known spots on popular treks can be reached early on time to avoid the mob and enjoy your solitude, at least for a while.
(Apart from the fleeting sight of cute guys, the frustrating part about crowds so large is that you never see those cuties again.)
Clearly, I've had a bad experience with traveling in large groups but I only decided to word it out when I realized how easy it was to travel in a smaller group. This was just after, I did the Chadar Trek with Bikat Adventures in a group of twelve. There was such harmony, such energy and most importantly, I remember everybody’s names. At first, I was hesitant to put in an extra two thousand rupees as compared to other trekking groups. After hearing good reviews and learning from my Roopkund experience I did it anyway. Now, I can safely vouch for the experience to be worth nothing less than priceless.
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