I have never considered myself an environmentalist. Not because I have stupid problems with the name, but because I use plastic, don’t always recycle my garbage and don’t even attempt to do the many things that can save our environment.
But I have been taught to travel responsibly.
Growing up, summer vacations meant going to Himachal to my mother’s hometown and staying in the village where we ate fresh rotis made on achulah. My grandmother would let us carry maggi after much insistence, and teach us how to cook on the wood-fired chulah.
Growing up, many things slip our minds. Picking up after ourselves and not throwing that wrapper wherever our heart desires, has to be inculcated all over again.
But a hefty chunk of the crowd flocking to Kasol has absolutely no manners.
On my first day there I saw a group of city kids giggling and teasing each other (no issues with that). The boys became highly inventive and decided to throw empty juice boxes at the girls. I tried to give them a literal death stare, but it was to no effect. So when the second box hit the ground I went inside their circle of stupidity, picked up the boxes and put them in my bag.
Most of the 20-somethings crowding the streets find Kasol an ideal place to get high. Staying in a trance, for them, includes treating the mountain village as their private bin. Roll a joint, throw the cigarette, get high, throw that packet of chips along with the butt of the joint right there.
I have nothing against people smoking up, but every time you re-purchase a plastic bottle of water, you are adding to the dump here.
The stream that flows through Kasol has become a dumping ground for riverside cafes. And often people who climb up the rocks for pictures, end up throwing a lot shit into the water.
Chalal is a beautiful village parallel to Kasol. It still maintains a bit of its essence as there is no direct road leading to it.
But the path to Chalal is littered, a sight painful to see. Right outside a local home, I saw a pile of packets of potato chips and Pepsi bottles. Why should the people who call this land home pay for our passiveness?
And now, a plea against portable speakers.
I am sure the trance music after a marijuana high is one of your favourite things in the world. But when you play that music out loud while walking through the jungles, you are violently attacking the quiet of the mountains and its creatures.
The locals and animals of the forest don’t like it. Even you wouldn’t like it if someone came to your home and blasted random electronic sounds.
To escape Kasol, we went further up to Tosh. This village is relatively less violated as the local houses outnumber the guesthouses and hotels. But we could anticipate a similar future for it if irresponsible travelling is not put to an end.
What you can do:
1. Take a garbage bag with you. Bring back your litter. The metropolitan cities are much more capable of processing that garbage than small mountain villages.
2. Please don’t use portable speakers in the open or on a trail. Use headphones instead. In your hotel at a decent volume, it is still fine.
3. Refrain from buying more than one or two plastic bottles. You can get them re-filled from any dhaba or a home on your way. And no, river water won’t kill you.
4. Try not to take your car to places where public transport is in abundance. Not adding to the current load of vehicles really helps. And a bus journey is a road trip too, you know.
Just do not litter. Not in river. Not on the trail. Not even out of the bus. Not ANYWHERE!