Wallow in the wilderness to reconnect with not just nature, but yourself.
By Ameesha Raizada
A while back, I was sauntering barefoot through the Mashobra valley in Himachal Pradesh, India. There came a point where all I could hear was crickets buzzing, a faint patter of drizzle and pine cones crunching under my feet. I had been on many treks and hikes before, but this was my first time on a nature walk. I couldn’t help but notice that something felt different. With every step and every breath, I could feel my mind getting clearer, and allowing me to take in everything around me in vivid detail. Shaded by colossal cedars, this trail took me through Seepur to Shali, a quaint little village with freshwater springs, ancient shrines and slate houses.
With no rush to reach a destination, I took my sweet time observing the locals. They were going about their daily tasks and working in terraced fields. As I continued walking, fruit-laden orchards greeted me, and every turn bared a fresh vista of the valley. I had never been so deeply influenced by nature before. The whole experience stayed with me long after I came back to the city, teeming with a fresh zest for life. This trip left me craving for more, and I started looking for more such trails around the world.
As it happens, New Zealand offers one of the greatest nature walks in the world—The Milford Track. Starting from the picturesque Lake Te Anau, the track goes through the Fiordland National Park. It is a pristine rainforest with rugged granite tops and spectacular glacier-fed waterfalls. The diverse fauna adds to the drama, and you can even catch a glimpse of the rare, flightless takahe. To preserve the sanctity of the place, limited visitors are permitted. You can pre-book your slot on the official website of New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, and even secure accommodation for this four-day-long walk. The best time to visit is between October and April.
The pandemic has changed how we view travel—it is not just about taking a vacation anymore. It is more about consistently renewing our connection with the world. And nothing does that better than being close to nature. The San Ramon waterfall in Nicaragua is another place adored by nemophilists. It offers a gentle one-day trail that can be accessed throughout the year. The route is basically the forested foot of a dormant volcano, Maderas. You will notice old moss-covered trees, vines and bromeliads along the way. Howler monkeys will swing by every once in a while, and the endemic birds and insects will grab your attention.
I have recently discovered the beauty of nature journaling and how it employs careful observation. It helps one delve deep into the facets of the surrounding environment. In case you’re travelling with your kids, journaling will keep them engaged and impart great learning in the process. This can’t be hurried, so you should opt for a walk with fewer tourists. Such as the remote Nebaj- Todos Santos trail in Guatemala. Starting in the 2,000-year-old Mayan city of Nebaj, the incredible landscape of the Cuchumatanes mountains en route will surely take your breath away. On the way, you will find many hospitable local families. They allow travellers to stay overnight and even serve authentic Mayan cuisine.
Against the tropical wilderness, the colourful attires of the natives will present a startling yet delightful contrast. A nature walk doesn’t necessarily have to be through a lush forest. In fact, unique terrains offer intriguing experiences, such as the Mount Sinai desert trail in Egypt. You can watch the sunrise from the summit after a three-hour walk. Or explore the countless pilgrim routes and mule tracks along the way. Another unique nature hike lies along the Robberg Peninsula in South Africa. It weaves in and out through a variety of landscapes, including a rocky coastline where you can watch seals playing by the water’s edge. You can also walk across the sandy peninsula when the tides are low, and feel the ocean mist caress your skin. It leaves you imbued with an energy that only the natural world knows how to exude.
Henry David Thoreau once said, “I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees,” and nothing could be more apt in summing up the unparalleled wisdom that nature has to offer. No matter which road you take, what matters most is how you walk down it.