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We tramp, hike or walk. Quite a bit. Not too technical, though we did a few multi-day trips and a few winder tramps.

But this was the first trekking experience in India. So we decided on an organised trip to make life easier and lighter. After checking the options, narrowing down the choices to a few operators, treks and dates we settled on the Brahmatal trek over the Christmas period.

One of the reasons for picking this one was as it seemed less busy than other options: fewer companies seemed to be offering this one at those dates. And from the descriptions it sounded like a good option.

After a night in Kathgodam, a day-long drive to the camp base and a 'briefing night' we were finally on the way to the hills. Although, before hitting the trail, there were a few surprises.

First, the recent snowfall meant that we could not make it to Brahmatal and will only do Bekaltal loop.

Second, because of some technical issues there was no hot water in the base camp. No big deal since we took a shower in the morning and were gearing for four days of walking.

Third, here was the group size...We went with Trek The Himalayas (TTH) and despite the information that groups are up to 15 people, there were two groups with 40 people all together. That is a lot of people if you not a group trekker.

And so were the implications: the experience at times was more like a boot camp: communal stretching and shouting, tight eating and drinking schedule but also a very diverse levels of experience

Day one started relatively late and slow. The trek to the camp was only a few kilometres of a wide and well maintained track. A few mules and some local villages gathering wood were the highlights of the trip: no views to be had as yet.

After endless number of breaks and stops, we have finally reached the campsite for the first night. The question in our heads was - what are we going to do for the rest of the day... Well, there was a 'group stretching' and a small walk around the area that yo could have before dinner. With strict instructions not to go to sleep before the dinner... We already started to feel trapped.

We were lucky that our guide was a wee bit more flexible and was OK with us to go and explore the area in the afternoon and did not make us engage in some strange communal stretching rituals.


Fortunately, there is always a chai and snack stall operated by one of the local villagers - which is a great place to spend some time out of the cold.

Those shacks seem to attract the guides so they are a good place to see what the different companies are doing, how many people in their groups or meet private guides for the future reference. This was probably the best part of each campsite and a source of many caps of chai, conversations and memories.

Then there are the camps and the food.

Food was overall great - freshly prepared and more than we are used to when it comes to trekking.

Unfortunately, the campsites were more like small cities so you can forget about peace and quiet. On the second night there must have bee some 250 people staying...

The location was also  disappointing: no views, not much to do in the vicinity.

It seems that some trekking companies had a much better camp option than our little village in the valley...

The pass, with a glimpse of Himalayas, offered a little bit more of trekking with a decent distance over the day. And, of course, finally some views. Albeit, a little of a queue at times...

One of the highlights of the walk to the pass, was the local four legged companion. What a life that fella seems to have!

Final thoughts on trekking in India?

This can be a little frustrating if you on the second or third pair of boots - so maybe need to look into the ADVANCED treks in the future and choose the operator carefully... Alternatively, go with a private guide. We met quite a few in the chai shacks.

Some of the reason for such short distances is related that the fact that for many of the folks in our 20-people group this was the first ever trekking or camping experience: some never went outdoors before. In some ways we were astounded and quite impressed that they went straight for the big one: a winter tramp with camping in -10C (the last part was first for us as well - and it was quite challenging with the mediocre tents and sleeping bags provided).

The group was fun indeed and we met some really interesting people there - some that we now are friends with and hope to have more adventures in the future.

I would not use TTH again: despite the on-ground staff being brilliant in many ways, the overall handling of the organisation is far too focused on maximising $$$ and not the experience. Maybe other, smaller operators (Himalaya Shelter seemed like a good choice. An Indian friend was recommending www.whitemagicadventure.com) can be a better choice...

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