An avid traveler, reader and culture enthusiast, Harsimran Kaur has a special love for the high Himalayas of northern India especially Ladakh and Kashmir. Harsimran has also worked as a guide and program leader with an experiential education organization with summer outdoor programs for youths and teens in India.

Harsimran is Vice President, Sales and Marketing for and I appreciate her taking the time to share glimpse of her outdoor experiences in India.

How and where were you introduced to the outdoors?

I belong to an Indian Army household and as a result was introduced to the outdoors at an early age, through camps that were organised by the Army for the officers’ children. I distinctly remember how, even though I was very young, about 8, I loved being on my own, sometimes with much older kids and enjoyed every bit of the activities we were put through, from very long treks to pretty tough rock climbing for an 8 year old.

What has been your favourite outdoor recreations area?

Does travelling to new, remote areas on my own and interacting with the local population to get to know more of them and their culture fit the bill? Because that’s what I absolutely love doing. And because India is so huge and diverse with so many surprises to offer, it’s been my aim for a while to travel through every centimetre of it before I head out anywhere else.
Please share an outdoor story related to one of the above areas. In the summer of 2007, I was doing the job of a voluntary teacher in a small village called Kahalatse in Ladakh. There were 2 American girls who also worked in the same school. One fine day, they decided they wanted to go from our village to Srinagar, a distance of about 400 km, by the local Jammu & Kashmir Road Transport Corporation bus. They asked me if I wanted to accompany them and I not only refused but also advised them strongly against undertaking this trip because even though the distance is not too much, the road or the lack of it at many places, passes over some of the highest passes in the world and a JKSRTC bus, a rickety contraption at best, would be a near suicidal mode of transport on those roads. I also offered to arrange a 4 X 4 taxi for them and they agreed to the offer but while I was in one of the only 2 phone booths in the village, not having much luck with the phone lines, the bus rolled along and they not only jumped on it but managed to convince me to hop on too.

The bus stopped for a minute at our school and I scrambled inside and put together a few things to take along and we were off ! It deserves mention that we were the only 3  passengers in the bus, right till the time the bus reached this place called Sonmarg and the driver told us he wouldn’t go further and left us to fend for ourselves.

We started at about 4 in the evening and at 2 in the morning reached Drass, the second coldest inhabited place on earth, where the driver told us to get our sleeping bags out for we were going to halt for a few hours in the night. We stared blankly at him because we had no clue the bus was going to stop anywhere and he grumbled and gave us one of his flea infested blankets which the 3 of us used together without a complaint. 20 hours (for a 9 hour journey), a puncture, a deserting by the driver at Sonmarg and a very cold night later, we arrived in Srinagar, tired but exhilarated beyond words by the sights we got to see along the way – herds of wild horses, exotic flowers growing in the wild, beautiful monasteries perched atop very high mountains, majestic snow capped peaks, mountains in hues of orange, green and purple, not to mention the fearful thrill of being in a bus that’s trying to manoeuvre past a truck and almost going over the edge of a very high mountain road in the process.
What is your favourite outdoor website?