Friday, June 30, 2017

YHAI Trekking Programs Reviewed

YHAI Trekking Programs Reviewed
After completing my National Trekking Expedition Goa with Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI) in December 2013, I had reviewed YHAI trekking programs in the middle of 2014. Many enthusiast trekkers had shown keen interests on my amateurish review post. Apart from blog comments I was sent many personal messages by my readers. As expected, nature and focus of queries were different from one person to another, but there was one apprehension common in majority of those mails- Do I have to pee/poop in the open? Probably there are insufficient online reviews of YHAI trekking programs. So, I decided to publish my old review article in this blog for the ease of compilation and better visibility.
YHAI Trekking Programs Reviewed
Tented accommodation set up at Panaji base camp, Goa.
During my Goa trek I was lucky to interact with fellow trekkers who had have several treks with YHAI. I could even gather information from bicyclists who had participated in the biking adventure program in Goa. So, from my own experience and facts assembled from veteran members I'm here to review trekking programs run by YHAI. Let me be fair and confess that I've already enrolled for a life membership with YHAI, as I see many more treks coming my way. But that shouldn't be your yardstick. Better read all pros and cons to decide whether you're game for YHAI trekking programs. Oh I forgot, another biggest concern from my readers was: Are YHAI trekking programs safe for a solo female traveler? Yes, absolutely!
YHAI Trekking Programs Reviewed
Inside view of a typical YHAI tent for 8-10 trekkers.
Youth Hostels Association of India is a non-profit organization and an associate member of the Hostelling International (U.K.), with 23 functional state branches, managing around 95 youth hostels throughout India, and annually organizing more than a dozen of national trekking, biking, family-camping and other environment friendly adventure programs. YHAI claims to be promoting travel, tourism, adventure spirits, national integration, education and health by providing hostels of good standards to millions of youths of modest means during their travel at cheap rates on a sustainable basis and also organizing adventure/educational events, to create understanding among youths about social and developmental issues.
YHAI Trekking Programs Reviewed
At higher camps you may need to collect your usable water from such wells.
Things which YHAI keep common in all of their trekking programs:

* An all inclusive package cost (Includes food, boarding, lodging, transportation, equipments, group insurance, guide fee, training/orientation, forest fee, any other permit). Once you reach the base camp it feels as if you returned to hostel and anything that happens to to you shall be taken care of by the warden!

* Simple vegetarian nutritious meals. It starts with morning tea, breakfast, lunch, tea-snacks, dinner and then Bournvita drink before you retire. You'll be served welcome drinks as you (though you'll soon develop repulsion for Roohafza) reach higher camps every day. Sometimes you may be offered soup as appetizer before the dinner. Don't be disheartened, at times you'll get boiled eggs too. So, in short , forget starving, you'll rather be overfed.

* Shared tented accommodation or dormitory.

* Common toilets or makeshift ones depending on the remoteness of the camp. You may have to poop behind the bush too, after all you're no common douche-bag... you're a trekker!

* Schedules are maintained pretty strictly by field directors and camp leaders. Like, even if you're free for the day/evening you'll be given a time deadline for reporting the camp.

* No smoking and no alcohol!

* Rules rule the game. This is one of the biggest reasons behind parents sending their children for these programs without much anxiety.
YHAI Trekking Programs Reviewed
A typical YHAI dormitory accommodation for trekkers.
Things you'd certainly like in any YHAI trekking program:

* Unbeatable, budget-friendly package! Yes, no other organization/company can quote you similar rates. All this is possible because entire support team in these adventure programs consists of volunteers, who're YHAI members with generous hearts.

* Although food is simple you'll like it for two reasons. First is, once you're doing physical activities the hunger you develop is your best sauce. Secondly, despite the unavailability of raw materials and inadequacy (owing to the low package cost) of funds you'll always feel that YHAI is trying its best to rotate the menu and present you with maximum variations! You can eat as much as your capacity permits.

* A built in environment that automatically keeps you disciplined.

* Equality and lack of prejudice in any form from YHAI. I didn't just talk of equality of cast, creed, race, gender etc. Here people of varied age groups trek with equal eagerness and integrity. Treks are also designed to keep them doable for wide range of participants.

* Strong sense of being in a group. You'll never feel abandoned and insecure unless you're a pathological loner.

* Concern for environment. You may end up picking all plastic wrappers from your path to dump them into their suitable place. Even if you're among those careless bunch who tends to litter craps a lot, you'll surely improve your habit, at least for the sake of your self respect!

* As I mentioned it before, once you're in, logistics and technicalities of the trip are no more your headache. YHAI will take care of all and only obedience is expected from you in return. Just imagine, although you're going for a trek it is okay even if you report without a rucksack as YHAI will provide you one!

* You can trust on the name of the organization and this is a big relief especially for first time participants.

* Due cares are taken for female trekkers so that solo women can join with complete peace of mind.

* At the end of the trek, a dozen of hands won't haunt you for tips.

* Here I'm not mentioning subjects like- advantages of trekking in a group, opportunity to remain in close proximity to unadulterated nature, development of team spirit etc, as those things you can gain by trekking with other agencies as well.
YHAI Trekking Programs Reviewed
My YHAI ID Card for the Goa Trek, containing signatures of all camp leaders.
Things you might not like in a YHAI trekking program:

* Toilets/washrooms are public and not sufficient in number. Even in base camps where there's ample opportunity to keep them better maintained, you may find waterlogged bathrooms, stinking latrines and sometimes toilets with half broken doors.

* Tents are too tightly packed, often making it a challenge for tall trekker to find his sleep. 8-10 trekkers may have to share a large tent and I tell you honestly, you'll struggle to drive away your insomnia unless you're an easy sleeper.

* Rigidity with schedule may suffocate you at times and you might momentarily hate being constantly under supervision.

* Large group size (say, 50 trekkers in a group) gives rise to micro groups and at the end of the day unknowingly you may end up backbiting others with the ongoing trend. Yes, if bitching is not in your nature, later you'll suffer from self reproach.

* Apparent bossing of the camp leader. But I tell you, always remind yourself that every human being is different and your camp leader is volunteering out of generosity.

* Certainly these trekking programs are not suitable for solo/independent trekkers and also for those who need certain amount of luxury in their trip. Abundant dust in camping grounds may not be suitable for asthmatics and allergy prone individuals too.
YHAI Trekking Programs Reviewed
It doesn't really matter where you head on to or, with whom you pair up...
In this review, hopefully I've been able to share pros and cons of YHAI trekking programs in considerable details. Other than garments depending on the trail, few more things which you should carry in any YHAI trek for your personal convenience are- a rectangular lunch box, plate, spoon, mug, water bottle, torch, mosquito repellent ointment, water purifying tablets, portable power bank, few waterproof adhesive bandages, antimicrobial powder, needle, lighter, few plastic packets and a sleeping bag if you have one (though in Himalayan treks YHAI will provide you sleeping bags). Hope my article served it purpose. Now it is entirely your call whether to trek with YHAI or not. Ultimate truth is- it doesn't matter where you head on to or, with whom you pair up, as long as you are traveling and of course clicking photos on the go.

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