A thousand miles away you can hear it, from the depths of Kerala, vibrates a passion for the mountains and trekking in South West India. It is that of a Flockeo Partner in love with his region but especially with its preservation: BB Voyage.
We went to meet Véronique, its founder. She agreed to tell us some secrets about the mountains of India.
Nowadays, many people imagine themselves trekking deep into the Himalayas in search of themselves. But there are other mountains and routes off the beaten track. So, are you ready for an adventure ?
(Veronique and her husband, Raghu, while trekking in Kerala, ©BBVoyage)
First of all, BB Voyage is the meeting of a passion for tourism and India. It was in 2002 that Véronique and her husband Raghu founded BB Voyage. They wanted to give a responsible sense to tourism in India.
“we were already doing sustainable tourism without knowing it”Veronique, BB Voyage
Their project: to discover regions that are still unknown while sharing Indian culture. Therefore, they settled in Gurgaon in the suburbs of Delhi. However, the Covid event allowed them to take the plunge and settle in the state of Kerala. More precisely, they are located in the Wayanad district.
It is located in the Western Ghats, in the middle mountain range, and more precisely in Sahyadrī.
Have you ever dreamt of waking up above the clouds? This poetic state is indeed dotted with timeless landscapes. Indeed, this is thanks to its mountains, some of which are almost 2700 m high. So, come and bask in the sun’s rays on the green mountains!
(End of the day in Kerala, Wayanad)
It is therefore not surprising that it is in these mountains that Véronique’s passion for trekking was born. She regularly practices it within the framework of associations and as a personal challenge.
She is involved with Globetrekkers India. This is a non-profit association that seeks to preserve nature through trekking.
This sport allows one to be immersed in the beauty of the landscape crossed during the physical effort. This practice is, for Veronique, a sweet mix between physical effort and meditation during the whole ascent.
“the important thing in the mountains is not the summit, it’s the climb”.Veronique, BB Voyage
Everyone approaches the mountains, and the climb, differently. Whether you are a foreigner in search of spirituality or an ambitious young Indian looking to conquer the highest mountains, there is a trek for you. Here are some of the types of treks you could do.
The trek is a walking tour in the mountains. It can be done over several days. The attraction for it, in India, is not new. The Himalayas have attracted many foreigners for many years. The idea of climbing the roof of the world has always been a dream for many of us. With this mountain, you climb the world, you get closer to the stars.
People who venture to the Himalayas are often thrill-seeking tourists. There they are confronted with an arid environment, a mineral desert of sorts. It is also the only mountain range in India that enjoys eternal snow on its peaks.
Finally, the Himalayas also attract Buddhist enthusiasts. The mountain range is dotted with Buddhist temples and refuges. The region of Ladakh welcomes many tourists to its mountain temples. There are guides to get you there and visit the area.
(Landscape in Ladakh, India, ©canva)
(Trek in Ladakh, BB Voyage, India, ©BBVoyage)
Few people know this, but there are many middle mountain ranges in India. And these mountains tackle many varied landscapes and environments. There is often a unique and wild biodiversity. They are located on the south-east coast, on the south-west coast and inland.
BB Voyage has settled in one of these mountain ranges: the Western Ghats.
There the trek is a completely different adventure. It takes place in green mountains and forests. Biodiversity thrives more easily there, benefiting from a milder climate.
(Trekkers in Western Ghats, Kerala, India)
The trekkers of Kerala are different from those of the Himalayas. Of course there are locals, both professionals and enthusiasts.
Local trekkers still represent a minority in India. However, this trend seems to be reversing since the end of the Covid-19 confinements. Many young people now want to get out and about and climb these mountains, away from the cities.
Kerala is a reserve of tribal territories and diverse tribal cultures. Being accompanied by a guide is necessary and mandatory to venture into these parks and mountains. The Kerala government regulates tourism in its region to limit its impact on these local people.
If you are planning a trip to Kerala, the government is creating a label for sustainable guesthouses. With this label, you can identify responsible hosts in the heart of undiscovered regions.
The mountains in India have always been refuges for the fauna, flora and local populations. Véronique even confides that she moved to “Waynad to live above the clouds“. She thus got away from the pollution and tumult of the big cities.
There are many mythological stories and accounts of mountains in India. The mountain is a symbol of spiritual elevation, of coming closer to the divine. Among the sacred mountains, we can notably mention the Ghang Rimpoche (6715m), located in Tibet, also called Kailasa. It is said to be the abode of the gods Shiva and Kouvéra.
The region of Ladakh, in the Himalayas, is also a very sacred place for Buddhists, and in which there are many temples.
Finally, and particularly in Kerala, and in the southwest of India, the mountains are culturally important. First of all, this region is the source of 3 rivers, the Periyar, the Chaliyar and the Bharathapuzha. In addition, there are two rivers, the Chalakudy and the Pamba.
(Periyar River, Kerala, India, ©canva)
All these rivers flow all along the Western Ghats and irrigate the whole region of Kerala. They bring in the harvest from June to September for the entire southwestern region of India. It is thanks to these mountains that Kerala enjoys a unique biodiversity. There is a lively fauna and a verdant flora!
Finally, these mountains have sheltered, from civilisation and wars, a significant number of Indian tribes. They have managed, until very recently, to remain protected.
The will to preserve these cultures is also shared by the government which protects the tribes’ territories.
Visit the former British climate stations!
They are home to an important part of India’s colonial history. Indeed, when the hot weather came to the capital, the entire British government would take refuge in the mountains. They still have a cooler climate and lighter air.
Trekking as a leisure activity is a legacy of traditional Western culture. It was one of the activities of the settlers. This also explains why it took time for the Indians to reclaim this activity.
What Véronique and many other trekkers enjoy is the journey from the idea of the journey to the descent. The walk is a meditation in itself that never ceases to surprise us.
It is a very intense practice that cannot be done without training. This should be done over several months or even a year to prepare the body. To get off to a good start, we recommend the following preparations: good planning of routes, roles, supervision and logistics.
(Trekking equipment, ©BBVoyage)
In order, first find a place that interests you, a trail or a mountain. Then you need to be well accompanied and supervised by trekking professionals in India.
Finally, it is a whole logistical and mental preparation that comes into play. It starts with the preparation of the food, its packaging and its loading on your back or on a mount. Once you reach a certain altitude, you will also need to monitor your body and check your vitals. Hence the need to have the right equipment.
We recommend poles, a hat, good walking shoes, a water bottle and a good backpack.
In short, and Veronique sums it up very well, to succeed in a trek in India, you need :
“You have to be humble, listen to your body, the professionals and the locals and above all physically you have to be at your best”Veronique, BB Voyage
It is after this preparation that the physical effort and the constant amazement in unique landscapes comes in. Then, it is this reflection, this quasi permanent meditation, during the whole journey and until the summit that takes over.
(Raghu and Veronique trekking, Kerala, ©BB Voyage)
And there, on a clear day if you are lucky, the incredible scenery of the Western Ghats is on display. If not, you will have your head in the clouds, see better, just above!
This meditation is at every step a transcendence to learn a little more about yourself.
If you are a trekking enthusiast, or wish to become one, avoid the Grail of Everest or the Himalayas. The massive influx of tourists is a real threat to this mountain range. The paths are eroded and clogged with people, and rubbish just keeps piling up.
“As soon as a mountain is fantasised about, it’s too much waste. people pay for the right to pollute”Veronique, BB Voyage
Véronique deplores being a spectator of the disasters caused by this tourist fever for the assault on the world’s greatest summits. Indeed, many trekkers abandon their waste as they climb the Himalayas.
In Nepal, the popularity of Everest has resulted in a number of highways for climbers and trekkers. This causes significant damage such as pollution of water flowing from the mountain. This also includes the erosion of trails and the disappearance of the little biodiversity in this rocky desert.
Instead, choose areas and mountains off the beaten track (but don’t go off the beaten track on the trek!). You’ll often discover wonderful local people and cultures. Stop there for a dal bhat, or stay in a responsible guesthouse.
During your trek in India, you will find an incredible green biodiversity. The tiger, elephant, Nilgiri Tahr and white panther are all present in these mountains.
(Nilgiri Tahr, India, ©canva)
(White panther, India, ©canva)
To discover these wild animals, you must once again be accompanied by a guide. This is necessary for the safety of the expedition but also for the preservation of the biodiversity!
This biodiversity has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2012. Indeed, it is home to up to 325 species, globally threatened, of flora, fauna, birds, amphibians and reptiles.
It is this unique experience that Véronique and her husband invite you to build in India. Through the trek but also the local populations, you will be at the heart of an unforgettable journey.
Would you be more inclined to trek in the footsteps of white panthers or to trek through the dense forests and parks of Kerala?