I prefer the hill-life.
Correction - I prefer to only VACATION in the hills because, despite all their goodness, mountain resorts have quite a few shortcomings as well! It is only thanks to my dad's passion for travel during my childhood that I've grown to love and enjoy them. What's more, I was lucky enough to find friends who elevated that same interest to another level over the years. And in 2020, finally, my wife and I undertook a two-week trip to the Himachal that eventually sealed the deal.
So what's so great about living in the mountains?
Just like any other conversation, let's start this one with a couple of awkward lines on the weather! I sweat like a pig in the slightest of humid conditions.
No, no! that does not sound right. 🙄 When have you ever seen a pig sweat? As in, which IT professional has ever come close enough to a pig to measure its sweating per inch, and compare it to other animals, let alone humans?
So the degree of comparison aside, suffice to say that I sweat profusely, and having been brought up in Mumbai only solidified my hatred for anything hot and wet.
That's not what she said. 🤣
So, it comes as no surprise that the cold mountain weather of Himachal suits me to the t.
Wait, that's the first time I've used this sentence in writing, and it feels weird to write it down!
Okay, enough tomfoolery, let's get serious. The weather in the mountains is surreal! You don't sweat much unless you REALLY push your body hard. The lower temperature and higher altitude also contribute to a healthier than usual appetite. What's more, the same climatic conditions support the cultivation of such exquisite stone fruits and berries that even the most hardened meat eaters can change their diet, theoretically speaking, of course!
Also, for lazy slobs such as myself, staying fit in the mountains is easy! Walking around to get the daily stuff done is enough exercise in the hills. For instance, a simple walk from our hostel in Mcleodganj to the market square was a steep 2.5km descent and a seemingly infinite slope on the way back. Add the day's groceries to this trip, and you are almost on the way to compete with Rocky Balboa, while 'Hearts On Fire' plays in the background. 🤣
But therein lies one of the worst issues with mountain living - even the most insignificant activity seems like a gargantuan effort. Due to limited accessibility and infrastructure in the mountains, simple tasks such as getting groceries or stepping out for a coffee or visiting a nearby theatre turn into half-day expeditions. Believe it or not, the closest movie theatre for folks in Mcleodganj is in Dharamshala. 😅 To put that in perspective, the distance is only a few kilometres, but navigating the hilly roads down to Dharamshala is nothing short of a road trip. Now, would you do that every day? Probably not.
But on the flip side of limited accessibility is also the fact that hill stations continue to be relatively underdeveloped compared to the coastal regions. Obviously, major cities such as Shimla and Manali have developed beyond recognition over the last decade or so. But even then, the majority of mountain resorts continue to be quaint little towns with a laid back lifestyle that provides an ideal getaway from the everyday hustle and bustle.
So, as long as you want to relax in the presence of nature and spend some quality time chatting with yourself and your fellow travellers, mountains provide the perfect setup. But if you want to go bar hopping, partying and dancing around town, stick to the plains and the cities. Accessibility aside, the last thing you need is for someone to moonwalk off the edge of a mountain in a semi-drunk state in the wee hours of the morning!
And one obvious corollary to the lack of party places in the mountains is nightlife. The days are shorter, and hence your experience in the mountains is short and condensed. You cannot have elaborately planned days with tight-packed itineraries. When travelling through the mountains, you need to take each day on its merit and make most of the limited sunlight that graces the slopes.
And while this could be the most frustrating part for most travellers, I absolutely love it. Having been an early riser for most of my life, I appreciate the opportunity to get back in sync with the circadian rhythm and explore bodily efficiencies that we've lost long ago in the cities.
It is with great effort that I've refrained from commenting further on the bodily efficiencies mentioned above. No shit! 🤣
But then, why do I prefer the hills despite the plenty of cons that are apparent from this post? Simple. Most Indians are not used to harsh cold weather. Many of them will choose creature comforts over solitude and peace, and I am not referring to Manali, of course! So for a person like me, who'd rather write a blog than talk to ten people around, isn't this the perfect idea of a vacation?
And the fact that my wife fell in love with Himachal last year tells me that this preference is here to stay and only bound to grow over time.