A thought wandering in the Himalayas
Tarun Goel calls himself the Pahadi Banda. He hasn’t yet revealed why his blog is called the Loop Whole; it’s been enough for us to pester him on a daily basis hence forth.
Tarun, as we know him, is a true Bharal (Mountain Goat). He has a penchant for exploring less traversed places, on whatever mode of travel he can get hold of. I know that he has crossed some very tough mountain passes in remote Himachal on foot, most of the time chugging along with the Gaddis. And his wife is equally passionate about the mountains. His sarcastic but bitter truth posts on social media are eye-openers!
1. Why a LoOp-WhOlE? Why do you spell it with certain alphabets in caps?
Emo stuff, to be honest. Back in 2008, when I thought of this name, I tried to make it look cool. So, I ended up with certain alphabets in caps. What else to expect from a teenager who hadn’t actually seen anything but believed otherwise. Why did I name it loop-whole? I will explain some other time! That’s another story and an interesting one I believe; I am still trying to find words to explain it to the world.
2. What inspired you to become the PahadiBanda?
Well, it was by birth. Divine intervention maybe 😀 I was born in the mountains, so that made me a born pahadi. All my life, I have lived in the mountains barring a few months when I thought I’d go out and see the corporate life after my graduation. That didn’t work out well and I returned home after 9 months, out of which almost 3 were aided with medicines for fever and chronic sinusitis.
3. What’s your traveling style? What do you enjoy the most?
I don’t know if I have any style or not. I wouldn’t consider sleeping under a rock at 14000 feet any style statement. Travel light. That’s what I enjoy the most. Just to avoid carrying tent or a sleeping bag, I sometimes prefer to walk long distances even if that means covering as much as 25-30 km in a day.
4. Trekking to remote places with your wife – what advantages/disadvantages you feel?
As long as we are in the higher reaches of Himachal, there are no disadvantages. Not even in the remotest mountains. Even in the remotest corners of Chamba or Lahaul, I wouldn’t say we have come across any trouble as yet. At places like Kasol or Malana there surely are risks because of obvious reasons. Otherwise, wherever we go, people always go out of their way to help or support us.
5. Tell us more about #UnforgettableHimachal. How have you been helping promote tourism in Himachal?
Himachal is much more than what we hear on TV or read on the blogs. There are so many places waiting to be explored by curious souls all across the state.
The brouhaha over Ladakh and Spiti has thrown Lahaul off the travel map. Lahaul is much more than a stopover at Jispa. Then there is Chamba. A beautiful highland hidden from the outside world till date. I have been visiting Lahaul and Chamba since 2013 and I think it will take a decade or even more to explore these stunning locales in their entirety.
These days’ people talk of responsible tourism but rarely venture out to explore new destinations. Hundreds of people are going to the same place over and over again. If you want to be a responsible traveler, don’t visit the same place twice. Go to Chamba. Then dig deeper, try out Churah. Then go even further, see the magnificent lakes of Tissa. When you are done there, head over to Pangi Valley. Never Stop Exploring as they say. That’s what I think I want to do with regard to tourism in Himachal. I want people to visit a place once and then move forward to another destination.
6. Your views on the need of conservation of nature against the need of development for the local
The answer lies in the eyes of a school kid who has to walk 5-10 kilometers every day. Just because somebody from air conditioned corridors of Delhi wants to promote eco-tourism in the region doesn’t mean locals be deprived of basic life amenities.
7. Could you share some thoughts on responsible tourism specific to the sensitive ecosystem of the Himalayas? What are the responsibilities of a traveler?
Keep your prejudices at home and use your common sense. That’s the first and only lesson. Pandit Ji, my travel guru used to say that unless you support local economy you are not doing any responsible tourism.
Everything else should take a backseat and travelers must learn to support native villagers. If your tourism is bringing money to their homes, that’s responsible tourism in my opinion. If one is worried about the sensitive ecosystem of the Himalaya, he/she shouldn’t step out at all.
8. Can you tell us about the most interesting people you have met in the Himalayas?
Getting to know Gaddis, the transhumant tribe of Kangra-Chamba. All my life I have seen them walking with their livestock but it was only through my journeys I have known them better. You won’t find a better management guru than gaddis’. Hundreds of sheep managed by a couple of ‘illiterate natives’.
9. Who are your favorite travel bloggers in India?
10. Was an incident on the highway where you felt touched by human kindness?
It has happened on numerous occasions. Recently, during our trek to Dan Sar (a high altitude lake in Kangra), a noble man offered to carry my wife’s backpack at 14000 feet. Once we were stranded in the Pangi Valley and then BRO came to our rescue. Major Narwal and his men literally helped us to lift our motorcycle (180kg) for over 100 meters across a broken bridge. Random people often become most generous on highways.
11. How do you go about planning your road trips?
I haven’t been on the road for quite some time. Earlier when I was fond of road trips, all I needed was a clear weather. Because I was/am stationed in Himachal, it was easy for me to travel 500-600 km over a weekend. As far as trekking is concerned, all I need is a confirmed bus ticket and blessings of the Mother Nature.
12. In the travels so far, can you tell us the most unforgettable moment, and the most regrettable moment?
The most unforgettable moment was spending a night out in the open under a tarpaulin cloth after flash floods wrecked havoc while on our way to Darati Pass in Chamba. The next morning, led by gaddis’ we started our trek as if nothing had happened.
The most regrettable would be not going to Omasi La last year when I lost my beloved friend to the mountains. Whether that would have made any difference or not, I can’t say but I feel that another helping hand was needed there when they (Pandit Ji and Rijul) were stranded at 5000 meters.
13. What has travel taught you the most?
That it dispels illusions. I have met interesting people on the road, in the mountains. Sometimes mountains take away people from you and keep the best with them. It’s not a win-win game always. The mountains will always have the last word and you gotta live with that.
Where to find Tarun other than the Himalayas
- His travel blog to know him and learn more and more from his amazing travel experiences of Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh.
- His Facebook Page
- Follow him on Instagram at @pahadibanda
- Follow him on twitter at @tarugoel
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