One doesn’t need another life to chase the travel dreams. One is enough when you can scale the unknown territories on bike and jump across to say ‘Hi,’ even board without reservations to divvy up homely meals to some strangers. Know Pinark Patel, whose fascinating travel experiences are from the echoes of the Himalayas.
Tell us something about yourself:
I’m a 38-year old, an insane traveler and an entrepreneur. Really early in my life, my dad forced me into the family business to which I affirmed, but at a condition to get enough days off to travel. I’m an avid adventurer, adrenaline junkie, photographer, biker and a free soul.
I prefer to travel solo as I don’t like the demographics of a group when traveling, as too many decisions and opinions to choose from.
How many countries and Indian states have you travelled?
I am a very India centric traveler, love to explore the unexplored India, bylanes, hidden gems, love the mountains, Western Ghats and Northern Himalayas. Besides India, I did Bali and Kathmandu backpacking trips and have traveled to Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
What’s your most memorable solo traveling experience?
Everyone has a bad phase in life and we require a place of solace in our broken lives to gather the pieces again. Places in India that draw me over and over again are Haridwar and Rishikesh, the upper Himalayas that start from this place. I find my tranquillity with life here.
At one such point in life, I boarded a train without reservation and ended up in Haridwar. With limited means and limited resources, I stayed there for 2 months. These places hold a magical aura, a charm for being the religious place and hippie vibes.
As in mountains, darkness falls early so as the day. On one such evening, I was hitchhiking just outside of Dev Prayag and there were no street lights. I could hear this amazing music coming from the hills. Sound travels a lot in the hills, so the faintest of sounds can be heard for miles and miles. I followed my gut and tried to trace the music I was hearing. After walking for almost 40 mins, I failed to locate the origin of this music, then I see the tree line and these places have huge trees and a large tree line. I could see some sort of light, mostly a campfire sort of. I followed the light and ended up in the forest where I saw a campfire and about 15-18 foreigners sitting around and playing music. I could see they had tents and other camping gears. I apologized to them for barging into their time and the campsite.
But….wait….I was welcomed to my surprise.
It was about 9 in the night and these places have no restaurants or fast food chains, so I asked them if I could cook something as I was carrying some noodle packets.
But wait again…
They said I could share their food. They had bread and cheese slice for like a make do sandwich and black coffee brewing over that campfire. It was a welcome change to meet strangers in a homeland and feel welcomed and to have eaten their food and drank their coffee…. it was indeed a humble experience.
I spent the next 3 days with them and learned their way of traveling which was very much a surprise to me as we can never think of doing any such thing in our daily set of lives.
After exploring Haridwar and Rishikesh for around 2 months, I ended up traveling further to Dev Prayag and to Rudraprayag and Srinagar (not the Kashmir one), Chopta, Devoriatal, Sari Village, etc. These are places unexplored, people treat this as a layover for the Char Dham Yatra and Auli for skiing and further to Valley of Flowers and Hemkunt Sahib.
What are the most popular places to visit here?
The confluence of the 2 rivers Bhagirathi and Alaknanda is a fantastic place in itself at Dev Prayag. One can just sit there, and hear the gushing water. In Haridwar, one can see the Ganga Aarti at the Har Ki Pauri, indulge in the fantastic food options the city has to offer and in Rishikesh (the adventure capital of the country) one has to do river rafting and bungee jumping apart from Yoga and Meditation. A visit to the Ram and Lakshman Jhulas…. one can also camp at the many riverside camps and take part in the aarti at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram. Eat at the German Bakery or just sit on the many Ghats and see the day pass by, the soothing river sounds are very much a therapy for the mind and the soul.
Tell us about your fears and anxieties when traversing solo. How you keep them at bay?
I’m well traveled, but still, I’m an edgy traveler. My friends and family often tease me that I am going to be the first at the station or the airport even before the train /aircraft arrives to clean the platform or the airport. But they don’t know I love to observe people and their ways and their habits and their customs and ways also.
Music helps a lot in keeping the anxieties away. Read a lot or just catch up on lost sleep. I travel unplanned, no bookings or reservations, so there is not much anxiety, a sleeper class train or even on top of the roof of a bus for 10 hours, it will be an exciting journey in any way.
What’s your favorite travel quote?
Travel unplanned to explore and find yourself.
What’s your way of seeing a country?
On foot, walk, local transport, hitchhike, explore and be where the locals are. I am not shy and I would gladly walk up to a stranger and ask him for advice and food tips. This habit of mine has often invited me to meals at strangers home, which is a fascinating thing.
Advice for the first time solo travelers and readers
I would advise first-time travelers to not think a lot, just leave and try leaving just like that, and go explore a destination or a city unplanned. See the fun in just staying at small hidden homes, homestays or hotels, which no one has touched before or are raring to be explored.
Where are you off to next?
Leaving on 15th June for Leh, me and my bike, riding my bike from Ahmedabad to Ahmedabad, exploring destinations like Jaipur, Delhi, Manali, Sarchu, Leh, Kargil, Srinagar, Chandigarh on my own for almost a month and more… have not planned anything… just told my father that I’m away for a month. I am not taking any support vehicle. I intend to carry as much stuff that my bike can carry with it and give myself enough space to sit on it.