Why I Fell In Love with The Indian Himalaya

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We sat down with trekking legend and Lonely Planet author, Garry Weare to delve into his life-long passion for the Indian Himalaya.

Garry has been involved with World Expeditions since its beginnings in the mid 1970’s and is a recognised authority on the Indian Himalaya. His intimate knowledge of the region is documented in his Lonely Planet guidebook ‘Trekking in the Indian Himalaya’ and his acclaimed narrative ‘A Long Walk in The Himalaya’ – an intriguing account of his five-month trek from the source of the Ganges to Kashmir. Garry is also founding director of the Australian Himalayan Foundation, which has allowed him to give back to this region of the world so close to his heart.

Continue reading to discover Garry’s infectious and enduring enthusiasm for the high mountains – particularly discovering the less-trodden paths as he brings a life-time of knowledge, expertise and understanding to trekking in the Himalaya. His passion will leave you reaching for your passport!

Garry Weare Nanda Devi

You have been trekking in the Indian Himalaya since 1970 after you went to Kashmir to teach. What first drew you to the Indian Himalaya and what is it that you love most about it that keeps bringing you back?

I originally headed to India to pursue a career as a third rate academic but decided instead to go trekking in Kashmir. After that I spent five months trekking in Nepal. It was a profound experience that evolved into lifetimes’ career and passion for the Himalaya. I am forever grateful that I discovered the Himalaya and embarked on a fulfilling vocation early in my working life.

Nanda Devi sunset. Photo by Garry Weare.

Nanda Devi sunset. Photo by Garry Weare.

You must have seen great changes in the Himalaya since you first started going there in the 1970s. What do you think has changed the most? How is it different?

The extension of roads in the Himalaya has changed the culture of remote Himalayan communities. Indeed devising new treks that avoided roads was an ongoing challenge when updating my Lonely Planet guide. It reflects the adage that while trekkers want to visit remote villages, remote villagers want access to roads. Within a generation trekking in the Himalaya will more or less be restricted to National Parks.

You have walked over 25,000 kilometres on your trekking adventures; what is it that you enjoy so much about walking?

The more you return to the Himalaya you more you realise how much there is still to discover. Every time I pore over a map I appreciate the remote valleys and seldom crossed passes that are still ripe for exploration.

The Himalaya can be a life-changing destination for those who are lucky enough to experience its sheer beauty. What is it about the Himalaya that make it so life-changing?

Inspiration in the Himalaya can come from the most humble of origins. My work with the Australian Himalayan Foundation has provided me with the opportunity to ‘put something back’ in the regions that I love and regularly return to.

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You are leading a group of travellers on a trek in Nanda Devi in May 2017. Why is this a good time to trek in this region compared to other times of the year?

The Nanda Devi region is subject to the Indian monsoon. Both May and September are therefore ideal for gaining unsurpassed mountain views. In May the climate is just about ideal, the long daylight hours, the rhododendrons still in bloom and the passage of the shepherds as they tend their flocks to the summer pastures make it highly attractive.

Trekkers in a village. Photo by Garry Weare

Trekkers in a village. Photo by Garry Weare

The Nanda Devi region has been likened to the Annapurna region of Nepal, following trails through luxuriant forest of bamboo, conifer and oak and many traditional Hindu villages but without the crowds. What are your favourite aspects of the Nanda Devi walk?

Over the last 20 years I have returned regularly to the Nanda Devi region. It offers a very special combination of superb mountain views, isolated village communities along with the opportunity to follow trails leading through magnificent forests and across alpine meadows. It is indeed similar to the Annapurna region of Nepal, but without the crowds.

Trekkers in the Nanda Devi region of the Indian Himalaya. Photo by Garry Weare

Trekkers in the Nanda Devi region of the Indian Himalaya. Photo by Garry Weare

On your Nanda Devi Alpine trek you visit isolated Hindu settlements visited by only a hand full of trekkers each year. What kind of cultural interactions can people expect walking along the trail?

Like villagers in most remote corners of the Himalaya the people in the Nanda Devi region are forever curious as to why we have travelled half way around the world to meet them. For them the sight of foreigners trekking for pleasure supported by an entourage of helpers and mule attendant’s contrasts with their lifestyle where they rarely travel beyond the confines of their immediate environment. Trekking through the villages provides an opportunity to revisit our values. While I am not suggesting that a trek in the Himalaya is life changing, the experience will undoubtedly remain for many years after returning home.

The traditions of the two-day festival at Hemis, Ladakh.

The traditions of the two-day festival at Hemis, Ladakh.

You are a recognised mountain photographer, what are the best tips you can give people to take stunning shots in the Himalaya?        

Leave your camera in your rucksack and compose images in your minds’ eye before taking a shot. Similarly, in villages establish a rapport with the people before taking out your camera. The results will be infinitely more rewarding.

What is the best advice you can give someone who is preparing for their first trek into the Himalaya?

Get fit, but bear in mind that a trek is not a marathon event. A sound and positive frame of mind is equally important to get over the high passes.

Spectacular views from the Ganda La Pass on our Markha Valley Trek. Photo by Bruce Gray

Spectacular views from the Ganda La Pass on our Markha Valley Trek. Photo by Bruce Gray

Lastly – you must have met some incredible people while guiding your trips and through your work with Lonely Planet and the Australian Himalaya Foundation. Yet – who is it that inspired you most and why?

It’s been an honour and privilege to meet so many ‘Himalayan hands’. Not just world-class mountaineers but experts like Dr Rodney Jackson from the Snow Leopard Conservancy in California as well as lifelong friends in India and Nepal. In particular, I regularly drive to the Kangaroo Valley to catch up with Warwick Deacock, the still very active ‘grandfather’ of adventure travel. I only hope that I am still as active as he is when I turn 91.

Nanda Devi India Himalaya Garwhal. Photo by Garry Weare

Nanda Devi India Himalaya Garwhal. Photo by Garry Weare

Nanda Devi Alpine Trek with Garry Weare – May 2017

Join Garry on this outstanding trek in May 2017 that includes unsurpassed mountain views with panoramas that extend to the Tibetan Plateau and to the soaring peaks that encircle the Nanda Devi Sanctuary rising to Nanda Devi (7816m) – the highest mountain in India. This is one of the many highlights on this exceptional trek that follows trails through luxuriant forest of bamboo, conifer and oak and many traditional Hindu villages. At higher elevations the meadows are carpeted with wildflowers set beneath a backdrop of sacred peaks. Combine this with no shortage of magnificent campsites, an incomparable trekking service and opportunities to wander the high ridges and you have the essence of this fulfilling trek. Find out more

Garry is delighted to share his experiences on recent treks to Nanda Devi. Please contact your local World Expeditions office if you would like to have a one-on-one chat with Garry. 

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